Dreaming in the Dark: Technologies of Immanence

March 10, 2017 § 2 Comments

jefferson-muncy-visions[“Visions” by Jefferson Muncy]

“Magic is the technology/psychology of immanence, of understanding that everything is connected.”

~ Starhawk, “Dreaming in the Dark: Magic, Sex & Politics.”

Before advertising stole our souls and scientific materialism denied its existence, dogmatic religious institutions held our souls hostage. The result has been a continually morphing and adapting form of systematic soul erasure in the Western world.

Author & activist Starhawk calls this “removing content.” She notes that it allows for power relationships in which human beings are exploited, and for a worldview that results in the exploitation of nature, because the inherent value of being has been denied.

Compartmentalized Sanity by KingaBritschgi[KingaBrit]

“I call this consciousness estrangement,” Starhawk details, “because its essence is that we do not see ourselves as part of the world. We are strangers to nature, to other human beings, to parts of ourselves. We see the world as made up of separate isolated nonliving parts that have no inherent value. Among things inherently separate and lifeless, the only power relationship possible is manipulation and domination.

“As we become separate, and are manipulated as objects, we lose our own sense of self worth, our belief in our own content, and acquiesce in our own exploitation.”(Dreaming in the Dark.”)

In this worldview emptied of spirit, a tree becomes merely timber to be measured in feet, given value only by its profitability; not its being, its beauty, or its part in the larger ecosystem.

Considering that Western society sees virtually nothing as sacred, it’s easy to see why we are poised on the brink of collective self-destruction.

[Robin Wood]

And so an effectively soulless society is created, inhabited by shells who struggle to see their own value beyond doing & having. A sense of nonreality permeates our lives. As my dear poetry mentor, Barry Spacks, once phrased it: “Waiting to arrive, we’ve been here all along.”

“We live our lives feeling powerless & inauthentic—feeling that the real people are somewhere else, that the characters on the daytime soap operas or the conversations on late-night talk shows are more real than the people and conversations in our lives; believing that the movie stars, the celebrities, the rock stars, the People Magazine-people live out the real truth and drama of our times, while we exist as shadows, and our unique lives, our losses, our passions, which cannot be counted out or measured, which were not approved, or graded, or sold to us at a discount, are not the true value of this world.”

[“Blessed Art Thou” by Kate Kretz]

Starhawk notes that estrangement permeates our society so strongly that to us it seems to be consciousness itself. Even the language for other possibilities has disappeared or been deliberately twisted.

“Yet another form of consciousness is possible. Indeed, it has existed from earliest times,  underlies other cultures, and has survived even in the West in hidden streams,” Starhawk notes.

“This is the consciousness I call immanence—the awareness of the world and everything in it as alive, dynamic, interdependent, interacting and infused with moving energies: a living being, a weaving dance.”

img[Victor Tongdee]

“Magic is a word that makes people uncomfortable,” notes Starhawk, “so I use it deliberately, because the words we are comfortable with, the words that sound acceptable, rational, scientific, and intellectually sound, are comfortable precisely because they are the language of estrangement.”

She details that magic can be very prosaic—a leaflet, a lawsuit. Anything that changes consciousness at will. It can also be esoteric—inner work, interacting with the cosmos at large. At its heart, magic is moving energies.

“Ironically, as estranged science and technology advance, they have begun to bring us back to a consciousness of immanence. Modern physics no longer speaks of separate, discrete atoms of dead matter, but of waves of energy, probabilities, patterns that change as they are observed; it recognizes what shamans & witches have always known: that matter & energy are not separate forces, but different forms of the same thing.”

42-46209404.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

Starhawk defines: “To say something is sacred is to say that we respect, cherish and value it for its own being.”

In a world stripped of sacredness, it is a revolutionary act to see the innate beauty and value in being—one’s own and others’—to cherish & respect, to view life with reverence. When we remove the veil of Western materialism, the world comes alive again; and anything is possible.

This paradigm shift—from viewing reality as composed of separate, isolated, nonliving parts; from seeking power-over-–must be replaced by a worldview that acknowledges the living ecosystem of our dynamic inter-connectivity, to seeking power from within.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the survival of our species depends on it. And change starts within. Like seeds, we dream in the dark earth, but inside us we hold a blueprint for blooming.

