The Waking Dream: “United we stand, divided we fall”

Why the sudden increase in virus cases? Other than the particulars of opening too soon and the lack of agreement on safety measures I believe there are much more fundamental issues here as to why the U.S. hasn’t been able to get control over the virus spread. One of these issues may very well be our understanding of what independence means. For many it seems to be about “You can’t tell me what to do, it’s a free country”. This attitude can and perhaps does affect the country’s ability to control the virus’ spread.

Mass denial which comes about when there is a large discrepancy between what people want something to be and what is the reality of it is often a human default when the going gets tough even though this is not in our best interests. It’s is part of the fight or flight response with the denial of facts being a flight response even though the flight might have us running into the jaws of a pack of saber-toothed tigers. Overriding our default responses and using the tools at hand to help us mount a sensible ‘fight’ response might be a better approach to fighting this war.

In order for any society to sustain itself there has to be a certain willingness to give up some of our independence for the betterment of the whole, but Americans seem to be less and less inclined to do this and right now that is costing lives and livelihoods. 

Many of our leaders seem to care more about themselves and their Party than they do about the people they are supposed to serve. Beliefs seem to hold more cache than facts and that will eventually catch up with us in some rather nasty outcomes yet to be revealed.

The current federal administration has done just about everything it can do to separate us politically and socially which makes it much harder if not impossible for us to unite in a common goal or to mount an effective war on this virus. If we had acted like this at the beginning of our involvement in World War-II we might be speaking a different language and be ruled by a different country i.e., we would have lost the war just as we are doing now with the so-called virus war.

If we want to continue as one nation under God, if we think that the country is stronger and greater when we unite, we need to ignore the words and actions at the top that are trying to divide us and start thinking of ourselves as a society worth protecting as a whole and doing what promotes inclusiveness and wholeness.

The quote, “United we stand, divided we fall” is a truism that we need more than ever to get behind, learn to compromise, and get back to the hard job of learning to live together.

The nightmare within the collective psyche

It is said that nightmares in our dreams come to us as a means of gaining our attention to things that we are paying little or no attention to but that threaten our well-being. However, because all dreams negative or otherwise come in service of our health and well-being our nightmares are actually there to help us.

I believe that this is also true on a collective or societal level and that to some degree our everyday lives are lived as a dream and symbolically represent what is happening within the collective psyche of a culture.

As a culture we have ignored the effects that our willful ignorance has had on our lives individual, societal, and political. We deny what we don’t want to think about and gloss over the negatives so as to focus on the positives. In short, we have learned to be ostriches and hide our heads in the sand. To do this we deny our short comings, ignore the political complexities of modern life and shoot for as much immediate gratification as possible even if that gratification is just a sustaining of our pride and need to be right about our position and points of view.

But the collective has its own psyche that when overstressed by not being dealt with adequately will break free of its suppression and create crises of nightmare conditions that demand that we pay attention and do something to correct the problems. This is what nightmares in our dreams are doing and it is what the triplet crises of the Corona Virus, #metoo, and #blacklivesmatter nightmare is doing as well.

The people we vote for and the issues we ignore or refuse to deal with adequately because we think they are too complex or because we just don’t want to be bothered so we leave it up to the person who promises us to handle it regardless of whether they know how to or not has in many cases helped to produce the current nightmare. Also, our refusal to take a hard look at our biases, prejudices, and beliefs and how they serve or don’t serve us have also combined to create the perfect storm that has resulted in the nightmare we are all experiencing.

For many the answer is to continue to deny the problems, ignore any complicity and/or to be indifferent to the issues because that’s easier. In fact, those who are most complicit are those who attack anything or anyone who tries to make them face their complicity.

But the shadow side or dark side of our collective personality will not be suppressed forever and if it is it will eventually wreak havoc upon the body politic much as it would the body/mind of the individual. Empires have dissolved because its leaders and citizenry have ignored its ills. As a culture we as Americans have much to be proud of, but our continued suppression of our darker aspects will be our downfall as it has for all those empires and societies before us.

Our salvation is to be found in how we deal with and not hide from our darker aspects. It is time to vote intelligently for that which supports healing and unity amongst our disparate parts and not that which divides. It is time to confront the beliefs that enable the hurting and demeaning of others and not give them power. It is time to face the facts of what we have done and are continuing to do to our society and our environment. It is time for America to wake up and grow up.

