A “Hidden Music” dream

 

main-image-spiritual-music.jpg

 

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

 This is a quote oft attributable to Frederick Nietzsche that I ran across while searching for aphorisms. It stuck with me all week mainly because it seemed to be speaking directly to me.

Two other quotes that seemed to apply came to mind as well, though I don’t recall from where I first saw them and Google didn’t help at all. My apologies to those who first spoke them.

 

“People who don’t understand things tend to reject them.”

 And

 “Let your heart lead and your mind follow”.

(I can imagine the corollary to that might be “let your mind lead and heart will get lost in the dust”.)

 

Not all that long ago I had a dream that seemed to reinforce this notion of some inner voice, or song that few others can hear. The dream seemed to be an extension of the dream I had even earlier that I had labeled The Blue Fresco. This dream could also be interpreted as what I’m now calling a “Hidden Music” dream.

It’s only when I’m quiet, when I’ve stilled the incessant chatter of my ego-voice that I can hear the music. When ruled by pride, fear, desire, worry, anger, distrust, greed, or when I imagine myself better than others I cannot hear the music. When I judge others or myself, I cannot hear the music. When I surround myself with distractions (TV, Facebook, Twitter, video games) I cannot hear the music.

It is only when I seek the sound of silence that I can hear the music of the spirit. It is from this deep venue that my soul waits to be expressed by as Rumi said, “It’s most beautiful face”. To dwell in this place is to dance to the music that few will ever hear, not that they cannot but that they will not and herein lies the cause of our deafness, the “Will” of will not, the be-all and know-all of the human consciousness that hides the beauty of what we all are beneath its suffocating self-centeredness.

It is this self-centeredness of the will that has us search the world for some treasure when the treasure is in us all the time. It’s what Lao Tzu called the Tao, “the origin of all things” the heart of all our being, the essence of what we are. It’s what lies between each of our words and the thoughts that create them. It’s what is beyond our personal and collective motives.

When we become self-centered the music cannot be heard. As Lao Tzu said “the quest for outer acquisition closes the door on the Tao” and it is the needy self-centered ego-self that is always projecting outside itself its unreality because it knows that it is hollow and empty within. No matter how hard it tries, no matter how many self-help programs it takes it cannot fill the void of itself for here there is no music within the void. It is not in the personally created ego that we can find the music of our true self.

As with that dream of several years back (The Blue Fresco) one needs to leave the empty world behind it and follow the intuition of the child into the mountains beyond where the music lies. Therein lies the connection with the spirit, the real self.

10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them.

Cognitive+Errors+Catastrophizing+Dichotomous+Thinking.jpg
10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them. (based on an article from Reddit.com)

We are living in a time of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information and of much over-the-top rhetoric with questionable fact delivery and weakened logic that seems to be driving a fear-based narrative. Part of what reinforces this negative stream are what are called errors of cognition or just thinking errors. These show up more often than not when we are in fight or flight mode and weary of all the negative input that inundates us at every turn.

Note that these are “errors” and not necessarily “disorders” unless of course one uses them all the time and in a way that affects their ability to function effectively and appropriately.

In September of 2016 I wrote about the effects that fear has on our thinking in Fear breeds bigotry and bullying .

The following is a deepening of this idea:

Based on the work of Aaron Beck and others, in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions.

  • ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Also called Black and White Thinking – Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always”, “every” or “never”. For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all bad, or all good, we all have grades (I call this ‘absolutism’ and I find that I use it most often when I’m having an argument with my spouse. Nope, it doesn’t work).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way?” (all or nothing thinking does not allow exceptions so if even one exception can be found, it’s no longer “all” or “nothing”)
    • Ask yourself, “Never?” or “Always?” (depending upon what you are thinking)
  • OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations. For example, you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat: “She yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.”
 I’ve also seen this when people support or discount a reality because they “Knew someone who…” or “Read about someone…” or “I have it from a ‘good’ source and then apply that info globally. This falls into the category of “There are huge drug cartels in Mexico, therefore all or most Mexicans are drug dealers”. 
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • When you catch yourself overgeneralizing say to yourself, “Just because one event happened, does not necessarily
 mean I am (or you are or he/she is…[some way of being])”
  • MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain, usually negative or upsetting, aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For example, you selectively hear the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the HUGE POSITIVE STUFF. Often this includes being associated in negative (“I am so stupid!”), and dissociated in positive (“You have to be pretty smart to do my job”). Boy do I over use this one! Both on myself and on certain politicians and political parties.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Learn to look for the silver lining in every cloud
    • Count up your negatives vs your positives – for every negative event,
stack up a positive against it. Make a list of both negative and positive
character attributes and behaviors.
  • DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. The good stuff doesn’t count because the rest of your life is a miserable pile of doo-doo. “That doesn’t count because my life sucks!” To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “So what does count then?” “In what way?”
    • Accept compliments with a simple, “Thank you.”
    • Make lists of personal strengths and accomplishments (I’ve found this to be particularly helpful though you may need to keep it nearby to remind yourself.)
  • JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
    • Mind reading – assuming the intentions of others. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check it out. To beat this one, you need to let go of your need for approval – you can’t please everyone all the time. Ask yourself, “How do you know that…?” Check out “supporting” facts with an open mind.
    • Fortune telling – anticipating that things will turn out badly, you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. To beat this, ask, “How do you know it will turn out in that way?” Again, check out the facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • When the conclusion is based on a prior cause (for example, the last time your spouse behaved in this manner s/he said it was because s/he felt angry so s/he must be angry this time, too), ask yourself, “What evidence do you have to support your notion that s/he feels…” “How did you arrive at that understanding” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?”
    • When the conclusion is based on a future consequence (“I’ll die for sure if she keeps harping on this…”) Ask yourself, “How does this conclusion serve you?” and “If you continue to think that way… [what will happen to you]?” and “Imagine 5 years from now…” (Future Pace)
  • MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMIZATION–
    • Exaggerating negatives and understating positives (I do this when I’m going down the rabbit hole of ‘absolutism’). Often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negatives understated. There is one subtype of magnification/catastrophizing – focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable or impossible when it is really just uncomfortable: “I can’t stand this.”
    • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What would happen if you did [stand this]?”
    • Ask yourself, “How specifically is [this/that/he/she] so good/too much/too many/etc. or so bad/not good enough/too little/etc.?”
    • After asking the second question, ask yourself, “Compared to what/whom?”
  • EMOTIONAL REASONING –
  • Making decisions and arguments based on how you feel rather than objective reality. People who allow themselves to get caught up in emotional reasoning can become completely blinded to the difference between feelings and facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) patterning interrupts and creates new ‘anchors’ that are the most powerful state changers – interrupt anything negative: “X makes me mad” “How does what I do cause you to choose to feel mad?” Interrupt: “How could you believe that?”
  • SHOULDING ( or Oughting)–  “Must”, or “Can’t” thinking.
  • Shoulding is focusing on what
 you can’t control. For example, you try to enlighten another’s unconscious – they should get it (for me this comes from my self-centered ego self, after all I got it why can’t you? This assumes that I actually got it). Concentrating on what you think “should” or ought to be rather than the actual situation you are faced with will simply stress you out. What you choose to do, and then do, will (to some degree, at least) change the world. What you “should” do will just make you miserable.
 Often these come from the expectations (values?) we were fed as we grew up.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “What would it feel like, look like, sound like if you could/did or could not/did not?” or, “What would happen if you did/didn’t?” or, “What prevents you from just doing it then?” or, “What rule or law says you/I SHOULD?” or, “Why should I?” or, “Could you just prefer instead?” or, “Why SHOULD I/YOU?”
  • LABELLING and MISLABELLING – Related to overgeneralization, explaining by naming. Rather than describing the specific behavior, you assign a label to someone or yourself that puts them in absolute and unalterable negative terms. This is a logic level error in that we make a logic leap from behavior/action (“he called me a name…”) to identity (“therefore, he’s a jerk”).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What could be a better way of looking at this that would truly empower you/me?” or, “Is there another possible more positive meaning for this?”
    • When you recognize you are labeling or are being labeled, ask, “How specifically?” Example: “How specifically am I a jerk?” – which will evoke behaviors rather than identity (what helps is for me to see where the other fellow’s “jerk” shows up in me because it almost always does to some degree).
    • Remember who you/others are in spite of behaviors: “Even though I failed the test, I’m still a worthy person.”
  • PERSONALIZATION & BLAME – Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.” Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. For example, “My son is doing poorly in school. I must be a bad mother…” and “What’s that say about you as a person?” – instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “lf only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. On the flip side of personalization is blame. Some people blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” – instead of investigating their own behavior and beliefs that can be changed. I will use this one just about every Father’s day to explain any problem facing my kids.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “How do you know [I am to blame]?” “SAYS WHO?”
    • Ask, “Who/what else is involved in this problem?”
    • Ask yourself, “Realistically, how much of this problem is actually my
responsibility?”
    • Ask, “If there was no blame involved here, what would be left for me/us
to look at?”

