The Mind’s Eye

January 15, 2016 § 12 Comments

By Tai Woodville

cosmos in skull, pineal gland, third eye

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” ~ Matthew 6:22

“This life’s dim windows of the soul / distorts the heavens from pole to pole / and leads you to believe a lie / when you see with, not through, the eye.” ~ William Blake

Something interesting is happening. Currently, and for the past several months, the number one most searched out post on Parallax is “The Art of Seeing: Third Eye Perception & The Mystical Gaze.”

www.weheartit.com

Everyday someone finds Parallax through typing “Why do I see a spinning tunnel when I shut my eyes” (or some similar variant) into their search engine. According to WordPress’ statistical analysis, these are trending key words.

Given the fact that third eye “awakenings”—as these activations are known—are traditionally associated with deepened or expanded consciousness, I’d say this bodes well for the trajectory of humanity. And let’s face it: we could all use a little good news in that department.

the road within, third eye vision art

The ever-expanding comments section of this popular post has become a veritable reference guide for everyday descriptions of a subject often obscured by abstract esoteric language. I’m thrilled to report it has become an active forum of discussion.

Four years ago, when I wrote “The Art of Seeing,” the subject seemed hazardously “woo”—it felt like going out on a limb. Now it seems more relevant than abstract. Because apparently a lot of people are having these experiences….and looking to the internet for answers.

third eye, how to open your third eye, http://www.jonathontwiz.com/2012/12/22/a-brief-guide-to-expanding-your-mind/[From “A Brief Guide To Expanding Your Mind.”]

So I thought it might be an apt time for a follow-up. I’ve had my eye on this subject—haha—for a while now, and definitely harbor a few more insights to offer in terms of practical application.

But first, what do I mean by a “third eye experience?” For me, it meant that during meditations (and I’m no yogi; I’m more of a ‘5 minutes in the bath’ type,) I began to see a subtle but definite spinning sphere in the darkness of my closed eyes. Sometimes it seemed to approach, yet in a teasing way, never “arriving.” Then one day I realized it looked more like a tunnel, or wormhole, than a sphere. This was a common thread in reader comments.

wormhole660x400

The idea of a chakra, or energy center, in the midpoint of the skull that acts as a channel for higher consciousness dates back to ancient Eastern literature, from Hinduism to Buddhism. It also figures prominently into ancient Egyptian iconography.

Though there are slight cultural variations in description (and of course mythology), the essential idea remains the same: the third eye is a conduit for extrasensory perception, a receptor for subtle visioning that each human possess. It is a recurring spiritual motif of the ancient world, which has continued in various occult societies, and through the direct experiences of meditation practitioners & clairvoyants, into the modern age.

[Personal Tao.]

In modern times the third eye has been linked with the pineal gland, as a physical counterpart to this energetic center (though many speculate the link has been made as far back as ancient Egypt.)

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The pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin, for light detection, and for regulating sleep patterns, as well as circadian rhythms. It is located exactly between the two brain hemispheres. Interestingly, the pineal gland of modern humans is often calcified, mostly from flouride & cell phone exposure. (Click here to see how to help decalcify it.)

Being that the pineal gland is associated with connecting to higher consciousness, the fact that the number one dulling agent is added, by government decree, to our drinking water begins to take on a sinister, dystopian quality, not missed by the conspiracy theorists of the world.

http://consciouslifenews.com/how-to-open-third-eye-pineal/1138045/

What is happening on a scientific level? Well, we don’t know for sure. But “scientists believe [that] the same way that fireflies and deep-sea creatures can glow, cells within our eyes emit biophotons, or biologically produced light particles.” [“Why Do We See Colors With Our Eyes Closed.”]

In other words, the lights we see when we shut our eyes (called phosphenes) are coming from our brain. Which does not seem at all incompatible with metaphysical interpretations of third eye activity, particularly when you bring the physical pineal gland into the whole operation.

bioluminescent deep sea creature, bioluminescent animal

“Is it possible to really ‘see’ energy? Not directly,” explains Taoist Casey Kochmer. “While our eyes can see the end results of energy in action [they] only ‘see’ what they are designed to see, light. What our third eye does is process information and then overlay that information over our other senses in such a way we can then interpret and interact with energy…

“Auras are such an information overlay. Your brain has the ability to process visual information, but the image it creates for you is not limited to what comes from your eyes. Consider what you see on this page as you read it. You aren’t seeing black lines. You are seeing words and then concepts and ideas overlaid on top of them.” (“What Is The Third Eye?”, Personal Tao.)

