Psychology

Strive For Simplicity, Economise on Energy (3)

“I have long held an opinion, almost amounting to conviction, in common I believe with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, one into another, and possess equivalents of power in their action.”

— Michael Faraday, English Physicist and Chemist


Reading time: 20 mins

Energy

What is energy?

Energy is a property of matter, space, objects and fields. It can be transferred and converted, but it can’t be destroyed – or created. Energy can be chemical, thermal electrical and kinetic, all of which exists in and around the mind-body system.

For our focus it is potential energy which can be stored and qualitatively accumulated which is of interest.

Energy can be refined in order to get more vitality for your voltage, so to speak.

Since sufficient energy is the fuel for all manner of action, (and The Work) it stands to reason that the more energy you have within your mind-body system the more enhanced the capacity for change.  With enough stored, (and the “space” ready to store it) we have a greater chance of changing our physical, mental and emotional states.

With a greater store of energy on tap, this might even provide the “nourishment” and power needed to fuel overall meta-physical transformation.

At this point in history the demands on our time and energy are relentless. Many of us have become mentally ill or physically debilitated due to environmental and psycho-social factors. In this technological age there are reasons to fill every waking hour with activities and distractions which feed our restlessness but give little in terms of true nourishment. If we cut out the clutter and re-organise our daily lives so that things become simpler we make better use of our time. Time management goes hand in hand with simplicity. Economising conserving and simplifying are mutually inclusive.

What is crucial to your life and what is just repetitive, useless busy-ness? Is that moving centre sending into you spirals of pointless activity in order to displace energy that could be useful to personal transformation? Ask yourself honestly: Is your attention habitually fixed on getting things to feel better? Has this focus overshadowed what’s truly important in my life?

If that’s true and like so many of us, you have been caught up in finding too much satisfaction in possessions (or possessing people) then it’s a cue to simplify and to realise that attachment to beliefs and their possessions are often the greatest obstacle to living a more harmonious life. Or, as German poet and playwright Johann von Goethe expressed it: “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”

To achieve simplicity we have to conserve our energy in thought and action. One thing is for sure, you’ll need every ounce of it if you are to transform your inner life. By gettting rid of that which ultimately drains you, it opens up the space for an ongoing process of spring-cleaning, much like you do with your flat or house. And it’s amazing how much more can be achieved by decreasing one’s complexity.

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Strive For Simplicity, Economise on Energy (2)

© Infrakshun | M.K. Styllinski

“The expression of truth is simplicity.”

— Seneca


Reading time: 20 mins

Natural and Common Law

If you’re like me you might ascribe to a universal law that operates outside of human constructs yet gives rise to a specific set of perceptions and values. Natural law is a system of moral justice and balance derived from the cycles and symbols of nature rather than the rules of society. There are inherent rights which exist outside of legislative bodies and the State which are deemed a timeless product of nature and the Divine. Natural Law is a culmination of thousands of years of philosophical inquiry from Taoism to the Stoics and celtic Christian theology. Drawn from generations of common sense experience, the common theme is that morality, ethics and jurisprudence should determine the outcome of disputes and community conflict.

Natural law flows through the dynamics of social groups, how we cooperate and include, when we live and die, who we love and who our friends our; it is our home and our community; the values, virtues and moral autonomy that gives life to art and altruism. It comes about by the process of reason and conscience which determines what is beneficial or destructive to the individual as part of the proper functioning of a community. It is a law that requires us to learn the sometimes subtle difference between that which gives life and creativity or that which sends us down the road to entropy and evil.

Under Natural Law infections of evil are allowed to wither and die by withdrawing energy for their existence. Such entities are not bailed out and propped up – they dismantled, re-envisoned or ignored. This universal standard is as old as human conscience – the wisdom formed through experience. It is a law that transcends time, culture, and government. It is a law that helps to create organic order that is porus and fliexible as well as socially binding. Natural promotes self-responsibility, self-sufficiency and preventative measures when it comes to crime and dysfunction.  It is the judge who discovers the law in common practices which have been deeply ingrained in society.

At its best, it is simplicity in action.

The American legal school of thought called Declarationism believes that the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. constitution are based on Natural Law. However, that initial ideal has now been obscured – if not dissolved – under the heavy weight of amendments by successive administrations under the pay of corporations and antithical ideologies. Equally, one only has to cast an eye over the disease of legalise – American and European – to wonder how it is that anyone understands anything when it comes to civil liberties, family courts and civil actions.