What’s exciting, however is that there is a glimmer of hope still left and Leonard Cohen summed it up for me in his song, “Democracy is coming to the USA”

“It’s coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It’s here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst
It’s here the family’s broken
And it’s here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA”

The power of the inner feminine: Click your heals three times and you’re on your way

 

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There are things going on inside of us to be felt or grieved or communicated, things that affect all that we do or think and all that we see or hear. Within us are the nutrients for psycho-spiritual growth and also the poisons for its death.

But the vast majority of people are imprisoned by the rational, concrete patriarchal world and unreceptive to guidance of the inner world. The world that most people live in is a severely contracted, emotionally, and spiritually stunted reality that leaves them unfulfilled and pining away from the promises of their childhood where everything was possible and potential could be experienced as real.

The world of the symbolic, the worlds of myth, fables and dreams can provide doors to what is missing in our lives but the patriarchal system that we have given our practical allegiance to has severed our connection with the imagination, the nurturing, caring, loving and compassionate aspect of the feminine.

 

“Only the symbolic life can express the needs of the soul” 

–CG Jung

 

The dominant masculine thinks concretely and demeans the symbolic world as being silly, touchy-feely, soft-headed, and impractical. Just do as your told, work hard, be practical and it will all work out, only all too often it doesn’t. Oh, we may make a lot of money, drive nice cars, have nice houses, a TV in every bedroom, good schools and summers in the Hamptons and it all looks good and very successful, but inside we’re not happy– it’s one big so-what, one big lie, because now we know this ain’t it. Of course we could reject all that “goodness” as being superficial and posh and live the middle class life of proud struggle, or better yet forsake most everything and live with barely nothing, but that ain’t it either. We don’t feel any more fulfilled with everything or with nothing. Why? Because that’s not where fulfillment lies!

In most of our societies we try to nurture only the material i.e. the ego world. We forget about our core being, our soul. So we try to fill this void with more materiality by reading and memorizing and practicing the aphorisms of our holy books usually without the understanding that their messages are symbolic in nature because it is that that feeds the soul not the literal meaning of words.

Or we turn on the radio or TV and listen to so-called talk shows as though the talking heads of these shows know something we don’t. But they only bring sensations to our banal lives and provide nothing of any meaning to the soul. Other shows provide us with even more sensationalism through murder and violence, promiscuity, and empty, meaningless competitions. They are ego generated and ego directed, bound to the superficial and as Shakespeare would have said, “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

But a few people, alas very few, leave the physical safety of the material patriarchy to search for something deeper, not something different, for that’s only more ego, but something beyond the outer experience of reality, something found only inside ones self.

This is a hard journey fraught with fearsome and difficult trial because in the inner world the concrete language of the outer world is of little to no use. This is because the inner world, the world of the soul, is a symbolic world and speaks in the tongue of the myth, the fairy tale and the dream. It is a world where the feminine rules and can guide one to their real potential. The masculine can only enter if it is willing to share its power with the feminine.

I remember that in graduate school we used to dissect fairy tales as a way of understanding the inner psyche the inner psychology of the mind. I always chose the story of the Wizard of Oz because I felt that its symbolism best reflected my outer journey and the effects that that had on my inner life. You see the four characters, the tin woodsman with no heart (self-compassion), the scarecrow without a brain (doubtful intellectual prowess), the cowardly lion (who could not stand up for himself) and Dorothy Gale who was lost and just wanted to go back home (to the nurturing safety of the inner feminine) were all facets of myself and my own journey through life.

The Great and Wonderful OZ was the hollow promise of the patriarchal society I grew up in that turned out to be a fraud who could give nothing but what you already had had you just looked within. Each of these characters were played by my parents and modeled the way in which I viewed myself. It wasn’t until I told the story as my own that I was able to confront the story and begin to deal with its results.

The Great Oz is the society within which we all live but when we deliberately or accidentally look behind the curtain and discover that it’s all a fraud, it’s all made up, we lose trust in the wisdom we were told was inviolable. I lost trust in my inner OZ for a number of reasons 1) because the father image was weak and 2) the patriarchy of the society never really delivered and still isn’t.