[Manzel Bowman]

Part Two … coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Tending The Inner Fire ~ Reflections On The Eve of The New Year

December 31, 2015 § 28 Comments

Happy New Years magical gif

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~ Basho

“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

“Do not conform to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ~ Romans 12:2

Greetings, fellow questers! I’m thrilled to be writing to you today, on the eve of 2016, because it means we have survived another year, and find ourselves poised on the cusp of a fresh opportunity to thrive.

Transformation, art, Taylor James, human metamorphosis, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics

The year in global news has not been pretty, to put it lightly. In fact, it has been chilling. Senseless violence (which is perhaps a redundant term) seems to be spreading across the globe.

We argue about the causes & debate the solutions, while political pundits & other power hungry puppeteers exploit our fears to further self-serving agendas.

But we must not lose heart: the more dark the world, the more important our light.

Glow in the dark, art

Of course, “darkness” & “light” are placeholder terms, representing far more complex, elusive ideas. In this context, I’m using the metaphor of darkness as a stand-in for violence, cruelty, abuse; and “light” as a stand-in for what affirms life, is constructive & lifts us up.

They are insufficient metaphors, but they’ll do for now. All words are but placeholders, signifying ideas whose scope language can not contain, but only nod towards—yet we must not confuse the finger pointing at the moon with the moon itself.

image

The metaphor of darkness & light is a useful one in this context.

For darkness itself is not a presence, but an absence of light (reminding us that cruelty only thrives where empathy & awareness are not cultivated). It also extends to our own inner essence: like a fire we can either ignore it while it dims to an ember, or tend it, feed it tinder & blow on the flame. Even the most neglected fire, when fed, can again rise to its former glory & beyond.

And all it takes is a single struck match to illuminate a dark room.

sparkler gif

And so it becomes more important than ever, in this climate of fear & anxiety that dominates the world at this time, to tend the inner fire.

Only by turning inward can we increase the strength of our own luminosity (awareness, personal power, realization of our potential), which we can then turn outward to better light the world.

from Stellar Series by Ignacio Torres, www.ignacio-torres.com/projects/stellar/#

Yet where there is pain, there is the urge to numb, and society is right there with a bevy of opportunities to do so: from social media to comfort “fast” food. Smart phones may increase communication, but they also literally put a world of distraction at our fingertips, and so isolation—from our inner selves, from other people—is also increased.

The turning toward distraction, interrupted by soundbites of traumatizing world & local news, becomes a self-feeding cycle of despair. And the further we feel from ourselves, the more we seek solace in escape.

We must interrupt this cycle in whatever way makes the most sense to us, in context of our lives. The eve of the new year is the perfect time to reflect on what form this might take for us.

nature and human, woman ocean, you are somebody

I have more to say on these subjects & I look forward to exploring them in future posts— offering up my own struck match in the forthcoming months of 2016. But for now I’ll just wish you an illuminating new year….And leave you with the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Happy 2016, fellow travelers!  Here’s to feeding the inner fire; to lighting up the night!

"Stellarscapes" by Oriol Angrill Jordà

 

Fantasy, Reality & The Wabi-Sabi of Self Love

October 18, 2015 § 9 Comments

By Tai WoodvilleAneta Ivanova, ode to the seaAneta Ivanova, “Ode to the Sea.”

Loving ourselves is a daily practice.

We often think of self-love as a state of being — either we have it or we don’t. But I have learned through much struggle over the years that self-love is actually a verb, an action. It is a choice we make anew each day to take care of ourselves, to believe in ourselves & to treat ourselves with dignity, kindness & respect. When we see the dignity in ourselves it is easier to see & honor it in others.

In my life I have loved—and at times been obsessed with—perfection. Like so many who appreciate & feel moved by beauty & art, I become easily attached to symmetry & consistency.

fibanocci spiral

In the Platonic tradition there is a realm of ideal forms. This mental plane is a source of great inspiration & imagination, a place of pure potential. Yet when fantasy meets reality, we often feel disconcerted by the discrepancy.

We judge our lives, ourselves as ugly.

edward honaker, depression photographs, struggle, angstEdward Honaker

We as humans are conceptual architects. We are constantly constructing our relationship to reality—and thereby reality itself—with the story we tell ourselves. We build frameworks & points of reference. But we must watch not to build prisons.

I find my negative judgments & consequential emotional pain most often centers around where the real meets the ideal & falls short. But I am beginning to suspect that, rather than conflicting opposites, one is the spirit of the other.

self-love, roses blooming inside silhouette, double exposure, flowers

The ideal is the grandest possible vision of a thing, but how it shows itself in physical reality is what makes it interesting. It becomes the wabi-sabi ideal, a beautiful expression of organic process, the real in its most thrilling sense: alive.

