Daily Meditations

From the journal of Pete Kistler

Unity

Imagine the timeline of the entire universe laid out before you.

To the left lies the past. To the right lies the future.
In the center lies the present.
In this view, your entire lifespan is but a tiny sliver within the full breadth of cosmic history.

Everything you have ever known in this lifetime is within that sliver. We are consumed by the trivialities within it; we quickly forget the true context of our existence.

What happens when you zoom out your awareness beyond the scope of your own life?
Can you bring the magnificence of the larger picture into view?

Remember that you have always been, and always will be, one with the cosmos itself.
You came from everything before you; you will unfold into all that is yet to come.
You are unified with all things past and future; you are separate from nothing.

Today’s Exercise:
Get comfortable and close your eyes. Try to imagine a "cloth of time" laid out in front of you. Starting from the present moment, begin to slowly rewind time backwards. Visualize the history of your own existence: your parents, grandparents, ancestors, early humans, primates, mammals, verebrates, multi-celled organisms, single-celled organisms, infant Earth, infant sun, infant Milky Way, the birth of the elements, the birth of sub-atomic particles, the birth of the known universe.

Consider how your existence in this very moment relies on everthig before you. Every step in the history of the universe was essential for your life to arise. The entire cosmic story is your story, too.

Sit with this idea. Can you cultivate a sense of gratitude for the magnificent series of events that wove you into being? Can you deepen your sense of connection to – and inseparability from – the great unfolding?

Mindfulness

The universe abounds with vibrations of electromagnetic energy.

Our bodies translate those vibrations into felt sensations.
Those felt sensations automatically trigger thoughts.

Automatic thoughts constantly appear without our consent. We don’t always intend to think them beforehand. They simply spontaneously arise, brought to life by our internal and external environment.

Consider these thoughts. What are they? They are often the same ideas repeating over and over: worries about the future, or regrets about the past. They loop again and again, making us anxious, frustrated and distracted.

These thoughts are vocalized by the voice inside our head. It speaks with authority; it judges and criticizes each passing moment. So we naturally identify that voice as our true self. We think that this internal narrator, and its often nonsensical ideas that bubble up into our consciousness, represent who we truly are.

But this is the great illusion of human consciousness.

In reality, we are the observer behind our thoughts. Our deepest self exists before and between our thoughts. Our deepest self bears witness to these emerging objects of consciousness; but it is not the bubblings themselves.

Our troubles arise when we get caught up in the activities of the mind. When we mistake our deepest self for the thoughts arising on the screen of our mental theater. As the contents of consciousness play upon this screen, we have the option to observe them at a distance, deciding whether they are valid or useful. But we continually repeat “I’m the worst, I suck at this, I can’t do it, I’m x y or z…” and immediately attach to them, confusing these linguistic ideas flashing on the screen for the theater - for our actual self. If we cling to these concepts, we limit our boundless self, reducing our continually evolving process of existence to a handful of narrow, disempowering man-made labels.

We are much more than our thoughts.

The following metaphor can be helpful. Imagine that your deepest self is the sky. And your thoughts – momentary mental activities blinking in and out of existence – are simply weather patterns that come and go. They are like emergent configurations of mist flowing upon the backdrop of your deeper being.

Getting in touch with that deeper being is a primary goal of meditation. You will begin to see the clouds for the clouds, letting them pass by without mistaking yourself for them.

New meditators often get frustrated trying to “turn off” their thoughts or stop thinking completely. It’s no wonder, because this is impossible. After all, who can turn off the weather? We are physiologically and societally wired for thought. The real aim is to have the presence of mind to more quickly become aware of a thought arising – to note its apperance as a passing cloud – and dispassionately let it go without judging or clinging to it.

With practice, you can feel your deepest self as separate from the concepts and ideas you are observing moment to moment. In this way, you detach from temporary weather patterns and re-ground yourself into the backdrop of the sky itself, radically shifting your relationship to the goings-on in your mental theater. You go from being emotionally reactive to minfully discerning – with the power to choose how you engage in your arising thoughts.

Thinking then becomes a tool to be harnessed, rather than the primary way we identify who we are at our core. It can be engaged to empower us; it can be disengaged when not serving us. When we understand this, we awaken to a world of power, of freedom, of tranquility..

Today’s Practice:
Sit comfortably in a chair. Take a few deep breaths. Slow yourself down and gently close your eyes. Imagine walking into a theather and sitting in the front row. This is your mental theater. Imagine any thoughts that arise as projections upon the screen. Observe what happens – calmly and dispassionately. You are simply watching a movie, not trying to “turn off” your thoughts..If something appears, note to yourself, “how fascinating!” Then let it go. Let the scene pass by bringing your awareness back to your breath, and preparing to see what happens next.

Can you be an unattached observer of the activities in your own mind? Try this for three minutes at first.

You will get distracted; you will want to move in your seat; you will want to scratch an itch; you will be surprised by a car horn in the distance. Simply remain still as best you can and return to observing your mental theater. Every time you notice that you are getting carried away, you are distancing yourself from the thought enough to realize what is happening. That is a moment of mindfulness and cause for celebration. S
imply return to your breath and then to the role of the non-judgmental observer. That is the goal of this exercise: if you begin again 100 times, you have succeeded in detaching from a thought 100 times. That is incredible progress.

As you return to this practice over time, you will get better. You will more quickly realize when a train of thought is taking you for a ride; when you are mistaking your overall sense of self for a temporary weather pattern. You will develop the ability to to engage in thoughts that are helpful, and let go of thoughts that are not – letting them pass by like images on a screen as you get used to remembering that you are the observer in your seat, not the images themselves.

Sensitivity

What is pain?

We instinctually fight the feeling when it arises. Our conceptual mind labels the feeling as pain – something to be avoided – so we try to push it away. We work so hard to reject it that we create additional layers of discomfort on top of it, piling anxious resistance on top of the raw information.. We then confuse and label this entire jumbled mess as pain.

But by deepening our sensitivity, we can distinguish between the two: the information, and our emotional reaction to it.

The next time you feel discomfort, lean fully into the sensation. Without labeling it as pain, simply ask yourself: what is the raw information I am receiving? Is it sharp? Dull? Constant? Throbbing? Acute? Diffuse? Hot? Cold? Where exactly is it located? How does it spread? Become a third party scientist and document your own experience. Open yourself to the flow of information without judging it as good or bad.

We hold massive amounts of tension in an effort to block out pain, physically and emotionally. Paradoxically, by allowing ourselves to fully feel into the sensation, we often release anxiety and pent up muscular tension around it. This release of resistance allows us to more clearly observe the raw information.

See if you can practice relaxing into the reality of the moment. This alone may relieve many negative thoughts and feelings that arose as a reaction to the pain, but were not actually contained within the information itself. See if you can discover for yourself experientially the notion that suffering = pain times resistance.

Regularly practicing this exercise can profoundly change how you relate to emotional and physical discomfort, allowing you to discover the truth of the matter without automatically generating a secondary mess of baggage, negativity and resistance.

Stereotypes

Our brains evolved to quickly identify patterns in nature. This allowed our ancestors to make intelligent predictions with limited data, significantly increasing their chances of survival.

But this powerful phenomenon also has detrimental side effects. We identify patterns long before they are statistically valid, leading to hasty generalizations. Hasty generalizations within a vast network of complex and nuanced human relationships quickly leads to false conclusions and poor decisions.

