“This theory of personality actually started with the combination of two simple notions: first, that man might be better understood if he were viewed in the perspective of the centuries rather than in the flicker of passing moments; and second, that each man contemplates in his own personal way the stream of events upon which he finds himself so swiftly borne. Perhaps within this interplay of the durable and the ephemeral we may discover ever more hopeful ways in which the individual man can restructure his life. The idea seems worth pursuing.”
Kelly, George. The Psychology of Personal Constructs: Volume One: Theory and Personality: 1 . Taylor and Francis.
hu->man. Kelly proposes we look at the interface between our expectations moment to moment in what is coming our way, based on our personal constructs of beliefs, and our existence in the larger time and possibility span than our little individual flicker of existence illuminates. Hacking this interface is our key to the kingdom.
his notion, called “personal construct theory” was developed back in 1955, and is one of the most interesting ever proposed in the field of psychology of personality. In my opinion. and especially today when we are understanding more about the incredible symbioses and membranes that are part of life at every level. from our guts to the psychedelics in our brains. and that the same patterns pop-up cross domain, whether physical, mental or mathematical.
so what algorithms does Kelly propose for instrumenting this interface to expand our worlds? topic of future explorations
My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that. -Queen of Hearts
It is difficult to change. It seems easier to stay in place. But just try to stay in the same place and the ground will inevitably shift. Nothing is constant. Then with neither resilience nor reserves prepared we struggle to adapt to what we can no longer avoid. A comfort zone has a constantly contracting circumference. Though it may be so gradual as to be imperceptible.
Some brothers and sisters on the Red Road carry medicine bags close to their hearts. To the unacquainted these bones and rocks and assorted trinkets are perhaps of some sentimental value. To those on the path these are objects of power. These are instruments of mobility.
And to those whose path is not the broad, bustling byways of the consensual, power to navigate change outside the comfort zone is key to their independence.
Power can be stalked. But not power over others, or even power over circumstance. Rather power that lets us act with intention, choose our response, break out of the shell of limiting beliefs and dark gravitational wells keeping us from the world’s magic and infinite possibilities. Keeping us from walking ahead.
Gurdjieff once remarked that most of us cannot DO anything. To do something requires at least a limited amount of wakefulness. Which is not the same as mindfulness, but something more akin to a power to act. Without being awake, whatever we do is merely a predictable consequence of the what comes before. A billiard ball cascade of our limited experience and selective gullibility, playing out our habitual repertoires. We have little choice. We are semi-autonomous beings and usually more autonomous than semi.
So how do we stalk enough surplus power to do more than maintain our perimeters? How do we stop treading water and start going places?
While there are principles and lineages, it is an individual undertaking, and why medicine bags are such personal things. We each have different tumblers to spin to unlock the magic within ourselves and our world. And the reason for the bag is, even when we discover these combos, they are easy to lose or forget. Like the memories of a beautiful dream upon awakening. But reversed 🙂
Stalking power, for me, is a daily practice of reminders. I am forgetful. I know things intellectual that take a while to absorb into my being. I need repetition, especially with the obvious. But power can also be gleaned through noticing things during the day that exude power. Power we can partake of by catching it with our attention. Street omens. Sometimes as simple as an overheard word or phrase, the sudden appearance of a bird, or a sound or melody. A breeze against our face. Or a wisp of memory from deep in the past. Totems of power are strewn throughout a typical day like shells on a beach. Being present for them adds something to our energy field. Makes it more permeable to receiving even more. Stalking becomes a way we approach the day. To those who have, more will be given.
Stalking accumulates but guard how we give power away daily. Incessantly. Most of us leak personal power like a sieve so it’s hard to keep replenished much less build a surplus for free action. We have no reserves for doing much other than what we’ve always done. And will is a finite resource. But the more aware of opportunities to collect and the more careful we are in spending, the more power we can build and retain. And emanate rather than disperse. To spend a day stalking to build the currency of intention has different qualitative feels than a day of mindless automatism. To those who have not, more shall be taken. 1
My medicine kit ~spells~ help me remember and use opportunity wisely. Some of are simple statements: “Stop saying things that make me weak.” This reminds me to speak with integrity. To know my intention, and assumptions, when communicating and assess whether they are beneficial. And whether it is better, as it often is, to abide with silence. And to observe, what I say to myself. Am I ally or enemy?
Using the eyes skillfully. Not hooked by desire, distractions, searching for validations like: approval, likability, respect, safety, etc. When I catch myself looking for something in the eyes/expressions of others, I bleed personal power by seeking the source through social engagement. Trying to find something missing outside rather than within2. This also goes for online, social media response or opinion. Which especially speaks to the precept above on integrity of speech. And abiding in silence.
Take nothing personal. Semi-autonomous reminder, in both myself and the action of others. How others react is not about me, and none of my business. It’s about their imprints on what my appearance or my behavior signals, triggers or represents. Remembering this, we sometimes realize how little we see of others, and they of us. How quickly we judge. A corollary: we are as free as we allow the freedom of others. Judge others, we imply judgments about ourselves. We give away hoards of personal power to yoke ourselves with an internalized consensus and conformity. For protection and security. To secure our position in tribal rankings. Time to change allies. More later.