We must learn to love the real because we are real.  And when we are kind to ourselves we are kinder to others.

1-hannover-double-exposure

Aneta Ivonova, “Hannover.”

You Don’t Have To Do Something To Be Someone

February 25, 2015 § 12 Comments

white space, hand, singular, presenceWhite Space Project

“Waiting to arrive—we’ve been here all along.” ~ Barry Spacks

 At a fourth of July yard party, several years ago, a friend of a friend asked to speak with me; a soft-spoken gentleman whose penetrating blue eyes looked at once both illuminated & haunted.

He said he was a clairvoyant, and sometimes this happened—someone on “the other side” tried to get a message through him. This time it was me. Would I like to hear the message?

talking_with_spirits_by_ymymy-d49msp6Paul Landers Benzin, “Talking With Spirits.”

 Would I?

I LIVE for these moments! Happily, I accepted & we strolled to the far side of the lawn, away from the buzz of party conversation, to a quiet patch of grass. We sat down & he told me that a woman was speaking to him from the other side, my grandmother.

He described an image projected in black & white against a cinema screen, a classic Hollywood beauty in black lace.

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He did not know me, but he was describing my grandmother, Margo, exactly—a film actress from the 1930s who was, indeed, fond of black lace.

Margo AlbertMargo

He chuckled, saying it was funny and odd to have a spirit so insistent on getting his attention, when the message wasn’t an urgent warning of physical danger. He told me:

“She wants you to know that you don’t have to do something to be someone.”

rainbow prism, crystal sparklingSuperpunch

He continued: “She says right now you think you need to do things to be someone, like they did. She says you’re hard on yourself, wanting to be more like your family, but you’re already doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You already are someone.”

What he said struck me. I got chills.

modern make-up, blue eyeshadow, art make-up, creative color, blueFrom Lotta Agaton

My grandfather, Eddie Albert, was a respected & successful actor, inventor, war-hero & noted humanitarian. He made a difference. Margo, too, was an actress, beloved acting teacher & cultural activist; creator of Plaza de la Rasa, a non-profit inner city arts center. These guys did stuff.

Next to their accomplishments, my blog & small book of poetry seemed a measly offering. I was constantly feeling behind, rushing to catch up; my life felt like sand in an hourglass, the whisper of its grains, a perpetual white noise.

hourglass

“She says you’re a healer, but not with your hands. You heal by connecting with people, by being yourself, by giving them your energy and attention. By being. She wants you to embrace who you are and be happy with yourself. Feel peace.”

It was a powerful thing to be told by a total stranger. Whether or not you believe that he was receiving messages from my dead grandmother (which, personally, I do) it’s undeniably synchronistic that someone who knew nothing about me should feel compelled to single me out of a party and tell me exactly what I most needed to hear, sacrificing his own time with his friends, wanting nothing in return.

reflection, hand touching hand, hand touching reflectionArtist Unknown

Since then, my personal sense of peace has deepened radically, taking root.

Those simple words restored a significant piece of my fragmented personal power. I share them with you today because I think this message applies to us all.

Our power lies in our presence, our authenticity. Not mere physical presence but intentional emotional, psychological, energetic self-inhabiting. To be fully grounded & embodied—not distracted or mentally fragmented—is the best gift we can give ourselves and each human with whom we interface, from the grocery store clerk to our best friend.

I think we can all heal through human connection, being ourselves, giving others sincere energy and attention. By being.

presence, embodiment, energy, artistic nudeArtist Unknown

Living as most of us do in a capitalist, consumer-based society, we are focused on output, productivity, as a measure of personal worth. What have you done? the World seems to ask. Who are you? By which it means, what have you produced?

Now, as an artist I think creation is important; I personally do intend to leave as many thoughtful offerings as possible behind when I die, but the fixation on production can become pathological. As the Western world is famous for doing, it sets the focus on action over being.

Action is important—I’m not talking about “The Secret”-based brand of so-called human potential, where vision boards & belief trump action & hard work. I’m moving a level deeper, more primal, than the basic fact that action is eventually essential. I’m saying, underneath that truth is another truth: the truth that we are nothing without presence.

cosmic human, presenceSource 

Without our essence, our awareness, we are meat & bones; zombies inhabiting the Earth, sleepwalking through life, cogs in the machine of industry, role-players, people-pleasers. Without truly inhabiting ourselves, we are lost.

And so the more I integrated focus on inhabiting my body—of being actually having meaning—the better my life got. The better I felt, and (sweet cosmic irony!) my productivity became much more inspired. Because my personal power had been restored.

connection Source 

This came about because I no longer felt reliant on external achievement to reflect my value. I had ceased to hang my sense of purpose & self-worth on creating something (for instance a book) that I then would desperately proffer to a faceless slew of middlemen & women, hoping—just hoping!—they might see something where I had struggled & toiled for years to create an artistic offering of value.