Consider how we quickly judge other people. Our brains automatically label people who appear different as “not in my group” before we actually get to know them. Then everything we learn about them is unconsciously made to fit inside the bucket where we already think they belong. We pigeon-hole them before they even had a chance.

These snap judgments distort our ability to see people as they truly are. By pre-categorizing someone a certain way, we create a false alternate reality in our minds, often unconsciously cutting off potential for a deeper connection.

But stereotypes only have power if you choose to agree with them. With practice, you can uncover your own stereotypes and dissolve those that no longer serve you.

Today’s Exercise:
Investigate a stereotype you have about a certain group of people. Can you discern its source? Did it arise during deep investigation of the full complexity of your circumstances? Or did they arise as a snap judgment from neural networks optimized for fight-or-flight survival?

Challenge your stereotypes today by talking to someone you think you wouldn’t like at first glance. Mentally note how you expect them to behave. After the interaction, check your prediction: did it go as you expected? Field test your own assumptions on a regular basis to systematically uncover and chisel away at your own stereotypes.

Belief

Your body evolved to conserve as much energy as possible. This allowed your ancestors to survive despite scarce and unpredictable food sources.

As a result, your brain will only allocate energy to processes it considers feasible. Anything else would waste precious resources.

Thus when you believe you can’t do something, you automatically shut down the physiological mechanisms that would make it possible.

Most of our beliefs are actually obstacles to our own potential. We all have “contracts” we’ve agreed to from our past; narratives from family or teachers we believed without investigation; long-held stories that seem a part of us.

We too quickly forget that they only hold power if we agree that they are real.

Today’s Exercise:
Investigate a doubt you currently have about your own potential. Is it possible that it is purely the doubt itself – a fabricated construct of your mind, rather than a real obstacle – that is preventing you from realizing it?

Practice shifting your relationship to what is possible. Consider a change you want to make in your life that you believe you can’t implement. Why do you believe that? Did someone tell you that you couldn’t? Or did you tell yourself? Go deep into the source of your limited concept of self. Why you continue to hold onto that belief? Can you let go of it if it is no longer serving you?

Presence

You have direct access to only one moment: right now.

When you are distracted by the past or future, you miss much of what is happening in this very moment.

Consider a few interactions you had this week. Were you fully present with the other person? Were you actively listening, without thinking about what you were going to say – or what was for dinner? Did you pick up on the nuances of their body language, like the way their arms opened or closed off from you, instead of checking your email? Did you hear every subtle inflection of their voice, or was your mind elsewhere?

There is much more happening in this very moment than we normally pick up on. Practice taking time to slow down and notice what you’ve been missing.

Today’s Exercise:
Settle into a comfortable seated position. Take a few deep breaths. Then tune into each of your senses, one by one. Notice the weight of your body in your chair. Feel the solidity of the ground under your feet. Feel the texture of cloth on your skin. Notice the play of air on your face. How many sounds you can tune into, near and far? Look around and discover details you didn’t see before.

See how much can you discover right now that you were missing only moments ago.

These deeper levels of information are always available to you. But just as a gentle breeze only creates noticeable ripples on the surface of a placid lake, your mind must be clear in order to detect the subtleties of experience.

Strengthen your faculty of awareness by regularly practicing this exercise. Whether on a subway car, waiting at a stop light or inside a crowded bar, open up to your environment. Think less. Notice more. Feel more. With time, you can cultivate a new and more powerful sense of awareness.

Stewardship

Consider our role within Earth’s biosphere.

We draw resources from a nourishing planet that provides food, water, air and shelter for us. It is a vast and complex network of systems: the water cycle, the oxygenation cycle, atmospheric homeostasis, etc. As part of this intricate global sytem, it is our obligation to understand our impact – and responsibly participate in it.

Understanding means having the courage to ask questions instead of passively living in ignorance. We must bravely inquire into and accept the reality of the times: that we are catastrophically destroying plants, animals, water and our atmosphere.

Responsibly participating means having the willpower to act on that understanding. Knowledge without action has little value. And action can happen in the smallest ways every day, from using discernment when buying products, to recycling when others don’t.

How can you leave the world in the best possible condition for others? How can you be a steward of your own planet? This is what we would ask of your ancestors; it is what your descendants are asking of you.

Contemplate the idea “Leave no trace” as it relates to the planet. What small act can you perform today to leave your home in a better place than when you found it? It could be as simple as picking up someone else’s litter of the ground. Once you do it, take a moment to investigate how it made you feel.

Initiative

It is easy to passively live within lines drawn by others. It requires no confrontation, no imagination, no action.

The moment you relinquish the process of change to others – your government, your parents, your society – you relinquish the gift the universe has bestowed upon you. You relinquish your agency to help create the most joyful existence possible.

Never expect others to change the world for you. When you avoid taking ownership of your part of the great unfolding, your potential cries out for its fullest expression.

Today’s Exercise:
Spend three minutes taking the smallest step possible toward an initiative you’ve been thinking about. Getting started is often the hardest part. Once we step into the gym, we never have a problem exercising. But getting there in the first place is the real challenge.

Forget about perfection; forget about all the work required to complete the initiative. Just spend three minutes right now on it. Then reflect and see how it made you feel.

Lenses

Two women were at a bar in Alaska. One said, “Just a few weeks ago I was caught in a blizzard without any supplies. I was going to freeze to death. So I decided to try out the whole God thing. I got down on my knees and prayed. I told him if he saved me, I would promise to always believe in him.”

The other woman looked at him perplexed. “Well you’re here, right? He obviously saved you!”

The first woman replied, “No he didn’t. Some Eskimos came by a few minutes later and picked me up. God didn’t do a damn thing!”

How can people have completely different interpretations of the same exact experience?

Consider the notion that we each create our own version of reality. We create a subjective simulation of the outside world. Two people who receive identical input (perceptual data) will run it through different algorithms (beliefs), generating totally different individual experiences.

Like light shining through a billion lenses, the shape of each person’s unique beliefs bends and defines the world they see in each moment.

This has several profound implications.

For example, no two people can have the same exact subjective experience of reality. The truth to one person may not be the truth to another, a notion captured by the phrase “the truth has 144 sides." With this comes the empowering realization that every single conscious creature has something to teach us; that every human being has a valuable perspective and sees another side of the story that distortions in our lens prevented us from seeing.

By thoroughly investigating the nature of our own mind, we can discover and minimize the distortion of our own lenses. And we can control what we're sending into other people's simulations. We can send helpful, beautiful, conscious, thoughtful experiences or ideas. By "cleaning up" our own reality – fears, stories, beliefs, intentions – we help others clean theirs. And by sharing our perspectives, we combine our frames of reference into a more complete and accurate view of the true nature of our collective experience.

Today’s Exercise:
Consider how your own beliefs define what you take away from experience. Can you remember a time when conflicting beliefs left you and someone else with very different conclusions? Investigate the nature of this interaction. How you might you have helped each other understand the fundamental beliefs that caused a divide in understanding? How might you have each benefitted from sharing your unique lens?

Moving On

We are creatures of habit. We prefer what we already know, often settling into lives and routines that are merely comfortable.

Because our brains evolved to seek pleasure and avoid pain, we are quick to deny the unpleasant reality of our situation, avoiding facing uncomfortable feelings. We are wired to avoid accepting the difficult truth of our cirumstances.

