Hanging Out

Our inner geography is territory we hang out in each and every day. No matter what is happening outside of our head, our awareness resides somewhere within an interior sensorium. Some areas are tropical beaches, relaxed and easy going, happy with the world while other sections are swamps of low energy, foul moods and depression. There are borders that are sometimes crossed, new territory occasionally annexed when we encounter novel experiences either within or without. Experiences that don’t fit anywhere within our existing constructs. This tends to happen less frequently as we age and we find ourselves both confined and comfortable within a few acres and well beaten paths between familiar destinations. We inhabit predictable territories and we travel between a few accustomed villages of mental/emotional/energetic states.

How we get to these places is usually outside of our control. We’re typically pushed into them by oblique collisions with the outside world, external stimuli and our interpretations of what these collisions mean. These tell us where to report to on our map. Spilt coffee on our laps, an idiotic driver on the freeway and we’re usually slung into some low-life tavern across the tracks from our more compassionate climes and free spirited villas.

But there is also an ecology to this inner landscape. A way energy is used, stored and transferred, that controls our mobility to move from one area to another. Most us can’t bootstrap ourselves out of a foul, moody swamp back onto the hilltop overlooking the valley and shiny threads of river reveries that are part of a more easy going and light hearted landscape. We have to be taken there by something outside of ourselves.

But we can learn to wander independently in these geographies of our own mind. To manage energy more skillfully for mobility and exploration; enough energy to expand the boundaries of what our habitual experiences contain. Beyond territory already mapped. Enough awareness to shift our center to places with greater resources for meeting demands of the outside world. And while we are still trapped within our own minds, we are not confined to the rooms of our acculturation. Or the narrow corridors of our conditioning. And trapped is perhaps a relative word, when we realize the infinity of this domain.

So we’re saying your state will determine what you experience, the meaning you place on it, the capacity you have to respond to it, and your general quality of life. That’s a lot! The good news is that it is you who has primary control of your state, should you wish to claim it.
-The Hero’s Journey by Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilt

Re-claim it, perhaps

We’re not usually aware of this energy and how it is squandered. We seldom monitor when it is stolen, or perceive how it is harvested or re-purposed through external means. Basically, we’re energy blind. And perhaps more insidious, we are not the top of the energy food chain, the way we are in the material plane. And this has consequences that steal our freedom and ability to choose. An old Gnostic idea of higher planes, in a multidimensional universe, where we are less like special snowflakes and more like domesticated cattle. A topic of the next post. Probably.

 

Mind Control

“It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head…”

-David Foster Wallace

correct sequences a=maybe

I am snoozing at the rest stop and when the tires leave the road when the dust fills the sky and the yees of the horned toad are fied in the distance ignoring the boots tramping around it and its home then it’s time to sing the song that sond that we keep in teh back of our minds whose melody made no sense but till we stshed it for the day, this day, when it will carry on the wind into the blue mountains and teh gray sky and not eaven the pearly luminescence of the smothers ed moon wil reaveal even a single note because the frequence=y is so different, like lighg and sound, until ess youve gone digital, abandoned the analog and then you acan meld synethesiass like a pro and perhapds this melding, with all ths colors and sounds and motion and when it brings in the tactile we can have a new cup for a little while, a cup that cn hold new forms of things of thoughts sand make new things but this cup might be for the young for the new for the dispalced, whose cups are alesast half empty so they may benefit from the openiness of receiving… and when we die and when we’re dold and hoepfully on haveppens the correct sequences a=maybe then too our cups will be empties and in that dusty old chiped receptabcle with the faded paint and the lad coatin fro some us we may contain someething we cannot even yet coneive and this is the essence od death

transition

8 of Spirals from the Chrysalis Tarot

sometimes I think about a word, or rather, a word resonates in my mind, collecting from the far corners like a small pond ~ripples of affinity~ touching banks of memory at oblique angles and sometimes things from the depths surface to investigate, look around with somber alien eyes, ill-adapted to the light and then submerge back down to their home somewhere deep inside my home in corners I don’t know how to find

Today feels like the start of another transition, to another place, from this place. To another series of places in that strand of frazzled rope that stretches across my history and tangles with the histories of others. Siblings, family, friends, lovers, enemies, artists, zombies, masters, monsters, singers, poets, thieves, cheats. The corded knots of humanity in their swirls of existence but a node on mine as I on theirs.

Our Closest Advisors

Sometimes we hang out in bad company. Toxic relationships, negative relatives or pestiferous media feeds. Maybe recurring feelings or voices inside our head. Maybe drama we seem inexplicably pulled into, again and again.

And any serious expedition outside the protective boundaries of our comfort zones, with new projects or ways of being, draw undesirable attention as well.

These undesirables often present themselves as “reason givers.” As in only looking out for what’s best for you. Or what’s logical. Common sense. And they may sound quite reasonable indeed. Inside or out these false friends tend to fall into 4 categories:

  1. Obstacle revealers: who love to point out all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t be doing, thinking or feeling something.
  2. Self-judgers: revel in all the ways you aren’t up to a task or don’t possess a quality, and all the reasons you’re not ready and unworthy.
  3. Comparators: are quick to point out all the ways others have tried this and failed or why its easier for others with way more talent, opportunities, luck and/or drive than you. Or why others will think you’re foolish and why you should be more like them.
  4. Fortune tellers: bemoan all the ways you’re going to crash and burn or missed your opportunity and why the odds are stacked against you. Why you’re just not lucky that way. Alas.

These fake allies may trick you into arguing with them. But their real weakness is that their validity doesn’t matter. Instead, your secret sauce is to ask if they are helpful. And what would you be like, or your life be like, if you lived it by their “truths” as your guide? Would it be a life you wanted?

