Connecting with your creative instinct can provide you with a deep sense of fulfillment. Creativity has a way of directly touching something in our soul. Personally I find it rejuvenating, fulfilling and even spiritual.
Be more creative!
For efficiency we tend towards path of least resistance, often this is the path taken before; routine, habit, structure.
We have to dig deeper to get more creative.
Get off the path of least resistance, and try something new, a change of direction.
Step out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill.
Specialisation is rewarded by society, but it is binding and narrowing, whereas trying lots of different things, means a greater variety of inputs, more influences, more diverse experiences.
To do new things, you have to be confused and frustrated, at least to start and to be creative, to think outside the box, you have to be willing to be wrong.
Brains are novelty seekers, they gets bored easily.
We have to push boundaries.
If we go too crazy, too far out, nobody is going to follow us there. The secret is to explore the range of possibilities, pushing boundaries everywhere to figure out what works and push the limits of creativity.
Our brains can interfere with the creative process, we fear failure. Don’t be afraid of failure – success rises from the ashes of failure. Embrace the possibility of failure as an opportunity to try and learn
You don’t have to invent something completely new to be creative, use an old idea in a new way. Blend different ideas into new ideas, different things into new things.
Develop a creative mindset, take risks and try something new TODAY!
Perceive reality as it is, you wouldn’t recognise it
Your brain takes in info and sifts through it to find patterns and uses it to create your reality
It’s not about what’s hitting your eyes, it’s your brains interpretation
Perception has less to do with outside world and more to do with what’s going on inside the brain
The brain is completely cut off from the direct senses
Sound, vision, hearing, smell and taste is all the same stuff in the head
Photons of light or sound waves are getting converted into electro chemical signals that travel through millions of brain cells, known as neurons that send electrical pulses to other neurons. This is what creates our sense of reality.
The brain turns it into something meaningful by sifting through a huge stream of incoming data and finds patterns which are assembled into our reality
The result of millions of years of evolution
Seems effortless and instantaneous
When we see, many different systems have to work together. To see we use all the other senses to build a picture of the world around us, sight is only one part of that. We wouldn’t be able to see if we couldn’t touch for instance
Example – A blind man, who becomes sighted later is still unable to process the data, as the brain requires rewiring to deal with processing the visual data, something that it has never done before, so it’s like starting from scratch. The parts of his brain that would have dealt with sight have been used by other senses, in its absence
Depth perception and facial recognition not being processed by the brain as it would in a person with sight, even 10 years later on
Many parts of the brain are used in vision, approx 40%, all are needed to form an image
The best view of how the brain operates is to see what happens when it’s interrupted
Example – Headset that flips the view of the environment, left becomes right and visa versa
Visual data no longer makes intuitive sense
Takes brain 1 week to adjust and behave normally and manage in its new reality and after two weeks spacial map is altering, forget what is left and right. It takes a couple of days to readjust afterwards
All senses come into play to decode. A new reality is created
Babies don’t just touch stuff to feel what they feel, like they are learning how to see
Only means something if we can cross reference using other senses. What we touch influences how we see, taste is affected by our sense of smell, sight informs what we hear, and our reality is built by comparing these streams of data and when woven together our reality is constructed.
All sensory input takes different times to process and our brains have to merge these together to make our reality. Sound is processed faster than vision, because visual system takes more processing time than the hearing system, but it feels as though it is done instantly
Touch of hand is processed faster than touch on foot
All data from senses is first collected and processed before the brain builds a story. It takes ½ second to do this. So when we clap our hands, our reality of that clap is ½ after the fact. As a result our reality is based on the past
Different parts of the brain deal with different parts of the processing and it is all woven together to create our reality
Example – Solitary confinement; Deprived of sensory input – brain begins to create own reality. Going on imaginary trips and see illusions as reality.
What we see through our eyes, is less than the data that goes from our Thalamus to the cortex and our visual
Data from eyes goes to Thalamus and on to outer brain Cortex and visual Cortex.
6 times as much traffic going in opposite direction
Most of what we see is less to do with light from our eyes and more about what’s going on inside heads. An internal generated reality.
Known as The internal model
Use incoming data to update and correct internal model of the world through past experience, rather than rebuilding our world through sight
Example – Mask of face inside and outside appears to be sticking out. Internal model expects to see face stand out not in, so fools us into thinking it is
Your model sees what it expects to see. The Thalamus compares with what is coming in through the eyes to our internal model
Example – Eyes jump around but the internal model is only being updated, it doesn’t take in all the details, so the scene doesn’t jump around in the same way the eyes do. Data is taken on a need to know basis
Anytime you look around, colour doesn’t exist. Colour is reflected as black and white and only becomes colour in our heads
Only see a small spectrum of light. Less than 1/10trillonth of the full spectrum
All our senses are only picking up a tiny part of the information that is available
Nobody is experiencing objective reality, only what we need to perceive, same for all animals. Dogs have great hearing
Most people experience the same things, but a small percentage experience the world experience differently. Synesthesia – is a condition where the person sees letters in colours, “Hannah” looks like a sunset. Some see music, some experience many different types of psychotic experiences of life. Chemical imbalances in the brain.
Everybody’s life is constructed via beliefs and values
The Brains experience of time results in it compressing and stretching time, seeming longer or shorter. Moments of terror = slow motion
The Amygdala takes all the resources from other parts of brain and records more detail, richer and more vivid, and when replayed in memory they appear to have taken more time. The distortion of this time comes from the memory of the event. The brain is the ultimate story teller.
Each brain has its own unique model of the world. Reality is what your brain tells you it is.
What makes you who you are
3 lb organ. Wet biological stuff, fire billion electrical signals every second, results in the experience of being you
What shapes who you become?
Your life shapes your brain and your brain shapes your life
What makes me, me?
