Daring Greatly

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So, a while ago I wrote about the dangers of, or concerns around, striving for perfection. I don’t think I made clear that I believe, think, feel that recognising our imperfection and striving to be authentic and continue the active process of becoming ourselves is the key to our ability to enjoy our lives to the fullest and express who we are with meaning and therefore satisfaction. I think these are the things that lead us beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into a new realm of more holistic needs that are better suited to humanity’s way of being, within the current culture, and may well lead to a revolution, perhaps even enough of one to start to change our evolution.

To the evolutionary biologist, evolution occurs over a long periods of time (millions of years kind of time). The smallest amount of time most are willing to suggest this has measurably occurred in humans and other species (referred to as rapid evolution, contemporary evolution or evolution within an ecological timescale) is within 50-100 generations. In today’s worldwide culture we tend to use the word ‘evolution’ rather loosely when what we often mean to reflect is a paradigm shift in an individual’s experience (as opposed to an entire species genetic direction). Yet, there is increasing evidence that species of many kinds are passing on learning to their young which is enabling them to enter their world with greater advantage and adaptation and, depending on your definition of evolution in biological terms, this is starting to influence the scientific worlds take on evolution. The recognition that evolution is not just genetic adaptation but is beginning to be seen as 50% genetics and 50% environment (or some similar measurement) is becoming more commonplace.

Returning to the idea of ‘perfection’, in terms of evolutionary biology homo-sapiens have never been perfect. There is a bit of a trend currently to idealise different periods of our evolutionary history such as pre-agriculture or the paleolithic period. The truth is that there is no time in human history that humans were perfectly in harmony with our environment or perfect in any particular way. “Humans are not at the pinnacle of any evolutionary ladder… Evolution is always working from existing parts… Organisms are not in ‘perfect harmony’ it is more that evolution just has to be good enough.” (Prof. Marlene Zuk, 2014). How many of us feel that we are ‘good enough’? I wonder if we started to think that we were just good enough if that might help many of us fill the void of doubt, fear and shame that drives us toward worthlessness, self-loathing, overthinking, over analysing, anxiety and depression…

In terms of religion or philosophical belief, without getting into great depth across multiple belief systems, there is a strongly familiar repetition that we are moving towards rediscovering, finding or reaching for perfection. Do our religious beliefs ever suggest that we were born imperfect? That our road leads us towards authenticity and that this is the greatest honesty we can achieve? It is easier to lose ourselves to a saviour that will cleanse us of our imperfections than to take the more honest and seemingly harder road toward just being our imperfect selves. It is easier to succumb to addictions, be they substance or material based, than accept our vulnerability. As researcher Brené Brown asks, in her infamous TEDex talk, how many of you see vulnerability in yourself as weakness yet when you see someone else expose their vulnerability you see courage.

The road to happiness, it starts with allowing yourself to be vulnerable. To be yourself, not who you think others think you should be but who you really are. It takes great risk and potentially terrifying honesty. In a world where we are told to ‘harden up’ or buy into the consumerist/capitalist idealism, and swallow the culture, politics or pseudo-psychology that is sold to us in bite size nominalisations, what we might really need to do is allow ourselves to be courageously vulnerable so that we can begin to accept our imperfections, feel worthy and experience innovation, creativity, real connection and happiness.

 

word errant satiety image courtesy of alltelleringet on deviantART

 

 

 

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Time

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‘The hidden world has it’s clouds and rain, but of a different kind.

It’s sky and sunshine are of a different kind.

This is made apparent only to the refined ones – those not deceived by the seeming completeness of the ordinary world’

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207-1273)

As illusion or reality, or within the eye of the beholder, time is relative. Relative in the sense that how we experience it, from the subjective or objective self; or that other place referred to sometimes as the ‘observing self’*. From each of these places time differs. From each of these places the ability to learn, adapt and change differs.

From the objective self, that recognises the seemingly simple fact that the matter that makes up our unique form can interact with other matter, time is about measurable forces: It takes two minutes to brush the teeth in my gums in my mouth, I know the length of time my tea requires to infuse before removing the teabag and adding milk, sugar or cold water then calculating the measure of time before I attempt to consume the heated liquid to avoid harming my delicate body. It is formed from physical interactions and the memories of those interactions. This is our sensory self.