Emotionally abandoned it lead to my trying to find my way home by looking outside myself for something that looked like home. But like Dorothy I couldn’t find my way because I was looking in the wrong place. It was the inner feminine i.e. the Good Mother archetype in the symbolic form of Glinda the Good Witch who was able to guide Dorothy to where she had been all along had she known that she had the power.

Want to go home? What’s your inner fairy tale, the myth that tells your story? What are the symbols of your dreams trying to tell you? You may have been let down by the outer feminine, but she of the inner world can guide you to what you’re missing out here but only if you’ll listen to her and learn to read her message.

What is REM sleep? What’s going on in there when you sleep?

 

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On occasion I’ve mentioned REM sleep. Some people have asked, “What is REM sleep?”

It stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep and is the last stage of sleep where the EEG wave pattern is similar to the waking brain with some of the characteristics of both the alpha and beta states that are earlier states of sleeping. As a point of interest, the alpha state is also that same state that one finds themselves in when meditating, or when in “the zone,” or when daydreaming. Is this the state that a meditating Buddhist enters the mandala during a Tantric meditation (see below)?

REM is that time during sleep when we dream and when our eyes move rapidly under their lids as though tracking what they see, though that part of the theory has not been shown to be true. However, having said that there are those theories that continue to suggest an eye-brain correlation during REM sleep in that because of the discontinuous nature of most dreams, the brain is “looking” around the dream-scene trying to make sense of these discontinuities. We have these same discontinuities when awake, only the brain smoothes them all out and projects what looks like a linear presentation.

It has also been theorized that this jumping around of the mind’s eye during REM sleep may actually cause the sense of discontinuity and that the dream images actually come at us in an entirety which the mind then has to linearize (sort out) to make sense of it all. We may be doing this in the waking world as well which is why the concept of time (a construct of the mind that does not actually exist in the physical world) was created as a means of sorting it all out. It’s interesting how Tibetan Thangka paintings show the entire life of an individual in a circle surrounding the Buddha suggesting that the person’s life is all happening at once.

 

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Mandala Thangka

“Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening at once.”

J.A. Wheeler-Physicist

 

But let me get back to REM. During REM a normal person’s musculoskeletal system (which is your body movement system) is suppressed or shut down. Why? Well we don’t have solid answers for this, but we do have research that points to reasons for this. Some evidence suggests that one of the reasons for dreaming includes both memory consolidation and memory erasure. In the erasure mode, any memory that is not reinforced becomes weakened. Memories with physical reactions are strengthened through repeated physicality, thus those memories brought up during sleep would be less likely to be retained if there were no physical reinforcement. This ‘feedback loop’ is shut down during REM.

There’s also the added advantage that when we were all huddled together against the cold in our dark and lonely caves, the dreaming of the day’s physicality would not be reenacted to the annoyance of your neighbor you’d be punching and strangling thinking that you were being attacked by some Saber-tooth tiger. Of course this theory only holds up for ‘unwanted’ memories with some other activity being responsible for the retention of those memories needed for survival. But don’t dismiss the erasure concept too quickly because if our brains could not erase the unwanted (which is enormous when compared to the wanted) we would need bigger brains to hold it all. This is in fact what we see in animals who have huge brain mass compared to their body mass and who have no REM. As a matter of fact studies have shown that when someone is deprived of REM sleep for too long, the brain goes almost instantly into REM and resists any further attempt to prevent it. So REM seems to be an adaptation for those creatures with higher order neural network systems such as ours.

It also gives us many hours of entertainment projecting meaning onto the sleep visions that may or may not have any inherent meaning. But isn’t this pretty much like the rest of our lives where we are continuously projecting meaning onto every object, person or event? Seems to me that dream interpretation of meaning projection is a pretty non-confrontational way of looking at what’s going on inside of you and around you. And who knows, higher-level self-awareness may just be the next neural adaptation the evolving human is developing.

What is a True Human Being?

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“A true human being is high without wine.

A true human being is full without dinner.

A true human being seems lost and befuddled.

A true human being is not ruled by eating and sleeping.

A true human being is the king in disguise.

