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Posts Tagged ‘life’

So, things have been very tumultuous of late. If there really are groups who maintain their power by keeping us so busy attacking “those monstrous others” that we stay blind to common ground on which to build a better future… well, I’d say they’ve been pretty effective.

I don’t think it’ll work long-term, though. Not this time. There are too many of us who have spent years working against the decay and destruction of liberties, livelihoods and lives. This work has been swimming against the tide, as the “mainstream” turned a blind eye and cold shoulder, standing firmly on the side of a White House and politicians who had a (D) after their names. Now that those letters have changed to (R), suddenly thousands to millions are ready to join those marches and pick up those banners.

Yeah, there’s apparently been some focus on making the marching and such strictly as a big protest against an enemy, rather than working together for the common good. But the experienced organizers are already in place, and that experience is in organizing to accomplish specific goals, joining people together for a specific purpose. With so much spotlight and energy being poured into getting people to stand up in opposition, it can only help those who are ready to put those new feet and hands to work.

I’m sure there’s many, many things you’d like to see working out better for your country, and for our world. I’m also sure there’s one in particular that could really use your help, and has a group in your area that’s ready and waiting for you to pitch in. Why not find it?

That better future doesn’t need a big, bold hero to make a difference. It needs hundreds of thousands of humble, small heroes making the difference we can in our own corners of the world. Even if you don’t have much, there’s some part of you yearning to give of itself to building something better. Allow that. Make your difference.

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We’re coming up on the halfway point for 2015, and it seems like things have really gotten busy. My prediction for this year was that the currents of life would be more like rapids, speeding forward in potentially chaotic ways. I felt as though, if we could keep our oars in the water, these rapids could carry us more quickly toward our goals. But if we let ourselves slip out of that current, then we could get swept suddenly askew.

I haven’t always kept my oars steering me in the right direction. I’ve certainly devoted more energy than needed in spinning around in circles a few times. But I feel as though I’m getting myself back into my groove, and it’s easier when I stop to breathe and forgive myself for going a little astray.

One practice that’s helping me is conscious relaxation. I remember what it’s like to be floating down a river, or in a soothing bath, just relaxing into the water. I imagine the gentle buoyancy holding me afloat, and I allow that sensation to flow through me, releasing the tension. I remember that my muscles don’t need me to hold them together through tension and pinching, and breathe deeply as I let go of that tension.

I haven’t been as dedicated with my yoga, and I let my mental habits tense me up more than I ought. But when I find myself tensing more as I upbraid myself about those lapses, I practice the buoyancy, and let it all go. My body has many years of practice in holding itself together, and it’s helping to free up that energy so I can use it to keep myself steady on this rolling, churning river of life.

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After conversations I’ve had over the last week or so, I can’t stop thinking about the idea of Identity. That is, our sense of who we are based on those ideas, things or people we associate with… as well as those we reject.

It’s not that we tend to sit down to take a conscious inventory of how we define ourselves. Rather, our self-definitions assert themselves when they find an opportunity to prove their truth, or when they feel threatened. Even if we start to drift in what we believe (or want to believe), our definitions can be such engrained habits that they tangle us up into old patterns. This gets even trickier when our definitions conflict.

For an example, let’s walk through the thoughts and emotions I just experienced.

I write because I tend to identify as someone who can communicate deeper meanings in an accessible way. I hesitate to write because I also identify as so quirky I risk being cryptic and inaccessible. So when I tried to think of how to illustrate this identity thing, I sort of froze up. I knew I should be able to do it, but I doubted that I could, in the time I’ve given myself. My definitions were in conflict. Because of these conflicts, I can over-emphasize or overlook times when I am and am not as clear as I’d hoped.

I then figured that I could put this off until tomorrow, when I felt better prepared. I identify as accomplishing what I set out for, but also as getting so bogged down and distracted I never make the time to post. I doubted that I’d make it back tomorrow, prepared and posting. I’ll overlook when I do keep on task with things, and I’ll overemphasize to myself the times I slip off the track.

That’s when I realized I was doing it again. I’m becoming more aware of these ways my definitions work together and at odds, nudging or shoving me through random moments throughout the day. So I figured I had a decent way to explain my line of thought, here.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll think of more to share, and find a good way to share it. I’m curious to discover my actual traits of communication and stick-to-it-iveness, prepared to revise my self-definitions accordingly.