So let us feel into our own aliveness today, let us expand our attention to include our own being; let’s look for it in others, in animals and plants. The world is shot through with immanence… for those who care to see.

ashes to snow, elephant, gregory colbert, empathy art[Gregory Colbert, “Ashes & Snow” series.]

 

If you liked this post, check out:

Beyond Division: Studies in Bliss”

“Unveiling The Mystery of The Higher Self”

Connectivity Through Form”

 

 

Carl Marx described man as being estranged from his Gattungswesen (“species-essence”). 

Giving Your Future Self Gifts

January 2, 2017 § 6 Comments

christian-schole-twin-heart, empathy, self-love, self-care artwork[“Twin Heart” by Christian Schloe]

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  ~Audre Lorde

A great many New Year’s resolutions revolve around exercising self-discipline, which may in the moment yield less pleasure, but will create a better outcome in the future.

Yet, 25% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken within the first week, and research at the University of Scranton suggests that only 8 % of people achieve their annual vows of self-improvement.

Recent research reveals that the part of the brain responsible for self-control is the same area that allows us to feel empathy.

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan, art, self-reflection, collage, portrait photography, mirror LLL [“Mirror LLL” by Tigran Tsitoghdzyan]

 The human brain perceives the future self as if it were a stranger.

Tests reveal that when we think about ourselves in the present, parts of our prefrontal cortex light up that remain dim when we think about a stranger—or try to imagine our future self.

“Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s point of view, and step into their shoes,” remarks science writer Ed Yong.

“Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person.” (“Self-Control Is Just Empathy For Your Future Self.”)

1-reflection-photography-by-giulia-marangoni-1, http://webneel.com/25-stunning-reflection-photography-examples-and-tips-beginners

The English word empathy finds its root in the Ancient Greek pathos,” which means “passion” or “suffering.”

In the early 20th century, German philosopher, Robert Vischer, adapted the word to create the German term Einfühlung—literally “feeling into”—which was then translated into English as empathy, defined as “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference.”

ashes to snow, elephant, gregory colbert, empathy art[From Gregory Colbert “Ashes & Snow” exhibition.]

Research has uncovered the existence of “mirror neurons,” which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them.

This is why we get caught up in the emotion of art & performance, as well as the reason we feel a twinge of discomfort when we witness someone else experiencing pain.

Paul Apal’kin http://magazine.clickalps.com/fotografare-i-riflessi-fotografie-di-riflessi/#gallery reflection, art, black and white photography, two selves [Paul Apal’kin]

Some people—a case notably examined on the podcast “Invisibilia”-–have an overactive level of empathy, known as mirror-touch synesthesia, wherein they experience a debilitating level of physical empathy for any reaction witnessed in others.

“The capacity for empathy seems to be innate,”relates Jane E. Brodey, “and is evident even in other species — the adult elephant that tried to rescue a baby rhino stuck in the mud despite being charged by its mother, as recounted in “When Elephants Weep.”(“Empathy is Natural, But Nurturing it Helps.”) 

http://madebyrona.deviantart.com/, animals helping other animals, elephant rescuring kitten, compassion, empathy[Rona Helvrich]

Empathy is a skill that can be learned & developed. The more we practice imagining what it feels like to be in another person’s circumstance, the better we become at doing it—and at giving our future self gifts, not grief.

“Think of [it] as a kind of temporal selflessness,” notes Ed Yong. “It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You.”

http://jadoresimone.tumblr.com/image/133579951670

But for all the buzz empathy is getting these days, it’s possible that its sister state, compassion, is the more constructive practice to cultivate.

Buddhist Monk & French writer, Matthieu Ricard-–known as “world’s happiest man”—reflects that while empathy can lead to emotional burnout, the mood of compassion for another being is nourishing, energizing & empowering.

worlds happiest man, mathieu richard, red monk robe, http://www.gq.com/story/happiest-man-in-the-world-matthieu-ricard[“The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That.’]

The French monk details:

The cerebral networks activated by meditation on compassion were very different from those linked to empathy. In the previous studies, people who were not trained in meditation observed a person who was seated near the scanner and received painful electric shocks in the hand. These researchers noted that a part of the brain associated with pain is activated in subjects who observe someone suffering. They suffer when they see another’s suffering.

“When I engaged in meditation on altruistic love and compassion, [the researchers] noted that the network linked to negative emotions and distress was not activated, while certain cerebral areas traditionally associated with positive emotions, with the feeling of affiliation and maternal love, for instance, were.” (From Matthieu Ricard’s book, Altrusim: The Power of Compassion To Change Yourself & The World.”)  