And then, if—wonder of wonders!—a single eye sparkled amid that slew of faceless agents at that certain-something in my writing, then still, more external acceptance awaited, a hall of doors! Would a publisher see what the agent saw? And then—miraculous fortune!—should a publisher deign to invest thousands in my Offering, would “the public” care? Would they even know?

Man begging on his kneesTed Szukalski

Modern society’s emphasis on personal value based on external, acceptance-based factors, such as status & productivity, would make emotional beggars of us all.

We must reclaim ourselves.

Laurent Grasso, "Eclipse", presence, sun, inner sunLaurent Grasso, “Eclipse”

Please don’t misunderstand. To say that merely by existing we are helping the world, on its own is the height of myopic, grotesque self-absorption & delusion. Clearly, action is both ethically & personally essential. But focusing entirely on action without first grounding in being, diminishes the return of said action.

Being must proceed doing, or we become fragmented, anxious, lost—in short, modern humans.

Fragmented SocietyFragmented Society

And I’m still totally working on several books with the intention of proffering it brazenly to a faceless slew of agents, who hold the keys to the world of publishing, who hold the moneybags & the printing presses….I’m just not waiting until all of that happens to feel that I am someone. That I’ve “arrived.” Sometimes I have to remind myself of this, but as a touchstone it works wonders. I am here. I am inhabiting my body with awareness. This matters.

When I interface with other humans, I do my best to look deeply into their eyes & see the soul behind their defenses. I try to be a good listener. I try to listen, too, within myself for what wants to be said, what seems, indeed, to need saying—my intuition on what wants to come through our exchange. Like a living radio antenna, I try to tune to the highest potential truth of the moment. Of course, I do it with varying degrees of success—but when I do it right, it works! There is a guiding flow to every moment, waiting to carry us through on its back like a wave.

"Stellarscapes" by Oriol Angrill JordàOriol Angrill Jordà, “Stellarscapes.”

If we truly lay aside our personal agendas & abstract mental focuses (as best we can) and tune into the wide open space between our molecules, the immense breathing room inside us—the breath flowing through us!—the dancing essence of aliveness in our fingertips & toes, chest, legs, arms, belly…first of all, it feels good. It’s like coming home. Second of all, we become more present & embodied, which in turn has a grounding affect on others—supporting their own self-reclamation—as well as opening us up to increased inspiration & intuition in the moment.

Focusing on being before doing fosters this embodiment. And embodiment is a very achievable goal, because all of the power to realize it lies within us, dependent on no one else.

When present within ourselves and the moment, we are more easily able feel the other, empathetically. We tune in; they feel seen, it becomes a more beautiful world, a more joyful exchange. We are living tuning forks, made of flesh, bone & a mysterious, sentient aliveness; our purpose, I believe, lies in increasing world harmony, one moment, one exchange, at a time. Let us start where we are. Here.

First, it helps to see that we have clearly already arrived.

nature and human, woman ocean, you are somebodySource 

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

January 1, 2015 § 13 Comments

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“The journey itself is home.” ~ Basho

“The only journey is the one within.” ~ Rilke

January 1st 2015

As we move from one year to the next, we can not help but reflect upon where we’ve been & where we are going. Who we have been & who we wish to become.

on-the-road-again-susanne-van-hulst“On The Road Again,” by Susanne Van Hulst

The Uranus/Pluto square which began in 2012 comes to a close in 2015.

“Lives have been turned upside down,” notes astrologist Sarah Varcos, “perspectives forever shifted, circumstances reshaped beyond recognition. We have lost the things, people and places we thought we could never live without and discovered new ways of being we thought were never possible.

“Some people have been touched more deeply than others. Some in resoundingly positive ways. Others have faced what has looked and felt like devastation.

“In very basic terms Uranus is sudden, unavoidable change and Pluto is destructive and/or creative power. When these two work together shocks and surprises are guaranteed, as is rebirth from the rubble of destruction and the possibility of a new life if we rise to the challenge and steel ourselves to ride the waves and see where we finally come to rest..”

Phoenix_detail_from_Aberdeen_BestiaryAberdeen Bestiary detail (12th C.)

Pluto—named after the Greek god of the underworld—associated with intense growth at any cost, barreled through our lives, ripping up all false truths and shallow roots, often painfully.