But we easily forget that what is most painful is often staying stuck where we don’t belong. Change is harrowing, but it can take losing what we settled for to realize us what truly deserve. How can we be fully empowered to achieve our potential if we cling to things we’re supposed to let go?

Consider that giving up doesn’t always mean you are weak. Sometimes it means you are finally strong enough to let go.

Intention

O thoughtful intention; open my lips that they may speak the truth, spread sounds of love, embody humility and sing gratitude for the miracle of existence.

O thoughtful intention; open my eyes that I may see the good in all things, notice when conscious creatures are in need, and observe the full depth of beauty every moment.

O thoughtful intention; open my ears that I may listen honestly when others speak, welcome new perspectives without judgment, and resonate in coherence with the vibrations of the cosmos.

O thoughtful intention; open my hands that I may share love through affection, craft creations of genuine self expression, and bring my deepest imagination to life for the benefit of all.

O thoughtful intention; open my mind that I may investigate the true nature of my experience, cultivate mindful awareness and become a channel for the highest good.

O thoughtful intention; open my heart that I may give love freely to all creatures without expectation, and connect with compassion in every moment.

Success

Society’s definition of "success” is usually tied to material wealth. We compare successful countries by their GDP; we compare successful people by their salaries.

But as soon as we land a new job or win a hard-earned raise, a new sun rises – and we find ourselves yearning for more once again. Once basic needs are met, a higher salary does not improve long-term happiness . Studies show that blips on the monetary radar provide momentary delight, but not long-term joy.

Even more fundamentally, the word “success" implies a binary yes or no answer. How can such an answer possibly apply to a continually evolving human life, which changes and grows every day?

I believe that life is not a checkbox that can be measured with a yes or no. So how then can we know if we are being a successful?

It is up to each person to define what success means to them. As we do, by sharing our thoughts with others, a cross-pollination of perspectives will evolve society one person at a time.

Instead of chasing success, consider reframing your path as "the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Moving to the idea of "progressive realization” reminds us that our path does not have an endpoint, but rather is an continually unfolding journey . And working toward a "worthy ideal" means identifying something beyond ourselves and important enough to commit to for life. What is a worthy goal that excites you?

Compassion

Because life feels, life matters.

Witnessing someone hurt themselves makes our stomachs clench. Brain scans of mirror neurons show what we intuitively know from everyday experience: that we feel other people's pain. When one being suffers, we all suffer.

And when one being thrives, we all thrive. Hearing a child burst out in laughter lifts our hearts, releases dopamine and lowers cortisol. We all share in their joy.

Yet our whole lives, we were taught to compete with each other to get ahead. Our school ranking depends on others doing more poorly; our jobs that depend on proving the inferiority of colleagues; we measure success by the relative size of our paychecks; we conflate social status with the brand of our cars; and we drown in advertisements for products meant to make us feel superior to our peers.

Although we grew up in a cut-throat society that revered competition, it is our choice to accept or reject it as our way of life. Do we truly believe that putting others down is the best way to rise up? Do we truly believe that dividing lines create a path to a more harmonious existence?

Try to catch yourself being unnecessarily competitive today. If possible, choose the path of compassion instead. How can you reframe the issue, eschewing a "single winner” for a creative way to share the benefits? When you’re done, investigate how this new mode of action made you and the other person feel.

Visualize

When we dream, the experience feels completely real. Our brains have difficulty distinguishing between what is actually occurring and what is playing within our mental theater.

This is why visualization is a powerful exercise. It is like a flight simulator for your brain, allowing your entire being to experience what it is like to successfully achieve something.

Top athletes, musicians and performers know this intuitively. They spend as much time visualizing their moves as they do physically practicing them. Numerous studies show how mental rehearsal can not only lead to transformative insight into how to improve our skills, but also can provide 2/3 of the amount of progress of actually doing the action in physical space.

In addition, the more you visualize what you want, the more your brain begins allocating resources to make it happen. Your brain is like an investor that only provides resources when it is “sold” on the idea. Visualization is a powerful way for your entire being to experience and be sold on the success of any action.

Language

Who is the Shakespeare of our time? Who is pushing language forward?

The world yearns for a new linguistic savant, a champion of new ideas and concepts and words. Our vocabulary is the fabric of collective reality. It is the bridge between minds that lets us articulate our thoughts, knowledge and stories. It is how we culturally encode experiences, passing them on to our next generation like genetic material that transcends a single lifespan. This inherited information represents the building blocks for an entire collective consciousness, coexisting on an inconceivably beautiful and fragile planet.

Today’s Exercise:
What can you do to expand your own ability to articulate feelings, experiences, stories or ideas? How can you use metaphors to conjure up images that inspire new understanding? How can you draw analogies that bring deeper comprehension? Consider the power of words in shaping our reality. Collect vocabulary that advances collective thought and try crafting language with more intention.

Borders

You are no longer foreigners,
but family,
living under the same roof of the night,
sharing your home
beneath the trees and the stars.

Insight

That which you directly experience for yourself, is called Insight.
That which you hear and accept as true, is called Assumption.

Making a distinction between the two reveals just how much our life is built upon assumptions.

It takes courage to say, “I’ve been pretending to know what everyone else seems to know, but I don’t.” But this is the necessary first step to make room for new insight.

The more time you aside for meditative reflection, the better you will become at replacing assumptions with insights.

Consider a long-held belief of yours. Then make a distinction between whether you merely believe it to be true because you have been told by religion, science, friends, family, culture, books, teachers, and so on – or whether you have personally experienced as true. If born from an assumption, how can you investigate it further and have a direct experience of the truth for yourself?

Dance

What is dance?

It is freely exploring the flow of matter and energy.

It is carving a path while caressing the curve of least resistance.

It is the ecstatic tango of control and abandon.

Direction

The world has a habit of making room for people who consciously decide where they’re going.

If you have no direction of your own, you will be heavily influenced and waylaid by the opinions of others.

Investigate your current path. Did you choose to go down this road on purpose? Did circumstance – or someone else – make the decision for you? Identify the source of your current direction.

Connection

Everyone you interact with is craving a meaningful connection, an unexpected smile, the warmth of understanding, the healing power of unconditional love.

By connecting, you join two previously isolated universes, expanding your meaning in relation to one another. You see yourself through different eyes, gaining the benefit of another perspective.

Investigate the power of connection by talking to a complete stranger today for just two minutes. How did it make you feel: before, during and after? Were you nervous? If so, what were you afraid of?

Wealth

True wealth is not money.

True wealth is the number of days we can sustain life at a liberating level of existence for a specific number of people.

How can your unique gifts help more people thrive in the comfort and freedom of uninhibited self-expression?

Education

To “educe” means to draw out, or evoke that which is latent.

Education then means drawing out a person’s latent capacity to understand and live – not stuffing a passive person full of preconceived information.

Yet our entire educational system is based upon the latter: the regurgitation of textbooks, rather than the cultivation of imagination, critical thinking, mindfulness and compassion.

Said Vivekananda: “If I had to do my education once again, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then, with a perfect instrument, collect facts at will.”

Strangers

We are no longer strangers,
but brothers and sisters,
with a common mother in Gaia.

She brought us both
as siblings into this world.

Books

Every author – living or dead – is like a friend with deep knowledge in a certain area. If we want to learn about a topic, we can pick up that author's book to hear their thought, like calling a friend to catch up. No matter if it’s quick call or a long conversation – there can be value in reading even a single page.