The English legal system of Common Law is similarly rooted in this natural philosophy with its roots in the English Kings’ courts. This older, traditional form of common law is still in operation although, like the U.S. consituition, it has been covered up and camouflaged by modern legislative power which seldom takes into account the old local knowledge and simplicity of the system –  a natural outgrowth of community cohesion.

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7. Strive for Simplicity, Economise on Energy (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

© Infrakshun | M.K. Styllinski

“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

— Lao Tzu


Reading time: 15 mins

Simplicity.

What images does it conjure in your mind? Minimalist architecture? A Zen garden? A painting? Perhaps the symmetry of a fir-cone or a statue of Buddha?

It probably took me about 25 years to really get what simplicity seems to be. And even now, I sometimes struggle not to complicate things. I like complexity you see. The more complex something is the more interest I have – be it people or abstract ideas.

But to reach a complexity that is enriching you have to first simplify your mind and your life otherwise we become lost in abstraction, reductive identifications and a multitude of obligations and desires. Next stop – burn out.

Simplicity is a state of mind which has the potential to affect our thoughts and actions in the everyday world. It implies an economy of thought and movement which can to lead to harmony. When simplicity and harmony exist, moral virtue is not far behind.

Simplicity is not just peace or mindfulness, it’s the state of receptivity and creativity working as one. And for that to occur we have to let our 24hr desires abate somewhat; we have to let go and let it Be.

The root meanings of the word derive from the 14th Century listing “singleness of nature, unity, indivisibility; immutability,” and from the Old French simplicité; Latin simplicitatem meaning “state of being simple, frankness, openness, artlessness, candor, directness.”  The Middle English also from French: simplesse, used the word from the mid-14th Century in the sense of “humility, lack of pride,” and later as “wholeness, unity.” By c. 1400 it was also known as “ignorance.”

Obviously, I’m using simplicity in its positive sense: unity, wholeness, openness, clarity, purity, elegance, parsimony, humility, economy, etc. It can just as easily imply black and white thinking, ignorance and stupidity as the 15th Century populace discovered, ironically as humanistic individualism was making itself known.

The West has prided itself on inquiry, reason, rationale and critique (even if it doesn’t quite measure up to those ideals); the legacy of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason; individualism and humanistic innovations. The influence of the East is the other half of the equation: an understanding of the inner world and the meditative mind; the slow calming of the incessant intellect in order receive what Chinese and later Japanese Buddhists called “The Tao.” As esotericist George I. Gurdjieff  described it: “Take the understanding of the East and the knowledge of the West and then seek.”

The Taoists  have a lot to say about the virtues of simplicity. One of the most famous Taoist texts is The Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing) believed to have been written by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu sometime in the 6th Century B.C.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (8)

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be
taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.”

– George Eliot

“I’m not asking anything” she said. “I’m merely passing on the advice of a succession of shrewd old birds…Start by becoming aware of what you think you are. It’ll help you to become aware of what you are in fact.”

— Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962


Reading time: 20-25 mins

We’ve looked at the importance of positive emotions (and its dark side); fantasy over creativity; as well as an overview of male and female brain differences in processing emotions. We’ve also explored how constructive emotions are overall, an essential part of moral, psycho-spiritual identity.

In this final post on constructive emotions we’ll have a closer look at how they operate within a specific metaphysical/esoteric tradition with particular attention to the theory of chakras or centres. These ideas are present in much of the occult traditions but also in “esoteric science”, or the old, custodian forms of Eastern and Western traditions behind many of our religions.

This might appear to be a bit abstract, so those averse to too much theory on that score, hang in there, even it’s just theory at this point, it’ll give you a working knowledge as to how your “subtle energy” might be working in your system. Similarly, if this is just an interesting curiosity, the mere awareness of new possibilities is useful since it gives you further information to process within your personal open feedback system. Information can always be turned into practical knowledge if you test it against the whetstone of reality.

That said, a word to the wise: the following theories of esoteric work isn’t something to flirt with – a point I’ve made at various junctures on this blog. Better to just have that awareness than fully engage with what esotericists call “The Tradition” or “The Work” than only half engage. That’s as dangerous as entering a dense jungle in flip-flops, with  a plastic water bottle as your only means of survival. A paucity of sincerity and mere intellectual curiosity is not a good combination. ( know well of what I speak!) Beyond a certain point, to turn back from that Work will create a chaos you can barely imagine. As the Buddha mentioned:  “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.”

Cautionary warning dispensed with – onwards!

