self-knowledge

9. Cultivate Attention and Discernment (1)

“Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the “past.” People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the ‘Future.'”

The Cassiopaea Experiment Transcripts, by Laura Knight-Jadczyk


Reading time: 18-20 mins

“Pay attention.”

A very familiar phrase. I don’t know about you, but this reminds of my school days when I certainly wasn’t paying attention for a lot of the time. I was either messing around at the back of the class or looking out of the window daydreaming.

Hardly surprising. School tends to encourage stress and dissociation plus all the frustrations and inattention that follows. Not that there aren’t some fine teachers about. But the concept of learning has gone so far from the joy and wonder it is meant to instil, that all who partake in this factory of disconnection can only end up blind.  When it extends into adulthood it acts as a fly-paper for a host of other problems – dissociation being one high on the list.

Children have a powerful ability to pay attention to their surroundings. Their “distraction” is a crucial part of developing sensory awareness and something we lose as we reach adulthood. Children actually notice and remember more through this total immersion which is developed through play, interaction and natural presence. [1]  By the time they reach formal schooling (i.e. indoctrination) children are force-fed what to think rather than how to think. Attention is directed to specific blocks of information created and formed by a consensus which is really just a form of hypnosis and entrainment and a product of distorted history and consequent perception management.

Filtration, fabrication and distortion form the education of our day, so it’s no wonder that young adult are feeling adrift after they graduate from such institutionalised propaganda. Thanks to this type of education, social media, a backdrop of content consumption and production there is, according to a recent study, a “…more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources.” As a result, humanity’s collective attention span is getting shorter. [2]

Then we have the increasing automation of technology which is cutting jobs and laying waste to our ability to hold on to and develop new cognitive and practical skills to take us boldly into the future. There is an attention deficit but it is not restricted to the psychiatric label designed to market more drugs. We have a crisis of attention thus perception which has been going on for a long time.

At the most basic level, without attention, we would all be crashing our cars even more than we do already: burning our food to a crisp; sleeping in everyday; leaving the shower on all day or adding our number to the legion of people that die in accidents at home while attempting to “fix” things. A lack of attention and an overestimation of our knowledge can be a fatal combination.

Without paying attention we cannot simplify our life, give our lover pleasure, find our blind spots, control our emotions, or learn a new skill. Without paying attention we cannot define or uphold what we value. When values are absent knowing the difference between fact and fantasy is a tenuous proposition.

Attention not only matters it can determine whether we live or die, accept a truth or a clever lie. And these two pairings usually go together.

In other words, cultivating attention is a BIG deal.

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Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (2)

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

“Inner silence is for our race a difficult achievement. There is a chattering part of the mind which continues, until it is corrected, to chatter on even in the holiest places.”

— C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 15-20 mins

Inner Considering

You’re on an internal cell phone to your “Self” that never stops ringing. You pick up and you say the same thing over and over. You hang up. And then it rings again and you start over, completely forgetting your last feverish conversation. Our wires become so crisscrossed and entangled with endless contradictions and conflations that we end up trapped in our mind.

A life of endless chatter, deliberation, vascillation, questioning, doubts, ten thousand possible ‘if’s’ and ‘but’s’ fuelled by our fantasies of the future and the past. These thoughts get our brain and nervous system so habitually overheated, criss-crossing over each other with complexity, that we cannot discern or discriminate objective from subjective.

That’s an unfortunate part of being human. We all do it to different degrees – mostly as our default position. It certainly takes me back to all kinds of poor decisions which were based solely on that inner noise of fear and anxiety and not much else. We can even make ourselves believe that it’s all logical and rational rather than an internal babbling of self-protection.

All this has a name: “inner considering”, a phrase drawn from the 4th Way teachings of George I. Gurdjieff and its relationship to indentification and self-remembering.