Big sister comforts and embraces her little brother to alleviate fears and anxieties

Empathy fatigue can breed avoidance of the distressing emotions that can accompany resonating with another’s pain, but cultivating a focus on compassion is affirming & fortifying.

“When altruistic love encounters suffering it manifests as compassion,” Ricard tells us. “This transformation is triggered by empathy, which alerts us to the fact that the other is suffering. One may say that when altruistic love passes through the prism of empathy, it becomes compassion.”

French psychologist Christophe Andre writes, “We need the gentleness and the strength of compassion. The more lucid we are about the world, the more we accept seeing it as it really is, the easier it is to accept that we cannot face all the suffering that is encountered in the course of our lives unless we have this strength and this gentleness.”

We can apply this same philosophy to those “strangers” of our future selves.

christian schloe, two selves art[Christian Shloe]

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Getting Grounded: Re-Possession & Embodiment

June 7, 2016 § 4 Comments

getting grounded, roots, art, nudes, kristy mitchell, photography, artKristy Mitchell

“It was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”  ~ Rupi Kaur

What does it mean to be grounded? We say it when we wish to describe someone who is very present, who seems steadily rooted in what is real—not flying off into some obscure mental space.

There is a spectrum of disassociation. On the one hand, we have Disassociative Identity Disorder, and on the other we have the common occurrence of zoning out for ten minutes of freeway driving, or losing ourselves to internal thoughts while someone is talking to us.

tumblr_nun2lzDYWt1rp9k9ro1_500Source

Groundedness is contagious. When we speak to someone who is very present, we find our own roots deepening.

Learning how to ground ourselves—and remembering to dip into our toolkit—is the most immediate respite from anxiety. It is essential in the mad rush of modern life. And it can be just a few centering thoughts away!

I would like to share with you a video blog post by my inspiring friend, trained transformational coach Alisha Westerman—she’s got some fantastic tips on the subject!

The Dystopian Future Is Here: Technology Addiction & Enslavement

May 17, 2016 § 19 Comments

http://ofigenno.cc/illyustracii-o-internet-zavisimostiSource Site

“The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“Technology is a queer thing. It brings you gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other.”

C.P. Snow

Are smartphones making us stupid? They have certainly made us their slaves. Social media addiction is on the rise—compulsive internet checking has become the norm.

It’s crept up on us. It’s been less than a decade since smartphones were introduced to the main arteries of culture, and now it is flooding our collective bloodstream like a drug. The idea of opting out—unplugging permanently—no longer seems like a viable option for most people. But even as we willingly engage our pint-sized prison, we are increasingly, uncomfortably aware of its bars.

http://ofigenno.cc/illyustracii-o-internet-zavisimostiSource Site

Sure, it’s great to be able to stay in touch with friends, have mobile up-to-the-minute map access, the  ability to document digitally and look a fact up on the spot! But the sword cuts both ways.

We are also far less likely to experience a grounded sense of being present in the moment when, the second there is some space or silence, we have the option & impulse to check our email, text inbox, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It’s become like a tic for most people. We no longer have to face ourselves or others in those in-between-moments, we can just dive into our phones.

face sucking cellphone, antoine geiger, sur-fakeFrom Antione Geiger’s “Sur-Fake” Series.

75% of people between 18 & 25 respond “yes” to the question “when nothing else is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone.” (Time.com.)

According to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, one second less than the attention span of the notoriously ill-focused goldfish.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (and uttered) the phrase, “I just haven’t been able to get into any good books lately” in the last year.

4Source Site

A recent study, 45% of people tested said they feel “worried or uncomfortable” when email and Facebook are inaccessible.

While 60 % stated “they felt the need to switch off” their phones and computers to secure a full-fledged break from technology.

“In other words, it’s not being on social networks that makes people anxious. It’s being away from them.” (Huffington Post.)

cellphone tentacles, angel boliganAngel Boligan

Charlie Brooker’s British television series “Black Mirror” (which I recommend watching, though it’s not for the faint of heart) sums up the situation expertly in the second episode: the opening scene depicts its lead character waking up in a room surrounded by wall-to-wall digital screens.