Fourth Way /The Centres/Chakras

There are three major influences that determine the personality and its trajectory:

  • Genetics
  • sociocultural programming
  • spiritual/religious beliefs

Our spiritual beliefs – occult or esoteric/metaphysical – have been directly or indirectly influenced by the ancient idea of chakras or subtle energy centres.

The chakra systems as we know them today have been put through the new age and occult grinder so it’s no surprise that the theory behind their functioning bares little resemblance to their original sources, be it from the yoga-tantra traditions or from esoteric Christianity filtered into the West.

The particular system I’ll focus on I believe retains the original template of the “subtle energy centres” which is the system of teaching called The Fourth Way delivered to the West by George Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky and later Boris Mouravieff among others lesser known.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (7)

© Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com

“The old saying “opposites attract” is often true. The difficulty is once they marry they drive each other crazy.”

― Dr. Steven Stephens


Reading time: 15 mins

In this final post on constructive emotions it might be useful to remind ourselves that the way we experience and process our feelings and emotions is quite different for men and women, boys and girls. When it comes to general, emotional awareness however, we all appear to have far more in common than the traits that can set us apart.

There are key differences in how we manage and react to feelings adjusted through the lens of our emotions. The way we manage them is so different in fact, that we frequently appear to be a different species to our opposite sex. (Why does he go silent? Why does she never shut up?) We need to be cognizant of these differences if we are to make headway in our relationships and our quest for a more constructive emotional life.

Needless to say, in our current climate of gender politics it’s a bit of a minefield; the mainstream media, social scientists and cultural commentators pore over the latest data and put it through the meat-grinder of ideological bias and belief. Despite this, from most people’s experiences on the ground, men and women do have different ways of coping and expressing their emotional world which is probably leaning towards a dominance of genes and biology and environment/sociocultural influences playing a part. How large a part we are not yet sure. One thing is certain, as the role of biology and epigenetics attains its rightful place as a key driver in gender differences the power of suggestion and cultural inculcation shouldn’t be underestimated.

Although we live in a culture that appears to be pushing the ideology that there are no differences and male and female is just a social construct, anyone who has had any relationships, partnerships and marriages will tell you that men and women are hardwired to process emotions in different ways. Yet, we seldom remember this dimension when in the midst of row or the inevitable misunderstandings at work. Undoubtedly cultural influences and a host of personal experiences play a big part, but these differences appear to have an even larger biological component that stretches back thousands of years to our hunter-gatherer ancestors and beyond.

Such evaluations and their conclusions don’t fit well with those invested in feminism and “gender fluid” beliefs since it dilutes the idea that it’s all about stereotypes or the “patriarchal system of oppression.” Ideologues don’t like being reminded that there are compelling arguments pointing to biology as a powerful reason for gender differences with their roots in survival and tribal cohesion. Gender does indeed matter but not to create divisions, rather to help us work together, much like the two hemispheres of the brain – If our brains were only given the chance.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (6)

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope is strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But, suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice? Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

—  C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 8-10 mins

The Positive thinking, LOA and YCYOR triangle is the lynchpin of the new age or Human Potential Movement, often fused with left-liberal beliefs. What happens when these ways of viewing the world are placed in an overtly spiritual context?

A constant theme that runs through many of these essay series is the idea that one’s spiritual quest is fraught with potential dangers. It’s designed that way and is not for the faint-hearted. I am one of those who has learned the hard way that self-awareness and seeking truth requires an exacting sacrifice of personal, selfish desires.

If you decide to follow a genuine spiritual path without attending to fundamental emotional issues, you will find yourself on a very hard road indeed as the signal to grow receives a response. Such a response (depending on the degree of personality deformation present) sets in motion a process whereby the person is given the tools and circumstances by which soul influence can begin to grow. That cannot be anything other than painful since, like a drug addict, you are shedding outmoded and negative behaviours which you have taken on as normal. Cold turkey isn’t just for those coming off substance abuse, it can be as harrowing to divest yourself of childhood and cultural conditioning.

The cultural inculcation to support a psychopathic worldview is disguised as benevolence or empowerment. In the final analysis however, we always have a choice to change and to seek out what is really going on behind The Wizard Of Oz’s theatrical curtain on reality. Dealing with our emotions is the first step.

If we insist in wallowing in the influences of Official Culture, whilst immersing ourselves in the theory of spiritual transformation – it won’t work, at least not in the way we might think. Information becomes knowledge by applying and testing out what we have discovered. That means we cannot be in two realities at once which means a decision will need to be made, whether we like it or not. If you are perpetually on the fence then you at a standstill or worse, one centre of gravity within your personality will be inflated whilst another will atrophy.