During each conversation, if we listen with an open mind, we empower ourselves to determine which insights are valuable and which are not.

Why not have fascinating conversations with dozens of different people at once? Cross-pollination of ideas will reveal deeper themes across disciplines, yielding even more fundamental insights.

Connecting with masters of language and thought throughout history then becomes an endlessly exciting and rewarding experience.

Separation

You are no longer you,
but us.

As you read these words,
we are co-creating this moment
with our shared consciousness.

You have the power to co-create similar moments
with others, by using a medium to bring permanence to your ideas.

What medium will you use to
express yourself today?

Honesty

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” - Gandhi

"A half truth is a whole lie. - Yiddish Proverb“

"Hiding how you really feel and trying to make everyone happy doesn't make you nice, it just makes you a liar.” - Jenny O'Connell

“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.” ― Jane Austen, Emma

"In place of the term ‘realness’ I have sometimes used the word ‘congruence.' By this I mean that when my experiencing of this moment is present in my awareness and when what is present in my awareness is present in my communication, then each of these three levels matches or is congruent. At such moments I am integrates or whole, I am completely in one place. Most of the time, of course, I, like everyone else, exhibit some degree of incongruence. I have learned, however, that realness, or genuineness, is a fundamental basis for the best communication.“ - Carl Rogers

Environment

“We are all aboard a spaceship. Spaceship Earth. It is so well designed that we’ve been on it 2 million years without knowing we were on board a ship. It keeps life regenerating despite entropy, in which all local physical systems lose energy; we have to obtain our life regenerating energy from the sun. Vegetation on land and algae in the sea use photosynthesis, providing adequate amounts of life energy. We’ve learned about DNA and nuclear energy and chemical structures, and other fundamental principles governing the design of life systems. Yet we misuse and pollute this life giving system. If you own a car, you know you need to take care of it – gas, oil change, tire pressure, etc. We need to now see Spaceship Earth as an integrally designed machine, which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and serviced in total…

Our spaceship was endowed with essential resources that allow us to carry on despite our ignorance and misuse. But they are exhaustible. This cushion-for-error of humanity’s survival up to now was provided like a bird inside its egg is provided with nutrients to develop it to a certain point. But by design, nutrients are exhausted just when the chick is large enough to be able to move on its own. Then it must forage and discover the next source of regenerative sustenance. We just broke out of our shell. So we are going to have to spread our wings of intellect and fly or perish. We must dare immediately to fly by the generalized principles governing the universe and not by the ground rules of yesterday’s superstitions and erroneously conditions reflexes…

The prime generators of our life support system are the sun (its radiation supply ship) and the moon (its gravitationally pulsing alternator). Plants turn radiation into food we can eat. The atmosphere protects us from overexposure to radiation. Weather and temperature patterns provide swaths of habitable land areas. These are all factors in the life support system of our Spaceship Earth. The fossil fuel deposits of our Spaceship Earth correspond to our automobile’s storage battery which must be conserved to turn our “main engine” on, operating exclusively on our our vast daily energy income from the powers of wind, tide, water and sunlight. There is more than enough to power our automations. ”

- Buckminster Fuller

Mass Media

“An extraterrestrial being, newly arrived on Earth – scrutinizing what we mainly present to our children in TV, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, comics and many books – might easily conclude that we are intent on teaching them murder, rape, cruelty, superstition, credulity, and consumerism. We keep at it, and through constant repetition many of them finally get it.”

- Carl Sagan

Understanding

“Without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase [it] in your own language.

Empty definition: the soles of your shoes wear out because of friction.

Real knowledge: Shoe leather wears out because it rubs against the sidewalk and the little notches and bumps on the sidewalk grab pieces and pull them off.”

- Richard Feynman

Coexistence

“What a marvelous cooperative arrangement – plants and animals each inhaling each other’s exhalations, a kind of planet-wide mutual mouth-to-stoma resuscitation, the entire elegant cycle powered by a star 150 million kilometers away.”

- Carl Sagan

Consciousness

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself… the local embodiment of a cosmos grown to self-awareness.”

- Carl Sagan

Thinking

“A thought can advance your life in the right direction only when it answers questions which were asked by your soul. A thought which was first borrowed from someone else and then accepted by your mind and memory does not really much influence your life, and sometimes leads you in the wrong direction.

Read less, study less, but think more. Learn, both from your teachers and from the books which you read, only those things which you really need and which you really want to know.”

- Leo Tolstoy

Humility

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”

- Carl Sagan

Vulnerability

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
- Criss Jami

“In America, the cultural expectation that we're to be happy all the time and our children are to be happy all the time is toxic, and I think that really gets in the way of emotional well-being.”
- Andrew Weil

Art

“The main thing in making art often is letting go of your expectation and your idea.”

- Agnes Martin

Origins

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.”

- Carl Sagan

Challenge

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
- Stephen R. Covey

“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”
- Charles Kettering

Genius

“Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an uninhibited way”

- William James

Perspective

“The lifetime of a human being is measured by decades, the lifetime of the sun is a hundred million times longer. Compared to a star, we are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their lives in the course of a single day.”

- Carl Sagan

Self-Concept

“Consider the possibility that there are two distinct aspects of yourself.
One is what you are originally or naturally. It is your ‘being,’ who you really are without pretense, affectation, programming, or any supplementary process. The other aspect is what you have come to know as yourself – a self identity that is created and maintained through all the beliefs, assumptions, and knowledge you’ve acquired in life. Since it’s all you know, it’s not easy to see that this identification of your self is strictly a secondary process. Your self identity is conceptual; your real being exists prior to concept.”

- Peter Ralston

Reality

“I refuse to be intimidated anymore. What is reality? Nothing more than a collective hunch.” - Lily Tomlin

"Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know.” - Alan Watts

Intelligence

“Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart. Intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is coordinated and used.”
- Carl Sagan

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
- Einstein

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions."
- Mahfouz Naguib

Contemplation

"Contemplation as a meditative discipline is looking into some matter for oneself with the intent to discover what’s true about it… serious contemplation requires great discipline, great curiosity, or great stubbornness."

- Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

Focus

"Today, there are so many things you can focus on. There are so many demands for your attention that if you don’t decide in advance what you’re going to focus on, you’re most likely going to be controlled by the focus of someone or something else, and there will be fewer chances for you to achieve what it is you really want in life."

- Tony Robbins

Perfectionism

“Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. it is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop – an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are making and lose sight of the whole. Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details right. Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is always grading results… a book is never finished, you stop writing it and go on to the next thing… part of the problem is looking at masters and comparing ourselves to their perfected craft. We don’t compare our student films to George Lucas’ student films. We compare them to Star Wars. We deny that in order to do something well, we must first do it badly."

- Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Risk

“A risk is often worth taking simply for the sake of taking it. There is something enlivening about expanding your self definition, and a risk does exactly that, setting a challenge and meeting it creating a sense of self-empowerment that becomes the ground for fruther successful challenges. As is often said: leap, and the net will appear."

- Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Falsity

"When it comes to your self, what is real and what is false? If you find something that is in any way not genuine, or erected temporarily, then you must call it false, or at least not your “self.” Devoting ourselves to stripping away all pretense is an incredibly transformative practice. What could I be pretending or affecting that has gone unnoticed?

