More than thirty years ago, in my attempt to grasp effective change, I decided to write down my beliefs as short concise statements which could be compared with to my actual experiences, and thus validated. Thus, the following are truths for me. I speak them only as my experience, my beliefs, my values, and yet I think they are universal, independent of culture for the most part. This practice has proved to be one of the most powerful activities of my own growth. It allowed me to be clear of my own attitudes about myself and the world. Initially I revised them every few months, now every couple of years. I also live them as much as possible; they are always in revision and are not absolute.
Now at age 76 I am undertaking a major life review and choose to offer these thoughts simply to encourage growth. I offer them simply for self-study of one person’s searching — it is a very powerful way to come to know yourself. The list is long and I will submit it over a number of blogs, perhaps 25-30 brief statements per posting.
A comment on language: I am not an advocate of scientific materialism, the philosophic ontology that only science can address truth, and that energy-matter is the only domain of experience in the universe. I value scientific methodology highly, but the overall terminology that describes me include Gestaltist, panpsychist, and panentheist (those terms require many comments). Essentially I believe that consciousness and energy-matter are two sides of the same coin, a coin that is not yet describable (if it makes sense to you, think of wave and particle in quantum mechanics). However, most of the world is orientated to scientific materialism, and much information I value is coached in these terms. I attempt to be very precise with my language, but because of these issues, I often use somewhat strange language, and I ask patience of the reader. For example, I often speak of mind-brain, when I am not clear as to how the mind (consciousness) and brain (energy-matter) interact. I certainly do not believe they are synonymous; only that they are somehow related, and that perhaps mind is vastly more sophisticated than brain. Other examples will be explained as they occur.
We so need to grow as a species!
1. I forget these truths, frequently and repeatedly!
The hardest thing for me to learn is what I don’t know, because I don’t know that I don’t know it!
Frequently it is not safe for me to learn these truths—there is a price tag to truth.
2. A major problem of our society is the loss of the subjective.
Objectivity provides great technology, and only limited humanity.
3. There is an old engineering principle that states: “If it works, use it.” Very practical!
One corollary is “If your conclusions are wrong, examine your premises.” When my conclusions about life are wrong, I may need to examine my assumptions.
Similarly, “If your conclusions are right, don’t trust your premises.” Life is an ongoing process of exploration in which I am repeatedly encountering new wonders (and terrors).
4. What I have gained in my life, especially from childhood, is a map of life.
The map is not the territory!
5. Life comes as a complete package, a territory, not a map, and includes subjectivity, objectivity, diversity, community, decay, rejuvenation, … (perhaps this is just our dramatic dualistic way of experiencing).
I am not in charge! Dualism may be an inherent component in the universe. Witness right-handed and left-handed amino acids, and our biologic preferences.
However, consciousness does not need to be dualistic (right/wrong, good/bad, et cetera). Perhaps consciousness is fully non-dual.
6. Each of us is unique! We have many similarities, yet we each have unique maps, similar but not the same.
No two people understand the same situation (any situation, any sentence, any object, any smell, et cetera) in the same manner. We frequently delude ourselves that we do!
When I truly validate this difference, the consequences are staggering!
7. There is much evidence that life is painful (sometimes); there is no evidence that life is serious.
Being able to play with what life offers is a major skill, and part of maturity.
8. Another major skill of maturity is the ability to know when to be silent!
And preferably in awe of whatever is occurring.
9. The most successful person in the world is the one who is having the most fun.
In my experience, I do not compare when I am having fun! I simply have fun! Everything is included and integrated when I am having fun; there are no divisions.
10. Human beings are fundamentally playful, if allowed to be so. Our integrity seeks authentic feel-good experiences.
If a new, authentically more effective pattern can be experienced in place of an older less effective pattern, we will change rapidly and permanently. Invariably this new pattern has an authentic feel-good character. Integration of the change within our lives, and our emotional systems, may require considerable time.
11. There are two basic processes available in creating change: choice and playfulness.
Choice involves deciding how we want to live, given our options, moving in that direction. There will be consequences, and hence a price tag to our choices.
Playfulness is available as a skill so as to create authentic more effective patterns within our choices, generally improving the cost/benefit ratio of the price tag. Often playfulness requires challenge of the existing system.
12. When I am in pain (or suffering), I need to examine my map; when I am comfortable, I need to be careful with my map.
What limits me is my ability (or inability) to say “yes” to what life offers—the territory! not the map!
13. Please do not trap me in the limitations of your map.
It is extremely painful to get caught in your interpretation of me when that interpretation does not reflect my reality, and you do not have a way to step back from our/your reality to assess the data.
Certainly at a personal level, it is the most painful experience of my life, and at a societal level, I think it is probably our most common emotional problem. one in which people have great difficulty letting go of their maps.
14. The basis of our humanness seems to reside in our brains (see next comment).
Our brains are built in three evolutionary stages: the brain of a lizard (fundamental survival), the brain of a mammal (emotion, including love and play), and a human brain (clarity and choice, the ability to deal with the complexity of time and meaning).
15. However, consciousness is not necessarily restricted to our brain.
I often wonder what is the connection between mind and brain. As a physician, I know that I lose the ability to access the consciousness of an individual when they have major brain injury, but that does not mean that consciousness exists within the brain. The brain need only be an access portal.
The nature of near-death experiences suggests that there may be other portals.
16. I have limitations. I am not God (whatever that term means); I cannot do everything.
I have choice though. I have the beginning of awareness, and I can develop my awareness further. I can also play.
I can love, or I can fear. When I fear, I call the other a problem—and I have pain. If I then say “this should not be,” then I suffer.
17. I have a set of beliefs. The purpose of beliefs is to link one experience to another. Somehow, as a human being, I believe that my beliefs are more important than what I experience. Wow!
Many of my beliefs are “shoulds!” Wow again! This is principally how I drive myself crazy (or at least neurotic)! It is also how I drive others crazy.
18. Much of my experience is grounded in biology.
One of my favorite stories is how to catch crabs in the ocean. Put a large open box (a big box), partially filled with bait, on the ocean floor. The crabs (10-20 crabs) will climb into the box, and eat the bait. Then, when the bait is all gone, the crabs will keep each other in the box—they won’t let each other leave. If persistent, they will kill the crab that wants to leave by tearing its claws off. Biologists call it ‘the togetherness factor’.
Wow! How we ‘should’ each other.
19. Other experiences that I have had are grounded in something else.
In particular, I have been graced with occasional profound mystical experiences. I do not know how to ground these in biology. Perhaps they are simply a survival mechanism for responding to existential loneliness.
20. When is enough? A huge question!
For me, ‘enough’ means that I have what I need for adequate comfort, and a bit more for occasional luxuries.
21. What I experience, and what I value (peace, community, et cetera), are far better guides to life and its richness than what I believe.
In my experience, do I achieve my values? If not, what am I valuing instead?
22. I am on a journey, this phase of which begins with conception, and ends with death. The journey is one of growth to be a mature human being, whatever that means. Essentially, it means to be present to life.
23. The word “present” has multiple meanings, a triple entendre!
it means to be here,
it refers to now, and
it is also a gift to be opened!
24. Are you present? Am I present?
25. As part of being present, I learn skills of living. The skills are not the journey, merely the tools of the journey. Being in action of my own truths is one of the skills; in particular, I value this process.