These 10 cognitive errors are all habits of thinking that are deeply ingrained. The good news is, like any habit, these patterns of thinking can be broken and discarded through awareness and practice.

 

Sources:

Captive Hearts: Captive Minds, by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich, Hunter House, 1994; pgs 101-103

Take Back Your Life Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns, M.D.

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, by Anthony Robbins, Joseph McClendon

Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding, by Robert Dilts & Judith DeLozier

 

More Barriers to love and the spirit within: The seeds of our own destruction

 

hidden-bully-behaviors.jpg

 

Not too long ago my wife and I presented a Cornerstone class on conflict resolution at our granddaughter’s elementary school. Project Cornerstone first came to the school district as an anti-bullying program. But over time the use, or over use, of the word “bully” to identify a certain type of behavior has hardened into a type of person rather than a type of behavior i.e. they “are” a bully instead of them “behaving” like one.

When “bully” becomes a label instead of a description of a behavior it leaves little room for the person displaying the behavior to change or even to defend themselves because the use of the word sets them in concrete. The label then becomes a way of excluding someone. Most of us do that with the word “evil”. Once we’ve hung that around someone’s neck they’re no longer a human and they are open to all kinds of abuse.

This isn’t unusual behavior on our part in that we humans often tend to paint each other with a broad paintbrush. It’s easier to do this and doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. This becomes especially noticeable when we are caught up in our fear of something that we don’t understand and begins to escalate radically as the more helpless and fearful we become.

Tribally we humans tend to reject outsiders and behaviors that we don’t understand and when those so-called outsiders seem to be of a particular tribe we tend to paint them all with one color. Even the best of us sometimes fall into this trap as when we condemn a race of people for the actions of some of that race or when we condemn an entire religious group for the horrific behaviors of a certain subgroup.

In recent years we have witnessed the horrific behaviors of a religious subgroup and have rightly labeled their actions as evil, but some people out of their own fear and ignorance have branded all of that religious group as being evil. This is of course a big mistake and totally unhelpful to the cause of peace and our ability to detect what it is that needs to be done to contain the evil behavior and how to lessen the number of those who fall prey to the lure of this subgroup.

While we hold people accountable for their behaviors and while we do what is necessary to end and/or contain the evil we must look at what conditions are enflaming and enabling it and do what is necessary to end those as well.

Yes, we need to fight this, but we need to fight it intelligently and not do it in a way that throws gasoline on the fire thus spreading its damage over a greater area. We need to respond to the presence and actions of evil and not just react.

Reacting is a “lizard brain” action where no thought is required just instinctive animal reactivity. God gave us so much more to work with that lies above the reactionary archaic brain stem and we need to resist the tendency to label everything we’re afraid of or don’t understand as being evil and thus subject to our wrath. We need to stop acting like a frightened snake striking whatever moves and more like the intelligent thinking sons and daughters of a loving God we are.

Simply put, we cannot push back the darkness of evil by simply pouring on more and more darkness– we need to add some light to it. WE (you and I) need to come up with some ways to 1) rein in our own lizard brains and 2) find ways to end the spread of evil and once accomplished deal appropriately with the root causes of it. To do anything else will only perpetuate the evil i.e. you can bloody the land with more killing and that may subdue the evil but only temporarily.

History is rife with lessons on how we humans take the wrong paths toward peace. That’s because we react out of fear instead of responding to it and using it as a motivator to change, a change necessary because we have failed to do what is needed to treat others with the respect we would want for ourselves.

