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A Bit About Relationships

This talk is about being in relationships with others. It describes mistakes we make that end up leaving us hurt and confused. It also describes successful relationships and what we should strive for when we come together.

Often when we enjoy being with others what we’re enjoying is the presence that arises. Being with someone can take us out of our heads, out of our thinking space, and into being. One of the mistakes we make is thinking that the person we’re with was the reason for the joy, instead of the stillness that arose. We may begin to think something like “I can’t feel this way unless they are with me.” This type of thinking can lead to feelings of dependency, and even addiction toward the other person.

We need to realize that we are responsible for our own happiness, that we can only manage our side of the street. Once we look to others to make us happy, we are in trouble. Co-dependence is something that is subtle and hard to get free of. We need to learn that our needs are deeply important, especially to foster positive relationships. Once we sacrifice ourselves, ironically something we do in an effort to better the situation, we always end up hurting the relationship.

In good relationships, we foster synergy and emergence, which is when the whole ends up greater than the parts. We learn to appreciate the differences others bring, because they are what help us learn and grow and become more than we are. We foster taking the other person’s perspective in a healthy way so we can communicate properly and understand one another with empathy and compassion. We allow the joy that others bring us to be experienced fully without being dependent on it. We do our best to bring a full healthy self to relationships instead of damaged, needy, partial selves.

We are always in relation with everything. Even when we identify ourselves as separate individuals, we are still in relationship with everything else. Let’s work hard to understand and foster healthy relationships.

Reference: Stephen Covey

Song: My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone

Big Things From Little Changes or How to Have a True “Identity Shift”

Why is it so hard to make big changes in our lives? We all seem to want things to be different than they are. We’d like to lose weight, make more money, be more organized, eat better. In this talk I point out a couple of ways to help bring lasting change.

One of the ideas many people hold is that we change once. People often feel we’ll make one large switch, and then things will be different. I’ll go on a diet for a little while and THEN I’ll be the way I want. I’ll learn a new investment technique and THEN I’ll be wealthy. I’ll clean my whole house and THEN I’ll be organized. But in reality those changes rarely stick. To make changes stick we need at least two understandings.

First we need to realize that it is not one big change. It is a commitment to little choices over time that affect our lives in the long run. It’s not one diet, it’s choosing different foods over and over again. It’s not working out for two months for beach season, it’s committing to being healthy and fit going forward. And while these things may sound big and difficult, they are actually only done right now, and in small ways. Big change comes from little choices over time, not one big switch.

The other understanding we can use to make big change is to align our values with our goals. A diet is something we do temporarily. It isn’t who we want to be long term. Instead, learn to think of yourself as a healthy person, or even better, an athlete. Once you change your mindset like that, supporting that idea of yourself makes all your food choices easy. It becomes a way of life rather than a temporary fix. Rather than seeing yourself as a disorganized person who needs to be organized. See yourself as a deeply organized person. Instead of seeing yourself as a month to month pay-check person, see yourself as an investor.

By aligning our values with our goals, and realizing that it’s little changes instead of one big switch, we can make massive change in our lives, and those changes can last. These little changes lead to a total, transformative “Identity Shift.”

Song: The Changeling by The Doors

Do You Have A Practice

This talk is meant to suggest the importance of a regular meditation practice. The pull of the world, and the normal distractions and natural egoic self builders don’t remind us that we need to see that there is more than thought. There is experience. We can exist without our minds running all the time. We can train a state experience that fulfills us deeply and gives us many other perspectives on how to live, what is important, and how we can behave with one another. We need to practice daily however. We need to train the mind in this new way of understanding. If you are not training your mind, you may not see when you get lost again. You may not be as aware as you can be of your own belief structures that can limit and ultimately harm you.

Our world is aware for the first time of the entirety of itself. With our news media being global, we are able to see the natural horrors that occur from time to time. We also get to see, possibly too deeply, the unnatural horrors as well. Many people wonder what can we do about these things. What will help us understand these tragedies? We want to figure it out, with our minds. But I suggest that the best thing to do is to learn to put the mind down. Learn to sit in stillness.

As we see our own structures more and more, we are helping others resonate in that way. As humans become more aware of themselves, our language about what is important can change. The words presence, and stillness start to have more gravity. As we see ourselves, we see other people as well, and we might just notice when someone is in need of attention, or help. Disasters will continue to occur of course, but we can contextualize them, and perhaps not be as fearful of them because we can see that there is depth in sorrow, and joy in the ordinary. And that life is not set in any definite pattern.

If you are interested in self growth, I humbly suggest you commit to a daily meditation practice. The benefits are enormous. But more than that as a selling point, I want to say that if we talk about growing, but don’t do the work, we may still be just as lost as those that haven’t woken up at all.