We begin to search for ways in which our presentation, communication, even thoughts and feelings have been less than straightforward. Expressions that in our heart we know aren’t as genuine as they could be.

This practice brings immediate and ongoing changes in our personal presentation and how we think of ourselves. Continue to bring to light all that isn’t really us. We will begin to discover that which is false in subtle ways, that previously we accepted as simply part of ourselves. Just because we’re used to being a certain way – believing in the things we believe, acting in ways that we do, having the opinions we have, expressing the character traits we’ve adopted, and reacting in familiar patterns – doesn’t make these things true… or us."

- Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

Masks

"In order to secure a sense of being valued, we are moved to adopt a persona - to develop and display an assumed social image. We want to be accepted, approved of, part of our community. Over time we become more and more permanently attached to particular expressions, attitudes, mannerisms, reactions and moods, and this is then seen as our personality. Many of our expressions are not actually reflective of how we feel at the time, or of our more fundamental experience of ourselves, but we’ve used them so often and the habit is so strong that we’ve forgotten they were masks, temporarily erected depending on the situation (work, play, etc.). We are burdened with the immense job of maintaining this “adopted self” and have become thoroughly identified with it. So almost everything we do is done in service of this self.

By making a distinction between Being and Self, we realize that most of what we identify as ourselves is conceptual. This realization enables us to work with our conceptual selves more consciously. Concepts can change. Therefore it is possible to change anything that is conceptual about ourselves. Yet if we don’t understand that forces that motivated us to adapt these abstractions to begin with, we will be unable to free ourselves from their return, even if we are successful for a time."

- Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

- - -

"I began to see my whole life as a masterpiece of duplicity – the confused, helpless, hungry and hideously sensitive little embryo at the root of me having learned, step by step, to comply, placate, bully, wheedle, flatter, bluff and cheat my way into being taken for a person of competence and reliability...."

- Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology

Control

"If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are not in control of yourself. Without self-control, you have no real power, regardless of whatever else you accomplish.

If you are not aware of the thought that you think in each moment, then you are the rider with no reigns, with no power over where you are going. You can not control what you are not aware of.

Awareness must come first."

- The Practicing Mind

Not Knowing

"Our culture is what constructs our frame of mind. We all operate from a set of shared taken-for-granted beliefs – the matrix of our culture. All manner of beliefs have been created, but the fact remains that no one actually knows some of the most essential aspects of life and existence… like “What is a self.”

Our task is to grasp what something is, not just what we think or feel or hope about it… in order to experience what is so, what we need to comprehend is what’s prior to all our beliefs and knowledge."

- Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

Concept

"On some clear night, go outside, look up at the sky, and see if you can find the Big Dipper. For more people that is a familiar constellation, easy to pick out from all the other stars. But is there really a Big Dipper up there in the sky?

There is no Big Dipper up there. “Big Dipper” is a concept. Humans looked, saw a certain pattern, and then created a concept in our collective mind to describe it. The concept is useful because it helps us recognize the constellation. But it also has another, less useful effect. By creating the concept “Big Dipper,” we separate out those stars from all the rest, and then, if we become attached to the idea of that separation, we lose the sense of the night sky’s wholeness, its oneness. Does the separation actually exist in the sky? No. We created it through the use of a concept.

Does anything change in the night sky when we understand that there is no Big Dipper? No. The stars in the sky remain just the same, and the pattern of the stars remains the same. We simply see that the concept that names the pattern of stars, and that separates those particular ones from all the others, does not have any independent existence.

Likewise, realizing that “self” is a concept revolutionizes our understanding by revealing how things have always been. Each one of us is a constellation of mental-physical processes. We recognize the familiar pattern, name it, and then become so identified with the concept that we fall into the great illusion of believing that some being is ultimately there. “Joseph” is just the same as “Big Dipper.” “Joseph” is a concept, a name given to a certain pattern of elements, just as Big Dipper is a name given to a pattern of stars.

Our practice is to awaken from the illusion of taking concepts to be the reality, so that we can live in a clear awareness of how things actually are. It should be easy to free ourself from attachment to concepts… but it is not. On some clear and starry night, quietly look up at the sky and observe whether it is possible not to see the Big Dipper. We have a hard time not seeing it because of strong, conditioned habits of recognition.

Of course, we need concepts, and in many situations they serve us very well. We use various concepts as convenient designations, but if we understand that the words do not refer to solid “things” that have independent existence in themselves, then we stay free in the use of them. Problems only arise when we forget that they are constructs of our own mind, and impute a reality to them that they do not inherently have.

Meditation helps us see with bare attention just what is there. We may still use concepts when appropriate, but we do not lose touch with the reality behind them. We learn to look at the sky with a clear and silent mind; we learn to look at ourself with the same clarify and stillness."

- Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

- - -

"Normally we do not so much look at things as overlook them. The eye sees types and classes – flower, leaf, rock, bird – mental pictures of things rather than things. But here the depth of light and structure in a bursting bud go on forever. There is time to see them, time for the whole intricacy of veins and capillaries to develop in consciousness, time to see down and down into the shape of greenness, which is not green at all, but a whole spectrum generalizing itself as green – purple, gold, the sunlit turquoise of the ocean, the intense luminescence of the emerald. I cannot decide where shape ends and color begins…"

- Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology

Judgment

Judging your emotions prevents you from understanding them. It piles on more emotions, preventing you from clearly understanding their true cause.

We tend to try to ignore or minimize unpleasant emotions, but this prevents us from understanding why they are arising. Seek to understand rather than to judge.

"“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor… Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide.”
- Rumi

Mental Noting

"You can use the technique of mental noting to strengthen mindful awareness. The art of mental noting, as a tool of meditation, requires practice and experimentation. Labeling objects of experience as they arise supports mindfulness in many different ways.

Noting should be done very softly, like a whisper in the mind, but with enough precision and accuracy so that it connects directly with the object. For example, you might label each breath, silently saying in, out or rising, falling. In addition, you may also note every other appearance that arises in meditation. When thoughts arise, note thinking. If physical sensations become predominant, note pressure, vibration, tension, tingling, or whatever it might be. If sounds or images come into the foreground, note hearing or seeing.

The note itself can be seen as another appearance in the mind, even as it functions to keep us undistracted. Labeling, like putting a frame around a picture, helps you recognize the object more clearly and gives greater focus and precision to your observation.

Mental noting supports mindfulness in another way, by showing us when awareness is reactive and when it is truly mindful. For example, we may be aware of pain in the body, but through a filter of aversion. Without the tool of noting, we often do not recognize the aversion, which may be a subtle overly on the pain itself. The tone of voice of the mental note reveals a lot about our minds. You sit and note pain, pain, but perhaps with a gritted-teeth tone to the note; the tone makes obvious the actual state of mind. Quite amazing, simply changing the tone of the note can often change your experience."

- Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

Thoughts

"What are thoughts? What is this phenomenon that so powerfully conditions our lives when we remain unaware of it, yet dissolves so completely as soon as we pay attention? What is our proper relationship to that endless display of thoughts parading through our mind?

Take a few moments right now to look directly at the thoughts arising in your mind. As an exercise, you might close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a movie theater watching an empty screen. Simply wait for thoughts to arise. Because you are not doing anything except waiting for thoughts to appear, you may become aware of them very quickly. What exactly are they? What happens to them? Thoughts are like magic displays that seem real when we are lost in them, but then vanish upon inspection.