Part of not taking things personally is not taking myself personally. It’s like a zen thing, dude. In the Egyptian afterlife, the newly dead are judged by weighing their heart against a feather. Most ways I weigh down my heart is through self-importance. As if shit happening to me were blessings or curses a swarm of happenstance entering or leaving, with fanfare or stealth, my small personal field. More potent for personal power is acceptance. Things come and go. Try to hang on to them or push them away at your peril. Acceptance is learning grace and lightness of being. To me, this often manifests in unclenching the body. A body is a koan3.
Death as an adviser. Don’t take anything anyone does personally — do take your own death personally. Get to know this, our most reliable and forthright friend, who never bullshits about what’s important in our lives. And usually instructive in ways we both discover and squander our personal power.
These are trinkets in my bag. Glad to share. I’m sure you have trinkets of your own, some you may have forgotten, until now. Happy hunting and Bright blessings
Force is very important because the Work says that to do any conscious work on our development, we have to accumulate it. If we constantly lose force up by becoming angry, being in arguments, taking everything personally and always being identified, we will have no force to work on our own development. Moreover, by always wasting our force we will be exhausted, find it difficult to do the things we have to do to get through the day, and have no force left for the things we want to do.
A high level of unbotheredness about everyday things and clarity about reactive attachments and external opinion
Living more vividly
Time and time again I get fed up to the max with the mundane. With mediocrity in myself and my world. Lately, I often find I’ve muddled through a perfectly good day. As if I were killing time. Being too sensitive to slight variations in mood or energy and reading them as disincentives to engage in the myriad of pursuits available to me. I also second-think, become distracted and continually discount the beauty of flow in engaging with tasks that, while they may not seem of deep mystical significance, are nevertheless invitations to engage the day and potentiate my time. As nerdy as they may appear, and I’m really judging this from somewhere allegedly more “cool” … these avenues of discovery, learning and exploration are as valid and lead as deeply into the fabric of the world as anything more ostensibly “spiritual.” Know one thing to know all things as a sage once remarked.
So the skillful means here is to engage totally with what I am pursuing without, at least during the course of the day, sidetracking or second-guessing its relevance to the bigger picture. The bigger picture is to live vividly and with flow. Not waiting to be gob smacked by some metaphysical lotto of privileged experience.
I’ve relocated mentally and physically many times in this life. And while I believe, and have confirmed, that wherever we go, there we are; that it’s not so much the location —it’s what we bring with us (or what we leave behind)— there is still value in a locale to elicit dormant capabilities and insights. Be this locale an altered state, a different country, a physical practice or just an excursion beyond the comfort zone.
But there has always been a bordertown on the fringes of consciousness that attracts me like no other. Sometimes it seems I have a whole life there I have forgotten. People I know and things I’ve done that will not be ignored, for long. It’s more home to me in many ways than whatever this place is now where I spend most of my time. The “wall” that’s being politicized currently is an interesting metaphor on how we think we should isolate ourselves from these unruly aspects of being. And where our borders should properly be constructed.
There are several ways to get to bordertown. Dreaming is a big one. And it’s where I often encounter this whole sense of another life I’m living in parallel. But its most powerful aspect is as an overlay, a dimension of this reality. Chroma. And it encourages living a little sideways from the consensual. Through magic, through intent. But most directly through taking a bit of time during the day to sink into the mind and open, with intent, to other ways of touching the world; unfolding an array of internal senses that are feeble in the light and atrophied with neglect. But which show a nuance to reality that enriches the fabric of existence.
Mortality, for example. I’m suspicious of this one. A part of me has absolutely no problem with it however it turns out. Blink out of existence, then who is to worry? Continues? Enjoy the adventure. Why worry either way? I have zero concern about whether or not I’ve adhered properly to some religious doctrine. And zero motivation to leave any sort of legacy or regard to how I might be remembered.
Another part of me is suspicious that previous part might be in denial. Suppressing fear or anxiety by disassociation of outcomes. Yet another part questions the suspicious part with, “so what is your suggestion? worry about it until the inevitable happens anyway? Appreciate the moments?” The appreciation and gratitude strikes a chord. It resonates authentically. And the inevitable breakdown, I’d like to do that with grace. And I’d like it to be a short transition. I’d like to keep my bearings if the adventure continues. And I think it will. That resonates as well.
This leaves me with the recognition that this ending stuff might be huge. That if I carry on oblivious to what’s coming, I might miss some real opportunities and squander a lot of precious resources on things that don’t matter. As long as I can keep the horizon of death in view, it can be a tremendous ally. And as with life so far, I also like to look down the road for clues on how best to prepare. Not to the extent of sacrificing today for tomorrow, but for investing in skills that are handy across contexts.
The skills I think most important here and now, from this vantage, are for one: the ability to let go. I have this baseline of tension that seems to run quite deep. I think it’s built on a bedrock of layers and layers of protective insulation where protection was freezing parts of my being, making pieces rigid to resist impact and hanging on tightly to things I didn’t want to lose or have stolen from my soul. It was building a little fortress to secure a foothold in the world.