We are born helpless, more than any other species
Many other animals have life skills built in
Zebras can run within 45 minutes
But if these animals are in a strange environment, they won’t survive
People are pre-programmed to survive in any environment by being equipped to “learn” over having certain skills built in
We learn on the job
This gives us an extraordinary advantage
Same number of brain cell (neurons) in children as adults
As child grows, age 2, twice as many neurons as adults, after 2 growth is halted, and the number of connections are reduced and existing connections are strengthened. Links not used are lost. We become specialist rather than generalist.
But adults cells have stronger connections
But this process relies heavily on the outside world (our unique environment) and can go wrong if environment is not conducive to healthy development
Example Romanian orphans’ – neural activity reduced, because lower input up to age of 2.
When brain is starved of needs, development is stunted
And as adults, these orphans are still under-developed
What we experience in our early years goes a long way to shaping us in the rest of our lives
Genetics also shapes us – hormones change our appearance as teenagers.
Brains also change as teenagers. Example teenagers sat in window and have strangers look at her, brain reacts different to adults. Teenagers more sensitive to being looked at compared to adults
This is because the medial prefrontal cortex is highly active in teenagers, this results in them being more sensitive in regard to their self-consciousness and the situation in relation to themselves. Emotional situations carry a lot of weight
Also poor impulse control as the brain develops, results in greater risk taking
As we grow out of our teenage years our brains change less so
The knowledge – the Posterior Hippocampus becomes larger through revision.
Experience changes the brain through plasticity. The brain is a work-in-progress
Our identity is constantly changing, who you are and who you can become
Good and bad
Charles Witman, killed his wife, mother in law and 13 people. He asked for his brain to be examined, and he had a tumour which was putting pressure on his Amygdala, which is involved in fear and aggression, making him more violent
Disease, drugs, and aging can reshape the brain
Our brains may change but our MEMORY is a constant part of our personality
What if you could meet yourself at different ages – memories are likely to be different in each of yourselves at different ages.
When we experience an event we use all our sense that are woven together to make up that experience
As a memory it becomes less vivid, and subsequent events supersede it and affect how we feel about that memory.
Leading questions can contaminate existing memories
It’s even possible to implant completely false memories, if plausible enough. i.e. lost in mall as child, and after giving it time more and more detail creeps into the false memory. We embellish the false memory, we are imaginative storytellers
Our memory of the past is not a faithful record, it’s a reconstruction, a mythology
Why are our memories so unreliable, because it doesn’t just record what happens, it allows us to simulate what is coming next. It is a narrative that links the past with the future, so that we can work out what we need to do tomorrow
Keeping the brain active, helps sidestep the brain as it ages and the onset of disease, creating new neural pathways
Conscious experience is our unique perspective of the world. It’s not about the neurons because they will still be there after death, it’s more about how the neurons work together. Like drummers making just random noise, but then start working with one another to create a performance. Consciousness is a performance of neurons.
During sleep, the neurons are still interacting as if awake, and in deep sleep they become extremely synchronised but I am not there during this time.
I am the relationship between the neurons in a certain state
Why do we care about anything. The Meaning of life is the web of associations from our unique history of life experiences
We don’t perceive objects as they are, we perceive them as we are. Brains are as unique as snowflakes. We are completely unique from anyone that has and will ever live
From cradle to grave, we are works in progress
Who is in control of you?
Every action and decision and belief are driven by parts of brain you have no access to, the unconscious
Your brain secretly controls everything you do outside of awareness
Human consciousness is awaking in the morning, when we wake from sleep
Waking is the birth of you. Your brain comes online, but this is also the beginning of a great deception
It feels like you are in control of your decisions, but it’s not quite so simple
The conscious you makes up a very small percentage of what is going on.
The hidden activity includes:
Controlling the body – Hitting a baseball happens so quickly, even before conscious awareness has time to kick in
Cerebellum in the brain calculates micro adjustments to body to say, just hold a cup of tea, millions of times without our awareness
Why is so much of what we do buried out of reach?
EEG scans show motor skills reduce cognitive activity load, brain activity is almost in a rest state if what you’re doing is greatly practiced. Carving the skill into neurons so you can perform the task rapidly and without need for conscious attention.
New skills change our brains and are hardwired into the structure of our brains (muscle memory)
Brain requires only as much energy as a 60 watt light bulb, which is incredible considering its power
The consequence of all this, is many processes have become hidden from our consciousness
We go into autopilot when carrying out these tasks (such as driving) as our brains and body’s take over
Brains can be trained to do any skills automatically and they seem almost super human
Blackout of consciousness – enter a flow state. The zone. The neural circuits can run without the conscious mind being present. Perception is heightened, things slow down and things become more vivid, stop thinking and start just doing. Free of thought and struggle
The hidden parts of the brain can take control of our body’s and shape our lives in more profound ways
Freud pioneered studies about what’s beneath consciousness
By watching what’s happening above the surface, you get a peak at what is happening below it
Unconscious shapes thoughts and behaviour
Eckhart Hess in the 1960’s ran an experiment showing faces and asked questions about how friendly, how attractive this person was. The images were the same women but with dilated eyes – men found the women with dilated eyes more attractive. Brains were analysing details and acting on them, without the men’s conscious awareness
Warm coffee =closer relationship, harsh smelling environment = harsher moral decisions, sat next to hand sanitizer = shifts political opinions to a more conservative stance (less outside threats)
So why aren’t we just unconscious beings?
What is the point of consciousness?
Because conscious mind deals with unexpected situations, to make sense of a new situation. When expectations are violated, consciousness is woken up. It also plays a vital role in dealing with problems in internal sub-systems.
Conscious is like a CEO, rising above the daily routines to take an oversight role. If you’re hungry but on a diet, your conscious mind tries to work out what’s best and make an executive decision. It has a unique vantage point. Consciousness is a way for individual cells to view themselves as a unified whole. It is a long term planner
If consciousness goes completely offline: like a blackout, sleepwalking. Walking involuntarily and doing actions without conscious awareness
Unconscious brains steer our behaviour
Why do we all do different things, behave in unique ways?