A true human being is a jewel in the dust.

A true human being is not fashioned of elements.

A true human being is a shoreless wide ocean.

A true human being is a rain without clouds.

A true human being sees truth face to face.

A true human being is wise without reading.

A true human being is without belief or falsehood.

A true human being is not burdened with right or wrongness.

A true human being steps out of emptiness, arrives in a glory.

A true human being is secret and hidden.

Oh my dear and beloved you shine like the sun!

Oh my heart, go and find a true human being.”

 

–Rumi

What I hear in this poem is that our true nature is not of the material Earth, the body and what feeds it. We’re much, much bigger than that. Who we are is not of the dust that returns to dust but lies quietly surrounding us within and without.

 

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There is another world inside this one–no words can describe it.There is living, but no fear of death;There is Spring, but never a turn to Autumn.There are legends and storiescoming from the walls and ceilings. Even the rocks and trees recite poetry. 

Here an owl becomes a peacock,A wolf becomes a beautiful shepherd.To change the scenery, change your mood;To move around, just will it. 

Stand for a momentAnd look at a desert of thorns–it becomes a flowery garden.”
–Rumi

 

The world to each of us is the product of what we project, what we see, what we hear and what we feel. It is determined by our own minds and our own prejudices.

To Rumi, those who see their true nature fall in love and it is through that reality that they can live in the “Heaven on Earth” that so many religions speak of.

 

“Without love,all worship is a burden,all dancing is a chore,all music is mere noise. 

All the rain of heaven may fall into the sea– Without love,not one drop would become a pearl.For those in love,Moslem, Christian, and Jew do not exist.For those in love,faith and infidelity do not exist.For those in love,body, mind, heart, and soul do not exist. 

Why listen to those who see it another way?–if they’re not in lovetheir eyes do not exist. 

If you hurt others, don’t expect kindness in return.One who sows rotten seeds will get rotten fruit.God is great and compassionatebut if you plant barley,don’t expect a harvest of wheat.”
-Rumi

 

Basically we live, see and become what we project. Another way of saying that is, “we reap what we sew”. We can only feed ourselves, our inner selves, by the projections that we have put out there. If we see only fear, or anger, or hatred, then it’s only their council we can hear. In short, we are only listening to our own egos.

 

“We can’t be what we can’t see”
-Marian Wright Edelman

 

Another way of saying this is that peace in the world does not exist outside ourselves. It is only when we find it in ourselves that we can make a difference in the peace of the world. Angry, hateful and dismissive people cannot find peace or comfort because they are not being that which they seek.

We need nothing to tell us how we should feel, what we should believe and how we should act. At our core all of this is known. At our core is the “true human being”. It is only at the surface where our egos lie that we are forced to listen to that which is outside of us, because the ego-self does not know what’s inside and because it so desperately wants to remain in control, it depends on extensions of itself to provide the guidance and wisdoms it lacks. But being only extensions of itself it can only project the ignorance it lives within.

Once one finds their core being, their true human self, there is no need for the others outside us.

Chasing after self-worth is like a dog chasing its tail

 

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I had a dream the other night that seemed to be pointing to my oft feelings of low self-worth. In the dream I was both chasing and being chased and never getting to my goal.

Why is it so important to see my own worth, my own value, my own strengths? If something needs doing and I know intuitively that I can contribute and am dedicated to act on that intuition does it make any difference if I think I’ve got little or nothing to offer?

It seems to me that low self-worth is only important if I use it as an excuse to not contribute or to not act. Knowing at some level that I know something that can on occasion help others ought to be enough. Knowing that there’s something within me that can contribute if I let it seems to be more important than whether I feel good about it or about myself. I realize that it steals some part of my sense of aliveness but so what? If what I’m being enlivens another it might be enough. The satisfaction of having given from myself outside myself ought to be enough.

I’m tired of chasing self-worth. Sometimes I catch it but have never been able to hold onto it for very long. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to keep probably because I don’t ever think it’s real. Trying to attach certain talents to a sense of self-worth also seems a waste of time. I can see my talents or at least what I think are talents in the moment and I’m freely willing to give them away if necessary. What determines what’s necessary seems to be something deep inside, something other than my ego-self, i.e. that part of me that craves self-worth.