“Nothing and no one has been protected from the destructively creative grace conjured by the cosmos these past few years,” notes Varcos.  “The challenge for so many has been to let go and trust, to embrace the changes brought about no matter how devastating they may have felt at the time. To look into the darkness, of self, of other, of life and to recognize that within it lays the deepest wisdom, the most enduring truths.”

shadow, shell, golden ratio, golden mean

On a collective level, the conversation surrounding rankism & the struggle of the marginalized has deepened & broadened, rising in visibility. (“Spectors of Oppression: Human Dignity & The Meaning of Difference.)  In the spirit of Pluto, it has been intense, uncomfortable & necessary.

“This past year has been about acknowledging and owning the personal and collective shadow in order to recognize that it is not some dreadful realm to be feared, rejected and denied but simply another part of ourselves to be embraced, accepted and, in doing so, brought into the wholeness of all that we are.”

Pluto & Proserpine“Pluto & Proserpine”

Varcas notes that the theme for 2015 could be summed up as “show up, own up & step up; no holds barred!” (Read it here.)

This year we are asked to live the truths we’ve discovered over the past few years of struggle, not just when we feel motivated, but as a constant ongoing statement of who we are.

Taylor James, human metaphors is, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics“Human Metaphmorphosis” series by Taylor James

For me, these past few years have entailed tremendous personal loss as well as profound self-discovery & growth. I’ve found my ability to survive (and even thrive amid) these times has depended greatly on my perspective of each trial as an initiation into deepened levels of awareness. Transformation is an essential touchstone of my journey. (Self Renewal & The Art of Transformation.)

Learning to know myself, accept who I am & act as much as possible in accordance with my own authenticity has been essential (Authenticity & The False Self.) 

This focus on self-reclaimation lead me to make contact with the singing center of my own being, which I came to recognize as Soul, the inner Wisdom Keeper. (Soul-Retrival.)

soul, angelic being

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? 

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people will not feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone

and as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marian Williamson, “A Return To Love.”

sparkler gif

Happy New Year.

On on, brave travelers!

Specters Of Oppression: Human Dignity & The Meaning of Difference

December 1, 2014 § 8 Comments

By Tai Carmen

Kruger_Your_bodyBarbara Kruger

“Race is there & it is a constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.” ~ Jon Stuart

“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” ~ Ellen Page

“We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.” ~ Will Rogers

Part 1

Martin Luther King Jr. said “A riot is the language of the unheard.” This quote seems an apt lens through which to view recent race riots in Fergusan, Missouri.

The disputed circumstances of the shooting of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer—and the resultant civil unrest—have received considerable attention in the U.S. & abroad over the past few months. The death has sparked emotional debate about law enforcement’s relationship with African-Americans & police use of force doctrine.

ferguson, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/michael-brown-shooting/fergusons-peaceful-protests-descend-chaos-n183746NBC News

 Jesse Williams, best known for his role on the Grey’s Anatomy TV series, asserted the importance of talking about the narrativei.e., the context of race-relations in America—surrounding this story, to make sure we’re starting at what he calls “the beginning.” The biracial actor continues:

“You will find the people who are doing the oppressing often want to start the narrative at a convenient point, they always want to start the story in the middle [of what comprises a longer narrative.] There’s a lot of bizarre behavior going on & that is the story.”

He laments the idea that because Brown stole a five dollar packet of cigarillos before the shooting, in the eyes of much of the world he “automatically becomes a thug worthy of his own death.”

stereotypes artThe dialogue on both sides—those who believe racial context is relevant & those who believe it’s being unfairly projected onto the case—has continued to rise in emotional pitch, including reactions like the ones Williams described.

While a lot of people have voiced compassion for the situation in Ferguson, regardless of their thoughts on the case brought against Darren Wilson, there has been a lot of insensitive commentary as well:

negative reactions to Ferguson looting Racist

If you can’t read the caption on the main image above, it says: “Looting: because nothing says you care about a dead kid and the community more than stealing 50 pair [sic] of Air Jordans and then burning the store to the ground.”

While the point itself is undeniably logical, comments like this deflect the significance of the larger story by focusing on one small aspect of the situation & creating a false dichotomy:

“Because people looted in the riots, the riots are obviously absurd.” If A, then B. In classic false dichotomy style, this doesn’t give room for a simultaneous option: that the riots are a noteworthy expression of cultural pain triggered by a symbolic tragedy which has destabilized a community; and throughout that destabilization looting has occurred.

ralph_a_clevenger_tip_of_the_iceberg

“I’m seeing a lot of ‘what kinds of animals would burn down their town,’ or, ‘see, this is how those people act,'” writes Chuck Windeg.