Now, that is not to say that we can end all evil. There will always be those who have been sickened by their own minds and will seek solace from that pain by attempting to dominate and control those outside themselves as though it’s the outsider who causes their sickness. There will always be egos that want to feel bigger and more important and will attempt to subjugate the world around them.

Compassionate Containment may be what is wanted and needed in these cases at least until science can find a successful means of healing them. But each of us who are healthy has the means for controlling our own negative and reactive behaviors. We need to get serious about learning what those means are and start actualizing them.

We need to embrace the real meaning of enlightened civilization and grow beyond our reactive tribal mentality. Currently we seem hell-bent on sewing the seeds of our own destruction.

Politics and reality: Even the rats in a maze have a better grasp of reality than we do

 

cheese-maze.jpg

Many years ago as a graduate assistant and in charge of the rat lab at the university I noted that rats could learn pretty easily where the cheese was in a maze and would quickly go right to it regardless of how complex the maze. But when the cheese was removed the behavior was readily extinguished within 2-3 attempts with no success. The rats wouldn’t go down that tunnel anymore looking for the cheese.

However, human beings don’t behave in this manner because once the cheese is removed the human being will go back down the tunnel to where the cheese used to be again and again, nearly forever. Are human beings basically dumber than the rat I wondered?

That possibility may or may not have merit but I think human beings keep doing what they know doesn’t work again and again because ”It’s supposed to work!” or that they want it to work therefore it should if they hang in there long enough. It’s why we keep voting for the same dunderheads who promise us things, aka cheese, that we know they can’t deliver on, again and again. It’s why the political faithful keep voting against their best interests by saying yes to a totally discredited economic plan because the ‘cheese’ is “supposed” to be there. Be aware that their leadership knows this and manipulates this fact to their advantage.

This cognitive default keeps us from seeing the facts i.e. the cheese ain’t there no more– but with humans facts be damned, its supposed to be there, so that’s where they’ll go. The “dumber” animals don’t have this encumbrance because they operate within reality as it is, not as they wish it to be.

We self-create the way we think reality is supposed to be and it’s a very personal reality. This is usually very inaccurate mainly because we’ve buggered all the data with our want-it-to-be’s and our self-serving projections. Most of this was done when we were children when of course we had little experience and knowledge from which to draw any conclusions and from there on out we only picked the experiences, emotions and events that agreed with our flawed view of reality.

As children our decisions that we made were mostly based on fear– fear of doing the wrong thing or being the wrong way and thus losing approval, or knowing the wrong stuff or knowing only part of the issue but we didn’t know what was the best way anyway so we relied on the adults around us to tell us what to do. But of course they don’t know either, but had learned to pretend that they did.

And we keep thinking that if we keep choosing appropriately from our rather limited reality that eventually we’ll get the cheese. Sometimes it looks as though we do get the cheese, but it only lasts for a short while, doesn’t it? This is called intermittent reinforcement in the behavioral sciences and it’s the kind of learning that’s the hardest to break away from. It’s what often creates the ‘supposed’ in the “its supposed to be there” way of thinking. It’s what keeps people gambling their money away because at one time they “won” something.

So we keep shooting for what feels good and hoping that maybe this time, this person, this way of being, will be it.

This is the way it is when you’re attached to something outside yourself for your well-being. There’s a lot of suffering in that and any “happiness” is often just the absence of pain. You know, we’ve bought into a lot of rubbish about what happiness is. We’ve been led to believe that if we just have the right things e.g. a wife/husband, children or no children, breath freshener, toothpaste, smile, schooling, more schooling, better schooling, job, the right job, a better job, the right sex, better sex, a good vacation, a better vacation, or if we’re the right weight or have enough money (is there such a thing?), then we will be happy. But none of it lasts for very long does it? Then it’s off to the next thing, the next fashion, the next relationship, the next wise guru. But when we live in an illusion of reality, there’s always disillusionment.

How do you break such an insidious and all-consuming cycle? One can transcend the cycle and one can transform their relationship with reality. But first you have to acknowledge that you really don’t know what it is and that what you’ve made up is a mess basically a pack of lies and half-truths.

