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What You Think Is Not My Business

Even if it’s about me.

My business is what I can do something about. I can’t control what you think.

All I can really control in this moment is what I think. And I can’t really even control that. Sometimes I can influence it. I can decide which thoughts to believe and which to let go of as they arise unbidden. I can’t control what my next thought will be, I can only watch for it and decide whether to believe it when it gets here.

 
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Posted by on 2015/11/30 in Uncategorized

 

The Feeling is the Payoff

free-money

What do you want? A new car? A new house? A new job? More money?

Whatever it is, it’s not really what you want. What you really want is the feeling you think those things will give you. All we ever really want is a feeling.

Consider: if you had the feeling already, would you care about actually acquiring the thing? If you felt the security and abundance of wealth, would you care what the number on your bank account actually was? And if you don’t feel wealthy, even if you have ten million dollars in the bank, it’s not enough.

So where do feelings come from? They come from our thoughts — the ideas that we consistently hold and believe over time. My thoughts tell me what events mean and my feelings automatically flow from those assumed meanings.

If I think bedtime means I have to stop playing, I’ll feel sad and angry and I may throw a temper tantrum.

If I think bedtime means I get to rest when I’m tired, I’ll feel grateful and happy and go to bed without resistance. Same circumstance, different thoughts, different feelings, different behaviors, different outcomes.

If I think money in the bank means I can go shopping, I’ll feel excited and happy. I’ll go to the store and spend the money. Then I may have thoughts and feelings about having no money in the bank.

If I think money in the bank means I’m building my wealth, I’ll feel happy, I’ll avoid spending money unnecessarily, and over time I’ll have more money in the bank. Same circumstance, different thoughts, different feelings, different outcomes.

If I go to visit my parents thinking, “They’re so old and out of touch. They don’t understand me. They have nothing to do with me. They’re boring,” I’ll feel bored and alienated. I won’t want to listen to them while I’m with them. I’ll leave as soon as I can. My relationship with my parents will be weakened.

If I go to visit my parents thinking, “I wonder what they’re up to these days. I wonder what I can do to help them. I hope they’re healthy and happy,” I’ll feel interested and curious to see them, hear them tell me their stories about their doings, share my stories with them, and do what I can to help them out. We’ll have a nice visit and our relationship will be strengthened. Same circumstance, different thoughts, different feelings, different outcomes.

In each case, it’s the thinking that makes the difference.

 
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Posted by on 2015/11/29 in Uncategorized

 

Think. Feel. Act. Have.

The first person I heard put those words together was Byron Katie. At the time, I failed to appreciate the full significance of this model of how life works. It wasn’t until I recently read Brooke Castillo’s explication of the idea in her book Self Coaching 101 that the full potential of the model became clear to me. Thanks, Brooke!

Actually, Brooke precedes “Think” with “Circumstance” because it’s often the circumstances of our lives that provoke thoughts. And often those thoughts are punitive or painful, leading to feelings we don’t like, actions (behavior) that don’t serve us, and outcomes we regret.

Brooke defines circumstance as “something you cannot directly control in this moment.” (emphasis in original)

I notice that the only think I have any influence over at all in this moment is what I think about whatever is going on. With the right thoughts now, I might be able to affect future moments, but this one now is already “in the can” as it were, out of my reach. It is what it is. So I have no leverage over current circumstance.

Feelings are automatic. I have tried to manufacture feelings before with a complete lack of success. I can’t make myself feel an emotion simply by trying. I have noticed, when feeling angry, that if I focus on the feeling, it fades. If I focus on what I’m feeling angry about (a thought), the feeling persists. So I can’t produce feelings directly, but thinking the right thought will generate a feeling.

It seems like I choose my actions, so it seems like I should have some leverage at “Act”. Maybe I do. But I notice that my past efforts to achieve outcomes by controlling my behavior have by and large not been successful. Sooner or later, I have to let go of my rigid control because I get tired or my feelings of deprivation overwhelm the willpower I’m exerting to avoid an undesired behavior or force myself into some activity that doesn’t interest me.

“Have” is the outcome that flows from my actions, my behavior. It turns into my circumstance for the next iteration of the model. It triggers more thoughts which, negative or positive, helpful or painful, lead to more feelings, more behavior, and further outcomes. The outcome is an automatic consequence of the behavior.

So the only place I have a real chance to affect the flow and generate lasting change is at “Think”. To do so, I have to watch my thoughts closely and notice how they condition and shape the downstream feelings, how the feelings generate the behaviors, and how the behaviors produce the outcomes. Then I need to consider which thoughts will lead to feelings, behaviors, and outcomes I like better than the ones I’m getting.

If I’m happy with how I feel, what I’m doing, and the outcomes I’m getting, I’m already done. Nothing more is needed. In any situation, the feeling is the payoff. The only reason for ever changing anything is because I don’t like how what I’ve got feels.

 
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Posted by on 2015/11/28 in Uncategorized

 

Salvation. Liberation. Enlightenment.

Whatever you want to call it. Awakening. Realizing the Nature of Things.

It’s what we all ultimately want — the ability to live in a comfortable and satisfying way, help and care for those we love, shrug off the shit that life dishes out, and carry on with aplomb and a modicum of enthusiasm.

Religion tells you that you can’t get it on your own, that you have to have Jesus’ or Mohammed’s or Buddha’s help. Never mind that those very guides taught responsibility and thinking for oneself (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Subsequent interpreters, clergy, theologians, imams, Zen masters, and grand poobahs will tell you that you need their interpretations to really understand what the heavies said.