From the subjective self, somewhat less precise measurements appear. Emotion enters the frame which creates all manner of differing perspectives on time. Time to heal. Time to calm down. Time to catch the trout that eludes me. Time to write that poem that is on my mind. This kind of time is highly relative. We all need a different amount of time to manage, understand and come to terms with our emotions. This kind of time relates to our culture, our environment, our genes, our experiences, education, beliefs and morals… the list is perhaps in-exhaustive depending on the subjective consciousness of the ‘whom’ that writes it. This is our thinking, feeling, sensorial self.

From the observing self another kind of time entirely is engaged. What is the observing self? Since your birth your cells have died and regenerated. If we were entirely biological beings with no consciousness or ability to form lasting memory networks then we would not retain any sense of ‘I’. We may retain object consciousness on a basic survival level, fire equals potential harm therefore caution is required, but not retain a sense of ‘I am this particular being that holds memories and information pertaining to my subjective existence’. The observing self is a form of consciousness that overarches, or integrates, all of this. It is that I we enter sparingly, some more than others, that sees connections, knowledge, experience and emotion differently. This is our mystical self. The self that observes our subjective (and objective) self.

What real life application does these potentially esoteric observations offer? The ability for growth and change. The ability for intuitive moments and great leaps of consciousness and understanding. The opportunity of an experience beyond the immediate and potentially known ‘self’ within which to temper experience. A ‘place’ beyond the temporal, reaching into something much deeper; that which is called by many names (and religious/spiritual traditions) and is open to all to experience directly, exposing and developing their identity with something greater than any individual, the whole. The whole and our journey of our developmental and eventual evolutionary journey to become. Evolution# comes from small change. Perhaps beginning to understand ourselves provides greater opportunity for progression.

 

*Arthur J. Deikman, M.D: ‘The Observing Self’ Beacon Press, Boston, 1982.

# Not to belittle or confuse this ‘sacred’ scientific word that usually relates to progression or adaptation of a species over many, many generations

Word errant satiety image courtesy of jonathanjessup on deviantART

Shine bright like a diamond

Because I need reminding…

Errant Satiety

“Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves – the way we are – and why we don’t accept others the way they are.” Don Miguel Ruiz

Attaining ‘perfection’ is a perpetual journey. Yet the word perfection is misleading and a potentially devastating trap. The quote ‘Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without’ highlights that there is no perfection without flaw. It suggests reaching for the most magnificent version of our selves while knowing the flaws; the ‘negatives’ help to create this whole version. The concept of perfection can be a falsehood that leads us to constantly feel lacking or not good enough. It potentially denies our core self by seeking to uphold an image of perfection. Whereas attaining holistic balance is a very real and honest process of being, or rather becoming. This describes an active process of growth and attainment where…

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‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ (spukhafte fernwirkung)*

Recently as I emerged from one of my sick days, where my body, in order to seek balance between insulin and sugars, demands complete withdrawal from the world, I found a deep sense of peace and renewed engagement with the world. While in the liminal state of sugar low, and my body’s healing process engages, I am neither asleep nor truly conscious. It used to scare me somewhat but I have begun to recognise that after these periods, I return with many disparate concepts beginning to reveal themselves to me much more clearly. I feel refreshed as though confusion had truly been weighing me down. The clarity, born from the physical process of harmonising the discord between peptide hormones and carbohydrates, seems to have extended to my holistic-self leaving me alert and vibrating at a higher level.  

On this particular emerging, the unlikely marriage between mysticism (here defined as the experience of direct communication with ultimate reality through deep contemplation, meditation or prayer; not limited to any one religious affiliation), is deeply in my thoughts. As some of you will know, this has long been an area of interest for me, yet for many the potential connection between mysticism and fields based on rational observation cannot be reconciled, or if parallels are drawn these parallels are deemed negatively as ‘pseudoscience’.