It’s a whole new retraining that requires that we let go of our dependence on something outside ourselves. Now I don’t mean that we all need to become emotional islands, we need each other. We need to be open to the support and the love of others, we just don’t need them to be responsible for our lives, to tell us how to be and what to think and feel and happiness doesn’t come from them, it comes from within. It’s the ‘cheese’ in you that you need to search for, not outside in someone else’s maze, it’s not there, it is gone! Get over it!

a-baby-starts-to-crawl-through-the-doorway-gahan-wilson.jpg

Learning how to love ourselves: First step in loving others

 

hqdefault.jpg

Q: So how does one learn to love oneself?

A: I’ve found the following to be useful:

 

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart

 

Notice that all of these require that a person get outside their self that is, outside their narrow little ego-self, so as to include the “other.” This in effect expands the image of self to something greater than the ego and it’s the ego that contains the idea of being less-than.

Giving reverence to something much bigger than yourself takes you out of the confined space of the personality and opens the door to the infinite space of the divine. Love is no longer about you (as in getting or feeling love) in that you literally ‘become’ love i.e. you are its expression.

Note that all require increased consciousness as well. In order to see the reality around you, you have to be willing to let go of the reality you have. Loosen your expectations of others (and yourself) and allow what’s there to filter through. The act of forgiveness is a really effective tool in this process. Holding someone or some event in blame, censure, or punishment becomes a locked prison cell for the person doing the holding as well as creating unnecessary resistance in the other person. Note that blaming, censuring and punishment rarely affects positive change in people. Typically people just learn to avoid the blamer/punisher.

Love and caring cannot exist in a condition of animosity, blame, rancor, revenge, impatience, and aversion. And its loss isn’t just local to the person or event that’s unforgiven, it creates a ripple effect that spreads out across all of ones reality. Forgiveness is one of the most freeing experiences one can ever have. It what opens the heart and allows all the rest to come into your world. It literally opens you up to the Grace of God.

“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.”

–Rumi

Lastly, you might have noticed that all the useful suggestions for opening yourself to the love of self require that you sacrifice, your point-of-view and your need for control. Points-of-view keep you locked in place, it narrows your reality to a myopic view of what’s actually there. Love is so big that it cannot be seen through the peephole of your limited point-of-view. There is nothing more limiting than a point-of-view. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one, just don’t be wedded to it.

Have you noticed how little in control you actually are? We do things to control the actions of the other so that we might feel safer, or more important. But this is a never-ending battle and we never really feel safer, or more important. Thinking that we have control of anything other than ourselves is a distraction. And we can’t have control over ourselves until we know who and what we are, which brings us back to the need for increased consciousness.

So how do we get this increased consciousness?

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart

love-risks.jpg

“Oh that’s just a myth!”

 

stonehenge.png
Stonehenge in England has been the center of many myths of the supernatural.

 

Fact or myth?

Myth, or the study of them, mythology, is frequently what the other guy believes in. All too often it is denigrated, put-down, and demeaned. “Oh, that’s just a myth!” is often heard as a means of dismissing something that one doesn’t believe in, or disagrees with. We are taught very early to discriminate between what is real, fact, and what is not real, myth or fiction.

That’s well enough, but many of the things we believe are real can turn out to be myth. At one time the whole world believed that the Sun orbited the Earth, most believed there were many gods and that women were property. “God created the world in six days!” Is this a myth or fact, or maybe a myth that points at a fact? After all, it is a fact that the universe was created. It’s the how, when, or why that stumps us and so we make up stories of explanation and adhere stubbornly to them until something better comes along.

And that is the purpose of myth–it’s a means of pointing to what is often the ineffable i.e. what we have trouble putting words to. Our myths point to a reality that is hard to express, or visualize. They also point to human or environmental behavior that is difficult to explain otherwise. It’s not that these behaviors don’t exist, but that we are trying to fathom the world, its people, and ourselves through the power of allegory and myth. We project onto our gods, our heroes and on to other people our own myth. When we learn to read it, the reality of the real world will begin to reveal itself.

Even though myths are often used as the end point of explanation, they can also be the first step in dealing with reality in that they identify what needs explanation e.g. what is it we are seeing? Essentially myths may serve as allegory or symbol of what is real. This is also what our dreams do, they point to the reality we may not see.

For example, when we say that we are a writer, a biker, and a lover of chocolate we then want to explain why that is so. For example we might say, “I am the way I am because my Dad was a biker, my Mom a reader, and chocolate’s an addiction, or surrogate for the love I never got because my Dad was off riding and mother too buried in her books. Or here’s a more ancient explanation for the unknown, “the sky is dark and thundering so there must be an angry god” or perhaps a vengeful sorcerer, demon, or witch.