Genes also play a part in behaviour. The Y chromosome (males) makes men more prone to violence, environment also affects genes, what happens to us and impacts on genes
Culture, ideas, belief systems, environment all interact with our genes
Do you have free-will of any kind?
We think when we choose to do something we are in control, and get to decide, but science can’t find evidence for this
Example – TMS causes participants movements, but the participants thought it was due to their own free-will. The conscious mind is good at telling itself that it made a choice when it hasn’t
If there is no free-will, it is still hard to make predictions, because one thing effects something else which effects something else and has a knock on effect and the outcome of all those interactions, results in there being no way of knowing the outcome (ping pong ball into a tank with other ping pong balls)
Conscious experience is only a tiny part of what makes us, us. Our inner space is vast, a reflection of the universe perhaps
Decision making processes
Our brains are constantly making decisions, we are aware of some, however most of which, we are not
Decision making allows us to navigate through life and has led us to where you are now
Making choices, looking at options, results in us being constantly in a state of conflict, do this, do nothing or do that
Why do you choose one over the other, for example, eat yoghurt or not?
These rivalries are internal, different networks competing against one another
Example – The word “Blue” in orange colour is confusing. The colour network, competing with the word network
Example – Alien hand syndrome
The struggle that is waged inside our head every day. Two systems that come into conflict REASONS versus EMOTIONS
Example; 4 men on track, out of control carriage heading their way, either move lever to divert onto different route but will kill one (most choose to move lever and kill one but save four), or second scenario, push a man into path of carriage to stop it, killing one to save 4 men (most can’t purposely push man to save 4)
Warfare, long range strike, removes the emotion and makes it easier to do
Why do we have emotional system?
When things go wrong, easy to see what might be happening, for example – Lady who can’t make decisions after having accident and damage to brain, doesn’t care to be able to differentiate between options and this frustrates her
Emotion is a necessary component of decision making, can’t decide on one choice over other, doesn’t care for one over the other
Need to value one option over the other. If you don’t care it can be hard, so need emotions to help out in the decision making process
Emotions important for making decisions
Emotions also interact with our physiology, which allow us to put a value on a choice
This conversation between body and brain is going on all the time
React physically first (heart rate increase, dilated pupils, empty bladder) when facing a threat
Hunches start before rational brain kicks in as proven by “Iowa gambling test”. Feeling/intuition spots the fact that cards from stack A and C are more rewarding/lucrative
Hunches pick up after 10 cards have been selected, conscious rational brain at 20 cards, as proven by sweat glands showing signs of negative reaction to picking from wrong stack
Hunches are the rational brain catching up with emotional brain and physiology
Ego depletion – running down on energy, needed by the pre frontal cortex which effects decision making as shown in test of judges making decisions before lunch of guilty and less so after lunch
Example lap dancers earned more when ovulating. Estrogen effects how the ladies appear to men, softer skin etc and these are picked up by the men who give them more money
Why do you stay with a partner – Oxytocin, strengthens the bond we feel when in a relationship and makes other competitors less attractive. Brains preconditioned decision to keep couples together for sake of offspring
Some choices are made by our DNA, which are inherited from parents. Some basic responses are predetermined
Example -The greater the disgust response to images shown, the more likely you are to vote conservative within the next 6 months, the less of an adverse response the more likely to vote liberal they are. This was tested by the responses in nervous system after showing gross images to participants
How do we make choices about future decisions?
We run simulations of the future and give each a value. 10 units for this, 5 units for that, 50 units for the other and we keep re-evaluation options. A best guess of the future outcomes. Our Dopamine system is what is used to change the value of things based of our latest experience of it. If better than expected, evaluation goes up, if worse than expected goes down.
When Dopamine goes out of control can lead to addiction. We can lose control of our impulses
Example – Sub-prime disaster shows how we can lose control. The pull of the now outweighs consequences in the future. The future is just an idea of what might be. The here and now has much more psychological pull. The present versus future conflict.
We rely on will-power to keep us in check, but will-power gets used up and when it’s in short supply we give in to temptations or distractions or just give up altogether, if what we’re doing is hard
We use will-power up like a tank of gas
Ulysses contract – social pressure to keep us on track, and bind oneself in the future
Example: addiction – Suppress on one side and crave on the other, and the conflict and balance between the two, learning to find strategies to move the balance to increase suppression over any cravings. Move away from being a slave to our impulses
What does a brain need to be healthy?
Nutrients from food, oxygen and OTHER PEOPLE
Our brains are wired to work together
We are fundamentally social creatures
The most basic encounter relies of trust – buying from a shop
Much of our brain activity is dedicated to communication with each other
We try to impress each other and exchange ideas
Example – Easy to form stories from simple shapes on a screen interacting
We look for intention and relationships all around us
We navigate the world around us by judging others’ actions
Example – Babies (with little life experience) make judgements on teddies that are either mean or nice, based on instinct, not just by what has been learned
Many regions of the brain are used in social interaction, this is less defined in people who suffer from Autism, resulting in social integration problems
Example – Harvard medical school did a test on a patient who suffered from autism, after being given TMS targeting different parts of his brain. When they did it to the Dorsolateral Prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for abstraction, he became able to read people, where he couldn’t before, and this was completely by accident, and it never went away
Movement in facial muscles can be read in milliseconds and we subtly mirror what we see
Mirroring happens because it allows us to identify the emotion in others, and read other people. People with Botox are not able to mirror expressions and as a result, correctly identify the other person’s emotion as accurately
When we go to the movies, we know what we are seeing is actually make-believe, yet we still react emotionally to what we see. This is because the pain matrix is activated in us and empathy for others is triggered, we kind of feel their pain. We are able to step into their shoes as if it were us. This is hard-wired into us
If the brain is starved of human contact we may go into an animal like state, pacing. Then into a plant like state, mind slows down and becomes repetitive. The brain turns on itself and becomes a source of deep psychological pain
It creates a reality from the scant sensory input, and makes up stories
The world around you is part of who you are, in a vacuum you lose a sense of who you are
When we feel excluded, the pain matrix is activated. Social rejection is so meaningful it hurts
Our Brain pushes us in the direction of bonding with others. We seek out alliances, a sense of connection
We strive to work in groups
There is also a flip side to this, where there are in-groups there are outsiders, such as Jews in the war
How can the social orientated brain suddenly change into something that can cause genocide? Germany, Bosnia where neighbours killed one another
What is going on here? How can this happen?