It is this deeper me that I’ve learned to trust. Whether that makes me a talented person of some worth seems irrelevant. Chasing it doesn’t seem to change my overall estimation of self so why bother? I know when I have something to give and can only hope that when given it is useful. Trying to get acknowledgment for the giving of something useful is also futile for my ego won’t accept it anyway, it’s primed only to reject. It’s an interesting creature this ego-self in that it longs to be accepted and yet rejects it when it comes around. It’s kind of like a self-involved and petty dictator.

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By Mark Lynch

Because I’ve learned that others need to know that their gifts to others or me have been received, welcomed, and made useful in order to feel complete I’ll acknowledge them. However, as you can guess in my case a gift of “Good work, Bob” or “you did a great job” will be acknowledged outwardly but almost never believed or if momentarily believed not held onto. The Bob Ego-self doesn’t believe it’s of much or any value. However, the “Deeper-Bob” knows otherwise so this is what I try to operate out of. When I operate out of Deeper-Bob incredible things can and do happen.

When I stop chasing my own metaphorical tail life becomes much less stressful.

 

Look for the light of your inner candle and be merely what you are and give the rest of what you think of yourself away.

 

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Look for that place between your naval and your solar plexus and you’ll find where the soul of the child resides. It is here that you’ll find the Self you have hidden from your ego self. It is here where the light still burns.

 

Look for the light of your inner candle and be merely what you are and give the rest of what you think of yourself away.

I read somewhere that every human being contains within his or her self the whole universe that the All is in each person and the All is each. But there’s always a “but” attached to these aphorisms. In this case the but takes the form of “but” the awareness or experience of this reality cannot arise when our minds are chained to anything such as a belief, tradition, sacred text, the body or its senses and ego i.e. mind stuff and mind stuff closes off the receptive heart.

As long as there is a craving for separateness, a desire for the individual, we are stuck in the illusion and its companion ignorance. It is only in the most central part of the soul, the heart of the mandala that the wordless, imageless, ageless, and soundless expression of Self resides. It cannot be perceived or understood through any of the bodily senses or the mind that these body things feed into and yet every one of us knows it’s there.

We know it when we stop looking and we know it when we give up becoming and just be. All other reality is just relative because it is of the personal ego. The reality of which I speak is that of the eternal ground of our being and as said cannot be found through the body but only through its transcendence. As long as you and I pretend to be what we are not we cut ourselves off from the reality of what we are.

And yet… there are those who through no energy issued from themselves have been graced the experience of the divine and forever changed by it.

What they saw was that they were bigger than their images of themselves but they were never bigger than they were. There is no pretense of being ‘more’ when one has dissolved into the ground of their being for they are merely what they are and no one can be bigger than that.

But how do we be what we really are when we don’t know what that is?

And there’s the rub but first one might entertain the notion of giving themselves away that is to give up the image and idea of a separate self from the bigger Self that holds the secret of who and what we are. Giving up that self that thinks it knows what it’s doing and what it thinks it should be allows the bigger Self to be heard. To hold on to that little self is to place a barrier to seeing and hearing the bigger Self and acts as a chain that holds us bound to the earth and unable to fly.

The shaman Don Juan summed it up for Carlos Castaneda when he said, “To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”

Look for the light of your candle.

Be merely what you are and give the rest of what you think of yourself away.

It’s a different world now

 

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All through our lives there are events that encourage us to look at life differently. There are times when what used to work no longer works, when friends we were once close to then become not so much and new friends beckon, when an exciting job becomes dull and a chore, when children come in and out of our lives, when we lose jobs or get new ones, parents die or we ourselves become sick, or when we gain or give up relationships.

Every event requires some kind of adjustment, some kind of shift and some kind of detachment. To hold on to the old can cause sickness. It’s like the germ of life within a seed that has to break through its skin in order to grow, to continue to live, and where not shedding the old skin to make room for the new can result in death and in our case it can be a slow death of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.

Life is often about learning when to let go, when to allow for the shift, and how to expand the container where we are to hold all our experiences gracefully so that we can come alive again.