I say you don’t need the interpreters or the heavies. Life shows you how it is to be lived. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Take care of things that need attention while they’re little and easy so they don’t get big and difficult. The universe is not about you — don’t take it personally, either the good stuff or the bad stuff. It’s just stuff.

Waking up (being liberated, being saved, enlightenment, etc.) is just a matter of recognizing that you are a process of awareness operating in a body. The body (with its brain) is the computer and you are the program running on it.

The physical matter that we can interact with is around 2% of the universe. No one knows what the rest of it is (yet — scientists are working on it). In one small, insignificant corner of space, a small fraction of this 2% has somehow organized itself into devices that have become aware of themselves, that can think  and dream and experience sensations and feelings. Whatever story you choose for explaining this to yourself (god, the big bang, elephants and turtles, whatever), that’s amazing and awesome!

Pay attention and enjoy the ride. As far as anyone has been able to find out, it’s one to a customer. Some of the stories claim there are repeats and/or an eternal life after this temporary one. Sadly, hard data to support such stories is lacking. So it behooves us to pay attention this time around and get the most out of it we can. The only time you can pay attention to is now. The only place you can pay attention to is here. Get to it.

 
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Posted by on 2014/08/09 in Uncategorized

 

No Silver Bullets

From The Runner’s World Complete Guide to Minimalism and Barefoot Running:

The basic premise of this book is that minimalism and barefoot running are means to an end. That end is running with better form and less injury, both of which should make you faster and help you enjoy your running more.

It’s important to keep this means-to-an-end framework in mind. Minimalism and barefoot running are tools, not magic bullets. As Jay Johnson, who has coached national champions, collegiate runners, and recreational runners, says, “I think most people want the easy fix. There’s no easy answer in running. Ever!”

That’s another way of saying that, in running, there are no secrets — either of modern elites or of supposedly lost tribes. There are, however, best practices worked out through experimentation by ambitious, experienced, open-minded runners. The distinction matters because secrets imply, “Do this one thing and everything will be fixed.” Best practices imply, “Here’s a process that you can implement to improve as a runner.”

“There are no secrets” also means keeping the importance of this or any aspect of running in perspective. There’s no one element of running that deserves obsessive focus while you underemphasize other contributor to successful running. What you have on your feet when you run matters a lot. So do a lot of other things: how much and how far you run, how strong and flexible you are, your diet, your running form, and how you spend your non-running time. Zealotry never works out over the long term in running.

I find this passage quite profound and not only with regard to running. My impression is that most of us do seem to want an easy fix that does not exist. There is no easy answer in any worthwhile endeavor, ever. Excellence is never achieved through silver bullets or magic wands or secret knowledge, only through persistent and intelligent practice, whether the field is running, nutrition, computer programming, investing, scientific research, customer service, overcoming addiction, or simply living one’s life well.

 
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Posted by on 2013/08/10 in Uncategorized

 

Hermit Time

A pattern I have noticed in myself over time is that I get involved with organizations or groups for a while and eventually withdraw from them. I’ve been involved in martial arts, healing practices (Reiki, Healing Touch), meditation groups, churches, and online forums and sooner or later found myself pulling away from these involvements.

One of my inner voices tells me that this pattern shows me to be inconsistent and unreliable. That could be I suppose. There have been times when I have not followed through on commitments as completely as I might wish. This point of view makes me never want to make commitments to avoid the seemingly inevitable lapse that eventually comes.

Another inner voice says it’s normal to try things out and withdraw from them after a while, when their time has passed. I might discover a new food, enjoy it for a while, then find I’m not enjoying it so much anymore and stop buying it. I might be interested in reading about physics for a while, then find after a few weeks that I’m ready for an action novel instead.

At this point in my life, I find myself wanting to withdraw from a number of “outer” involvements to focus more inwardly, to be quieter and calmer, to simplify and have more time for reading and reflection. I’m afraid some of my friends may be disappointed that I’m less available, but that may just be my egocentricity talking. 🙂 As I complete this post, I notice I’m feeling a sense of relief and freedom, and also some sadness.

It’s feeling like it’s time to be a hermit now, until the next cycle starts.

 
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Posted by on 2013/06/08 in Uncategorized

 

The Refuge of Experience

Remember the Native American legend of the good wolf and the evil wolf? The little boy asks his grandfather which one will win. Do you remember what the grandfather answers? “The one you feed.”

The implication is that we should feed one of the wolves and let the other starve. If we’re patient and consistent enough, eventually, we can eliminate the evil wolf and have only good.

In his teaching, Fred Davis (http://awakeningclarity.com) makes a distinction between thinking and experience. Experience can mean something we accumulate slowly over time. “She is very good at what she does because she has so much experience.” However, what Fred is talking about is what we might call momentary experience — the experience going on in this moment now.

In each moment, I can trust my thinking or I can trust my experience. If I go with my thinking, I wind up identified with the body/mind, separate, and sooner or later, suffering. When I go with experience, there’s peace, ease, aliveness, connection, and no problems. Only a thought can have a problem. When I catch myself having problems, that’s a clue that I’m identifying with the thinking and an opportunity to shift back to experience.

Which wolf will win? The one I feed more, certainly, but the thinking wolf has its uses. We don’t want to starve it to death. We just want to remember that we can always turn to the wolf of experience for a break from the responsibilities and problems and stresses the wolf of thought brings us.

It might be useful to notice that thought happens within experience. We can have experience without thought, but we can’t have thought without experience. Experiencing awareness has to be present before thought can happen. Moment by moment experience is primary and fundamental. Thought, sensation, everything happens only within that primary and fundamental experience.
 
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Posted by on 2013/04/06 in Uncategorized