Much of the illness of our western culture derives from the denial of what is, and the rejection of inner knowing in favour of security, self-satisfaction and a fragile peace. It’s ultimately a denial of the Universe/God which seeks consciousness, seeded in complex sentient life i.e. humans – to become self-aware, warts and all. Once we have made a contract with Life due to our self-evident existence, part of that decision is to willingly choose to access your greatest potential by serving others, thereby serving yourself. When we do so with conviction a new dimension of possibility opens up for us – literally. Walk long enough along that road without application of those discoveries then reality will become more and more insistent that you “walk the talk” away from theory and toward actualisation of faith and purpose.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (5)

pixabay / infrakshun

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

— Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)


Reading time: 20 mins

Mainstreaming Magick

It might seem a stretch to equate boiler basement magick with so much of the self-help, positive thinking cult but bear with me.

You’ve probably become accustomed to the gradual popularisation and  mainstreaming of various forms of ceremonial and sympathetic magick. There is a huge market in black magick and associated celebration of the demonic and supernatural mysteries. Wherever there is a natural curiosity about such things then you can be sure it can be milked by turning it into a commodity thereby serving a tripartite purpose of 1) Feeding the economic technosphere 2) entrainment of elite ideas 3) normalisation of their memes and concepts.

Positive thinking, much of new age philosophy, self-help coaching and business is now reaping the short-term, feel-good benefits of occult principles applied to daily life. Now, mainstreaming the Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Wicca and Witchcraft can be seen in Hollywood, television, art and entertainment in general. There is a huge information explosion purposely generated and carefully executed like a drip-feed of psychic driving.

Hey boys and girls! Werewolves or Vampires? Make your choice. Magickal formulas and invocations? Take your pick! (Just don’t think for yourselves…Conjure something that can do it for you).

If you know nothing of ritual magick, don’t worry. You’re better off. But it’s important to know that occult principles lie behind much of our institutional history and play a big part in Elite beliefs up to the present day. Which is why, in part, the marketing of magick in popular culture is so lucrative: it taps in to a human need to control in the face of uncertainty; to be part of a tribe that may have the inside scoop. It would also be foolish to say that there isn’t illuminating knowledge to be found in some forms of occult study of the dim and distant past. However, we’ll stick to the brief: how positive psychology and new age marketing is firmly selling black magick principles.

So, why is this dicing with the devil? When we attempt such magickal intrusions into the natural order with the dictum of “energy follows thought” as a purely ego-based desire for betterment, one is elevating personal fantasy over what IS. And in occult terms this becomes super-charged regardless of magickal theory suggesting otherwise. This wish to employ a framework of magickal formulas is enticing but tends to invite more chaos into one’s life, not less. Such a place may initially offer fleeting “success” much like the initial froth on a champagne glass or firework display that dies down as quickly as it begins, but it’s not a long-term solution.

If you want to align to a law that posits a type of attraction which benefits us, you have to first ask where does the focus lie? MATTER OR SPIRIT? Do I really know the difference? Ask yourself if you are channelling your desires to get something for nothing. Does it make it a short cut? And if so, are short-cuts generally useful?

There is nothing new under the sun. There are however, innumerable ways truth can be re-packaged and re-sold to humanity as innovation and relevation to keep us trapped in the same cycles of spiritual imprisonment which have remained unbroken for millennia.  If you have a hard time pondering that essential reality then you’re probably a perfect candidate for the above tripartite system of control. What the accumulated wisdom of the past has tried to tell us over and over is that the keynote of our times is deception, the likes of which traverse social, cultural, political and most certainly so-called “spiritual” precepts. Such modes of high level disinformation and distortion work in ways that can easily boggle the mind.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (4)

 © Photodynamx | Dreamstime.com

“The most revolutionary act is a clear view of the world as it really is.”

  —Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)


Reading time: 15 minutes

Fantasy vs Creative Imagination

There is no question that we can choose positive emotions to improve our life. Yet, there a many things we must consider before pursuing that aim, not least of which is making sure we don’t foolishly believe that’s all we need to grow, inspite of a natural want to improve our lot. They are two separate things however. The latter tends to accompany the former and not after considerable hardship. This is the nature of awakening: it sends out a signal to a world opposed to such a path and its response is usually to send a few obstacles to put us back to sleep. Usually, they are seductive and go straight for our weakest spot, our Achilles heel.

