Archive for October, 2016

The Specter of Dating

trainlights

It’s interesting how many people who are in long-term relationships bring up the foreboding idea of dating as one of their first, or even main, concerns about not being in those relationships any longer. And when they bring it up, most of us quickly agree.

Is dating really that bad, or is the fear more about feeling alone? Regardless it seems like a pretty lame rationalization for staying in a relationship. There may be good reasons, but why does this one come up so often? I submit that if this is one of the first things you think about then you need to take a step back and seriously evaluate what’s going on with you.

Choosing the option that sucks less is not the greatest recipe for a happy and fulfilled life. This thought process leads to the risky area of daring to believe you deserve to be happy, and can be happy. How is your self-esteem?

Nobody ever said being self-aware would be easy.

Faith

bridgefaith

Faith is complete trust or confidence. It is absolute. True religious faith is a gift from God. Therefor you have it or you don’t. You can’t will it. While we may all have the capacity, some seem to be chosen to actually have faith. Perhaps it is blind. Perhaps misguided. Perhaps real. But it’s clear that some at least appear to have it, while others do not.

Some might say we are able to choose to have faith. However, and here we go with the linguistic distinctions again, “having faith” in that type of context isn’t always used to convey that it’s something one possesses. Often what we really mean is, trying to make that leap of faith. Or to act with faith. If we are choosing it, then we don’t inherently have it.

When we refer to faith, often what we really mean is that we have a strong belief. We choose that. It’s what we want to be true, or have decided for ourselves is true. True faith would not be a choice.

Belief clings, while faith lets go. Faith can be great for those who have it…although, could it be a type of neuroses? For those who don’t…all of the trying in the world is futile. The best you can do is choose to believe, which can look a lot like faith. It’s a fine line.

 

Yield

Asian culture does a better job of fostering the idea of asymmetrical trades – yielding. Humility.

A maneuverable motor boat yields to a sailboat because it can more easily recover from the turn.

A bicyclist going downhill yields to one struggling uphill, because he can get back up to speed more quickly.

The senior executive invests a little bit of time helping the junior one, because no one else has the skills to do so, not because reciprocation is the goal.

Asymmetrical trades are a key to getting society to work. It starts with giving.

Yield has two meanings, and one leads to the other.

Emotion & Spirituality

spirituality

It is likely spirituality is just an emotion. But…

There are threads throughout this blog that touch on religion. One may not agree with my interpretation, but it’s certainly a valid one. It’s fascinating to observe the ways in which emotion and religion feed off of one another. I question whether religion could succeed without our tendency to be deeply affected by our emotions. Many like to believe religion is driven from spirituality.

  • Religion being based on the belief in and worship of a supernatural being.
  • Spirituality being of or related to the human spirit or soul.

The latter is harder to precisely nail down, and not as well understood. When I label someone as religious, we all know what I mean. A characterization of spiritual means….what exactly? It may conjure images of a Buddhist in a temple in Tibet or a pot-smoking hippie in Haight Ashbury. The former, by the way, is a religion. As a religion, Buddhism seems to get more of a pass as being more spiritual in nature, at least in our western culture.

Some religions do seem to have more of a pure connection to our spirituality than others, but there’s a distinctly subjective component to such an assessment. To a Catholic, her religion may be deeply personal and spiritual, but to a different Catholic, or an outsider who practices another religion, it can seem more like a business. Nice if someone happens to get some spiritual benefit from it, or if it helps society in some way, but the manifestation feels more like a business in its day to day actions. Again, this is subjective – a view I am not declaring as my own, but observe. Don’t mean to pick on Catholics. They are an easy target, but nearly every religion suffers from some of the same. You can think of it as a PR problem, or more.

People who declare themselves as spiritual often have a sort of almost condescending disdain for “organized religion.” They believe those organizations aren’t pure – tainted by hypocrisy and human agendas, not to mention the unsustainable science (not that science is infallible) – and while they can be helpful, they are just as often harmful to society and the world. We all know there is ample evidence to support this claim, which is one reason why it prevails. (Other reasons are that we sometimes believe what we want to believe and what’s convenient for us, and often look at and only “see” evidence that validates those desires or already held beliefs. This debate will likely rage until the end of time, and I have little to no ambition of resolving it here.)

So spirituality seems to exist on some moral high ground in our linguistic interpretation. It is almost by definition pure, and so one who is very spiritual, or connected spiritually, not only doesn’t “need” religion, but is thought to be operating on a higher plane, even if that person happens to also practice a religion. When viewed this way, it sure does start to sound like religion is frivolous. Like a bunch of rules stapled to the real or true underpinnings that are supposedly what make it viable in the first place.