Song: Soup by Blind Melon

A Rainy Day in Philadelphia

Something a little different today. No talking. Just watching.

What do the faces say to you? Where do our minds go as we walk through this life? How many of us are really here, and when are we most here? There’s the pigeon, and the playing. The begging, and the pain… The energy underneath it all.

There’ll be more talking from me soon, but for now… It’s just nice to watch.

Song: From the Morning by Nick Drake

Looking Through Other Peoples Eyes

Many talks I’ve given have been about the perspective shift of being able to look through other people’s eyes. And while this is a deeply important skill to develop to inform ourselves and to evolve, if not done from a place of health, it can lead to enabling co-dependent behavior.

Healthy perspective shifting includes:

  • Understanding that someone beeping in a car might be late and it might not be about you.
  • Making the effort to see a situation from your loved one’s eyes during an argument.
  • Taking the time to listen to a co-worker to really understand their needs.
  • Consciously integrate shadow elements of ourselves (part of the 3-2-1 process from integral theory).

Perspective shifting is paramount to evolving and growing. But we need to do it consciously and mindfully. When we don’t, looking at the world through other people’s eyes can lead to unhealthy co-dependent behavior.

What is co-dependence?

  • Someone who exhibits too much, and often inappropriate, caring for persons who depend on him or her.
  • Co-dependence can also be a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing great emotional pain and stress caused, for example, by a family member’s alcoholism or other addiction, sexual or other abuse within the family, a family members’ chronic illness, or forces external to the family, such as poverty.
  • Codependency advocates claim that a co-dependent may feel shame about, or try to change, his or her most private thoughts and feelings if they conflict with those of another person. An example would be a wife making excuses for her husband’s excessive drinking and perhaps running interference for him by calling in sick for him when he is hung over. Such behaviors, which may well lessen conflict and ease tension within the family in the short term, are counterproductive in the long term, since, in this case, the wife is actually supporting (“enabling”) the husband’s drinking behavior.
  • My simplified definition is when we lose ourselves to the idea of another. When I am looking at my life solely or primarily through your eyes.

What is the difference between a healthy perspective shift, and losing oneself in another through co-dependent behavior? The difference is when we know who we are. Other’s perspectives should inform us, but our actions need to remain based on our own values. This touches deeply on understanding our values and beliefs. And while this could be a whole other talk, our values and beliefs need to be understood, and at least peripherally mentioned here.

My first talk I said that beliefs are an error of taking an opinion and treating it as a truth. What I meant by that is that an unconscious, unexplored belief is an attachment that limits, or affects, how we see the world. But we all have beliefs, we all have values, even though there is an ideal groundless state of being. To express ourselves as humans, as selves in relation to others, we need to be clear on what our attachments, beliefs and values are. The more we know about who we are as people, the more evolved, awake, and informed we are.

Gaining the skill of looking at the world consciously through other people’s eyes is an important growth for people. But we need to use the idea of an other’s perspective to inform our own perspective, not lose our own perspective to someone else.

Introduction to States and Stages

This talk is an introduction to states and stages of consciousness. States of consciousness are our now experience, and stages of consciousness deal with the growth of self along many lines of development in time. In this talk I want to explain the importance of each of these perspectives of consciousness and begin to point at how we develop each of them.

States of consciousness are not permanent. They include: emotional states, drug induced states, meditative states, waking and sleeping states, and others. Much of our time is spent trying to manage our state experience. We feel hungry, we go for food. We have a headache, we take aspirin. We want to feel good, we have a beer.

Stages of consciousness instead deal with development along many different lines. Those lines include cognitive, value, interpersonal, moral, sexual, etc. On each of those lines there are altitudes of development. Some are more developed morally than others. Some are more developed cognitively. There can also be movement along these lines. An individual may start out as selfish, and move to nationalistic, and then finally resonate from a world view. Stages are objective judgments of subjective experience. They are the structures and beliefs from which we see the world.

Why do these altitudes of development get to be called stages? Because study after study shows that over time the answers to certain question about our experience go in one direction. The way we process and interpret the world tends to keep going in the same direction along these lines. There is a tendency to grow and widen our capacity and our understanding and experience of deeper stages. We all may not move along the line, but almost nobody goes backwards. There is a direction to the movement.

Healthy stage development, along any line looks like this: When one experience (or stage) is taken from subjective experience into objective experience. When we can look back at the prior stage objectively we have fully and healthily evolved through that stage.

Meditation (state management) practice doesn’t always show us our current stage. And while true subjective state experience doesn’t allow us to see our current stage ever (because we’re in it) we still grow through the stages over time. Working on meditation isn’t always only a direct state experience. Often it is a thinking dialog and running into walls of self, belief, structures, etc. It is my opinion that this part of the practice of meditation often leads to an understanding of the stages we’re going through. This is not because of the state experience, but rather the opportunity for introspection sitting offers.