Such occurrences keep happening throughout history. We need to understand genocide as a neural phenomenon
Where there is separation between in-groups and out groups our brains are changed and this effects how we respond to other people’s pain if they are perceived as in the outgroup. What team are you on?
Networks in prefrontal cortex become active when we interact with others, in psychopaths (who make up a small percentage of the population) this is less so, and with those involved in genocide, who are just everyday people, they dehumanise their victims, seeing them rather like viewing inanimate objects. And group behaviour amplifies this to a greater extent, like group contagion
Propaganda plays into this by dehumanising the enemy to appear like animals
Example the school children experiment where children were separated into blue and brown eyed children. Putting blue eyed children on top and reversing the day after. The children’s behaviour dramatically changed towards their friends. This changed them forever experiencing both sides of the coin. They realised systems of rules can be arbitrary
What’s next for our brains, what will we be capable of?
Who will we be?
We’re marrying our biology with our technology
Plasticity – example Cameron Mot started having drop seizures, and had the diseased part of her brain removed to try and eradicate it. An entire half of her brain had been effected by the disease. With the loss of all that brain tissue, she has only slight weakness on one side, but not much else. Her brain has overcome the loss of brain tissue, through plasticity
All incoming information, through eyes, ears, nose or via touch, is turned into electro chemical signals. The brain makes sense of any input, even through cochlear implants. As long as the input is consistent, the brain will figure out how to use it
It doesn’t matter how signals find their way to the brain, it will figure it out over time. There is no limit to the sensory expansion that we can create. The brains capacity to take on new inputs, we should be able to expand the experience of being human
We are not confined to the transitional senses
There is no limit to what the brain can incorporate
How we sense the world is only half the story, the other half is how we interact with it
Paralysed woman who’s brain is unable to communicate with her body, is making use of robotics to connect her brain with a robot arm, just by thinking about it. There’s a direct physical link between her robot arm and brain
Not just replacing limbs, but improving them, and expanding our capabilities and expanding the body
What if technology could address our mortality?
When we die all our knowledge and information is lost
We might be coming to a time where we could take the information from a dead brain and interact with it again, giving the dead a chance to live again
Cryonic suspension to preserve brains and bodies
Other ways to access the information from a dead brain, to be able to read it out directly
Map out all the huge, and unique connections which underlies all its functions – known as “The Connectome”. Like a wiring diagram
Slicing thin slices of brain onto surface of water, each slice pushing the last, like a conveyer belt, into strips, then scanned by electron microscope and magnified hundreds of thousands of times, and then stacking on top of each other and following the neurons through the images to make a 3D model, mapping all the wiring that underpins the brains thought, experiences and beliefs. This would be a zedobyte of data, more than all the current worlds data.
But the time might come when computing power isn’t an issue
The computational hypotheses – hypotheses if the wet biological part of the brain is not what’s important it’s the connection and interaction that’s important, we could run digitally. It’s not what the mind is, it’s what the brain does.
Creating models based on biological data, to create a simulation of a human brain – could the mind live in a computer
Create machines that think via AI. Proven to be extremely difficult. The goal of a sentient machine is still to be achieved. Machine learning, like babies to be able to learn, without being pre programmed. With each interaction it learns and builds on its knowledge
Lines of code, instead of chain/train of thought. In 1980’s John Surril came up with a thought experiment, called the Chinese room. You are locked in room, outside is someone who only speaks Chinese, you in the room have a book that match Chinese symbols, the Chinese person posts messages to you, you look up the answer, matching the symbols, and post back the matched reply, to Chinese speaker. The Chinese person thinks they are having a conversation with someone that speaks Chinese. But I the operator, don’t understand Chinese. The argument goes, this is how a computer is, just manipulating symbols and following instructions, it doesn’t understand
This exposes the difficulties and the mystery of how physical pieces and parts comes to equal our experience of being in the world
Looking at the natural world, such as Ants we see how the individuals contribute to a larger organism as the colony. They work individually but all for the common good. Relying of chemical signals from other local ants, when isolated they are very ineffective. The ants work as a system, no one ant sees the bigger picture, but it works as a super organism.
Emergent properties. This is thought to be how neurons work, being embedded in a network, reacting to local signals. Enough of them working together and the mind emerges into consciousness.
Maybe they need to interact in specific ways to be effective
When you wake up in the morning, beforehand there is nothing when you awake there is everything
When asleep the strand of activity is restricted, when awake the activity is much more widespread, experiences are bound together a composite of numerous possibilities. Consciousness may come from these patterns of interaction
Building consciousness on different media is still in the realms of science fiction, but the possibilities are still there
When we imagine simulated life the choices are endless, and what we are experiences of life now might be it. It is difficult to disprove it. How can we ever know what we are experiencing is reality?
There is some “me” at the centre of this, trying to figure it out. I’m thinking about it, and therefore “I am”
We might be at the point of an evolutionary leap, transformed beyond what has ever been done before
There are WINNERS and LOSERS in every situation. Mentally position yourself to WIN. Be a PREDATOR of chance rather than a VICTIM of circumstance.
Victims blame and complain. When they pass the buck they also unwittingly pass the power to help themselves, to find a way, to make things happen. Instead take responsibility, don’t look outside yourself for answers, all you need to conquer is within you – It’s fear, fear of loss, failure, defeat, disappointment.