We need to cultivate a deep self-knowledge to check we are embracing the positive thinking train for the right reasons; healing trapped emotions so that we’re sure we’re not seeking escape; a balm for pain; searching for short-cuts or using such methods to attain power and dominance. More importantly, that we are not feeding our tendency to fantasize about the future.

Fantasy fuels our emotions. Fantasizing may be a welcome break from drudgery, but you may unwittingly invite chaos into the present. The very act of supplying energy to fantasy means that effort in the real world commensurate with a proper evaluation of our abilities, is being continually siphoned away from pragmatic action. Therefore, your future will make you feel worse, not better, ironically stemming from your over-identitfication to think positively, the anticipation of that new state and subsequent diluted effort that could have ignited the state of creative flow.

Effort demands deliberate, conscious practice and an open spirit of expectation that allows creative imagination to complement critical thinking. Fantasy is like a self-created whirlpool which keeps us trapped in the warm waters of our own self-conceit thus making sure we never actually manifest even the humblest of those possibilities.

What makes it worse is people routinely confuse fantasy with creative imagination. When people mention the positive aspect of fantasy they are talking about the creative imagination which is fantasy set to work. Intention defines whether or not fantasy becomes creative or just colourful noise. Psychotherapist Carl Jung highlighted the importance of “playing with fantasy” without which “no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

A bit of day-dreaming here and there is no bad thing. And the playing Jung talks about is really accessing imagination toward a general or specific quest. But when fantasy and wishful-thinking is sold as a “lifestyle design” then it becomes yet another way to keep us docile, disappointed and resentful. When combined with happiness as the primary goal and where spiritual aims are no different to material acquisition, then we are on a path to entropy, not creativity. When we are encouraged to make unrealistic and ill-thought out escapism into an overall aim, it just becomes self-indulgence.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (And don’t forget your greatest asset) (3)

Approaching Shadow, 1954 by Chinese photographer Fan-Ho born in Shanghai, in 1931.

“Don’t be so negative! Think positive!”

— positive thinking evangelist


Reading time: 15-18 mins

How many times have you heard the above smiley command from people who have joined the positive psychology bandwagon? Apart from being a tad self-righteous the proclamation might also mask the person’s inability to process the negative realities of this world.

This “pursuit of happiness” tightly bound with numerous affirmations and fixated beliefs intent on to forcing happiness into being doesn’t deliver. If we do not achieve those heights of impossible joy then we sow the seeds of re-occurring resentment.

As we have explored, positive thinking is an important part of self-betterment, but it is literally only half the equation. There’s a huge caveat that goes unnoticed in the drive to cultivate a better outlook and a happier life. Deny the vital role of negative emotions in this process and and we court serious trouble.

In fact, this blind spot is probably one of the primary reasons for many of our global woes and needs to be fully understood before we immerse ourselves in the positive thinking belief system.

Success in cultivating positive emotions lies in the nature of the methods we use to attain them as much as it does the reasons we embark on such a discipline. If the methods and reasons are faulty, then success may be fleeting and come at a cost.

But “the optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought” right?

No. Not always. In fact hardly ever.  If the pessimism of the thought is grounded in the reality of what is, then you can guarantee that the “optimism” and good intentions of the “action” will inevitably create more chaos than order.

As Barbara Ehrenreich described in characteristically blunt terms:

Americans have long prided themselves on being positive and optimistic — traits that reached a manic zenith in the early years of this millennium. Iraq would be a cakewalk! The Dow would reach 36,000! Housing prices could never decline! Optimism was not only patriotic but was also a Christian virtue, or so we learned from the proliferating preachers of the “prosperity gospel,” whose God wants to “prosper” you. In 2006, the runaway bestseller “The Secret” promised that you could have anything you wanted, anything at all, simply by using your mental powers to “attract” it. The poor listened to upbeat preachers like Joel Osteen and took out subprime mortgages. The rich paid for seminars led by motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and repackaged those mortgages into securities sold around the world. [1]

This distinctly American obsession with positive thinking tied to a delusional neo-liberal brand of capitalism means “to get what you want” in as little time as possible and with minimum effort; a lifestyle which has permeated virtually every social and cultural domain.