Nearly four years ago I lost three close friends, people that I would have gladly called brother and mentor, three who at varying levels impacted my life greatly. Their deaths have to this day left me at times lost and scrambling for new meaning in my life. I was someone different when they were around and now that they are gone something about who I am has changed.

It is truly a different world for me now that they aren’t in it, my definition of reality isn’t quite the same, isn’t quite as solid, more surreal than real, and more made up than true. My emotions have also become more raw what with feeling both love and anger more acutely. It feels as though I’m at the edge of something new and I’m trying to just let this be and not fight it so as to not squash what is about to grow before it gets started. For me letting the feelings just be what they are is a means of watering the garden and watching the seeds do what seeds do when left to grow.

What I’ve learned from my dreams: If you are the director of your life’s story is it time for a rewrite? It depends on who you think is producing and showing the movie.

 

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“I am the light.” “You are the light of the world”. Are these just quotes from a biblical text or something much more profound?

When you hear people use phrases such as “You are the light” or “All is light” or “The light within” what is meant by Light? The Light, being talked about is the metaphysical essence of all life e.g. the soul or spirit– basically what we are.

Think of a movie being shown on a screen. What’s on the screen isn’t real but there is a light coming from a projector behind you and it is that light that is being projected onto the screen. Our natural level of consciousness is like that screen. What we think is real is actually a projection of light upon this screen we call life. But where’s the projector, behind us or is it in us? I contend that we are the projector of our own light upon the screen of our lives and therefore the producer of our reality.

We keep projecting all kinds of silly stuff onto our screens, the list is long for example, such things as, “I’m too helpless and small to make a difference in the world”, or “I only have so much time, life is short, we can’t get it all done, take what I can before it runs out”, and don’t forget the iconic, “I am separate from everyone and everything”, “The circumstances of my life determine what I do or don’t do”, “The best way to deal with things that make me anxious is to put them out of sight”, or “God hasn’t got time for us little people.”

This list and way of thinking assumes that the projector is behind us in the theater of our lives and that something else is the producer of this project called life. The list of course is very much longer than what I’ve laid out. I could fill several books with these falsehoods and fantasies. It would be folly to try to deal with each as a means to gaining enlightenment. To try is to make the false assumption that the solution to all our problems lies at the level of the problem. Though most self-development gurus, advertisers, and politicians would like you to believe that this is so, it is not.

But if you were to think of yourself as the projector, the one responsible for the pictures that are produced on your personal picture screen i.e. your life, perhaps you’d have more control over the picture being viewed? Better yet, what if you were the light itself that shines through your projector and animates the figures on the screen? Then no matter where you pointed your projector you would see only your light and it is only your light you know. Everything on your screen is the light you are projecting.

Very much like all the images and characters in your sleeping dreams everything you see is an aspect of you and you have the power to adjust what it is you’re focusing on i.e. you can focus on the real you or a facsimile. Do you focus on the you that you were born with or the you of your parents and the society and culture you grew up in?

Bring your full light to the image and you’ll begin to be aware of what you really are– you are the light. This is your true self and we’re all projecting some part of it. What you see “out there” is a projection of your own light. If you are seeing it half darkly know that you need only shift the focus to bring greater light to the image. I’m talking about ‘awareness’, looking beneath what appears obvious, and adjusting your lens so that the picture becomes clearer. The outside world isn’t out of focus it is your projection that is out of focus. By refocusing your awareness away from the image on the screen and more toward your inner self you can begin to notice what it is that’s running this film.

So how does one begin to see the show differently? How does one take the focus in hand? Remember that everything is an aspect of you and with this in mind one way might be to give greater attention to the subtleties of everyday life e.g. you know the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, you know that you like that smell, but how is it making you feel, what images, thoughts, and feelings in your mind does it bring up, what does that first taste of the hot brew hitting your tongue do to your body, your mood, your outlook on the moment?

Furthermore what are you projecting onto the first person you meet in the morning? What part of you are you shining onto them, your light or some part of your darkness? Look closer, who is that really out there? If you adjust your focus a little does that clear them up somewhat?

In short, expand your awareness, look beyond the obvious. Look what else you are projecting and look at what else is in the light. Do this until it becomes second nature.