“(Pro-tip: calling them ‘animals’ and ‘those people’ is you being racist and shitty.) Or it goes back to the case itself, making commentary on Michael Brown — ‘Well, he punched a cop.’ Or it attempts some kind of equivalency (‘Both sides are really to blame, here,’ as if one side doesn’t have a whole lot of power compared to the other side).

“Where is the empathy?

“I want you to think about it. I want you to imagine being a family who lost their unarmed son in a police shooting. I want you to imagine being in a town full of such families — families who know that they are without power, that at any time one of their own could get shot by a cop a half-a-dozen times and nobody will even send that to trial.” (On The Subject of Cultivating Empathy.)

Racism

Journalist David Brooks notes: “We all have to have a new social compact on this.

“Whites especially have to acknowledge the legacy of racism and have to go the extra yard to show respect and understand how differently whites and blacks see police issues. So whites can’t just say ‘Does this look right to me,’ but ‘Does this look trustworthy to the black community.’ That has to be the standard.”

The New York Times columnist adds:

“At the same time we have to understand that we are no longer in the Civil Rights Era. This is not a question of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. Racial inequality has become entangled in all sorts of domestic problems of disappearing jobs, family structure. This is mostly a question of good intentioned people trying to do the best they can with very knotty social problems, which now overlap with racial problems.”

joe jones, working class artJoe Jones

Clearly, the reaction is so strong because the implications of the Brown case hits a profoundly charged collective nerve. As Jesse Williams says: “We’re not making this up.”

I’d like to take the conversation out of the case-specific back-and-forth (which is un-constructive, since none of us were on the jury) into a wider examination of difference, social power & rankism.

The Michael Brown case & others of its kind—which are plentiful—has clearly become a symbol for a huge specter of collective pain.

il_570xN.327902761source

The specters of oppression have been rising, as of late.

In August, UC Santa Barbara student Elliot Rodger went on a college town killing spree after posting an anti-woman rant on youtube. Before driving to the sorority house where he would kill two women, he uploaded a video entitled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.”

The manifesto specifically mentions a “War on Women” for “starving him of sex,” in which he states:

“I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you for it. I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB & I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, you will finally see that I am in truth the superior one. The true alpha male.

anti woman vintage

As with the Michael Brown case, many argued the killings were politicized; in this case, mental illness recast, rather than, as Arthur Chu poetically phrased it:  “The fruits of our culture’s ingrained misogyny laid bare for all to see.”

But again, there’s a false dichotomy: just because Rodgers may have been mentally ill, doesn’t mean the culture that fed his hate & gave it a language—the larger narrative—isn’t meaningful for us to examine.

As with Brown, the story became a symbol of everything broken in our country & the world.

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As a result of the Santa Barbara killings, a public dialogue about rape culture emerged. The twitter-based #Yesallwomen trend of awareness spread.

“Yes All Women started as a response to the deeply ingrained misogyny that fueled Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage at Santa Barbara University. It is also, in rhetorical structure, a response to “Not all men,” a [deflective] response by certain men to stories of violence men commit against women (“not all men rape” – typical #notallmen reply). #Yesallwomen overflowed with female voices sharing personal stories of the rampant harassment and objectification they face in daily life.” (Think Progress.)  Examples include:

“Because women have to avoid eye-contact with men in public in order not to ‘lead them on…'” (Sophia Bush.)

“Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One.”  (Kaylee Anna.)

“I shouldn’t have to hold my car keys in hand like a weapon & check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night.” (Cara Parish.)

rape awareness, feminism, misogyny in art

Yet at the same time, this month TIME magazine published its annual poll candidates of “cringe-worthy memes,” asking readers which word they would “ban” in an ideal world from 2015: alongside popular/over-used words like “literally” & “obvi” appeared the word “feminist.”

Of course the article received an outcry of objection for reducing one of the most significant social movements in history to an “annoying” social meme. The article now appears with a note from the editor, apologizing for inclusion of the word.

But the message remains: people are tired of hearing the word feminist. Mostly, it would seem, people not affected by sexism, and women who are confused about the word’s meaning because of negative stereotype.

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“I am not a feminist,” actress Selma Hayeck recently asserted as she received her (instantly a little ironic) award from Equality Now.

“If men were going through the things women are going through today, I would be fighting for them with just as much passion. I believe in equality.”

Big Labowski, "huh?" GIFF

Just a quick review:

fem·i·nism; the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” ~ Merrium-Webster Dictionary

strong women, feminist art, http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/powerful-ads-use-real-google-searches-show-scope-sexism-worldwide-153235

Part 2

It’s important to note, there have been three distinct waves of feminist thought.