When you look differently at things, things look different. Change yourself and things change. To have more you have to be more.
These are not just sound bites, they are truths.
Using COPING STRATEGIES helps elevate internal dissonance but coping strategies are often used as coping excuses. Excuses to be able to accept failure, to be okay with not following through on plans towards goals. If you’re not moving goal bound ask yourself why not. Somethings getting in your way and it’s most likely to be you. Figure yourself out by improving self awareness; ask yourself why you do what you do and don’t so what you don’t do. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses so that you can chart an effective plan of attack.
These are just a few of the key elements to enable you to get results. Sign up for our newsletter and check out the underlying framework we use to get results and find success.
THOUGHT is the key driver of ACTION and BEHAVIOUR. Another way of saying this is we do things based on our thought processes.
THOUGHTS either made up of fleeting distractions that pass through our minds briefly, and while we may question their origin, they have very little impact on our daily lives, or thoughts that repeatedly replay over and over, which wear grooves into our psyche, otherwise known as pathways into the neural network of our brains, forming what we often describe as BELIEFS and VALUES.
These beliefs and values become the RULES we operate against. To implement rules we have to make JUDGMENTS, deciding if something is right or wrong, good for us or bad, whether we do it or not etc.
Understanding how thoughts impact behaviour; what we do, or don’t do, why we do something or don’t do something, is vitally important, because they directly impact the quality of our decision-making and subsequently the quality of our lives. Self awareness is so important in this respect.
The difficulty with scrutinising our psychological mechanisms is that we may be forced to confront things we’re not particularly comfortable with confronting. We may have to admit our shortcomings, our weaknesses, or vulnerabilities, which goes against how our brains are wired and how we are conditioned, which is to always be looking to increase our sense of value, to be more than we were yesterday, to be better, more valuable.
In reality, knowing the hard-to-admit shortcomings of our makeup frees us to move forwards more effectively, we can plan the best path towards our goals, knowing where we need help from others, or through training, and what we should focus on by doing what we do best, what comes more naturally to us and what aligns with our inner workings.
We have BELIEFS and VALUES which are predominately made up from, ASSUMPTIONS, INFERENCES and the TESTIMONY of others, and often have little to do with facts, or being backed by evidence. We should question such BELIEFS and VALUES. Where do they come from? Well generally they come from social and cultural conditioning, they are less about what we want and more about what the world around us wants from us. Are they based on truth and fact or are they just a convincing story we tell ourselves repeatedly? Are they an attempt to increase our sense of self?
Your SENSE OF SELF, is that bit of you that attaches to and emotionally invests in thoughts, possessions, people, cultural and social ideas and affiliations, so as to increase your own value. At some level, you believe having more makes you more, but this is a lie.
Learn more about the EQUATION OF EMOTION which will help you with dealing with EXPECTATIONS, PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY, ATTACHMENTS. For more about it, click here.
Change EXPECTATIONS to APPRECIATION. Nothing is promised. Lose that sense of entitlement you might have. Be grateful for each day, which is a gift. If you find this hard to believe, go to your local hospice and spend time with people that are living on borrowed time, to help you get a better perspective and appreciation of what’s really important.
Question your PERCEPTIONS OF REALITY. Change the story you tell yourself. Choose a different narrative because none of it is based on fact anyway, so make it empowering so it serves you.
Let go of ATTACHMENTS. They are designed to increase your sense of self, but in reality, you are not your attachments. Also be careful of SEPARATION because this too is an attempt to increase your sense of self, by lowering the “other” and thus rising above the “other”.
Bring awareness to your IDENTIFICATION WITH THOUGHT (EGO) processes. You are not your thoughts, and your thoughts are not who you are. You are not separate from the universe of formless or form, you are in integral part of life. Also stop using this moment as a stepping stone to the future and to relive the past, instead fully engage with the here and now because it is the only access point we have to engage with life.
You can see that there is more to THOUGHTS and THINKING than initially meets the eye. Thoughts are so integral to the way we live life. Mastering thoughts and the thinking process, helps master life. We can’t control external elements or other people, but we can control our thoughts, our reactions to events and situations. We can make better quality decisions, less influenced by emotions and emotional reactions, we can approach situations from a different, more empowering perspective, with a different interpretation than we had before.
It’s an interesting read and builds on the idea of using the WHY, WHAT IF, HOW questioning system, which I love, because it encourages expansive thinking.
I’ve used questions a lot in my life, in fact my wife is forever warning me to stop asking so many damn questions, particularly when we meet new people. I must admit, I do ask lots of questions, but not for any other reason than because I’m deeply interested in people and what makes them tick.
Maybe that’s why questions aren’t asked so much by many adults, we get used to adults telling us, as kids, to shut up and stop asking them.
There is no doubt in my mind that question are a gateway to finding things out. I ask my wife about things from her past, about where she lives and what she did, and what other people in her life did etc. It surprises me how little she actually knows about a lot of people she has shared her life with.
Now don’t get me wrong, people have a right to privacy, they don’t owe anyone else an explanation. I don’t mind people telling me to keep my nose out of their business, but I do believe that questions provide us with an opportunity to get to know others on a much deeper level.
People often seem content with superficial conversation about what they watched on TV the night before and what such-a-person is doing or saying. Gossip can be quite interesting sometimes, although I try to keep away from it where possible, mainly because I don’t want to be viewed by others as a gossip.
However that level of conversation doesn’t really connect people to others, it doesn’t tell you much about who they are, apart from that they too like a bit of gossip or in some cases, thrive on spreading it, which gives a deeper insight into their personality, I guess.
Questions are also great for learning about ourselves, increasing self awareness. We may ask ourselves, why we do what we do and don’t do what we don’t do. What’s driving our behaviour? The answer’s, if given with honesty, can be very revealing. Sometimes people don’t ask these kind of questions, because they don’t want to know or admit to themselves, the answers.