Quantum Entanglement, which is not a new discovery but something that emerged around 1935 (traced back to the Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen paradox) and a multitude of various later studies, offers what I see as science discovering that which mystics have expressed non-scientifically for thousands of years. Entanglement, a real an observable force, is the term used to describe how two particles that are entangled, instantaneously communicate (seemingly beyond the speed of light) regardless of the distance between them. Not all particles are entangled but the ones that are, if communication can occur instantaneously, does this not pose the question that the mystics may just be attuned to the form of communication provided from entangled particles? Or is this suggestion heresy? Or is it too great a leap to make to suggest that particles might contain intelligence?

This connection that I tentatively make is not a scientific one, in so as far as not being a rigorously controlled hypothesis being tested in a quantifiable or qualitative study. It stems from years of incidental and direct research and an open mind. It is not a new idea, many scientists at the forefront of quantum studies have been, some heavily, influenced by a variety of mystic approaches. But however much I would like some of the ideas from quantum physics to elegantly and seamlessly fit into my mystical ideology, they do not (or I do not yet significantly understand enough to see real correlation). Which is ironic because when it comes down to quantum level consciousness plays a large role in how quantum particles behave; for one example (according to one prominent theory) quantum particles quite literally turn from waves into matter when observed.

A main area of interest from the scientific perspective of quantum entanglement is how this could relate to communication. But however much I would like the idea of entanglement to relate to mystical communication it just does not fit. It is romantic to think that people might be connected by entangled particles, that they can sense one another’s feelings and thoughts across great distances but this idea relies on the fact that some of their particles had to have interacted at some point in time. That point in time, if we agree that there was a big bang event that created the universe from a singularity, was some 13,000,000 years ago. There is only postulation that particles would remain entangled or that the information contained within particles were timeless that when observed in the here and now the information remains. If this were the case, then the timeless information shared between particles would have to have been encoded with the future expectation of the existence of the particular individuals in mind and these specific particles had to have somehow found these persons and become a part of them… among millions of millions of other particles that would make up those two unique human beings. It is a romantic notion but does not hold up to rational thought, not even the very basic rational thought that I offer here.

It is also romantic to think that ultimate reality could be expressed via direct communication between entangled particles. This might be a little more easily defended in the light of rational thought but intimates intelligent particles. Or an intelligent overseer directing particle traffic. Perhaps when an individual reaches for knowledge that overseer ensures a suitable entangled particle expresses connection and shares information. Highly implausible?  

Somehow I feel that consciousness, that other mysterious force that has yet to be explained is tied up in all this and just hasn’t yet played the trump card. So I will continue to read, with a clearer mind, realising that I had been reading looking for correlations and information that supported my own interested (lay) personal view. The truth is it doesn’t really matter what I find as I will still believe in the world/universe that I believe in but I enjoy stretching my mind and observing waves turning into matter as I notice them.  

words by errant satiety 

* Letter from Albert Einstein to Max Born, 3 March 1947; The Born-Einstein Letters; Correspondence between Albert Einstein and Max and Hedwig Born from 1916 to 1955, Walker, New York, 1971. (cited in M. P. Hobson, Quantum Entanglement and Communication Complexity (1998), pp. 1/13, CiteSeerX: 10.1.1.20.8324)

Reflections

Childhood experiences…

“If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself; get a better mirror, look a little closer, stare a little longer… you have to believe they were wrong…” Shane Koyczen

Live and love with a full heart and be better than those that taunted you in the past. You know you were always destined to be who you are becoming….

The child’s mind; some thoughts on the past

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My mind to mind, heart to heart, soul to soul conversation with my brother last night brought my firm beliefs about childhood experiences and the past into clear focus. A good friend of mine, who has been a counsellor for many years, often states ‘children are great recorders of information but not good interpreters’. I agree with this wholeheartedly (although, I will note that there are exceptional children that do seem to be great interpreters). While I do not believe in excessive reminiscing of past experiences, particularly in the form of rehashing the past over and over and awakening all the emotion that was felt at that time, I do believe that sometimes we need to assist our ‘childish’ memories to be rewritten with our adult consciousness.

I see life as being like a great tree:

  • The roots being our core beliefs and where we come from
  • The trunk being our growth, time in the world, memories and experiences
  • The branches and leaves our potential future path

We can rewrite what has been carved into our trunk, redirect the sap of memories that flow within us and, if so desired, change the core beliefs that our life is built upon. The past is not static. With a bit of mindfulness we can change our view of past experiences, even great tracts of time, so that we can respond to our present in a more balanced way and flourish.