Great Expectations: The unconscious influence on perception and action

 

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Line drawings of our expectations on the left with reality on the right. Note that anywhere along the line on the right one could compare progress with the expectation on the left and be disappointed and/or angry even though the outcome is exactly as hoped for.

 

Last night I had a dream. In the dream things that I expected did not happen and I started to get upset, then angry, with how things weren’t happening the way I thought they should. In the dream I found myself yelling, “Stop doing that, that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it!” When I awoke I realized that this was a reflection of my unexamined feelings associated with being disappointed with something someone had done. I had been chewing on my judgments of them all the day preceding the dream so it was only natural that the issue should show up in a dream.

The issue wasn’t really about the unexplored feelings however, they were important but something else was affecting those feelings. The issue was really about my expectations for their behavior and it was these that were coloring my inner dialogue. And it was my expectations that were affecting what I was feeling about them.

So what about an unmet expectation was causing trouble in my mind or to put it another way when someone or something doesn’t live up to my expectation of the way they should be, why do I find that upsetting? Whoa, the onus of the problem just shifted radically from “it’s their fault” to “It’s mine”. My expectations are affecting how I see the world and then how I react to it.

There have been many studies about the effects of expectations in fields as varied as science, teaching, marketing, and politics. Expectations affect not only the findings of a scientist but on what they choose to study. They affect a journalist, a jury and a judge on what facts or non facts they choose to believe in and they also affect how a teacher perceives a student that can cause the teacher to either not expect much from a student or to expect more. Our expectations affect how we vote, listen to talk show hosts on T.V. / radio, and the products we buy and all of this opens us to manipulation the kind marketers and politicians use to get us to think their way instead of for ourselves. These real world perceptions also affect the decisions and pronouncements that a politician makes once in office and even affect when a policeman chooses to make an arrest or pull his weapon from its holster.

When I was a Freshman in High School we read Charles Dickens’ book “Great Expectations”. I loved the story but don’t think I really understood how the expectations of both the protagonist of the story, Pip, and the adults and others around him were affected by their expectations and how these judgments of the way life should or had to be ran their lives.

And behind every expectation there lays a judgment, a judgment that anything other than ones expectation is less– less important, valuable, honorable, patriotic, or correct… well you get the idea.

But let me narrow the field a little. In my dream as well as in my waking life I tend to let my judgments get in the way of what I am seeing. All too often I let my labels of what something is or should be affect what it actually is. All too often I will let my labels get in the way of my love for someone or something. This is true for not only how I see others and treat them, but for how I see myself that then will often lead to how I treat myself.

But I will always have judgments, I am like most people a “judgment machine” either judging something “good” (meaning it agrees with my point-of-view) or that it is “bad” (meaning that it doesn’t agree with my point-of-view)– yes I can choose to be tolerant of the so-called “bad” but often that’s just a personal expectation that I hold for myself because I judge myself to be a “good” and tolerant person. See? I’m a judgment machine!

One way that I deal with my judgments that affect my expectations, that affect how I feel about and how I interact with others, is to first become aware that that’s what I’m doing. For example, if I were to have the judgment that what someone is doing is stupid I just say to myself, “I’m having that “stupid judgment” thought again. What this does is to take the thought out of the automatic mode of perceiving the world and allows me then to shift my perspective and to look at myself to see what of myself that I may be projecting onto the event or the person.

Sometimes my judgments lead me to evil thoughts where I play a game in my head of tit-for-tat or an eye for an eye and I spiral down into negativity. What has helped me here is another expectation for myself i.e. that when I notice that I’m playing this negative scenario in my head that I will notice and never meet or counter evil with evil, negativity only breeds more negativity. I can use this negative energy to protest the evil in such a way that it makes some people stop and think about their actions or the actions of others.

But mostly I find that I just make these automatic judgments, expectations and decisions without assessing them and that of course doesn’t allow me to be at choice with either the perception or the response to them. This begs the question as to what degree am I really at choice with anything in my life, especially if I’ve allowed most of it to be run by my unconscious points-of-view – those unconscious points-of-view that the sleeping brain presents to us in our dreams in an attempt at trying to bring consciousness to our choices?

Ah, “free choice”, real choice, of what to think, what to feel, or how to act, how much do we really have? That’s a topic for another time.