When we fully identify with the object of our attention we immediately begin a cascade of thought loops about what might or might not be, fuelled by anticipation and inner dissatisfaction. People, in particular, form our most potent forms of identification. This is the social battlefield of unresolved childhood insecurities and misdirected sexual energies. Plagued by endless loops of inner considering we are not motivated by truth but by self-protection and inner comfort. It’s like we carry around a no-entry sign for any authentic interaction. Only those exchanges which bypass “sensitive” lanes into our heart are allowed access. And since most people are asleep to themselves, therefore inauthentic, much of what we see as social interactions are merely the exchange of inner considerations.

Fear is still pumped into society on a daily basis and has produced immense distrust and cynicism. Our infotainment mediocrity elevates artifice and images devoid of meaning which means most of us search desperately for anchors of purpose. Albeit entirely understandable, this is a fool’s game because it is driven by subjective, frustrated assumptions and all manner of negative projections – all of it largely unconscious.

The net result means no change, or change for its own sake. The loops are still there based on a refusal to take responsibility for one’s own development. A contractile denial of one’s own deformations remains in place.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning And Purpose IV: Impression Management

By M.K. Styllinski

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters


Reading time: (10 mins)

Studies published on life satisfaction in 2016 by economist Hannes Schwandt were based not on future situations, but on how young people felt about where they would be in five years. The gap between the optimism of the early years and the disappointment at the end of those five years was extremely clear in the graphical data. As a result, by their thirties realism had kicked in and expectations had levelled off and conformed to the well-documented U-shape trajectory of happiness for their fifties. So, there is reason to be hopeful. Meantime, the curve downwards in twenties and thirties appears to be getting steeper and the parameters and focus by which happiness is defined appears very narrow. i.e. equated with material possessions and employment. As discussed before, while the latter is important, they are not reliable indicators of happiness, the very concept of which is highly ephemeral and quite different to core, creative joy. Jonathan Rauch wrote in The Happiness Curve (2015) about the nature of a natural, U-shaped curve, a mid-life transition rather than a dead-end crisis: “This transition has a direction: something you could even call a purpose…The upslope of the happiness curve has an emotional direction, which is toward positivity. But it also has a relational direction, which is toward community….This is a social story, although we rarely experience it that way.” [1]  Why is that? Perhaps because we are programmed to fabricate our own personal islands on a sea of perceived separation from our fellow humans. After all, it’s a dark world out there and society is designed to actively limit pragmatic and constructive cooperation outside the State.

In truth, the myth of the middle age crisis is just part of an overall crisis of meaning that reaches pressure points throughout our lives. Such crises appear to exist outside time and space. It may well be an archetypal/mythical narrative that demands to be heard and acted out so that creative energy can be released. If we don’t consciously address what is lacking then the adaptive unconscious will do it for us to survive. We might see this recognition as a form of recapitulation as described by Carlos Castaneda, whereby we go over our lives with a fine tooth-comb, remembering all we have met, places we have visited and situations we have experienced in order to glean insights and realisations. This focus may create a form of resonance and feedback from the past to aid us in the future. Personal responsibility in this regard and to social interaction in general, could determine how we handle the happiness-unhappiness seesaw and if we can transcend it; whether we become masters of our ship and gain satisfaction from the simplicity of life as much as the dramatic flourishes of success, as defined by our culture. This would explain the common period of discontent at various stages in later life from the late thirties and forties. Rather than a mid-life crisis of lost opportunities perhaps it is a realisation that all that creative energy is not being used as it should?

The emotional and relational drive toward meaning and purpose is intimately tied up with our natural social intelligence that can guide us to connect for the good of the whole and the health of the individual. The desperate ambition and self-oriented focus of youth, a natural egocentricity which has been inflated by our cultures can, through the crises that happen, become a redemptive process when tied to community initiatives. Abstractions and conceptualisations have the potential to become concrete and specific, grounded in real-world solutions and tailored toward our own local needs. Trying to save oneself is transposed to “saving” others. Trying to save the world is transposed to “saving” the community. These efforts outwards, reflect the work taken place inwards, and paradoxically away from self-absorption. This can foster greater authenticity and the slow shedding of the narcissistic traits that we have allowed culture to create for us.

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