Instantly bombarded with advertisements, he proceeds to shuffle glumly through his morning routines. One’s first response is invariably: “Oh! How awful! What a way to live!” Uncomfortable calibration moment. “Oh shit. That’s us.”

fifteen-million-merits“Fifteen Million Merits,” Black Mirror

Star Trek’s “The Next Generation” tapped into the dystopian future we are currently experiencing way back in 1991—an episode called “The Game,” in which a mysterious game is introduced on board the starship. The device engages the player’s brain, specifically their pleasure centers.

Before long, the entire ship’s crew is playing the game, peer pressuring everyone else to try it. Eventually, just two un-addicted crew members remain, then only one. (It’s really worth a watch for the eerie allegorical chill factor.)

thumbnailImage“The Game,” Star Trek The Next Generation

“The Game” was prophetic: a release of pleasurable chemicals (specifically dopamine) is exactly what’s responsible for our growing collective addiction to nuggets of electronically derived information.

In her article “Seeking,” journalist Emily Yoffe details how the seeking instinct is a primordial vestige of biological necessity. Hardwired into our brains, it drives impulses like checking texts or Googling.

http://ofigenno.cc/illyustracii-o-internet-zavisimostiSource Site

Yoffe refers to an experiment carried out in 1954 by a team of scientists involving a control group of rats.

“They would stick an electrode in a rat’s brain and, whenever the rat went to a particular corner of its cage, would give it a small shock and note the reaction. One day they unknowingly inserted the probe in the wrong place, and the rat kept returning over and over to the corner where it received the shock.

“They eventually discovered that if the probe was put in the brain’s lateral hypothalamus and the rats were allowed to press a lever and stimulate their own electrodes, they would press until they collapsed.”

http://ofigenno.cc/illyustracii-o-internet-zavisimosti, internet addictionSource Site

The scientists assumed they had discovered the rats’ pleasure centers, but to neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, “those self-stimulating rats, and the humans [who participated in later experiments] did not exhibit the euphoric satisfaction of creatures eating Double Stuf Oreos or repeatedly having orgasms. The animals were excessively excited, even crazed….in a constant state of sniffing and foraging,” notes Yoffe.

“Some of the human subjects described feeling sexually aroused but didn’t experience climax. Mammals stimulating the lateral hypothalamus seem to be caught in a loop, where each stimulation evoked a reinvigorated search strategy.'”

http://dtc-wsuv.org/wp/dtc375-kdollar/language/chapter-summarys-2/10-2/Source Site

(Cue the Smashing Pumpkins: “Despite all my rage / I am still just a rat in a cage.”)

“Seeking needs to be turned off,” concludes Yoffe, “if even for a little while, so that the system does not run in an endless loop. When we get the object of our desire (be it a Twinkie or a sexual partner), we engage in consummatory acts [which] reduce arousal in the brain and temporarily, at least, inhibit our urge to seek.

“But our brains are designed to more easily be stimulated than satisfied. If humans are seeking machines, we’ve now created the perfect machines to allow us to seek endlessly.”  (“Seeking,” By Emily Yoffe.)

http://allfunintheworld.com/20-satirical-illustrations-show-our-addiction-to-technology/Source Site

We are navigating a Brave New World. As with everything, the first step is awareness. We have to admit we have a problem before we can get better. The point of power is choice.

The next time you find yourself going for your phone, don’t. Instead, look around. Observe the details of your surroundings, feel into the moment of being alive. The solution is simple; it’s just a matter of doing it, and in many cases, retraining ourselves, re-patterning compulsive, unconscious behavior.

There’s still time to allow our humanity to catch up to our technology.

Less Agony, More Ecstasy

April 12, 2016 § 11 Comments

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

~ Carl Jung

Tolstoy famously opened Anna Karenina with the statement that all happy families are alike, while unhappy families are unhappy in their own unique way.

I have noticed the same thing about the highs and lows of my emotional life: my unhappy states all seem to have a wide array of causes, while my happy, high, in-the-flow states all seem to sing the same tune, as it were. The same insights flash back at me like familiar road signs. An invisible river of energy seems to flow through me, carrying treasures on its back in the form of ideas, inspirations and connections.

wave art

Apparently I’m not alone. Author, speaker, researcher & founder of the “new existentialism” movement, Colin Wilson shares related thoughts in a fascinating recorded talk at San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore: 

“I began by writing this book, The Outsider, which came out in 1956. My basic interest then was the problem of certain romantics of the 19th century who had experienced tremendous feelings of ecstasy & insight, and then wondered the next morning if the whole thing had been a total illusion, so that we got this tremendously high suicide rate among the romantics.”

site credit: www.trendhunter.com/trends/alex-stoddard

Wilson continues:

“I became preoccupied with this because I had had the same kind of feelings ever since I was a small boy. It wasn’t until I read Wordsworth—who talks about this time in childhood when everything seems wonderful and then how, as you get older, the shades of the prison house begin to close—that I began to see this is a problem that all human beings experience.