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Choose constructive emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (2)

 

“Everything can be taken from a man but …The last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

— Viktor Frankel


Reading time: 10 mins

What is it you can tell yourself and that will ensure that every time you get in a negative loop you have constructive thoughts and actions which bypass that habit? Think of it as building new houses of emotion imbued with positive feelings in every wall and every beam. Make sure that you are not in an environment, relationship or work situation that continually places you in that loop. And if you are, ask yourself how much of those negative triggers are under your control to diminish? You’ll not be able change everything externally in your life but you can change how you react to these pressures and head off the kind of habitually negative thinking that harms you. Then you are laying the foundation for your life to change naturally. (Yes, really, you are). That requires faith and not a little persistence. But if you are able to cultivate feelings and emotions that work for you that’s when reality begins to change, even if it seems like a pipe dream.

I struggled with many things in my youth and beyond but passive aggression and an overly critical attitude were high up on the scale. This was due to intermittent depression rooted in a poor sense of self. It was only when I found constructive channels for release which took me away from my inner stress was I slowly able to heal. I could indeed choose positive emotions instead of wallowing in resentment and projected angst. In fact, we are choosing all the time, even if unconsciously.

Remember the two sets of unconscious thinking: system1 (instinctive and emotional) and system 2 thinking (logical; deliberative) and what Daniel Goleman called the “high and low roads” of emotional intelligence. We are literally a complex, tangled mass of biases and mechanical processes which make a mockery of free-will and independent thought. But we can get closer to those ideals. Our job is to ease into the marriage of the two and make them work for us. And to do that we need to be both internally considerate of our own experiences, pains and fears whilst affording the same external considerations to those with whom we live and work.

Learning to exert proper control over the wild horse emotions and chaotic feelings isn’t a bundle of fun but like unruly animals they be gently tamed so that they begin to love their master rather than follow the bad parent of the ego who let’s them do anything at all for the next tasty treat.

A concurrent theme that appears throughout this whole blog is that we need a good social network present to keep us nourished. For example, snaps shots of positive social memories is an effective way to bring you back from the negative maelstrom. In combination with breathing this can help to re-connect with the biochemical component of that remembered reality. [1] 

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6. Choose constructive emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“The benefits of positive emotions don’t stop after a few minutes of good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefit that positive emotions provide is an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.”

— Barbara Fredrickson
.

Reading time: 15 mins

Our emotions flow through everything we do and every personality type on show: from the “coldest” intellectual academic to the athlete striving to be the best. How we emote, whether we express negative or positive emotion depends how well we know ourselves and if we are prepared to find the balance between too much positivity (yes, it’s possible) and the more well-known excess of negativity.

There is no question that we can choose to have more constructive emotions whilst understanding that negative emotions are not “bad” just in need of balance so that the positive/negative polarities work as a team. It’s the distortion of our emotions which wreaks the havoc. There is nothing instrinsically wrong with us other than allowing our feelings to run wild, often to the point of pathology.

This is especially true of those suffering from trauma and/or the effects of childhood adversity as both tend to make emotions supercharged to threats via a hypersensitive parasympathetic nervous system. Pain, unconsciously expressed becomes the primary interface between reality and the self. We become a walking “pain body” geared to survival and the multitude of triggers from any real or perceived threat to our armour of “protection.” Regardless of whether we have unresolved pain and trauma to cultivate conscious awareness over our emotional mind is the key to regulating our life toward a happier and more constructive state of affairs.

I used “constructive” in the title instead of “positive” for this reason. The latter is frequently promoted whilst ignoring the benefits of regulated negative emotion. Like the word “spiritual,” positive thinking has become a loaded phrase for a number of reasons which we’ll get into later on. Suffice to say, understanding our own particular make-up of feelings and emotions and how they are channelled into every day life is crucial. Without a more harmonious interaction with situations and people with whom we interact (or more probably inter-react) imbalance can only get worse or we remain paralysed in an uncomfortable stasis.

Our emotions determine how we perceive the world, what biases and preferences are operating and what decisions and choices we make. Emotions are what make us human; they are an essential part of our nature without which we would be a robot or the iconic Vulcan Mr. Spock from the Star Trek series. But even he had cracks in his hyper-logic because he was half-human, half-Vulcan. As it stands, Mr. Spock did pretty well in navigating through the problems he and his crew encountered. He was efficient, incisive and highly adept at solving those obstacles. But he found human sensitivities beyond the rational perplexing, since overreaction and over-identification was literally alien to him. He wasn’t exactly the life and soul of a party as a result. Nonetheless, we need Mr.Spock’s laser-like logic to sit comfortably alongside a sense of humour, compassion and intuition if we are to achieve a steady balance in the face of the unknown.