States don’t tend to evolve, unless trained. And even then, they still jump around a lot. (Buddhas still sleep, wake and dream.) But states of mind can evolve when trained. The idea here is that non-dual awareness and the like can be developed. To a certain extent that is a stage in the realm of state experience. Once you understand and have non-dual experience, it has the capacity to inform the rest of your state experience.

Basically, we want to learn to manage our state experience as best we can, and grow through the stages of development along all the available lines as best we can. Doing those two things is what self development and growth is about, in this moment and through time.

Referenced: Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics

Learning to be Detached

I was recently having a discussion with a good friend of mine. He mentioned that people who have had trauma and have learned to detach to protect themselves would make great Buddhists. They may have spent their lives not attaching to things because things or events had hurt them in the past. A trauma survivor may have learned to “turn off” from arguing or painful situations.

First, let’s forget Buddhism and just talk about healthy detachment, which is what this person meant. Secondly, let’s explore what detachment is and is not. Healthy detachment actually has a lot of attachment in it, it’s just what we are attached to that counts.

A detached person can shield themselves from pain and other things attachment leads to. So isn’t detachment what some of the great traditions are teaching? Shouldn’t we all not care about good and bad and learn to fully detach from the material world, etc.? In actuality, detaching at a certain point can be very detrimental to us. But true healthy detachment isn’t the same as trauma induced detachment. True detachment is involved and aware. We are always somewhere, attached at some level to something, so we need to learn what attachment and detachment are.

Moments arise, and they just keep arising. We are capable of accepting part of what is going on: a conversation, a bus coming at us, snow falling, whatever. A healthy brain functions in a state of deletion. There are always billions of things occurring while the present moment creates itself. So that healthy brain chooses what to attach, or pay attention, to in any moment. The thing is, we don’t only have all that’s actually going on in an objective sense to choose to attach to or be a part of, we also have our thoughts.

We can leave being associated, or attached to this moment and go to an imaginary future, or a remembered past. A dysfunctional brain tends toward not being able to manage these attachments. Someone who has been severely traumatized may have a hard time choosing the things it attaches its brain to in a way that society would deem appropriate.

That said, many people who have been abused may learn the ability to detach from an abusive parent. They use their mind to manage a situation and separate from pain. But detaching from what is is not a blanket good or evolved thing to do. In fact, as necessary as that might be in situations of overwhelm, I’d suggest that it’s much more healthy to stay attached to what is going on, and continually widen our capability to attach to more and more of what is going on.

So if I’m saying we should attach to what’s going on, why is the talk called Learning to be Detached? Because it’s actually the opposite of what a trauma survivor might learn to do. We want to attach to what is, and detach from our own desires, expectations, and delusions. We want to learn to be more and more OK with what is, with this moment.

A healthy happy person is in the moment, meaning attached to what is, they are not however attached to how it’s supposed to be. This talk is not selling blind acceptance, and we should move toward our goals, but it is important to not be consumed by them. Accomplishing goals relies on attachment and discernment. In contrast, an unhealthy detachment is just disconnected. No attachment to things that can hurt us, but no attachment to things that bring joy either. No connection with isness.

So the difference is in what we are attached to. We should try to be aware and attached to what is. If we’re attached to a certain outcome, we’re beginning to detach from what is. If we’re completely disconnected, and not interacting with anything that is, then we’re deeply unhealthy. But in contrast, if we detach from unhealthy attachments, which are usually our own beliefs and agendas, then we are tending toward being more awake.

Show song: Satisfied Mind by Jeff Buckley

Do We Change The World Or Accept It

Surrendering to the moment is a very important teaching. Learning to accept what is, is one of the fundamentals of growing spiritually. So if acceptance is fundamental to this teaching, then why do all these teachers want to change what is? Why are they unable or unwilling to accept the world in its perfection exactly as it is? Teaching is asking people to be different than they are. Why don’t all the teachers just accept the current state of understanding and move on?

This is a really great question, and points out a large logic problem with all this teaching business, and what enlightenment means. Do we want to change the world, or learn to accept it? The answer really is both. And the important clarification is the misunderstanding that to become enlightened is to blindly accept everything. That is not necessarily what enlightenment, or growth is about. Accepting absolutely everything would leave us motionless. That idea of stillness is an illusion. To a mind that is trying to manage state experience only, that would make perfect sense, and hence be a very attractive thing to try to attain. But that attraction is the same attachment that’s in any other form of desire. So what is this growth or enlightenment we’re talking about?

