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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

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

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

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

Nested Duality

What is nested duality? This talk begins to discuss the play of opposites. I talk about the importance of relating in new ways to good and bad. Ultimately this talk is trying to convey the error of nested duality which is when we make the non-dual experience something good.

As we look at good and bad closely, we see we can relate to the concepts in different ways:

  • Good and bad can feel like absolutes. Things outside us that we have no control over.
  • Good and bad can begin to define one another. Without bad, there is no good.
  • Sometimes perceived bad events end up being good events.
  • Good and bad can be seen as perceptions of is-ness. We realize that we are much more involved in good and bad than we originally thought.

As we take responsibility for ourselves and our perceptions, we learn we are intimately involved in our perceptions of good and bad. They end up being our judgements. As we learn we can “mess” with our perception of good and bad we start to wonder about non-dual experience. A non-dual experience is experience without duality, without good and bad.

When we first learn about non-dual experience we see that we can escape good and bad in a certain sense by staying in a nonjudgemental state of mind. Sitting in stillness can be very pleasurable. Often times people get the idea that non-dual states are better than dual states. This is where duality has come back in, this is nested duality.

Once we’ve made the non-dual state of mind better than the dual state of mind, we’ve been caught in nested duality. If we begin to prefer, or call good, the non-dual state of mind then it is no longer non-dual. This makes it very hard to correctly sell this state of mind, or even point to it, because when we do we are not in it. But when we treat the non-dual experience in this way, it becomes just another opinion, another belief. It becomes something we think about instead of do.

Mastering Perspectives

This talk is about mastering perspectives. It assumes that someone capable of seeing more perspectives is better informed, and more able to act appropriately, happily, and well.

There are many perspectives to any situation. Every moment there is your point of view, someone else’s point of view, and third person perspective as well. There are also historical perspectives, we perspectives, singular and plural perspectives, inner and outer perspectives, emotional perspectives, and even imagined perspectives. To simplify, there are many ways to look at things.

So the practice then becomes to relate as fully as possible to the moment by being aware of as many perspectives as possible. Learn all the different perspectives, and work to integrate them into your life. It may sound like a lot of work to do this, but it becomes very natural. Also, in the beginning, it may be useful to apply this only when in conflict. It’s a great tool to use when you’ve hit a wall.

I suggested learning about Integral Theory for a deeper understanding of perspectives. I also mentioned that “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” is really just an ancient perspective teaching. We’re not all aware that there are many perspectives, and we certainly don’t often act from more than our own point of view. Learning about and applying perspectives can help us grow.

Referenced: Integral Theory

Introduction to Transparency

When something is transparent it is able to be seen through. In this talk I make an effort to show the link between transparency and awareness, making the assumption that awareness is healthy. Transparency is an idea that can be applied to any system to allow that system to behave healthily and naturally. Systems mentioned include self, companies, governments and society in general.

Exposure puts natural pressure on behavior that is only OK behind closed doors. Lies in personal relationships, corporate dumping, dishonest motivations of governments all become fixable when we are aware of them. For us to be aware of them, these systems need to make efforts toward transparency. While it’s true that most entities may not immediately want to become transparent, there are many reasons to motivate them to foster transparency. Companies can become more profitable by fostering internal and external transparency. Governments can run more smoothly and efficiently as well. As more individuals understand this concept and want to foster it, we can bring these ideas to the systems we’re a part of.

We all have emotions to help us make appropriate behavioral decisions. If we allow for too much privacy, we can hide behind walls and bury emotions of shame and guilt. Those feelings would naturally curb behaviors if we were only to remove the walls of privacy. It’s easy to continue doing destructive things if we think no one is watching. Once we know others can see us, natural systems kick in to guide us.

Our legal system is losing the battle of specifics. We can’t write specific laws to govern all action successfully. We need a more elegant and complete idea to work from. Any elegant solution ends up being a simple solution. Transparency offers us a simple central theme to work with any system. It fosters awareness in any size system and helps us all resonate at wider levels of identification.

Means to an End

In this podcast we have a fist fight at a gun show. Two men, both deeply interested in safety, take very different stances on how to achieve that goal. One, having been mugged and beaten before feels as though having a gun will offer him safety. The other man, losing his son to a gun accident, feels that guns need to be banned. From those different stances, a fight ensues. If they had been more clear on what they really wanted, which is ultimately safety, they would have been able to avoid conflict.

Conflict often arises between people that have the same end goals, but very different means goals. An end goal is a goal that once accomplished is finished. A means goal is a goal created to help achieve an end goal, but isn’t an end unto itself. We often get too attached to a means goal, missing opportunities to achieve the end goal in different ways.

I explain that even what we normally think of as end goals, are really still means goals for what we all really want. Our true end goal is really the ability to manage our own states of consciousness. As an example, we don’t really want money, we want the feelings we think money will give us. That may be security for some, and bliss for others, but it’s the state of being that we want, not the abstraction of money. It turns out that everything we do is in relation to managing our states. Knowing this can breed wisdom and allow us to navigate conflict, and the world in general, with much more ease.

Whenever we come to inner frustration or external conflict, we are at the edge of one of our own attachments, or means goals. Taking the time to be introspective in those moments will help us gain clarity to what we really want (state management) instead of the thing for which we might be fighting (a means goal).

Shining Light on the Shadow

Part of evolving as a human being, and part of the teaching that I’m trying to promote, is about bringing awareness to all the aspects of our lives. One of the big accomplishments in psychology has been identifying and naming what’s been called the shadow. To understand the shadow we’ll try to describe a fictional “whole self” and then discuss damage that occurs which can create shadow.

What is a whole self? We could say that it is someone fully identifying with all the ways he/she can interact with the world: Thinking for objective experience. Emotion and body for subjective internal feeling. Spirituality for a larger context. Having access to all those experiences is what we might call being whole or fully self. (FYI – This is a different meaning of self, a more healthy meaning, than what I normally use to describe self.)

Shadow literally means to obscure the light. A shadowed element of self is a part of us that we don’t identify with. Commonly that can be an emotion we don’t relate to, or it can be how we relate to our bodies, minds, or spirituality. Any part of self that we have become misidentified with can be termed the shadow. Again, our shadowed elements are any part of us that we don’t have the ability to identify with directly. Shadow elements are often brought on by trauma, and solidified by our beliefs. Working with shadow is extremely difficult primarily because we don’t see what we’re not conscious of.

How do we find our shadow? We begin to find our shadow by looking at things that bother us – anger in other people or situations – behavior we know we do, but deny as “us”. Often this will be perceived as someone else’s “stuff.” It can be out in the world, but shadow can also express itself in our dreams. Therapy can help us find the shadow, in fact most of what therapy tries to do is work on reintegrating splintered parts of self and foster becoming whole.

To begin working with the shadow we make the effort to bring aspects of our self into 1st person experience. Literally taking 3rd person experience and working to make it 2nd person, and ultimately 1st person – via role playing dialog and perspective shifting. This is a great way to reintegrate shadowed elements of self.

Referenced: Integral Theory