Everyone, without fail, will experience most of these “helpers.” Through themselves and/or others while trying or being almost anything different than they’ve done or been before.  How you manage these advisors is critical to the success of your venture.

Given some healthy boundaries and new objectives, they actually can be shaped into powerful allies. This can be done with some simple questions for each:

  1. Obstacles: are you giving realistic appraisals and figuring out how to overcome them? Or just coming up with reasons not to try?
  2. Self-judgment: is this constructive advice on how to improve your skills? Or just tearing you down?
  3. Comparison: is it finding ways to learn strategy and avoid mistakes from others? Is it inspirational or simply discouraging any action?
  4. Prediction: are they analyzing how to respond to worse case scenarios, things to mitigate and improve the odds? Or just woe is you, you’re doomed and the sky is falling?

We can’t avoid negative thoughts, it’s just how we are wired. Suppressing or constantly venting them is unhealthy. But we don’t have to be “hooked” by them. Modern mindfulness-based therapies, like ACT, take the agenda of the Buddhists and Stoics into practical application. These posts will review some of these approaches. The points above are from a book called The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris.

Buddhism introduced the construct of skillful and unskillful thinking. Skillful thoughts are not about finding the true or right answer —which may not be helpful, and may never actually be known or knowable. In our lifetimes anyway. Instead, a skillful thought is a helpful thought. Something that contributes positively to your life and your resilience in dealing with things.

To get to the point where one can assess a thought as being helpful or not though, and act skillfully with it, we first need to be aware of our thoughts as they occur. Not hours, days or a lifetime later in the wake of their reactive calamities. Unnoticed,  unskillful thoughts can quietly wreak havoc on our moods and energy states. And upon our resilience to meet life as it is.

For both Stoicism and ACT, the foundation starts with knowing what’s happening in our heads in real time. Then each discipline spins off in different directions for dealing with that, based on different objectives. More on this to come, primarily to tease out thoughts on how these disparate approaches fit together, and writing helps me do that. Which is not to belittle my appreciation for those of you reading these ramblings. Thanks for getting this far 🙂

Yang

The previous thought discussed Yin. The letting go of the hold things have on us. This thought is about Yang. With the freedom Yin gives us, we can act on the world with intent. To do one requires the other. To let go but have no inner value to cultivate is just dissipation; but trying to achieve goals in the world without the inner freedom to focus on process rather than results only creates suffering. Together, however, Yin and Yang form the middle way. Or as we say in the martial arts: you have to go slow to go fast.

sundry realizations circa early 2018

  • I enjoy flow more than happiness. Flow has a very specific meaning, a task that’s appropriately challenging, employing skills I enjoy mastering and the activity absorbs my attention in an enriching way. Sometimes this may be learning just the right difficulty of material.
  • The less I like people, in particular, the more I seem to like them in general. There’s probably a section in the DSM-5 about this… that recommends strong pharmaceuticals and adult supervision.
  • Meditation keeps me sane.
  • My posture reflects my state of mind and my metaphysical status of alignment, presence, connection, sinking, expansion, confidence, and relaxation. It’s a physical koan I puzzle on during waking. My stance in the world is always changing and it’s my anchor into the now and portal into my psyche.
  • My conscious awareness is but a fraction of being; learning to communicate with the larger field is part of my life purpose.
  • There is nothing missing in our lives except the imaginary pieces in cookie cutter shapes of our acculturation. To be content is the greatest wealth imaginable.
  • Preventing a creeping numbness of being requires my constant vigilance. Sometimes I feel like I’m passed out on the floor and something keeps shaking me awake saying “Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!”
  • Most of what I write is superficial drivel but it helps my process.
  • It’s a far greater stretch to posit an imaginary world outside our head, that we can never know, other than its reconstruction through senses relaying data to the inside of our heads … than to just go ahead and admit that it’s all in our heads in the first place and realize our heads may be bigger than we think. Or rather, our heads exist in a continuum of consciousness much larger than our local eddies of identity. But it’s all the same stuff man.
  • I agree and support the construct of gender fluidity, we are evolving, that is our nature, I see it as a springboard, not a stopping point of identity. Polarity is a system of propulsion. Hegel cinches this.
  • “Blood is thicker than water”, is a biological construct at work deep in our evolutionary brain, telling us our genes are more important than others, thus we should sacrifice our higher faculties, common sense and true feelings to protect its propagation. But in fact, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” as quoted and noticed by Richard Bach in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah …and recognized by many others before and since.
  • Many things tend to stay in the same place. My room doesn’t re-arrange itself while I’m sleeping. The streets outside my door usually head off in the same directions. But magic has to be rediscovered anew each day. It’s seldom in the same place. But it’s worth finding, and seeking it out in most mundane of circumstances develops … abilities.

It’s Just Common Sense

Some of us trust our brains far more than we should. We often wonder why others don’t see the glaring solutions to complex social and political problems. Things that are just plain common sense. And we may shake our heads, perplexed that the obvious is such a point of contention and debate.

But consider this. You buy a bat and a ball for $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much is the ball? If you answer, “duh, 10 cents” you won’t be alone. In fact, you’ll be in the majority, it’s just common sense. And it’s just plain wrong. Our brains take short-cuts. Thinking about things quickly and superficially saves energy. And quick decisions may ensure our survival (or end us.) But we have slower, more accurate, circuits to think about things in more depth if we must. This is why, other than fight or flight, for more complex situations we need to reign in this instinct for snap decisions. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman covers this engaging topic in-depth. And, by the way, the ball costs five cents. Think about it 🙂