So, what are emotions as opposed to feelings? Is there a difference? It would seem so.

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5. Avoid Short-Cuts

By M.K. Styllinski


Wile E. Coyote | © Warner Brothers

“… shortcuts are dangerous; we cannot delude ourselves that our knowledge is further along than it actually is.”

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
.

Reading time: 10-15 mins

Once we have a sure-fire aim and its family of objectives then comes the panoply of short-cuts to tempt you. This feeds into our anticipation that’s ready to snap at the slightest whiff of a free lunch to carry us in guilded style to our destination. As anyone who isn’t a snake-oil salesman will tell you: this is an illusion – often a very tempting one, but an illusion nonetheless.

There are no short-cuts to self-development in any shape or form whatsoever. None. Zilch. Nada. A free pass has to be earned and no amount of clever marketing can alter that fact. And believe me, having probably tried most of the tantalising diamond-studded detours and persuasive paths of instant fixes over the past few decades, I learned the hard way, which is usually the best way, though not a bundle of fun.

                        Wile E. Coyote | © Warner Brothers

In other words, I discovered that trying to ram that square peg into a round hole for the umpteenth time doesn’t work whichever angle you come at it. Doesn’t matter if its shaking the sweaty hand of the loan shark or trying on a fake persona to get you the girl, short-cuts are the mythical sirens on the rocks wiggling their ample bottoms and tossing their lustrous hair as you try to half-heartedly steer your tug-boat away. Short-cuts make you want to wave back a little too vigorously; toot your whistle, let out your sails and steer a course to voluptuous success. But as sure as the sun rises in the morning, you’ll sooner or later end up on those rocks with the ship of your lofty aspirations  sinking below the surface. Feeling foolish and crestfallen can be beneficial, but it might take several passes before you get rid of that mindset.

This is especially true when it comes to bettering yourself or following a metaphysical path, so called. Anyone that tells you otherwise is just selling something. If you take the short-cut then you miss the whole point of process. And let’s face it, unless you’re a psychopath whose default position is to consume and destroy, it isn’t going to work for you, not if you seek authenticity over artifice.

Some folks seem to sail through life taking advantage of every short-cut available, whisking them to the top of whatever pyramidal pile of goodies matches their desire. What you also might remember is that such a position is rarely stable and even less sustainable in the long-term. The fallout from taking these short-cuts usually involves a shit-storm of unintended consequences which eventually finds their way back to the instigator. The Hindu/Buddhist concept of karma comes to mind.

Have an Aim / Objective (2)

© Rostyslav Zabolotnyi | Dreamstime.com

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as
something to aim at.”

— Bruce Lee
.

Reading time: 20-25 mins.

This is a long post finalising our look at aim and objectives. I hope it will provide some food for thought as you go forward. Remember, that all the 31 suggestions exist as an essential part of each other. None of them come alive in isolation and all play a part in self-transformation.

***

Your aim must align to the best in yourself. It must ignite enjoyment over pleasure.

If you are an artist then your art must be deeply personal and passionately part of your being. When that happens, you will affect people. There are implications from your dedication to your aim. It will mean connections which initiate expansion for yourself and others. If you build your own narrative – genuine and sincere – it will click with others and they will play a part in the development and evolution of your aim.

Without that self-belief – because your aim and your objectives are you, if you’ve chosen correctly – the momentum is absent and the rotten fruit of failure will drop into your lap so many times that you’ll be forced to re-evaluate your plans. As long as the aim remains true, the distance and objectives along that trajectory can be adapted as many times as necessary. Failure is the whetstone upon which you build a razor-sharp aim that cuts through anything. This occurs by virtue of the fact is that it is TRUE and reflects the light of your intention.

Again, your aim and objectives will probably need work and will likely morph into something quite different depending on your field and focus. Go slow, step by step, that way you are much less likely to get disillusioned and/or create unnecessary obstacles. Often it is our anticipation and obsession with our aim that creates emotional static within which will repel constructive responses. Again, planning is about preparing the internal resonance so that the right response arrives in the outside world.

Do every objective for its own sake not for the perceived rewards. Even if your long-term aim keeps floating in front of you like a carrot on a stick, try to put it out of your daily mind while carefully arranging the system of objectives toward that aim. Every objective IS the aim. That way, instead of becoming impatient and miserable about your perceived lack of progress every completed action becomes part of that fractal process and overall vision, each giving birth to the other.

The manifestation of one’s final aim can’t happen overnight but it will happen.