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A couple hours ago, I enjoyed talking with a young man who was under 25. He expressed a fear of growing older, and my friend who’s just over 25 suggested it’s better than the alternative of dying young. I also pointed out that growing older is pretty awesome. You get to learn so much more about yourself and how wonderful you are, and gain privileges of age and experience.

I also suggested picking up yoga, as you are only as young as your spine is flexible. The main thing though is keeping the right perspective. The whole point of life is experiencing it as fully as you can, and learning how better to experience as the years go by. There’s no reason to dread the trip, and also no reason to rush it.

You carry your life inside you. So long as you live, you can’t lose it, and nobody can take it from you. You can just choose not to enjoy it, or you can choose to let it live you to the fullest.

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Since I’ve been practicing it as promised, I want to explain just a little by what I envision by “Have no more conflicts. Enjoy a positive association with everything.

For me, this phrase is a succinct reminder to maintain some measure of calm acceptance, finding a touchstone of positivity in each moment. Since the everyday frustrations seem to keep evolving over time, it helps for my strategies to evolve, too.

By having no conflicts, I mean, don’t get wound up about a situation being different than I might otherwise hope. Where there’s a disagreement or such with an individual, I’m trying to remember to address the actual issue rather than treating the person involved with it as a problem. Yes, I may perceive them as being the one who “started” the problem, but dwelling on that only interferes with finding a solution. Generally they’re caught up in their own maelstrom of frustrations, and having a little patience with that can help clear some of the storm for both of us.

And that’s where enjoying a positive association comes in. If an otherwise negative situation involves someone I like or love, I remember to focus on that while resolving (or accepting) the situation. If it’s a stranger, I remember to focus on the fact they are a human being, and I happen to like human beings.

If it doesn’t involve another person at all, there’s generally something about my situation or environment that I can focus on with a sense of appreciation, or even just humor. Anything that can help me enjoy that sense of positive resonance that we feel when we’re in the presence of something we welcome into our lives.

I hope that helps explain a little about how I’ve been practicing this, perhaps giving ideas as to how you might enhance your enjoyment of your own life. If so, please give it a shot! Just a little bit of trying out a new habit can make a world of difference in how we experience our world.

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I can’t quite say that anything was wrong with the day today. The weather was beautiful, I got many things done and cups of tea enjoyed, as well as games played with my child and my puppy. Good meals were had together as a family.

And yet, I’m sitting here feeling as though there’s something left undone.

Ah, well. If it remains undone tomorrow, perhaps there’ll be time then to resolve it.

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I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to feel that I’m having one conversation with someone, while they are having a completely opposite conversation with me. We each have our framings, our schema into which our words and phrases fit. Therefore, what appears so clearly one way to me will just as clearly appear diametrically apposed to them.

In this case, I was trying to speak to how hopeful and optimistic I am with the way I’ve observed positive change in this world. Not everything has been transformed to paradise, but so may people have awoken to a happier vision of the future on personal levels. I find this wonderful. However, as I was speaking to someone who feels global paradisaical transformation is required for there to have been positive change, I came across as contradictory and irrelevant.

I’m choosing to be okay with this. I’m disappointed they are unhappy with this world we share, and I’m disappointed I didn’t do a better job at communicating why I’m happy, even hopeful. But we’re both doing the best we can with the brains we have, and I can only keep working on mine.

That said, I still wish them all the happiness in the world. After all, I feel our world can use all the happiness and hope we are prepared to accept.

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I’m not sure how I missed it, but I only just now read about the book “The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, that’s been out for some time. In it, they make the claim that analytical philosophy is dead, because it has failed to keep up with what science can tell us. Instead, we must turn to science to understand our origins and meaning.

I find that kind of funny, because I was talking just yesterday with someone about how dogmatically rigid science can often be. This is increasingly true lately, when funding is (again) driven primarily by corporate or other entrenched interests who benefit from squashing challenging viewpoints before they can even obtain credentials. It’s human nature to try to protect the world one believes one knows to be true, and to feel personally threatened when attacked by competing views.

Good philosophers know this. Not to say that it’s always easy to remember, of course. Philosophy, like any other field, has had its own tendencies to fall into a “defensive phalanx” of what’s considered Serious & Proper. This means it sometimes gets stuck in an echo-chamber rut that doesn’t exactly keep in touch with the humanity it is supposed to explore. You know, like any other field.

And that brings us back to science.

