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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

Getting to the Beauty

This talk is really an exercise looking at the split between internal/external, and thinking/experiencing. I discuss the words below and ask you to identify with each word as I do.

thinking experiencing
form feeling
outer inner
external internal
different similar
motion stillness
time now
attachment freedom
expectation actual
them us
you we
disconnect awareness

 

First we go one by one down the rows identifying with each side. Then we look at the left column, and identifying with all those states of being. Lastly we look at the right column.

The point of this is to show that we often find ourselves living external thinking lives only. We should balance that with the internal feeling experience from time to time. Being able to dance freely between these different states of identification is a deep fundamental shift.

What Does Paradox Have To Do With It?

Question I’d really like answered for a future talk:  What, if anything, would be the best thing humans could do to make the world a better place?  Please leave an answer as a comment to this blog or email me directly.

In this talk we explore paradoxes and logic and point out where we’ll find them in learning about stillness.

One interesting paradox is “This sentence is false.” Another might have to do with using language to define impossible situations.  The logical mind doesn’t like paradoxes.

The most common paradoxes we will find in these talks tend to come from different levels of experience clashing against the same thing, or the idea of the same thing. Normally those two experiences come from a mind that feels separate from the moment, and the mind that feels at one with the moment. If you have no concept of what being one with the moment feels like, it is simply when we are doing anything without critique. That’s stillness in it’s simplest form.

Another example of paradox, as I’m defining it here, is the good/bad dilemma. Having something that seems bad turn out to be good. Or learning something from a bad thing, and finding good value in that learning. Then the thing is good and bad, etc.

What I am really trying to describe is the problem with being “away” from reality. The normal existence of man feels separate from life. We feel distinct and separate from other people and things.  I’m trying to discuss the sense of oneness, and how a separate mind will often not find logic in discussing oneness.  In that lack of logic we will often come to paradoxes.

All spiritual traditions seem to be based, or at least discuss oneness.  In Christianity, the original sin is about mankind leaving stillness, or oneness, to come to knowledge. We obtained the knowledge of good and evil. It’s man entering duality. In Christianity they say that after death we go to heaven. Is it possible that all that needs to die is the self?  Because there is no self in stillness, can we come to a heaven on earth?  Taoism speaks of everything being the Tao – that is their reference to oneness.  Buddhism speaks of stillness and oneness frequently as well.  This is all mentioned only to point out that oneness seems to exist, even though our normal experience is a separate one.

So are we OK with paradox?  Can a mind see that paradoxes exist, and move past them?  Can we put down the discerning mind to come to peace?

Expectation vs. Experience

Important thought:  The gap between our experience and our expectation is our unhappiness.

Experience is what’s happening to us.  Expectation is what we’d like to happen to us.  How many people do you know who live in a state of almost constant disappointment over their life situation?  They are simply comparing what they experience to what the expect, and leaving a huge gap between the two.

There is a freedom away from this type of mind if we want to find it.  It takes a different mind set.  It will help if we can see the pain this behavior creates.

Which can we control, experience or expectation?  Movies and TV often imply that we can control the world, or should be able to.  Science implies that control or prediction should be our greatest goal.

An awake person realizes that we can control, or at least deal with the expectation part of this better than the experience part of this.  That realization is huge.

The Beauty of an Itch

In this talk we widened the definition of an itch to include not only physical itches, but also emotional and mental bothers as well.

How can an itch be beautiful? We described actually enjoying an itch. Diving into the feeling without judgment allows us to experience itches in a different way. Energy then actually becomes literally beautiful.

Another way to see the beauty in an itch is to realize that they are the largest anchor there is. We use bothers, and itches as reminders to bring our attention back to the moment, back to our breath.

We don’t want to be itch free, we want to be itch proof. The itches don’t stop coming, so being itch free is unrealistic. But we can learn to be itch proof. We can be strong, and fearless. We can learn to sit through bothers.

Itches actually become the beauty of life. To start, we need to become aware of what we sit through now and what we run from. We need to become honest with ourselves about what moves us around.

Itch/scratch is the iconic representation of pleasure and pain. The immediate urge to “scratch,” or the rushed push to fix a “problem” is one of our most limiting qualities. The itch is a bother and we want it gone. That very behavior, in its many facets, is our core problem.

We need to learn to become awake when things bother or itch us. Introduction to anchors was one easy way of staying connected, but the biggest anchor is the itch itself. We should learn to deal with itches, bothers, and problems rather than run from them.

We can and should scratch an itch when our attention should be elsewhere, like a conversation. Just try to be mindful when we do. But while we should be kind with ourselves, we can also be honest and realize that as we are bothered to scratch we are at times asleep. We can learn, “Oh, maybe I should have watched that itch for a bit. Maybe I could have learned from that.” We will see as we become more honest with ourselves that we are at different times more asleep than we thought.

Show music: Consolidated Mojo by Billy Boy Arnold

Busy Mind Defined

Audio track mixed to describe a busy mind.

First step of dealing with a busy mind is to become aware that it is occurring to you.

Next step is to bring your attention back to your breath.

There are many things that make up a busy mind. Emotions, anxieties, fears, joys, etc. You can go down each path to work with your mind, but it’s most important to learn to drop your thoughts. Drop all busyness, even though it may feel like you need to work on the content, it is ok to drop thoughts.

Do we want to spend all our time “busy,” or would we rather find peace and sit in that? We need to learn to be fulfilled.

Busy mind leads us to do things to “ease our pain” in excess (such as watch TV, drink, smoke, etc.). It’s important that we learn the middle path between fixing our problems externally with “aspirin” and sitting with discomfort. We need to learn when to stop chasing our problems.

Who do we really want to be? Would we rather free our minds and grow, learn, and express? Or do we want to let our minds run on and on endlessly?