But what about the strong thoughts that affect us? In meditation we are watching, watching, watching, and then all of a sudden – whoosh! gone, we are lost in that one. What is that about? What are the mind states or the particular kinds of thoughts that catch us again and again, so that we forget that they are just empty phenomena passing on?

The Buddha said that we are shaped, created, and led by our thoughts. If he was right, then it is important for us to watch our thought process closely to see where we get hooked, where we are seduced through identification into creating something that brings us unhappiness. It is amazing to observe how much power we give unknowingly to uninvited thoughts: “Do this, say that, remember, plan, obsess, judge.” They can drive us quite crazy, and they often do!"

- Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

- - -

"How unfamiliarly natural it is to see pain as no longer a problem. For problematic pain arises with the tendency of self-consciousness to short-circuit the brain and fill its passages with dithering echoes – revulsions to revulsions, fears of fear, cringing from cringing, guilt about guilt – twisting thought to trap itself in endless oscillations. In his ordinary consciousness man lives like someone trying to speak in an excessively sensitive echo chamber; he can proceed only by doggedly ignoring the interminably gibbering reflections of his voice. For in the brain there are echoes and reflected messages in every dimension of sense, thought, and feeling, chattering on and on in the tunnels of memory. The difficulty is that we confuse this storing of information with an intelligent commentary on what we are doing at the moment, mistaking for intelligence the raw materials of the data with which it works."

- Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology

Unpleasant Experience

"In order to relate well to unpleasant experience, we first must know that it is there. The non seeing of suffering keeps us locked into the suffering. Seeing it clearly and precisely allows us to open to whatever form of suffering it is, and that opening and acceptance in turn allow the discomfort to wash through our consciousness and away.

Suppose your body is carrying a lot of discomfort or tension, but you are not aware of it; you are carrying it around without knowing it. That discomfort unconsciously conditions how you are, how you feel. When that physical discomfort becomes predominant enough, you turn your attention to it. If you can open to it with acceptance, what follows is a sense of relaxation. The combined power of clear seeing plus acceptance brings the relaxation, the relief.

The painful sensation may still be there, but now your relationship to it is quite different. You relate to it now out of the condition of peace, rather than your of delusion of not seeing. The same dynamic can happen equally with painful physical sensations and with painful emotions.

Some time ago a situation caused me intense embarrassment. Although I knew that I was experiencing a very uncomfortable state, I did not know just what I was feeling, and until I was able to identify it, there was so much suffering.

I was trying in every way I could imagine to get out of the situation causing me this pain After suffering for some time like this, I finally said, “What is going on here?” I settled back, took a close look at my mind, and saw: “Oh, this is the feeling of embarrassment.” In that moment of clear seeing and a willingness to be with it, all the the dukkha went away. Dukhha is the Pali word for unsatisfactoriness or suffering. I saw that embarrassment was an unpleasant feeling arising at that time out of certain conditions, and that it was okay to simply feel it. And then it left. This was much easier than trying to rearrange my life to avoid the feeling.

Another thing to remember as you deepen the systematic exploration of your mind in practice is the fact that though the unwholesome qualities of consciousness appear to be getting stronger, in fact they are not; you are only becoming more aware of them. As practice depends, we can feel overwhelmed by the multitude of different mental hindrances that arise. We see restlessness, laziness, anger, doubt greed conceit, envy, and all the rest, and it sometimes seems that our mind contains nothing but these afflictive emotions.

A traditional Buddhist analogy describes this phenomenon. If you have a cloth full of grime and dirt, no particular spot on it stands out. But as the cloth becomes cleaner, each stain becomes more obvious. In the same way, as our mind becomes clearer and more lucid in meditation practice, the hindrances show themselves more noticeable.

So keep a balanced perspective as you work with thoughts and emotions in your mind and heart. It is important to see the hindrances as they arise, and to understand that the clarity to see them comes precisely from the growing purity of your consciousness."

Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

Fear

"What do you get out of fear and avoidance? What do you get out of avoidance, being anxious, resistance, fright, etc.? Why do it?

There is a lot of mental activity around any basic fear reaction: calculating, planning, hoping, ignoring, suppressing, avoiding, lying, and so on. Focus on the kind of thinking that accompanies fear. What's this activity about? What are you up to? What are you trying to accomplish with all that?

Practice not changing or denying anything about your fear. Look at it as-is, as it comes. For example, say you want to hide. Allow the hiding impulse to just be there. Or say you want to ignore the fear, then notice that very ignoring. Don't be in opposition to it. Let that activity be there, and become more conscious of it.

What do you get out of recoiling, avoidance, fear? You spend so much time in this activity. Notice it. What's inherent in all of it? You get something out of it. It's your activity, so you have a right to know. Do you think you can't find out? Or that all you can do is believe what someone else says? Scientists, religious leaders, psychologists, philosophers? Bullshit. Who has a right to know more than you? Who cares more than you? Just because nobody else has done something, doesn't mean you can't.

Move inside the fear. It has a force. Create an image of the force having a direction, a motivation, that you're being pushed around by the force. This force seems to have some kind of purpose. Experience that direction, force, and purpose.

While sitting there, consider whatever is going on with you in relation to fear. And whatever that force is, that activity is, move into it -- embrace the feeling and presence of it, rather than resist it or struggle with it, set out to fully experience it.

"The Flower of Recoil" Analogy: If we imagined the action of fear as a pulling in, a closing down and avoiding action, then turning this action inside-out would be like a flower opening up and spreading out. When you experience fear and then turn that very fear inside-out, what is inside?Whenever fear arises, just as it is begins to occur, turn into it. Whatever that fear force is, turn it inside-out. Notice what's inside the fear. What's inside the activity of recoil? What are the qualities? What information is inside it?

What is recoiling? What is fear? What's held within the very substance of it? What do you get out of fear? What's inherent in it? What's already true just because it's fear?

Consider that inside the "flower of recoil" is all the information needed to deal with the situation that seems to "cause" the fear. By turning the flower inside-out, your capacity to handle the situation is increased. You are recoiling from the sense that something is dangerous. When you turn the flower inside-out, you go back to experiencing what you don't want to experience. Instead of recoiling from it or avoiding it, you are being in relationship with it.

Intend to do this work. You need to really have the intention, because you WILL resist doing it. Imagine the week and familiar events that will occur for you as usual -- being at home, at work, in relationships, etc. Now create an image of doing the homework. Work on it! When you're afraid is just the time you won't want to do the work."

- Peter Ralston, Transcending Self

Boredom

"Like anger and other emotions, boredom most often fools us into diverting our energies entirely to an external situation. Thus it keeps us from liberating ourselves by seeing our relationship to the emotion itself. We make a great mistake about boredom when we think that it comes because of a particular person or situation or activity.

So much of the restlessness in our meditation practice and in our daily lives derives from this fundamental misunderstanding. How often do we try to find something new to recapture our interest, something more stimulating or more exciting? And how often does that too quickly become boring and dull, so that we range off again, looking for yet another something “better?”

To realize that boredom does not come from the object of our attention but rather from the quality of our attention is truly a transforming insight. Fritz Perls, one of those who brought Gestalt therapy to America, said, “Bored is lack of attention.” Understanding this reality brings profound changes in our lives.