But what is spirituality really? Once we get past the linguistic interpretations and visual images that concept conjures, what actually is it really all about? The human spirit is often thought about outside of the confines of spirituality, even though they’re presumably based on the same thing. Again, our linguistic interpretations get fuzzy, making meanings soft, and able to shift around in different contexts.

Is spirituality just a manifestation of whatever our human spirit happens to be, or is it some mystical quality – or even a force – that we don’t/can’t fully understand, but can only hope to tap into through disciplined practice? Spirituality doesn’t require a God, but it does seem to require…something. Something not part of us, at least biologically.

Several years ago I told a dear friend that I speculate God is in each of us (as opposed to some metaphorical king on a throne in heaven). Sounds kind of “spiritual,” eh? We have a very respectful disagreement about religion, but it hasn’t included me fleshing out this idea of what I meant by that. The depths of what I’d have to go through to do it here aren’t practical, unless the reader is seeking a treatment for insomnia, but I can summarize a couple of options.

  1. Some abstract manifestation of the Holy Spirit. 1/3 of the Trinity (even if you don’t believe in the other two parts). Not something separate from our spirit, or something that influences our spirit, but it actually is our spirit. Or our spirit is it. Whichever way you want to look at it. It is this quality that is in us that gives rise to everything we ultimately associate with spirituality and religion. I don’t necessarily mean this to indicate it is false, and we made the rest up (though that is a distinct possibility). Taking it a step further (than I would), it could even be that this quality is a part of a greater whole in some capacity that connects us on a very deep, unconscious level, or acts as a sort of force that directs us in subtle yet profound ways. Taken far enough, that interpretation could get us pretty close to conventional wisdom about religion – right up to that greater whole being God, or part of God.
  2. It’s emotions. Our body chemistry doing what it does, and our mind applying all sorts of deep significance and meaning to it. On the surface this makes it seem like something that only manifests within us – chemistry and cognition combine to produce something psychologically, which implies it isn’t real in a conventional spiritual (and certainly religious) sense. That’s possible, but it’s also possible those things are real, and do in fact connect us in very deep and profound ways that we may only be beginning to have the understanding to leave room for. One possibility here is to view it in a quantum context. At the quantum level, things that don’t seem like they even could be connected, are. We do not understand how or why it works, but it is demonstrable. In other words, there are forces (and I use that term loosely) at work that we cannot pinpoint to a cause, or understand how they work. (Sorry, but a whole treatise on quantum theory is well beyond the scope of this writing. To get you started with the tip of the iceberg, look up quantum superposition and quantum entanglement. Then work from there). When things are mysterious to us – can’t be explained – they tend to get assigned all sorts of mystic qualities because in our linear/cartesian (non-quantum) way of generally perceiving the world, we assume there has to be a “force” (in our limited linguistic definition of force) that is acting on them. For example: before humans understood weather, we knew storms were driven by a force, but couldn’t explain it, so it was mysterious and became tied to everything else that was mysterious about the world. It’s easy to see how this would give rise to the concept of a master controller, and how we might still be doing that in other domains today. But I digress. Anyway…

1 & 2 have a lot of potential overlap between them in a sort of Chicken and Egg way, though they can each stand on their own as well.

Or, it’s really just purely emotion, and chemistry, and nothing else.

But there’s that nagging feeling (emotion) that there is something else going on.

Yeah, it’s probably just emotion that becomes a belief.

Comfort

marshmellows

We seek comfort. Not just the nice sofa kind, but the emotional kind. You can see it in people’s actions all the time. We avoid what produces a FEELING of discomfort and gravitate toward what soothes and keeps us feeling safe. Comfort in the short run can be overrated and too much of a driver of our actions, while comfort in the long run may be underrated and isn’t focused on enough. We should be disciplined and take care of our futures. Those are the basics.

So we have been taught in many ways that comfort in the short term is not that important, and maybe even immoral. Don’t cave to your wants and desires. Instead remain disciplined, do the hard work, and stay the course. It’s that classic dilemma of what actions must be taken now to produce the future one wants. We think we sacrifice now to set up the fate (**) we want.

We fight against our tendency to live in the now. Yet, so many self-help experts tell us we need to live in the now more.

It shows in religion, career, saving money or other resources. Sacrifices. It shows in living a less than full or ideal life in hopes that we’re not squandering the future.

However comfort, when we have it, isn’t fully appreciated. We routinely take perfectly adiquite situations and blow them up trying to get more of something (excitement) or something different. We are taught that this is reckless and unwise. No, it can be in certain contexts, but it isn’t inherently so. It is simply our nature – to strive and have an ambition that there is something more. When we program people too much in the discipline of being disciplined, sometimes we inadvertently squish the life out of them. We chip away at the human sense of adventure, and we end up with a society of people who live in fear, can’t create, lack initiative, circle the wagons, and don’t contribute much beyond (maybe) hard work. Nothing wrong with some good hard work, but when it becomes out of balance with the human spirit to “go for it” then we get stagnant, and things begin to go sideways. The real “specialness” of being human is lost, and we risk becoming drones toiling away to get through a life avoiding too much thinking about what we aren’t. All for the sake of trying to protect an unknown future.