Can you call to mind moments or situations in your life where you habitually respond with overly strong emotion, almost like a default setting? Or is there a pattern in your relationships that seems to be stuck on repeat? Have you ever wondered why certain words or phrases set you off and later you wonder why that situation blew out of proportion? It is highly likely that you may have an ingrained response linked to childhood experience/s that haven’t been contextualized into an adult perspective. It’s like a trigger that when pressed by particular pattern or similar situation to the past experience we are suddenly, emotionally, 6 years old again, or 12 or 15. Our adult mind, heart, body and soul is hijacked by this youthful version of ourselves. If we can identify the sensation and catch ourselves behaving in this way we can begin to recognise the pattern and instigate change.

As I mentioned I don’t believe that change requires an in-depth revising of the past (this is almost like rehearsing and reinforcing the behaviour). Just noticing what happens at these times is a powerful catalyst. What thought is prevalent? Is it actually relevant in this situation right now? Why do I think/feel/believe this? Try to catch the moment and slow it down, breathe and look at the thoughts that appear foremost in your mind before you say them out loud. Press pause while you breathe and assess the thoughts and emotions arising. If you can, take time out from the situation, write down what you have observed but keep it simple. When we challenge behaviour, or alter a pattern slightly, different neurons spark in the brain, beginning new pathways within our mind and igniting the process of change.

Sometimes we may have a distinct memory that arises in relation to the patterned response but a specific memory is not essential for this simple process to create successful change. The point is to break an association that is no longer serving us. As children we put in place coping mechanisms to deal with that which we do not, or cannot understand at that time. These mechanisms probably served us well when we developed them but as we outgrow them they begin to hinder us without conscious realisation that a patterned response exists.

Take your inner child’s hand and lead them through these situations with calm, care, love and attention. It takes a little time but it is not painful and leads to deeper understanding of the self, greater compassion and empathy as well as richer relationships. I am not saying banish the inner child, the innocence, imagination and wonder of the child-mind is a blessing. I am merely suggesting that there are parts of our mind that could do with a spring clean and a new perspective to improve our lives.

Change is easier than you believe.

 

Image from pinkparis1233 on deviantART

Shine bright like a diamond

“Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves – the way we are – and why we don’t accept others the way they are.” Don Miguel Ruiz

Attaining ‘perfection’ is a perpetual journey. Yet the word perfection is misleading and a potentially devastating trap. The quote ‘Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without’ highlights that there is no perfection without flaw. It suggests reaching for the most magnificent version of our selves while knowing the flaws; the ‘negatives’ help to create this whole version. The concept of perfection can be a falsehood that leads us to constantly feel lacking or not good enough. It potentially denies our core self by seeking to uphold an image of perfection. Whereas attaining holistic balance is a very real and honest process of being, or rather becoming. This describes an active process of growth and attainment where we accept ourselves as we truly are yet seek growth. Our flaws lead us to growth. I see no separation between light and dark, no duality only unity with moments of friction and dissonance providing room for change within our selves.

The first time I read the diamond with a flaw quote I was stumped by it. A humble yet perfect pebble seemed a greater achievement than something ‘grander’ but flawed. I soon found that maintaining perfection was dissatisfying and limiting, I ached for challenge and growth. I was exhausted by the constant effort to avoid my flaws in order to appear the humble perfect pebble; always happy never discontent or hurting. Yet when I embraced my flaws and moved through the discomfort of facing them I became something stronger, more durable, more beautiful and more real. Diamonds are formed through high temperature and massive pressure this process creates the most durable and beautiful gem on the planet*. This process suggests discomfort. Humans tend to shy away from discomfort or suffer through it by rejecting ourselves because we are not perfect, but through accepting ourselves and gracefully working on our flaws we attain love for ourselves not self-inflicted suffering and rejection. Then we become open to the possibility of a greater version of ourselves that can live in the moment, without the devastating and painful voice of the inner critic shaming us, and shine bright like a diamond.

* India is the place where they were first thought to be mined perhaps 6000 years ago and they were revered as religious icons.