We develop a lot of myths about ourselves e.g. any time we say, “I am the way I am because…” we are creating our personal myth, our personal explanation for reality–the story, or narrative, that we live by and through. Of course most of these behavioral explanations require some form of blaming someone, or something, other than our selves. And for many of us the whole of life is a myth. Does that mean that your life isn’t real, or true? Not necessarily, for in each personal myth is the seed of truth if we had the eye to see it. Mostly we are so busy making up stories about who we are that we can’t see the reality beneath the stories.

Why do we seem to give such power to our myths? What we seem to do more often than not is to confuse the pointing finger with what the finger is pointing to.

Myths can also be used to hide the assumed reality of ourselves so as to protect us from what we fear the world is, or what we fear we are. There is of course nothing wrong with a personal myth and it’ll do until something better comes along. But you might take the first step in your own growth, and in deciphering your own metaphors for understanding life, your life. As Jean Houston, a human potentials movement leader, said “myth does serve as a manner of explanation, but it is also a mode of discovery…it is the stuff of the evolving self that awakens consciousness…”

You might ask yourself what is your personal myth i.e. who and what do you think you are and are not and why? Jot down a list of adjectives along with their explanations and then scan them and look for themes. What reality does all this seem to point to? For example, if you are someone who meets criticism with hostility and are quick to defend your position, what is it you fear you are that you then feel so compelled to defend against it? What are you protecting?

The myth you have created can inform you as to the fact of you, the reality of you. The informants are all around you and every judgment you have of another person is part of your personal myth and can tell you more about you than it can about them.

Every point-of-view, every criticism, every acknowledgment, and every belief contains valuable information about you and collectively this information can paint a picture of the ‘you’ who exists in the world. And I believe that the more you understand what you’ve created the more you can discriminate between that and who you really are.

 

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

― C.G. Jung

 

Let’s use the biker, reader, chocolate example again, if you believe that chocolate should be one of the main food groups because it is such a good pick me up when you’re feeling down, or you get upset anytime someone ignores you, and your explanation includes what your parents did when you were a kid you might look for a theme in that. Is there “hurt” in that, or “abandonment”? Is there fear, or anxiety? Do you feel compelled to defend your position? From what and why? The story will reveal parts of yourself that you may have hidden long ago. Where else in your life do these feelings and reactions come up? Do they arrive in your dreams, work, school, or on a date? What might they be telling you about yourself?

A lesson from our dreams: From Plato’s Shadow World to our own

image_1406141446_804752377.jpg
Priscilla Hernández, ‘Nightmare’

 

I have often said that every person in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer e.g. their emotional and behavioral characteristics are a mirror of your own. Though this is a truth in dreams it’s also a truth in our waking lives as well.

Each of us is mirrored* in the others that we meet. Hate a certain behavior in someone and you are seeing your own rejection of that behavior in yourself. Dismiss someone out of hand it’s probably because you don’t want to acknowledge their behavior that they reflect from yourself no matter how small it may be.

How are the people you reject just like you? How are the people you like just like you? Both reflect parts of you.

This fact leads me to compare the dream world with the waking world and helps me to see that maybe both worlds really are a dream, the sleeping dream and the waking dream. Interestingly learning to decipher each dream can help us understand ourselves better and where we fit in the overall scheme of things. Both dream worlds can act as a personal therapist and guide through the journey of our life.

Often when a dark and scary being shows up in a dream we want to run from it, hide, or verbally or physically defend ourselves vigorously. This type of dream being is known in psychology as a shadow aspect. When the shadow shows up in a dream either in the sleeping or waking world** take a break before reacting for there’s an opportunity being presented here for you to see a part of yourself that may need dealing with and perhaps modifying so that you can begin to manage the darker aspects that show up throughout life. In short, seeing others as a mirror for self-improvement and/or self-acceptance is a sign of a maturing and evolving psyche.

_______________________

*An interesting resource that I’ve used as part of my blog comes from Justin Gammill through the following link: https://seventhrayblog.wordpress.com/author/violetflame2035/

**If you want to look deeper into this concept of the Waking Dream and how it is used therapeutically for greater self-awareness you might like to read “Life as a Waking Dream” by Diane Kennedy Pike, Riverhead Books, 1997.