Integral theory and spiral dynamics talk about the difference between states and stages. And while a full explanation of the difference is beyond today’s talk, I will say that we are definitely trying for deeper states of consciousness, but also (and possibly more importantly) higher stages of development. Each stage is a level of attachment. It is a set of beliefs, or a paradigm that we walk through and act from. So the idea is not that we are trying to stay peaceful, or joyful, or happy all the time (which would be a state experience only, and doesn’t happen), but rather we are trying to walk through these larger stages of development (which would lead to more and more wisdom, durability, capability, and hence better state management as well). We try to become identified with larger and larger portions of reality.

So no matter what stage we’re currently identified with, what can we do to work within this paradox? At what point is our own attachment to change, or to an idea of something better, a problem? It is compassionate when we want to help someone else with their pain. But we begin to get lost when we insist on their growth or begin to get attached to it. Work to explain things you understand to those who don’t understand it, but don’t get attached to the outcome. Be mindful of your attachments, especially when they are masked with change for the “good” of something. Change and creation is always occurring with or without our intention. Be involved in that change to whatever degree you want to be, but know that acceptance is always available to you, and use it well. We have the ability to change what is (the external), but we also have the ability to change instead what we are (the internal) to acceptance.

Referenced: Integral Theory

Fearlessly Feeling Fear

A teenage boy just heard that Tommy wants to fight him in the schoolyard. He feels fear, but it’s not OK to feel fear. He’s supposed to be a man. He’s supposed to be tough. Or at least that’s what his belief system is telling him.

A woman in college was raised Christian and believes we should all love one another. But someone named Maggie just was hitting on her boyfriend. Anger starts to rise up in this woman, but it’s not OK to be angry because of her beliefs. So she feels anxious and get a second level of emotion because of the conflict of the first emotion, anger. It wasn’t OK to feel the way she felt.

Let’s take it away from a belief based idea. Let’s just say that we don’t like feeling fear, or sadness, or anger. I get scared and I don’t like the way it feels. It’s not OK to feel the way I feel. Once, for whatever reason, it’s not OK to be who I am or feel how I feel, I am in trouble.

This talk is about that second level of emotions. When we feel something and that feeling is not OK. When we feel fear and we don’t want to feel fear. The added anxiety and discomfort that we add to what we feel. This talk relates to beliefs, emotions, and surrender. All our feelings and emotions are necessary. Emotions are the language to tell us how we are relating to our situation and circumstance all the time. And yet it takes courage to feel what we feel sometimes.

Some teachings say we should try to transcend emotions. Some say we need to endlessly honor emotions. I say doing both is really important. We must investigate the self that’s feeling the feelings. It could need to adjust it’s beliefs and hence, change itself. But we also need to really feel what we are feeling.

The worst thing I see in people, and myself, is when we resist what is. When I am resisting life, I am deeply unhappy. When I accept what is, I can face anything. I can fearlessly feel fear. Whenever I choose to spend my time wanting what is not, rather than appreciating what is, I’m lost. The practice is to become aware that we are fighting this moment, and to drop that critique. We can feel fear, and not want to be anything else. We can be sad, and fully feel it without running away. When we do that we open ourselves to the joy underneath.

From Clutter to Clarity

External clutter is linked to your internal state of mind. Ownership of things is part of what the self is trying to accomplish. It feels bigger and more important when it has more.

Because of this, we tend to let things define us. This is one of the problems of finding true happiness. Things decay. Nothing but change is permanent. Your car gets scratches. You kitten grows up. Your clothes gets stains or get worn out. A large part of us ends up attached to the identity of these things in our lives. But you are not only your car. You are not only your possessions. Understanding that tendency of self is very important. And rethinking our relationship to the things in our life can be very freeing.

I mention this to point out that our self is directly related to the things in our life. Self likes things. If growing your self is important (which it sometimes is for damaged people, like homeless people), then growing your things may be important as well. But if softening your attachment to self is important, then freeing yourself of things to some degree, or at least organizing them into what you really care about becomes very important.

Again, the external world represents our internal world. The busier we are in the mind, the busier our lives will look from an organizational perspective. Ultimately, it’s nice to have an accurate and orderly representation of our lives. But why is dealing with things and clutter so hard?

Many times it’s because of something called approach avoidance. We end up wanting to clean our clutter, but when we get close enough to see it, there is some pain associated with it and so we move on. We don’t want to clear our clutter because it is often too hard to deal with what that clutter represents emotionally. Often times we don’t see this consciously. That unconscious energy can be deeply draining.

This avoidance can come from pain, sadness, anger, or confusion. It could also be from apathy. You may like your stuff where it is, and if you do, that’s great. But if you don’t, then try to turn into the avoidance with commitment and courage. Once you clear some clutter, take note of how it makes you feel. That energy and clarity is powerful, and shows us that we’re much more in relation with the world than our mind would lead us to believe. We are not as separate from our things as we thought.