“What I wanted to know was: is there some fundamental gap between these moods of ecstasy and the ordinary reality of the physical world in which we live? Is it totally impossible to reconcile the two of them? In a sense, you see, I couldn’t really believe that it was so. Because whenever I experienced moods of intensity or of total relaxation I always had the same insight, as if I had gone to a kind of hilltop and seen precisely the same vision, exactly the same landscape below, which made me feel that it was, in a sense, objective. It must be solid or else it would be different every time.”

Bohumil Kröhn

“On the other hand, in what you might call ‘the worm’s eye view’ moods, things are bad in a different way every time. And you suddenly feel that it’s only the bird’s eye views that are true. It’s the big that’s true, not the small. Close-up-ness deprives us of meaning. I’ve always felt this is the basic truth of life. Somehow you’ve got to get that trick of pulling back & seeing things through a kind of wide angle lens. As soon as you do this, you go into this state of intense optimism.”

In Zen Buddhism, the high feeling-state of satori, which literally means “to understand,” is the goal of meditation practice. A brief but clear glimpse into the awakened state of satori is known as kenshō, which translates as “seeing into one’s true nature or essence.”

This is always how it feels to me when I am in the flow & feeling good: things feel like they are back on track, as they should be, aligned, harmonious. Like Wilson, I have often wondered which state is the more accurate reflection of the nature of things; both seem to negate the validity of the other.

Black_and_White_by_Kiraan“Black & White” By Kiraan

And I’ve come to the same conclusion as Wilson, that the low mood generally lies while the high mood informs. Although a low mood tries to paint our previous high states of awareness as the purely illusory fantasies of a fool—while portraying its own staunch negativism as the only reasonable, realistic assessment—there is another clear giveaway that hints at which of these two opposing states is more to be trusted:

a low mood feels very uncomfortable, while a high mood feels very right. In fact, it is characterized by a feeling of rightness. When we tell a lie, we feel our body contract. A sense of wrongness permeates our being to various degrees. When we say something that is keenly true, we feel that too. It’s a feeling of empowerment, harmoniousness, rightness.

The Pleasure Principal by Magritte “The Pleasure Principal,” by Magritte

In my study of this phenomenon, I have concluded that while the low mood may have something to tell me about myself or my life—revealing an uncomfortable truth that I must face in order to become who I truly want to be, (seeNavigating The Dark Night Of The Soul,”)-–there is no benefit to remaining in this place, because it becomes an energy-sapping, self-feeding loop of defeatist thinking.

Unfortunately, once we are out of step with the sensation of rightness, that high state can feel a world away. It’s helpful to remember that it is, actually, only a few flow-inducing thoughts away.

Christian SchloeChristian Schloe

Personally, I think these two states are better described as “connected” vs. “disconnected.” Connected to what? To yourself. But how can I be disconnected from something I am? The answer can be summed up in a verse from the East Indian sacred texts, the Upanishads:

“There are two birds, two sweet friends, who dwell on the self-same tree. One eats the fruits of the tree, and the other looks on in silence.”

two-birds, credit unknown

The bird who eats the fruit represents our worldly nature, our everyday “smaller” self. And the witnessing bird is our larger aspect (called the Atman in Vedanta, meaning soul self) which remains connected to Brahman (ultimate reality), even when the small self has lost sight of the bigger picture.

According to the Vedanta (the East Indian philosophy based on the Upanishad writings), Atman is the true self, beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual. In order to attain liberation, a human being must acquire self-knowledge, which is to realize that one’s true self (Atman) is identical with the transcendent self (Brahman). (Traditionally achieved through meditation, wherein the distinction between these two selves becomes increasingly evident.)