The first, in the late 18th & early 19th century, was the suffragette movement, which focused on removing basic legal obstacles to equality: the right of women to vote & to own property. (American women did not receive the right to vote until the 1920s; Saudi Arabian women, as recently as 2011.) (Check out this interesting timeline.)

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The second wave, which took place primarily from the 1960s to the 1990s, focused on further breaking down the limits placed on women, based on society’s construct of gender roles. This included reproductive rights, sexuality, workplace & family issues.

Because women were breaking new ground, the feminism of this era had a more extreme face—just as a rocket leaving the atmosphere must use the maximum amount of energy during the moment it pushes through the atmosphere, known as “escape velocity.”

But in pushing social comfort zones in order to forge new ground, 60s era feminism also made a lot of enemies; women were told they “could be so much more” than mothers & wives; a sentiment liberating for those who had not dared imagine it, insulting to those who authentically desired it.

Still evolving, second wave feminism was spending so much energy on the “escape velocity” needed to push equality into its next phase, it lost sight of its original motivation: supporting female agency.

julie rrap, feminist art,Julie Rrap

This outdated impression—of feminism excluding significant spheres to the detriment of its intention—is unfortunately one still held by most people today.

Modern feminism, known as third wave feminism, is a course corrected entity. The whole third wave of writers & activists—from the 90s to present day—saw the problem exactly: it wasn’t for feminist leaders to tell women who they should be or what constituted an “empowered woman.” Feminism was, is, and always has been about choice. Which included the choice to be a full-time mom, stripper or. However. They wanted. That was the point.

Are there lone extremists who say stupid things in the name of feminism? Of course. Just like every other movement. But if we throw out the feminism with the bathwater, we’re throwing out an important emblem of human liberation.

Feminism is what moved women from a position of being legally powerless, sub-human commodities to legally autonomous persons with a right to human dignity.

Part 3

And that’s what I’m building up to: the idea of human dignity.

Imbalance of social status based on intrinsic unchangeable characteristics is not only the definition of oppression, it is the hallmark of a broken collective; humanity divided. Which is how we fall & have fallen.

A simple look at the composition of Congress serves as a snapshot for the state of the nation: in the House of Representatives, there are currently 362 men & 76 women. In the Senate, 17 women compared with 83 men. 361 whites representing in the House, compared with a meager 44 African-American; 96 whites, with zero blacks currently in the Senate. 25 Hispanic in the House & 2 in the senate.

That is not equality.

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I’d love for feminism to be embraced for the equality signifier it is, for more men join the movement & proclaim that they are feminists, like actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this awesome video….

Because in supporting one another’s social justice causes, we acknowledge both that we all have the same cause—a better world—and the fact that incidence of oppression are interwoven with the same social fabric.

unity, this is what a feminist looks like,

At the same time, I acknowledge that compartmentalized movements are, sadly, part of what is keeping us divided.

In this spirit, I think the conversation might benefit from being steered towards what writer & physicist Robert W. Fuller has identified as “rankism”:

“Rankism occurs when those with authority use the power of their position to secure unwarranted advantages or benefits for themselves at the expense of others. It is the illegitimate use of rank and, equally, the use of rank illegitimately acquired or held. The familiar isms are all examples of this latter form.” (Breaking Rank, The Dignitarian Manifesto.)

molly crabapple. art. power

“In addition to its universality,” continues Fuller, “rankism differs from the familiar trait-based abuses because rank is not fixed. Rather, it changes depending on context. Someone holds high rank at home and is lowest on the totem pole at work.

“Likewise, we feel powerful at one time and powerless at another, as when we move from childhood to adulthood and from our ‘prime’ into old age, or when we experience the loss of a job, a partner, or our health. As a result, most of us have been both victims and perpetrators of discrimination based on rank.”

He adds that the trouble is not with rank itself—there are many functions of society, such as student & teacher, where rank makes sense—but rather when abuse of power accompanies it.

unity, racism, we're all the same,

This means focusing on human dignity.

One way we can do this is by staying aware of the subjecthood of others. Remembering that they, like us, are all the protagonists of their own personal story; with a narrative, of which we may be unable to conceive…until we ask.

One of the key traits of narcissistic personality disorder is treating others as objects, rather than subjects—and it has been said more than once that the Western world lives in an intensely, and increasingly, narcissistic age. We think of “objectifying” as relating to the body & sexism, but, psychologically speaking, it relates any time we don’t consider the human experience of The Other—seeing them only so much as they relate to our experience of them.

If we make human dignity a priority we can begin to heal chasms of racism, sexism, agism, homophobia & religious intolerance. We can begin to heal our divided nation, and our divided world.

Activating A State of Flow ~ Part II

November 9, 2014 § 4 Comments

By Tai Carmen

af4fb78d5d4b220803ed9f72330a127d“Fade.”