It is surprising how much of what we do and don’t do is conditioned into us by social persuasion, often referred to as social conditioning. Conditioning is drilled into us throughout the duration of our lives, but particularly as young children, when we are particularly susceptible.
Questions are also a great way to spark ideas and innovation. Moving us away from the thought processes and work practices we have historically been accustomed to and instead opening up the opportunity to do them differently, and to find a better way. Why do we do it this way? What if we could do it that way instead? and then figuring out the HOW from that perspective.
Personally I like to use the following questions to remind me about not falling into the trap of doing anything that would be wasteful, unimportant or unfulfilling, when I would be better doing something else instead. I find it’s a great productivity tool. The questions should be asked in order.
Why am I doing this, at all? What is my goal?
for example is it to make money, because it’s interesting to me, is it to gain or avoid something (such as not getting left behind or being able to add value to others). You should seriously consider this question and try to unlock your big WHY. This will help with the remaining questions. Use the 5 why’s method of questioning to dig deeper, so each answer you come up with, is followed by another why, do this, you guessed it 5 times. Doing this delves down to the emotional background driving forces of your thoughts and actions, and gives you an opportunity to question these.
What is the opportunity cost of doing it? What else could I be
doing instead? Doing anything means not doing something else, both in terms of time constraints and economics, so consider what you’re missing out not doing. Remember time is the one resource we can’t recoup, once it’s spent.
Is it worth the opportunity cost?
Is there a better way of achieving my goal, instead of doing this?
What other alternatives are available? Consider as many as you can!
I recently commented on a post, that talked about how even people who believe themselves to be ENTITLED are often attached to beliefs, because they have invested a sense of themselves in these beliefs, and when challenged can become aggressive, and closed off to competing narratives, because defeat would somehow make them feel their sense of self to be less.
This is important because this mental positioning is what leads mankind into conflict and ultimately war. Now I’m not saying we are all capable of killing others to defend our beliefs, but given the right circumstance it is possible that even so called level headed, model citizens are capable of contributing to unimaginable things. Mankind’s history is littered with examples. World War 2 for instance, is often blamed on the Nazi party under Hitler, but we have to remember that German people voted him into power, because they believed his rhetoric, and the narrative that Jewish people where the problem.
The following conversation ensued, I thought I would make a post about it, because this is a good illustration of what happens when you attach to beliefs, now there’s no chance of this escalating into war or anything so extreme, but it hopeful shows how division starts, because one person feels threatened by the ideas of another, because they are invested in their beliefs..
Me: A belief in anything risks investing yourself in it. As soon as anyone feels the need to defend their belief they have probably gone too far.
Other: But what good is a belief if you are unwilling to defend it? I don’t ask anyone to become a Buddhist or think the same, but if they challenge my core beliefs, such as work telling me to take a sentient life, I will defend my beliefs to the end.
Me: and there lays the Ego dilemma. It is for the individual to pick their own path, but as long as you choose to defend your beliefs you automatically invest yourself in them. This is Ego at work. Beliefs forge separation (from contradictory beliefs) and form attachment (to the belief), both are designed by the Ego to make yourself more, because the more you have the more you are. Why would a person need to be more, if you were truly enlightened? I’m open to contradictory views, I don’t invest myself in this way of thinking, it’s just the best explanation available to me at this moment.
Other: this is not allowing another to breach my beliefs. It has nothing to do with ego. There is nothing wrong with belief and faith. It is what makes us spiritual and follow an ethical path. Without belief we are nihilists.
Me: I’m just saying we should be open to the possibility we might be wrong. Seeking the truth, rather than settling for something that could be wrong, and closing ourselves off from the truth.
Other: why do you assume that I have not investigated multiple beliefs and religions? I do not create my beliefs out of just accepting what my parents told me. If I did, I would be a Christian. I take refuge in the three jewels because of my investigation into truth and logic. Yes I am invested in my beliefs.
Me: I’m not assuming anything, I’m not judging you in anyway. You commented on my comment. I hope what you believe serves you, but that alone doesn’t make it THE TRUTH, but it is your best guess, as is my view for me.
Me: Many beliefs are built on assumptions, inferences and the testimony of others, rather than FACT. What actual facts back up your beliefs? (that is a rhetorical question, I don’t expect you to list them) but ask yourself this question for every belief you hold. We all should do this. Many of the BIG questions we have about life, can’t be proven as fact, there is often a lot of faith involved, so they are effectively guesses, we hold to be the truth.
Now I wasn’t trying to be a smart ass in this conversation, or attack the other persons beliefs, but he or she seemed to take it that way to some degree and the impression I got (which is often difficult to accurately gauge via a text only medium) is that they were agitated by my comments just a little bit, and as a result felt a need to defend their position. The comment about Christians just believing what their parents told them, could be construed as a dig at a different belief system, but generally I think we both approached this conversation with a balanced view.
I dare say if I’d have framed my language more aggressively, and the other person, likewise, this could have got into something of a slanging match, like we see all too regularly on social media.
My comments during the short conversation weren’t a criticism of the other person but a general statement that all of us should be very wary that our beliefs don’t close us off to competing ideas. It’s like a barrier goes up and perceptions are closed down. I liken it to a child covering their ears and humming to prevent hearing what is being said.
Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone else, for defending my beliefs in the past. I now have a different view of them, or I could even say I have a different belief about beliefs. You can’t get away from holding beliefs, they’re kind of an anchor for us to build from.
The problem seems to come from investing yourself in them, as I said in the conversation above. But it is important to realise we often take what we need from our beliefs and ignore the rest. However this isn’t the best approach for uncovering THE TRUTH. Scientist generate an hypothese, and look to disprove it. The scientific approach prevents confirmation bias, and investment in the belief. It’s a best guess, until proven otherwise approach.
I have become very wary of anyone who says they have strong beliefs, that they would defend with their very lives, because I believe them.
I recently came across a question in a discussion group, which went..