Science, at its purest essence, is expanding the sphere of the observable, and refining the ways in which we record those observations. The way they’re recorded have a direct impact on the way they’re utilized, and the consequences they wreak on human experience. Because of this, it is vital that scientists become acutely aware of the schema they are holding in their minds while making and interpreting these observations. When “doing science”, we must continually be questioning not only the data, but ourselves, and the ways our own histories and expectations are shaping what is being observed. Yet I have found this level of self-awareness to be in the minority far too often.

Spend any amount of time reading scientific studies and journals and the backstories of how data is included, omitted, misrepresented… soon you will see how very human science is, and how heavily discouraged is the practice of questioning predominant assumptions. This is so frustrating because of the truly talented scientists I’ve been around who are also well-read philosophers, and really should know better. But still, they put their dogmatic faith into “the purity of science”, as though the data and developments they were working on were etched into stone tablets without the taint of human error. Not all scientists fall into this trap, certainly, but this kind of arrogance is too often encouraged, endangering the effects of scientific work.

What really boggles me is the idea that “science” and “philosophy” are again considered separable. How did that happen? The very foundations of science are from curious and patient philosophers who stayed with the workings of their minds long enough to find new ways to observe things about how our world works. The best developments in philosophy have been from those who have turned to the world and used those observations to refine the ways the mind perceives. Both are really just ways to find out details and make sense of them, using very slightly different methodologies. They’re not even “two sides of the same coin”, they are a marble: a single sphere with occlusions that play shapes within the clarity depending on the angle. You can hold it up to the light to see the patterns, or flip it against the ground to see how it bounces, but it’s all the same game (unless you lose it).

Not to say that trying to put a hard division between “study of things” and “study of people” is just a modern thing. Socrates would have a lot to say about that, and the editors at Wikipedia summarized this better than I could:

A major turning point in the history of early philosophical science was the controversial but successful attempt by Socrates to apply philosophy to the study of human things, including human nature, the nature of political communities, and human knowledge itself. He criticized the older type of study of physics as too purely speculative, and lacking in self-criticism. He was particularly concerned that some of the early physicists treated nature as if it could be assumed that it had no intelligent order, explaining things merely in terms of motion and matter.

The study of human things had been the realm of mythology and tradition, and Socrates was executed.

Science, “Philosophical turn to human things” subsection in Wikipedia

Studying things can be hard. Studying oneself is harder. This is why it is so very important we not let ourselves off the hook of continually examining our conclusions just because we have numbers and data. This makes it equally important for the study of the mind to keep up with to the conclusions that are now being made in the rapid churn of modern life.

As a field, philosophy must certainly study what is being observed about our world, from scientific and political and religious and every other way the mind plays with experiencing. We must remain aware of what has led us to these points, and the assumptions we’re bringing with us. This is especially true in the field of science, where we are finding brilliantly refined measures of the physical that don’t bring their context with them. We provide the context, we interpret what it means. And we do so from the foundation of the assumptions we’re holding, and how we react when they are challenged.

If science is to continue providing meaningful guidance in understanding and shaping our world, it must maintain a firm grounding in the insights found in mental, social and emotional study. If philosophy is to serve as a lighthouse in understanding and shaping our work and our lives, it must be continually incorporating what we are learning about the physical. All types of knowledge, all observations are integral to one another, and must be woven together for us to understand the picture before us.

Call it science, philosophy, literature or religion. It all comes down to the same thing, and each of us are doing it every day. We’re all playing the game of experiencing life; it’s long past time to stop considering different fields of study as opposing teams.

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Chaotic dreamscapes 
Swirling our days with dry leaves
Eye of the Stillness

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It struck me today that if we want to be open to newer and better ways of living, we have to embrace the idea of letting go of the life we have now. That sounds a little obvious, but how often have you sat down and reviewed just how ready you are to lose some or all of the comfortable habits you’ve developed? Even the things you may not like so much, aren’t they at least somewhat comforting in their familiarity?

I realize that everything in life is impermanent and unpredictable, but I’m not talking about tragic loss of life or friends or family. What I’m thinking of are the day-to-day mini-rituals, or even mini-chaoses, that comprise the feeling of predictability and homeliness of our regular lives. It sort of feels like we hang onto those out of habit, even if we so very much wish for some things to be brighter and more exciting, or even just easier and less dull.

Over the next few days as I recapture the habit of relaxed mindfulness, I’m going to keep my eyes out for ways I might be clinging to things I’d be better off letting go.

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