In this post we’ll explore the notion of a personal system of consciousness and the process of objectives which can bring us creativity and flow, aligned to our primary aim.

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4. Have an Aim / Objective (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not
know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”

— Seneca

Reading time: 18 minutes

21st Century culture can be overwhelming in its intensity and the sheer rapidity of change. There is so much information entering our eyes and ears 24/7, it’s no wonder that we end up on auto-pilot the majority of the time. It’s similar to that state of mind one might slip into when one sit’s in front of the TV after a hard day’s work. You know, that slack-jawed, jelly-limbed creature that disappears into the sofa with only enough energy to click through hundreds of digital channels spewing up innumerable variations of the same utter shite to gum up our brains. When you mix in constant stress then dissociation is often not too far behind.

You don’t have to veer into dissociation to be habitualised to a kind of daily automatism, though the lines can be somewhat blurred. But if you spend a significant percentage of your life either day-dreaming (living in the future or the past) as a response to never having achieved what you really yearned for, then it’s time to defibrillate your life. Which why it is crucial to have a vocational passion that makes life worth living.

“What’s the point?”

Having an aim and an array of objectives means to orient ourselves away from chaos and into the arms of purpose, meaning and order. It provides structure against a sea of endless choices and sub-variables. Anyone that says they have no aim in life is lying to themselves. Everyone has an aim, even if it’s extremely modest. Most of us are dissatisfied with our lot and are seeking ways to improve it. Initially, that means seeking a short-cut to having our cake and eating it. But that route never provides what we really need, which is clarity and the courage to implement what we have honestly discovered. Such a realisation can continue for literally decades, especially if we are averse to change and covet security and the safety of routine.

Secretly many of us have dreams which take a battering from fate and circumstance leaving us stoic, bitter or “philosophical” about what we’ve decided can never be. Some of the rationalisations I’ve heard for dropping those dreams over the years are I’m sure, familiar to you…

  • I’m too old to do that now – it’s a young man’s/woman’s game
  • Too much time has passed – I wouldn’t know where to start
  • What would X think if I decided to do that?
  • I’m not good enough
  • X tried that and she couldn’t make a living
  • My father/mother wants me to follow in his/her footsteps
  • When would I find the time?
  • I don’t have enough money
  • It’s not practical right now

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Practice Self-Control (2)

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

– Carrie Fisher

Reading time: 15 mins

Delaying gratification

The late Hollywood star Carrie Fisher certainly knew about instant gratification. Known for her biting wit and satirical bent the above quote was a comment on her own weaknesses but also described the nature of culture in the 21st Century. Gratification, in all its guises has proven to be the primary channel through which the human family escape reality and the darkness within.

That drive for the instant “hit” gets ever stronger the moment it is satiated. This leads to the following statistics:

    • Obesity: About 36 percent of American adults are obese — more than 1 in 3. And, globally, more than 1 in 10 humans are obese.
    • General substance abuse: Nearly 21 million Americans ages 12 and older had a substance use problem in 2015.
    • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths each year.
    • Sex: The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans are sex addicts, which is 18 million – 24 million people.
    • Pornography: More than 80% of women who have porn addiction take it offline. Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs.
    • Gambling: Over 80 percent of American adults gamble on a yearly basis. [1]

The above are extremes. But for every addiction that becomes full-blown there’s another one germinating in the wings. We don’t have to be a gambler or substance abuser to know that we have a problem with controlling our desires and impulses. Often it’s a very fine line between addiction and what is considered “normal.” Equally we can be addicted to all kinds of covert negative behaviours which cry out for limitations and order. “Think before you speak” might be the most obvious and applicable to most of us. Practicing self-control means that you’re able to delay ego-gratification without going into an emotional tailspin. Do this often enough and it becomes an asset, thereby improving the quality of your life.

Stanford professor Mischel has spent his life exploring this very topic and provided some very interesting data that proves self-control is a key component of individual mastery. His psychological studies date back to the 1960s and involved children with an average age of 4 – 5 years old. Mischel and his research team published their findings in 1972 as Cognitive and Attentional Mechanisms in delay of gratification and it remains the most influential experiment on self-control available. These experiments were refined and improved over the decades, but the basic format remained the same. Popularly known as “The Marshmallow Test” from the book of the same name, Mischel’s discoveries and conclusions make fascinating reading, so we’ll return to some of suggestions on building self-control later on. Meantime, let’s look at what this ground-breaking experiment was about.

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