“Attachments and expectations are the main reason for suffering and disappointment, It’s easy to say let go of attachments but how in ‘real’ life can we be without attachments and emotions, I mean not everybody can leave our loved ones in the midnight and go to a forest and just meditate under a tree, come on lets be practical, so my question is how to be like Buddha in this modern age?”
This is an interesting question, and one I’ve contemplated myself many times. The question misses something though. There is another element that is required for suffering to take place. As well as EXPECTATIONS and ATTACHMENTS you need PERCEPTION OF REALITY. These are all elements of what is known in spirituality circles as “THE PAIN GAP”, otherwise known as the EQUATION OF EMOTIONS. If we can change our perceptions, which are conditioned into us by the society we grow up in, we can break the pain gap. Our perceptions come from our beliefs and values, which are built on assumptions and inferences rather than facts and evidence. If you don’t believe me, question yourself about your own beliefs and values, where are they from, what are they based on?
As well as dealing with our perceptions of reality, we can work on reducing or removing our EXPECTATIONS for any given situation, whilst reducing or removing our ATTACHMENTS.
Rather than holding any EXPECTATIONS, we should instead embrace a sense of appreciation. Nothing in life is promised, so being grateful is a much healthy psychological position to take.
ATTACHMENTS are, by their very nature, impermanent. The life that you live, the house that you live in, the car that you drive, the relationships that you share, are all destined to end one day. Accepting this fact, while enjoying them while they last is much more pain free than refusing to accept the reality of the situation. Surrendering to WHAT IS, is the sensible thing to do.
If any one of these elements is resolved, PERCEPTION OF REALITY, EXPECTATIONS, or ATTACHMENTS, we can reduce or remove the pain gap (otherwise known as the equation of emotion), which will reduce or remove suffering from our lives.
However ultimately we should aim to do as Thrangu Rinpoche advises in Pointing Out the Dharmakaya.
“We cannot get rid of suffering by saying, “I will not suffer.” We cannot eliminate attachment by saying, “I will not be attached to anything,” nor eliminate aggression by saying, “I will never become angry.” Yet, we do want to get rid of suffering and the disturbing emotions that are the immediate cause of suffering.
The only way to eliminate suffering is to actually recognize the experience of a self as a misconception, which we do by proving directly to ourselves that there is no such personal self. We must actually realize this. Once we do, then automatically the misconception of a self and our fixation on that self will disappear. Only by directly experiencing selflessness can we end the process of confused projection.”
In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to get swept along with the emotion of circumstance. Sometimes there may be good days, other times, bad. Debts might be piling up in one corner of life, relationship problems in another, an upcoming holiday to look forward to elsewhere, which gives us a sense of hope.
We might feel we are finally getting somewhere, only to find the next moment pulls us back a dozen steps, like a frustrating game of snakes and ladders.
Society has conditioned us to be restless, we have been taught to strive for more if we want to be more. We are shown what could be, if we work hard enough and do what needs to be done, particularly in the accumulation of wealth and status.
If we’re lucky to climb a few rungs towards success, we might feel some sense of achievement, at least for a short while, but underneath it all there is usually a sense of “is this it?”
Well the pursuit of achievement is a fools errand, if you’re looking for fulfilment. You see achievement is conditional, it depends on something outside of yourself happening. Fulfilment is not at the end of this road, you will never find it beyond achievement or success, it’s somewhere else entirely, it’s inside you.
Jim Carrey, wearing his philosophy hat said “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
Something I discovered a while ago was to learn to look at life through fresh eyes, to strip away all the BS, and focus on the really important things, the things that matter, and what are they you may ask? Well a truly enlightened person would say, there isn’t anything that really matters, because everything you can engage or interact with is part of “form” which is by it’s very nature, fleeting and impermanent.
The house you live in, might be legally owned by you, but in reality, it’s not yours, it will pass to someone else at some point in the future, whether you like it or not. Same with the car in the driveway, and all of your possessions.
Even the relationships you currently enjoy, will pass over one day.
You can accumulate all the wealth in the world, a billion dollars if you like, but one day, that too will be gone from your possession, you can’t take it from this life. You can’t take any form beyond death.
In reality, you own nothing of form, and that shouldn’t really be a troubling thought, because, form doesn’t matter, in the great scheme of things, it just isn’t important. It’s within the realms of achievement.
So if achievement and the pursuit of form is a fools errand, what should we be focused on, what should we spend our attention on, where will we find fulfilment?
Well, EVERYTHING ELSE, is the answer, and what is everything else, when you take away FORM, which is the physical world? Eckhart Tolle would answer… THE FORMLESS. The formless that allows form to be, after all, without space, the planets could not orbit, without the observer of form, form could not be.
Space, the formless is not something you can see or touch, that is the problem for many, they only believe what they can see, touch and prove, everything else is seen as fantasy.
At the same time, we are happy to be completely controlled, directed and driven by THOUGHT, we “think” more than we do anything else. We incessantly talk to ourselves in our heads, reliving past glories, re-running past arguments, projecting future scenarios, telling ourselves stories of this and that. We use thoughts to work things out, to make sense of things, and to find answers. Yet thoughts can’t be touched or seen in the material world, yet they exist without doubt. But thought are not formless in the sense that, we should be focusing our attention on them, in fact, we should be spending less time than we do in thought, particularly emotionally driven thought that we invest in, with our sense of self.
We should use thought, and not be used by it. It’s a kind of form focused formless ability that we have, but it’s not who we are. Thought is in fact a barrier to finding who or what we really are. Take BELIEFS, which are really just rigid thought patterns; we hold onto them, defend them, fight for them, even kill for them. They are our beliefs and they matter to us. In reality most beliefs are built on assumptions and inferences, rather than evidence and fact. Go through your beliefs, write them down, then ask yourself where they come from, what are they based on? Show me the evidence of your convictions.