 

Unchain the soul: Another ‘allegory of the cave’

 

TheCave02.jpg

I was reading an article not too long ago that made reference to Plato’s Shadow World, you know, The Allegory of the Cave from his book The Republic.

 In this allegory Plato imagined a group of prisoners chained in a cave facing a wall and unable to turn around. Behind them was an eternally burning flame and between the flame and the prisoners there was a parade of objects and people that cast their shadows upon the wall. To the prisoners their reality was this two dimensional movement of shadows before them. Unknown to them was a reality of immense multidimensional complexity that if they had known of it would have totally explained their universe.

In a lot of ways Plato’s shadow world is a reflection of what the unconscious shadow mind that resides in each of us does to our experience of reality. The cave we live in is the one of our conscious mind and its three dimensional way of seeing things. We too, like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory, cannot “see” the reality behind us when all we have is the wall of our conscious mind to perceive with.

What we are missing is a 4th dimension of space, that created by the unconscious mind– that part of us where we have stuffed what we don’t want to look at, that part of us where the archetypes of the whole of humanity lay informing and forming what we see and what we do. There is a world beyond our conscious awareness that makes up 80-90% of the real world. But unlike Plato’s prisoners we have the ability to “turn around” so as to perceive it, so as to understand the meaning of the world we find ourselves in.

How do we do this? How do we loosen our own chains so as to make the shift in perception? Fortunately it’s pretty easy for the universe has given us the tools to expand our consciousness through our dreams and the art of meditation. Both tap into the Great Unconscious, both give a glimpse as to the world behind us that cast the shadows that lay before us.

Our world is not just the three 3 dimensional reality we’re so familiar with– there’s a 4th dimension to the space/time continuum we’re all used to and it is the realm of the greater psyche and the individual and world soul that informs and enriches its every expression.

Just as Plato’s prisoners saw their shadows as neither positive nor negative the objects that move in our unconscious mind are also neither positive nor negative, it is our conscious mind that labels them as such. This shows up especially with those who have low self-esteem for they cannot see the positive aspect shadows that hide within the unconscious. But there is an inestimable reservoir of creativity that resides in the shadow world of the unconscious mind i.e. both that which is labeled positive and that which is labeled negative contribute significantly to what is created in the conscious world.

Next time you have a dream where a dark something or someone shows up and threatens your dream-self don’t run from it, engage it, start a conversation with it. You may find that such a conversation actually illuminates what’s going on in your life. The shadow often has information to enlighten even though it seems to come from the darkness. Using your dreams to unlock the chains that have kept you staring at only one dimension of reality can be immensely rewarding.

Many views on a god: An oversimplification

The-Creation-Michelangelo.jpg

Given that this time of year has several of the world’s religions celebrating the spirit I thought I’d do a quick and dirty review on the Gods they believe in.

 

Atheism presents a case against the existence of God, but wouldn’t it need an image of God to present a case against it? Why the need to refute the existence of something you know doesn’t exist? These might be considered antireligionists. In fact they seem to make a religion out of antireligion. Originally this word “atheist” was given to those who didn’t believe in the gods of the larger society. Today it represents the belief that there are no gods. They base their beliefs on the fact that there is no “empirical evidence”. Never mind that there may not exist the means for gathering or detecting empirical evidence re: the spiritual.

Life after death: In atheism there is the belief that there is no life beyond death. There is of course no “empirical evidence” to support this belief.

Deism suggests that there is a God but that it is not involved in our every day life. It teaches that God is knowable through creation itself.

Life after death: Regarding any after death phenomenon the deist claims that there’s no evidence either way i.e. of its existence or non-existence.