“You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”  ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“The river is everywhere.” ~ Hermann Hesse, “Siddhartha”

Flow is an optimal state of consciousness where we both feel & perform our best. We all know & love the experience of being “in the zone.” As we examined in PART I, flow is a neurochemically measurable phenomenon, which can be broken down into four distinct stages (see Part 1).

But what creates this state & can we induce it?

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Kendall Conrad

Studies have identified multiple triggers for flow.

1. Intensely focused attention. 

Producing flow requires long periods of uninterrupted concentration. Flow demands singular tasks & (except in cases where group flow is the goal) solitude. Multi-tasking is out. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,  author of the pioneering “Flow,” says: “It is impossible to enjoy a tennis game, a book, or a conversation unless attention is fully concentrated on the activity.”

2. Clear goals.

Knowing what you’re doing & why you’re doing it. For example, a basketball player knows the rules of the game. The artist has some kind of vision, or idea of what she wants to express, before setting out on the journey of creation.

When goals are clear, the mind doesn’t waste energy wondering what it has to do next, allowing focus to stay pinned to the present moment.

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3. Immediate feedback. 

Where clear goals tell us what we are doing, immediate feedback tells us how to do it better. Real time consequences to our choices—whether it’s the rock-climber stumbling, or the drummer missing a beat—provides guidance to refine our attention & technique.

4. Balanced challenge/skills ration. 

Csikszentmihalyi famously asserted: “Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”

Steven Kotler, author of “The Rise of Superman,” adds: “If the task is too dull, attention disengages & action & awareness can not merge. If the task is too hard, fear starts to spike & we begin looking for ways to extricate ourselves from the situation.”

Ideally, the requirements of the task at hand should be slightly greater than the skills we bring to the table, but not too much greater.

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5. High Consequences/Risk

Elevated risk levels—whether physical, social, creative or emotional—drive us home to the moment. As the body readies for fight or flight, it releases performance enhancing endorphins which are key ingredients in the neurochemical cocktail of flow.

The lives of extreme sports athletes, like rock-climbers & snowboarders, literally depend on being “in the zone.” “When pushing the limits of human performance,” Kotler notes, “the choice is stark: flow or die.” Because of this extreme demand for flow, action/adventure sports athletes have become prime test subjects for studies on flow.

However, high consequences don’t need to take the form of physical danger to trigger flow. The risk can also be social, such as public speaking, or creative, such as taking an artistic risk.

Florida State University student practicing on the tightrope, photo: Loomis Dean, 1952

6. Rich environment.

An environment with lots of novelty, unpredictability & complexity captures our attention, inducing focus, which in turn stimulates flow.

7. Physical excercise.

In physical exercise, our body produces endorphins that contribute to the neurochemical cocktail we experience as flow. Excercise helps us get out of our heads (the second stage of flow, see part 1) & experience deep embodiment.

Steven Kotler tells the story of struggling with writer’s block for months, then clicking into a flow state while skiing. Afterwards, he went straight to his office, sat down at his chair, and proceeded to write for two weeks, finishing the book.

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8. Pattern recognition.

Mankind is hardwired to identify meaningful correspondences. So much so that we can be subject to false pattern recognition, or apophenia—the impression of a pattern or meaning where there is none, such as seeing faces in the clouds. This tendency serves us well for creativity! Seeing new patterns & connections releases pleasure-enhancing neurochemicals.

9. Caffein.

Caffeine’s effect on the brain causes increased neuron firing & facilitates dopamine flow.

10. Altrusim. 

Psychologists have coined the term “helper’s high” to describe the euphoric feeling—followed by a longer period of calmness—experienced after performing a kind act.

There’s evidence in brain studies of a “compassion-altruism axis.” Studies show high levels of the “bonding” hormone oxytocin in people who are very generous toward others. Kindness triggers the brain’s reward circuitry, releasing “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine & endorphins, which, when combined with a handful of the above triggers, facilitate flow.

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There are also noteworthy parallels between the flow state & the mystical experience.

The disappearance of a sense of self & time, the emergence of sudden, deep insight; a feeling of becoming one with the task at hand, of being part of something larger; these are all hallmarks of the satori experience. (See Parallax’s “Beyond Division: Studies in Bliss.”)

Gabriel Moreno,Gabriel Moreno

So don’t be afraid to take a risk!

And remember: if you’re struggling at the onset of a project, you’re not failing, you’re just in the first stage of flow!

alberti2

 

**Watch a fascinating interview with flow expert Steven Kotler here.

**Get your “flow profile” here for tips on your flow type. (Mine was very accurate!)

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