The boredom becomes a tremendously useful feedback for us. It is telling us not that the situation or person or meditation object is somehow lacking, but rather that our attention at that time is halfhearted. Instead of wallowing in boredom or complaining about it, we can see it as a friend saying to us, “Pay more attention. Get closer. Listen more carefully.”

The next time you feel a lack of interest, instead of simply drowning in boredom, use it as a signal to bring your attention very close. In doing that you will see how acuity of attention brings interest and energy. Marcel Marceau, the wonderful French mime, does an act in which he goes from standing to either sitting or lying down. He changes his position completely, but you never see him stir. His increments of movement are so small that you never see any movement. Now he is standing, now he is sitting. Try doing that, moving as slowly as possible, and see if you are bored. Impossible! Precisely because it demands such close attention. When we are with people and feeling bored, can we listen a little more carefully, stepping off the train of our own inner commenting? If we are sitting in meditation and feeling uninterested, can we come in closer to the object, not with force but with gentleness and care? What is this experience we call the breath? If someone were holding your head under water, would the breath be boring? Each breath is actually sustaining our life. Can we be with it fully, just once?

When we recognize what boredom is, it becomes a great call to awaken."

Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

Ulterior Motives

"Media companies generate profits largely from ads, and for ads to be effective, you must eventually buy something – a car, a drug, a meal, whatever.

People who hold an accurate model of reality only buy what they actually want or need, so ads frequently promote half-truths and outright falsehoods to boost profits. For example, if a brewery can convince you that drinking alcohol will make you feel popular or sexy, they can generate more revenue than if they portray a more accurate depiction of alcohol consumption.

In order to fully trust the information provided by a media source, you must be able to trust that the source will not sacrifice truth to a conflicting value. The problem with corporate-owned media is that when there’s a conflict between profit and truth, truth doesn’t always win.

The cumulative effect of mass-media exposures is to condition you to adopt a false view of reality – one that upholds pro-advertiser values. The more you expose yourself to mainstream media such as television, the more skewed your mental model of reality becomes.

Furthermore, the more time you invest in media consumption, the less time you invest in learning from direct experience. This is a path of long-term laziness, apathy, and decay, not intelligent self-actualization. You can reduce the effect of this block by learning to find joy in the direct experience of life instead of the pale substitute of mass media. Whenever you’re exposed to media conditioning, remain aware that certain people have a vested financial interest in reshaping your beliefs about reality in a way that often conflicts with truth."

- Steve Pavlina, Personal Development for Smart People

Experience vs. Thought

"The insights of insight meditation are intuitive, not conceptual. Intuitive in this sense does not mean some kind of vague feeling about something; rather, it means clearly, directly seeing and experience how things really are.

For example, you are sitting in meditation, watching the breath. All of a sudden your mind settles into a different space. Even if it is just for a couple of moments, you feel a deeper kind of calm and peace. Instead of struggling to be with the breath, you begin just to rest with the breath in a very calm, effortless way.

That is an insight through direct experience into the nature of calm and tranquility. You do not think about them or reflect on them. You know that daffodils are yellow because you have seen them. You know that the nature of calm and tranquility because you have felt them.

There are many such experiences, and many levels of each one; and each time we know them directly, it is as if we open to a new way of seeing, of being. This is insight.

But often our mind becomes so excited by each new experience that we start thinking. “Look at that. I’m so calm. This is great!” Or we start reflecting discursively on impermanence or suffering or whatever the particular insight-experience has been.

We need to take a lot of care. If we fail to note such reflections and become caught up in them instead – and these reflections can become extremely compelling and interesting – they themselves become a hindrance to deepening insight. Sometimes people become obsessed with these thoughts, with reflections about genuine insights they have had.

So try to differentiate clearly between true intuitive insight and thinking about it. Knowing the difference can save you trouble and delay. You do not have to worry about later finding words to communicate your insights. Our mind very rarely has a problem coming up with the words. Simply staying present with each new arising appearance allows the whole journey to unfold."

- Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

Visualization

"The more you practice visualizing yourself succeeding, the more the strengthen the neural pathways associated with success. Your brain has a difficult time distinguishing what you see with your eyes, and what you visualize in your mind.

In fact, MRI scans of people watching a sunset are virtually indistinguishable from scans taken when the same people visualize the sunset in their mind. The same brain regions are active in both scenarios.

Do it in a room free from distractions. Either in bed in the morning or late at night are great times. Visualize yourself in situations where you have the most difficulty managing yourself."

- Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Public Goals

"Because most of self-management is a matter of motivation, by making your goals public you can harness the motivation of the expectations of others. Share the right goals with the right people who will keep you accountable for each one."

- Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Acting From Clarity

“As human beings, we’re often filled with conflicting desires. One part of us wants to be healthy, happy, and highly conscious. Another part wants nothing more than to eat, sleep, have sex, and be lazy. Without the presence of consciousness, we fall into reflexive patterns by default, living more like unconscious animals than fully sentient human beings.

Recognize that your level of awareness doesn’t remain constant. Sometime pure logic dominates your thinking; other times you’re overwhelmed with emotional concerns.

A good way to build your awareness is to make your important decisions from the most reasonable thinking you can muster. The best point to make new choices is when you feel alert, clear headed, and intelligent. When you inevitably sink back down to lower states and lose sight of that higher perspective, continue to act on those decisions even though you may no longer feel as committed to them. When you make decisions from a certain state of mind and act upon them, you reinforce that same state, thereby increasing the likelihood you’ll respond similarly in the future. Living consciously gets easier with practice.”

- Steve Pavlina, Personal Development for Smart People

Facing Truth

“One of the most important skills to develop in the area of personal growth is the ability to admit the whole truth to yourself, even if you don’t like what you see and even if you feel powerless to change it. When you face unpleasant truths, you’ll often encounter strong internal resistance. This resistance pushes you to avoid facing the truth, running through endless cycles of distraction, escapism, denial, and procrastination.

Only by staring directly into these truths can you summon the strength to deal with them consciously. Whatever you fear, you must eventually face. Whenever you’re faced with a part of reality you don’t like, and you feel powerless to change it, the first step is to accept the truth of your situation. Say to yourself: this situation is wrong for me, yet I lack the strength to change it right now. Never pretend to enjoy a job you hate, to be happy in an unfulfilling relationship.”

- Steve Pavlina, Personal Development For Smart People

Sensitivity

“Begin to increase sensitivity to your current feeling activity by doing the following exercise: Put your attention on the sensations and feelings in your body and mind in this moment. See how many you can identify as not physically produced. In other words, what feelings can you find that aren’t something like an itch on your foot, or a sense of the room temperature? How do you feel about the itchy foot or in reaction to the warm room are not in themselves physiological sensations. Perhaps the itching bothers you, or maybe you enjoy scratching it. The warm room might feel cozy and safe to you, or perhaps it’s uncomfortably stuffy. These background reactions may not occur to you as clearly as some emotions, but they are emotional. If you pay close attention, you can begin to pick up more subtle moods and feelings, some of which would normally pass for sensations. Upon inspection, they turn out not to be physically based, but rather subtle emotional reactions to certain background ideas and mind states. You might notice that feeling energized is really an underlying element, or discover that the slight discomfort of wearing a tie is actually impatience making you a bit hot under the collar.