Theism makes a case for God’s continued intervention in the lives of its creation. Theism teaches that God is not knowable. Types of theism 1) traditional Abrahamic religions known as monotheisms and 2) polytheism such as Hinduism comprised of many gods and demi gods with one primary god and with each representing a different aspect of reality. Note that Paganism may be considered a branch of polytheism. In truth this term was used by Christians to demonize polytheistic religions so as to establish their inferiority. Modern Paganists incorporate nature worship into their belief systems. There are Pantheistic (the belief that all reality is identical with divinity), Polytheistic, animistic and even monotheistic pagans. There are even Henotheists who believe in their one god but not to the denial that there may be other gods e.g. Yaweh or Allah. The Muslims believe that Allah and Yaweh is the same God. Pantheists believe that though there may be many gods such as with polytheism there is an underlying unity e.g. in Hinduism, the Brahman.

is copy.jpegThe Brahman

Life after death: Theists believe in a life after death though there is no evidence to support it.

Animism: Totemic Spirit beings formed the creation. For example, in the Australian Aboriginal cosmology Rainbow Snake created the world. Totemic beings continue to create the world as the ancestor spirits. The Inuit of the Pacific Northwest Americas have stories of Raven who created the Earth, the father of all life who was created out of the darkness. As with some of the old Hellenistic religion Raven could come to earth as a human (remind you of anyone?) or an animal (e.g. lion, sheep, dove)

 

The_Raven_Flood_Totem._-_NARA_-_298052.jpg

Raven– creator god

Life after death: The Australian Aboriginal, for example, believes that every person essentially exists eternally in the Dreaming. This eternal part existed before the life of the individual begins, and continues to exist when the life of the individual ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that this spirit-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through a mother. The spirit of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy.

Secular Humanism: Secular humanism posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. This may be somewhat like Atheism but a little less cynical. An essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy without the imposition of any belief.

Life after death: A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.

 

Nearly all the isms require either belief or experience.

Belief of any kind requires trust and confidence that something is true or the validity of something often backed by evidence but also through something called faith.

Experience is a direct observation or personal encounter not requiring trust or confidence, faith or evidence. It’s a knowing separate from knowledge. Knowing is the experience of something first hand while knowledge is gained through other people’s experience. It’s like the difference between book learning and on-the-job practical experience.

Belief seems to lock up ones thinking because if you think you know the truth there’s no room for the truth in your knowing. Belief tends to be static but experience is in the moment-by-moment living. Experience is of the “be here now” while Belief may be of the “be here then”.

For example, at one time I could never believe in God for I had no experience of it. Once I had an experience of it I no longer needed a belief in it. Now that doesn’t mean that I haven’t locked-in my experience and turned it into a belief e.g. “I believe in God because I’ve had an experience of it”. I’m only human and that’s what we do. When I notice I’ve done this I try to think of the experience as a fond memory of a past moment that I’m not experiencing at the present moment and let it go. When I’ve truly let it go the moment often returns reminding anew.

This isn’t easy this not holding onto a favorite memory and allowing whatever experience I’m having in the moment to just be what it is. But somehow there’s a knowing that transcends the memory and the desire to lock it up in a precious little silver box, a knowing that floats freely wherever I go as long as I don’t hold onto it. It’s that free-floating knowing that keeps God bidden or unbidden always by my side.

Become the goal and lose the soul

 

12333-spiritual.630w.tn.jpg

I read an article not too long ago that likened self-fulfillment with attainment. But it’s not really about what you have, or what you do is it? It’s not about how much or how little you have or the status of what you do.

So many have struggled up the ladder only to find that at either the top or somewhere along the way that all the having and doing is hollow, with no meaning, and at a deep level where your true sense of self-worth lay, profoundly empty.

On the surface this can be viewed as heresy, and dangerous talk, for all national and global economics depends on striving ambition and continuous competition. He who stops to think, falters i.e. he who muses, loses.

Now, don’t misunderstand me I’m not advocating the end to market driven capitalism, or striving, or competition, or shooting for the moon (goal setting). I’m just suggesting that there’s a better way to play the game, a better way to act out the story.

We can have our cake and eat it too. How? Just remember that there is striving, there is ambition, there are goals to be made and actualized, but that we are not our goals e.g. what we are is not defined by the outcome of the game.

The soul loves to play and is nourished by the game, but when a person begins to identify with the piece on the board, or the digital avatar on the screen, the soul gets lost and people get hurt.

When we forget that we are souls or spirits moving the game piece that is our human form we lose regardless of how many things we accumulate or squares on the board we jump to.

So by all means play the game, there’s much to be learned in it and much joy to be had, but play it knowing that the outcome of the game is less important than the play.