Beyond THOUGHT and beyond FORM is where we should be focusing attention, it’s the space and formless that flows through us, and everything else in the world, this is where fulfilment can be found, it’s in us, everyone of us. We are connected by the space between objects, between planets. It weaves its way through and around all form, allowing all form to be, we are that space, we exist in it, we are part of it, we experience it through CONSCIOUSNESS, which is attention in the moment. You can find it when you rise above thought and above form or at least the thought of form.
From consciousness, you can enjoy form, play with form, appreciate form, but are not burdened by being tethered to it.
From consciousness you can use thought to navigate the world of form, but are not used by it. There is a big difference.
In the realm of consciousness, fear does not exist, because fear is part of thought, and part of form. If the real you is formless, what have you got to fear?
So in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to get swept along with the emotion of circumstance. Sometimes there may be good days, other times, bad. Debts might be piling up in one corner of life, relationship problems in another, an upcoming holiday to look forward to elsewhere, which gives us a sense of hope. But none of that really matters does it?
I Grew up thinking strong beliefs and convictions were a sign of strength, but having become more spiritual over recent years I’m more aligned to the school of thought that thinks belief systems are more of a hindrance than a help.
We shape our sense-of-self through our beliefs. They become part of us and how we see ourselves in the world.
We have a tendency to look for confirmation of our own beliefs and any opinions that flow from them. Confirmation is designed to uphold our sense-of-self. We may even go as far as to defend our beliefs with our very own live’s. How many have died to defend their belief systems, history is littered with examples.
Surely we would be better advised to do as science does, and formulate a hypothesis which we then try to disprove. This approach frees us from beliefs supported by nothing more than assumptions and inferences and ensures we only believe things backed by actual evidence and facts.
What beliefs do you hold with any kind of conviction, and what evidence supports them? Is it a belief built from the testimony of experts? If so, what evidence supports what the expert is telling you, and has this evidence been interpreted without personal bias and preference by the expert that promotes it? You may find much of what you believe or have heard from others to be made up of a great deal of inference and assumption, on your part and theirs.
So what can you believe? Even personal past experiences can be unreliable. For instance memories can be mistaken, if you could meet yourself at different ages memories would likely to be different in each of yourselves at different ages.
When we experience an event we use all our senses woven together with our internal model of the world to make up that experience and as the memory gets older it becomes less vivid, and subsequent events can supersede it and affect how we feel about it.
It’s even possible to implant completely false memories, if plausible enough. In a past experiment, a participant was told they had been lost in a mall as a child, and after the passing of some time, more and more detail began to creep into the false memory. The participant embellished the false memory, because as humans we are very imaginative storytellers, and we are all capable of doing this.
Our memory of the past is not a faithful record, it’s a reconstruction, a mythology. Our memories are not particularly reliable because they don’t just record what happens, they allows us to simulate what is coming next. It is a narrative that links the past with the future, so that we can work out what we need to do tomorrow.
Also past experience doesn’t necessarily predict the future. People’s behaviour is greatly influenced by their environment and circumstances far more than we give credit for, and we’re not always privy to the underlying context of other people’s behaviour, we may just be witness to the resulting actions. We then build a narrative around this behaviour which says more about what’s going on inside us, rather than anything else. We kind of project our thoughts on to what others are doing and believe this to be the other person’s truth.
So maybe we should all be more skeptical about our own beliefs and opinions, and those of other people as well, I’ve learned to do what the wise man does and question everything, and believe nothing at face value because this actually leaves us more open to alternative ideas, methods of thinking and doing as well as different approaches to living life. We also become more tolerant and empathetic as a result.
You might think the opposite would be true, that skepticism closes you off to new ideas, when in fact holding rigid beliefs does that far more effectively. When you have a fixed mental position, you will reject anything that counters that position, because your sense-of-self depends on it.
Don’t invest anything of yourself into ideas, beliefs and opinions, stay clear of convictions and be open to provable evidence and facts, and even then be wary of any possible misinterpretation of these.
Remember what the famous quote says; “The more I know the more I realise how little I actually know.”
I recently came across a post on Facebook that read..
“If you want to feed the homeless than feed the homeless. But the moment you post it on social media you’re also feeding the Ego.”
To be honest it’s one of several with similarly framed messages, that I’ve seen recently and judging by the comments it can easily be taken as a message of criticism towards individuals that broadcast their activities of goodness.
Let’s just check we’re on the same page of what is meant by the Ego. The Ego is the unobserved mind, it’s the illusion that our thoughts are who we are, they are us. I describe this as an illusion, because thoughts are just thoughts, they are not us. They are fearful, irrational and conditioned, they are based largely on assumptions and inferences and while they can be used as a very effective tool, they are very destructive masters, if we blindly follow them. For more about the Ego check out our spirituality guide.
Now back to the post, I prefer to believe it’s a reminder, a double check to make sure the Ego is not taking over the intentions of such individuals. It’s an opportunity to bring AWARENESS to the situation, rather that blindly feeding the Ego’s sense of self, which isn’t particularly healthy.
Spreading positive vibes is a good thing, I’d like to see more of it. We are bombarded through the media with negative events, after all we’re genetically wired to be interested in bad news to ensure our own survival if we ever find ourselves in similar circumstances in the future.
Also seeing people doing good deeds can act to inspire others to do the same, and that’s no bad thing. Goodwill can be contagious, it reminds us that giving, and helping are spiritually good for us.
Feeding the Ego, by doing good deeds, isn’t bad in itself either, we can use the Ego to provide motivation for us to do THE RIGHT THING. In such circumstances we can use the Ego as a motivational tool, rather than allowing it to inflate itself without us knowing that it’s actually doing so.
Bringing AWARENESS to the situation gives us space to observe the Ego inflating our sense of self. If you realise this is why you’re doing it, if it feels good and your sense of self feels better for it, you’re using the Ego, rather than being used by it, there’s a world of difference in that space between observer and intention. This becomes an opportunity for spiritual practice while at the same time helping others, and what can be bad about that. I say, long may it continue.