Feelings like these remain obscured in the background. Either they’re so familiar that we take them for granted, or so subtle or insignificant that we fail to become conscious of them. See how many feelings and varieties of feeling you can identify just as you sit there. Over time, watch them shift and change. Merely putting your attention on them and increasing your sensitivity will create a marked change in the feelings that you have. Regardless of what you do with them, notice that these subtle and not so subtle emotional feelings are a constant activity. “

- Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

Language

"When we feel something, we reach out for the nearest phrase to communicate, which fails to do justice to that which has induced us to do so. We hear Beethoven’s symphony and say 'Wow, that was great.' These sounds are asked to account for an experience, but their poverty prevents either ourselves or our friends from really understanding what we have lived through. We stay on the outside of our impressions, as if staring at them through a frosted window, superficially related to them, yet estranged from whatever has eluded casual definition.

This is the problem with clichés. It’s not that they contain false ideas. It’s that they are superficial articulations of very good ones. Clichés are detrimental because they inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while merely grazing the surface. This matters because the way we speak is linked to the way we feel – how we describe the world must at some level reflect how we first experience it. Our priority should be to be original, not to sound like someone else."

- Marcel Proust

Novelty

“Your mind continually generalizes from your specific experiences, stores those general patterns, and then applies them to predict the outcome of new events. New situations shift you into learning mode, which enable you to discover new patterns. The more patterns your mind learns, the better it gets at prediction, and the smarter you become. Read a book on a topic that’s completely alien to you. Talk to people you’d normally avoid. Visit an unfamiliar city. In order to grow, you must repeatedly tackle fresh challenges and consider new ideas to give your mind fresh input. If you merely repeat the same experiences, you’ll stagnate.“

- Steve Pavlina, Personal Development for Smart People

Ego

"Unfortunately our forms of speech follow the design of the social fiction which separates that conscious will from the rest of the organism, making it the independent agent which causes and regulates our actions. We do not see that the ego, the agent, the conscious will is a social convention, like the intervals of clock time, as opposed to a biological entity. For the conscious will, working against the grain of instinct, is the interiorization, the inner echo, of social demands upon the individual coupled with the picture of his role or identity which he acquires from parents, teachers, and early associates. It is an imaginary, socially fabricated self working against the organism, the self that is biologically grown. The mystical experience... enables the individual to be so peculiarly open and sensitive to organic reality that the ego begins to be seen for the transparent abstraction that it is. In its place arises a strong sensation of oneness with others, presumably akin to the sensitivity which enables a flock of birds to twist and turn as one body. A sensation of this kind would seem to provide a far better basis for social love and order than the fiction of the separate will."

- Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology

Affection

"There are countless people who, claiming to be firm friends, still lack the nerve to represent their affection for each other by physical contact which might raise the friendship to the level of love. Our trouble is that we have ignored and thus feel insecure in the enormous spectrum of love which lies between rather formal friendship and genital sexuality, and thus are always afraid that once we overstep the bounds of formal friendship we must slide inevitably to the extremes of sexual promiscuity. This unoccupied gulf between spiritual or brotherly love and sexual love corresponds to the cleft between the two. The subtle and wonderful gradations that lie between the two are almost entirely lost. The greater part of love is a relationship that we hardly allow."

- Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology

Progress

It is not scientific progress we need most right now. It is spiritual progress. So that when the compounding effects of our scientific advances crescendo, and we're thrown into a potentially apocalyptic crisis of consciousness, we will choose to live differently. We will choose to exist in harmony with the natural order that gave us life. To rise above parasitic action and take flight into symbiosis. We will have the values of an intentional Collective Consciousness, the power of Exponentially Advancing Technology, and the endless possibilities of an Infinitely Creative Mind.

Imagination

Imagine stumbling upon a new world, inhabited by life. what would the most beautiful manifestation of that life be? how will those creatures interact with each other? interact with their planet? how do they coexist with technology? imagine the most perfect world you could stumble upon, and then decide to make our current world something more like that of your dreams.

Cosmic Consciousness

"The universe can no longer be regarded as a result of chance collisions of materials, nor as a deterministic mechanism. The universe considered as a whole is more like a developing being. The universe has a beginning and is in the midst of its development: a vast cosmic epigenesis. Everything that exists is involved in this emergence--- galaxies and stars and planets and light and all living creatures… This universe is a single multiform energetic unfolding of matter, mind, intelligence, and life"

- Brian Swimme, "The Universe is a Green Dragon"

Love

"Love begins as allurement – as attraction. Think of the entire cosmos, all one hundred billion galaxies rushing through space: At this cosmic scale, the basic dynamism of the universe is the attraction each galaxy has for every other galaxy... The attracting activity is a stupendous and mysterious fact of existence. Primal. We awake and discover that this alluring activity is the basic reality of the macrocosmic universe... if we are going to think about love in its cosmic dimension, we must start with the universe as a whole. We must begin with the attraction that permeates the entire macrostructure... of the basic binding energy found everywhere in reality…

Our interests are entirely our own. We awake to our own unique sets of attractions. So do oxygen atoms. So do protons. The proton is attracted only to certain particles. On an infinitely more complex level, the same holds true for humans: Each person discovers a field of allurements, the totality of which bears the unique stamp of that person's personality. Destiny unfolds in the pursuit of individual fascinations and interests... Love is a word that points to this alluring activity in the cosmos. This primal dynamism awakens the communities of atoms, galaxies, stars, families, nations, persons, ecosystems, oceans, and stellar systems. Love ignites being."

- Brian Swimme, "The Universe is a Green Dragon"

Field of Possibility

Expand your field of possibility. Don’t passively accept what is there as reality - seeing it as a playground. Koala status, everything is an adventure. Ash prancing around the room after ceremony.

Saying No

Learn to say “no” to maintain space for yourself. You deserve to live “now” on your own terms, not on other people’s agendas. Your space is sacred, treat it as such without feeling guilty. Love and cherish and protect it.

Intuition

Cultivate somatic awareness. The ability to FEEL your emotions right now. Learn how they affect your, how to identify them. (Josh Waitzkin). Learn to listen to your feelings/gut/intuition/instinct. What feels good usually is good – and vice versa with bad. But we're very bad at really knowing what we feel, and are usually in denial (or not fully accepting) which prevents us from fully understanding. Reminding people of what they’ve forgotten, or never knew, or are simply too distracted to see.

Love

Mary massing my knuckle in a way I’ve never imagined before, loving it in new ways, in every way, making me realize and showing me more ways to love myself. And that is one way to love: to show someone why they should love themself, showing them how they can love thsemself.

Choices

In any given situation, there are only two choices: yes, and love.

Spontaneity

Follow intuition. So many times, quickly realized “mind” was off fantasizing and forecasting future events instead of being HERE, now. Take immediate spontaneous action instead of waiting, thinking about how it might pan out, ruminating, now suddently I’m on a train of thought wasting my attention on a future that likely won’t happen and pulls me completely out of the divine space of awareness and intentionality. Feel the intuitiove urge to spray cedar mist, or touch a body part of Mary. So much of our lives are run on train tracks perpendicular to reality. The beauty is simply being congruent (body/mind/words) / authentic and honest and acting on impulses. Intution, gut emotional feelings, this is truth before distortion by the analyzing/worrying language-mind. Be open to feeling them, and act immediately on them. A spontaneous, honest, continually unfolding express of authentic self will emerge.

Be – don’t think. Feel – don’t analyze. Cutivate your intuition. It is more powerful than any conceptual mental process bound by language.

Touch

The power of touch.