I’m not one to care about religious dogma or what some ancient text says—unless it puts a language to experiences I have had myself already, for which we have poor working vocabulary in English language & culture.

helping-hand

I do think the Vedanta framework establishes a helpful concept of what is going on when we feel low, which, by my way of thinking, is essentially a state of disconnection, when we are overly identified with the “small self.”

When we are connected to our essence or greater self (which is connected to the broader sweep of larger reality), it seems we receive intuition freely, we are in sync with the rhythm of life and other people. We receive inspiration more easily, which in turn lights us up and “turns us on,” fueling our sense of optimism, curiosity & movement.

Our world seems to expand. We notice subtle “shimmers”—little beautiful moments that add to the textured richness of being alive. When we are open to these nuances, we become more easily inspired and interested. Which creates a sense of possibility & engagement.

Gabriel Moreno,Gabriel Moreno

When we are disconnected, our world seems to shrink.  It is like we have run out of gas. We feel sluggish and everything takes a lot of effort to do. This induces a feeling of depression and futility, which feeds upon itself until we can feel quite locked away from that “Atman” self.

In this emotional state we seem to forget all of the insights which once gave us a sense of hope and possibility. We are entirely identified with the “bird who eats the fruits” of the world, and completely dissociated from the “sweet friend” who looks on, waiting patiently to be remembered & reclaimed.

reflection, hand touching hand, hand touching reflection

Colin Wilson dubbed this “small self” aspect of human personality “the robot.” He elaborates in the following interview:

“We have inside us what I call The Robot, a sort of mechanical valet or servant who does things for you. So, you learn something like talking French, or driving a car, or skiing—painfully & consciously, step by step. Then the Robot takes over and does it far more efficiently than you could do it consciously.

“The Robot does all these valuable things—like talking French & so on for us. The trouble is, he also does the things we do not want him to do. We listen to a piece of music, it moves us deeply the first time. We read a poem, we go for a country walk, and it moves us. But the second or third time you do it, the Robot is listening to the piece of music, or going for the country walk for you. I’ve even caught him making love to my wife! This is a real problem, that the Robot keeps taking us over and doing the things that we would rather do.”

giphyGiphy

“The secret is to keep your energy so high that [you avoid being taken over by] the robot, who’s a bit like the thermostat on the wall, which turns on quite automatically when your energies drop below a certain point, and then suddenly without even noticing it, you’re living mechanically, robotically, instead of as the real you. And the interesting thing is that it’s only a matter of one degree. Therefore if it’s just one degree to turn onto the Robot, it’s only one degree of effort to turn the Robot off.”

I have found that simply being aware of this dynamic initiates a ripple effect of more expansive feelings. Think of it as a thought experiment. I’m not advocating the removal of cynicism or discernment, only for the suspension of its mechanisms for long enough to collect the necessary data to really decide what’s what. If we decide something sounds too good to be true before launching a thorough investigation, we aren’t really giving ourselves all of the information necessary to make an assessment.

Christian SchloeChristian Schloe

Just imagine, what if it were true that our sense of an isolated small self is not the whole picture, and, when we feel into a larger, more expansive & connected being-hood we are actually more fully embodying who we are? What if that self did have wisdom beyond our acquired knowledge & access to universal perception?

And what if there was a force of energetic support available to us, waiting for us to tune into a more expanded sense of self? What if the darkness & pain of the world is simply the result of a widespread belief in the smaller, isolated self—a collective disconnection from the expanded essence?

soul_ascending_by_suiatsu-d7b6exu josh hutchison“Soul Ascending” by Josh Hutchison

The only way to know for sure…is to explore it.

Unless we investigate the possibilities within ourselves & our relationship to reality with an open mind, we may never experience ourselves as we might become.

presence, embodiment, energy, artistic nude

 

 

 

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.”

Activating A State Of Flow

October 25, 2014 § 1 Comment

By: Tai Carmen

wave art“In flow, concentration becomes so laser-focused that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Our sense of self and our sense of self-consciousness completely disappear. Time dilates.” ~Steven Kotler

“When a person invests all her psychic energy into an interaction—whether it is with another person, a boat, a mountain, or a piece of music—she in effect becomes part of a system of action greater than what the individual self had been before. “ ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is that feeling of being in “the zone,” when every choice you make lands perfectly, gaining momentum & feeding itself. The musician in the groove, the surfer united with the wave. The great conversation in which you lose track of time.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—who first pioneered the concept of “flow” as a study—has observed the commonality between all these states of optimal performance. Steven Kotler, author of “The Rise of Superman,” summarizes flow as a state of “near-perfect decision-making.”