But we don’t recognize that the long run eventually becomes the short run.  It’s going to blow up by the time we get there anyway.

There is a balance to be had. Save a little money. Spend some time learning and improving. Don’t forsake your body or mind, but for heaven’s sake, live a life. Force yourself (if necessary) to have a sense of adventure, or act like you do and it will come. Take risks. Blow things up. Start over. I’m not advocating being reckless. I am advocating some actions that could appear as reckless to those around you who want to play it safe. Maybe that play it safe person is you. Blow that up. It is not as audacious as you may think, because if you’re playing it safe (also a risk), it’s probably at least partially because of the almighty fear, which is you not giving you enough credit for being capable and able to figure out how to navigate through the storms you chase.

You can do it if you really want to. The question is, what do you really want? Comfort or happiness?

LettingGo

`(**) – Meant to write “future” there, but it came out as “fate.” I kinda’ like that.

Missed Versus Execution

keylocklight

When you think back over the last few years, how much of what you haven’t achieved is due to missed opportunities (the product you didn’t launch, the relationship you didn’t foster, the service you didn’t choose to do, the path you didn’t choose, the effort you didn’t extend, the vulnerability you didn’t let through) and how much is the result of doing it poorly?

_____ % missed/avoided   vs.  _____ % incompetence

Now, compare those percentages to where you spend your time, your focus and your anxiety.

 

Stuck

ManandWomaninCupEverything that happens to us is generated from something we did, something someone did to us, or just a chance occurrence. Regardless of which it is, the ball is in our court to act, or wait until someone or something changes things. We generally would prefer to take action, but sometimes we can’t see the way out. We are stuck, unable to move forward, or to move it off center. It happens to nearly all of us on occasion. We get stuck for a variety of reasons. Three that come to mind are:

  1. We can’t see the forest for the trees or just don’t see the problem for what it really is.
  2. It’s scary to change our current situation because it’s serving us in some way, or there is a fear of the unknown. What if the change makes things worse?
  3. We are in a double bind, which means we feel damned if we do or don’t.

To get unstuck, there are a several techniques to try. I think these are somewhat obvious, but seeing it in writing can help provide clarity.

  • Play out the fear of change all the way to the worst case scenario and then evaluate if it’s really all that bad or if there is anything good about it. If there is some good (this is the key), move towards it. Just try it and feel good about your courage to grow in the most positive direction possible. You will work the rest out.
  • Ask what the costs are if you stay stuck, and play it out to the worst case scenario. If nothing changes, who will be hurt and how bad can it get? You may be able to continue to be dissatisfied, though it’s not good for you, which probably means others are being negatively affected.
  • Ask yourself what someone who truly loves and wants the best for you would advise. Sometimes, we aren’t as compassionate with ourselves as we are with those we love. Hearing and trusting their voice in our head can be used as a guide for what to do. But be cautious. This can easily turn into you choosing what will make others happy. That’s not the point. And keep in mind…they are afraid, too. Not objective. You have to weigh the agenda of the source, but it is worth considering.
  • Look at how the current situation is serving your needs, even at low levels. Sometimes we settle for low level fulfillment instead of going for the thing that will really fill us up because it feels safer to stick with the devil you know instead of the one you don’t. Consider the positive benefits of raising your standards. I was once told that “it’s never a bad thing to raise your standards.” This goes for yourself and for who you’re with.
  • Ask yourself if you have a true commitment to growing. If you do, and you recognize that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying (inside), then consider what you’ll do to grow. Will you take a chance and try something new, even if its scary and there is no guarantee it will work out? Can you feel good about yourself for being brave enough to just try it and course correct later if need be? (Hint: Yes)
  • Consider that there is a life lesson in this situation, and determine what it is. Ask yourself if you are ready to learn it now, and if not, why. Are you hoping the Universe will take over and make the change for you? Not choosing is still a choice. And if you don’t make a change, something happens that’s not your choice and you have to deal with it anyway. Isn’t it better to make the choice on your own and feel like you have some semblance of control over the situation? When you don’t, you open yourself up to something happening that takes the control away from you, requiring you to put the pieces back together and move on with your life, the hard way. You also open yourself up to the problem repeating until you show up for it and “walk through the fire” by making the choices that are authentic to you.

As with many things in this blog, it’s easy to say. Easier to read and understand. Hard to do. Sometimes you have to push harder.



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