To let go of this is to sink in order to fly. In its most physical sense, this is relaxation. In the mind, lightness of being.
The next skillful action, number two: is learning how to sink without panic. Sinking is accepting whatever I am feeling and thinking without trying to “should” it or change it or judging myself for the feeling or thought’s unbidden arising. To start understanding through this the reality of impermanence. Of the temporal nature of selves.
The third skillful means: is to question and review some very old and very deep ways I’ve been contracted to think and feel. By circumstances of my culture and my timeline in evolution. Ways parts of myself have been programmed and how best to leverage parts of myself that are free to help wake up.
Concretely, this means questioning very basic assumptions like: is there any reason to feel upset about anything? How is that useful? And this doesn’t mean trying to be coldly logical about everything, it means questioning how feeling bad, which is certainly not my preference, is used in ways usually not in my best interest. To research what agenda these feelings serve. Because in any given scenario I act more resourcefully without these “triggers.” And I do not subscribe to the belief that we need to be punished, or punish ourselves, in order to behave or be motivated to do good. I have a moral compass without this, thank you. No one has bound me, I want to sustain the realization that I am already free.
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.
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 🙂
I inventory this moment
niggling irritants like transient itches
the lay this day feels stodgy with vectors
finding excursion within
“…the ability to return voluntarily on a regular basis to that deepest level of reality – the Tao – as if it were a rejuvenating spiritually scented bubble bath.”
I slip out of mind
somewhere near the heart
in the corridor of breath
anchors below, infinity above
the sides expand embracing
a space in the between
exploring an unfolding
deep familiar longing
sinking further down into
tinged now with anger
slicing at every clinging
cord fastening, securing
of that floating island of garbage and tinsel
slum dreams of hope
no spiritual bubble baths here
the mind doesn’t fanthom
found in the body
disposable debris of thought
You a writer? Or pretend to be? Isn’t that what writers do? Pretend?
Well, yeah, but they have to write also.
Because it’s part of the pretending, it kind of makes it more real and has its own shape of things.
Are you talking about poetry?
Yeah, but any writing too. Opening a channel between thoughts and physical expression. Sometimes thoughts stay in line, other times…
They start imaginary dialogs?
For one, yeah. But seriously, how else can you use thought to explore something? Because it’s hard to hold big ideas or sprawling ruminations in the head. And then things like “ruminate” pop out and need investigating, street omens, one of those stutters in the stitch of time… I discover “rumination” listed in the pathology section of psychology on wikipedia…
Extensive research on the effects of rumination, or the tendency to self-reflect, shows that the negative form of rumination (associated with dysphoria) interferes with people’s ability to focus on problem-solving and results in dwelling on negative thoughts about past failures. Evidence from studies suggests that the negative implications of rumination are due to cognitive biases, such as memory and attentional biases, which predispose ruminators to selectively devote attention to negative stimuli.
This. This use of “self-reflection” in psychology is fascinating because it is mindless. Or rather, not the mindful definition of self reflection as a pure awareness without judgment as in meditation —but rather as a faceted awareness, an awareness of one self distinct from another self; both within us. In fact, a common hypothesis in psychology is we each have many selves. Some at odds with one another. Taking turns being in charge.
So rumination, as pathology, is one of our selves screwing with another of our selves with trash talk and scary stories. And the gnarly parts thrive and grow through being observed and, more importantly, reacted to. If there were no shocked, angry or anguished “reflector”, it would lose psychic energy, to be replaced with another grab for attention by other complexes. But if the observer were simply awareness itself, with no position or preference in negative or positive, it would take a lot of fun out of the torture. By accepting it completely.
The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror – going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing.
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu
This also reflects a curious property of attention. Attention paid to specific thoughts amplify them. Attention withdrawn, distracted or distributed, weakens them. Balanced attention leads to and restores equilibrium. Balanced attention neither focuses upon nor withdraws from any thought or feeling. It merely stays present and to see what happens. It may even be eating popcorn. It’s like an ET landed in our brain, or a Stranger in a Strange Land.
In tales of lore, Odin sends out two ravens every day: hugin and munin, usually translated as “thought” and “memory.”
Hugin and Munin fly each day
over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin, that he come not back,
yet more anxious am I for Munin.
– Odin as Grimnir in Poetic Edda
I suspect hugin and munin are not thought and memory, as commonly translated, but attention and awareness. Awareness as self-remembering. And Odin uses these two magical abilities, the only true abilities we possess and share:
To direct attention, which he worries over the control of, but most importantly…
Remembering ourselves and being present to what’s happening right now. Which is the only way we notice when we’re asleep and how our attention is being directed “for” us.
Awareness and attention. Expand attention to bliss out in open awareness and flow or vegetate. Or contract it to a point and hold it to train putting energy into containments of thought. Focusing on breath, mantra or kasina are punching bags for manifesting and steering mood and energy states. Work on steering first. It’s fun. Plus we finally get to drive!