Harold Eugene EdgertonHarold Eugene Edgerton

Csikszentmihalyi performed the largest global happiness survey to date. “He talked to everybody that he could possibly imagine,” relays Kotler.

“From Detroit assembly line workers to Japanese teenage motorcycle gang members, elderly Korean women, Navajo sheep herders, expert dancers, expert neurosurgeons. Everybody agreed that when they felt their best and were at their best, they felt flowy. Every decision, every action led perfectly, seamlessly, fluidly to the next. That’s where the term comes from.”

ee4ada915182b003bc95ce2e315d5ddc

Neurobiolgically, it is possible to pinpoint exactly what is happening during flow states: the prefrontal cortex temporarily deactivates. This is the area responsible for executive functioning or self-monitering. Management of cognitive processes like the judgement of good & bad/better & best, as well a social control—like the ability to regulate urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes. We become less self-critical & more courageous.

The brain—taking up just 2% of our body weight & using 20% of our energy—is required to be extremely energy efficient. When resources are needed for concentration & attention, it performs an efficiency exchange & switches to subconscious processes, which bypass the inner critic & draws on a larger reservoir of knowledge.

neil craverNeil Craver, from the “OmniPhantasmic” series

During flow the brain releases a cascade of pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing neurochemistry. Large quantities of norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide & serotonin flood our system. These chemicals—the most addictive cocktail the brain can produce—have considerable impact on creativity.

“Both norepinephrine and dopamine amp up focus, boosting imaginative possibilities by helping us gather more information,” details Kotler. “They also lower signal-to-noise ratios, increasing pattern recognition or our ability to link ideas together in new ways. Anandamide, meanwhile, increases lateral thinking—meaning it expands the size of the database searched by the pattern recognition system.”

Lena Smirnova | mountains, sky and geometric northern lightsLena Smirnova 

When the brain encounters the overwhelming complexity of a starry sky or a grand canyon, “reality seems to pause, if only for a second,” relates Kotler. “The conscious mind—what’s technically called the ‘explicit system’—can only hold about seven bits of information at once. This is why phone numbers are only seven digits long.

“But the subconscious mind—the ‘implicit system’—has no such limit. Thus, when we encounter overwhelming complexity, we trade conscious processing for subconscious processing.” (“The Rise of Superman.”)

e017198caa8422362b0fe3f3e7f188dc ‘Man Juggling His Own Head. Saint Thomas D’Aquin. 1880 

Flow state can be broken down into a four stage cycle.

The first is struggle. Though it feels like the opposite of flow, this is the brainstorming stage, the period of pushing, reaching, training. Overloading the brain with information or taxing the body with new challenges.

“Most people never push this first stage far enough,” notes Kotler, “which is why they constantly miss the doorway to the flow experience.”

Relaxation is the second stage.

“This is when you take your mind off the problem entirely, taking a break, going for a walk or doing something physical,” remarks Kotler. He notes that it’s not the same as watching television or some other distraction that keeps your brain busy. “It’s about relaxing the brain so the conscious mind lets the subconscious mind take over. Many people miss this break and as a result are constantly in overload and burnout, missing flow altogether.”

1082079850Neil Craver, from the “OmniPhantasmic” series

The third stage is Flow—that blissful, much-sought state of being. This is the experience of optimal performance. Self & time disappear. The inner critic takes a break. Action & awareness become one. Preparation meets relaxation & expresses itself almost magically. Inspiration takes over.

Consolidation concludes the cycle. Learning & memory are amplified, synthesizing the experience of flow & folding it back into your subconscious in preparation for returning to stage one. As the feel-good neurochemicals of flow recede, it can be easy to “go on a down,” Kotler notes, which leads to an emotional reaction—& often self-sabatoge—in an attempt to regain the flow state.

“The key here is not to let this stress block the learning or reverse the results of being in flow, but to move smoothly back to the next phase of struggle and repeat the cycle.”

Bohumil KröhnBohumil Kröhn

Part Two Coming Soon!

*I’d like to thank my dear friend & fellow blogger Alisha Westerman (check out her blog!) for brining my attention to Steven Kotler’s very interesting podcast: Steven Kotler & The Rise of Superman. 


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Psychology at PARALLAX:.