Blog

When life is outa control

I love my students. I learn so much from them; they offer such novel ideas that I totally steal and mutilate, then pass on. Recently one mentioned that her life is “outa control!” which led to a conversation about what we can and can’t control. Physics demands that there is much (mostly all) that we can’t control. Just too many variables. So of course it got me thinking about what we can actually control. And here is what I came up with…

The three things in life that if you do not control them they will control you

  1. TIME. I am a time lord. Well, sort of. I do pretty much what I want when I want. Of course there are limitations (mostly financial) but I keep my own calendar and set my own schedule. As I am a slow learner I have to think back many years ago to a most amazing introduction. I met a guy whose business was buying up small businesses and optimizing them. He at the time owned I think like 42 different companies. How can one possibly do that?? Aside from his business acumen he did one thing: he took control of his calendar! He showed me his planner and it was fascinating. He literally had each day planned in detail, highlighted with different colors to indicate personal, business and family time. It was discipline at an extraordinary level (key word discipline!) He said that if someone wanted a meeting at say 10:30 on Tuesday he would (usually) say “I’m sorry, I have a previous commitment. I can speak with you for 15 minutes on Wednesday the __th at 3:15 pm at my office.” And if that didn’t work for you well too bad. He didn’t need the meeting, you did. What happened though is that he not only practiced the discipline, he also earned the right to via his success (also an expression of discipline.) As only a moderate tangent, the best voicemail message I ever heard was: “Hi, this is Doyle. Sorry I missed your call. If it’s important to you leave a message. If it’s important to me I’ll call you back.”  Hooee! I aspire to that level of obnoxiousness. Sort of…
  2. MONEY. If you don’t pay attention to your money it will wander off like a 5 year old at the park. I remember doing my taxes in like 2005 or something, and was aghast at the disparity between our income that year and what we had to show for it. WHERE DID IT GO?! Well, it wandered off. $50 here, $80 there. We gave generously to our church that year so that was something I suppose, but my wife wasn’t driving a Lexus, we hadn’t gone to Europe for vacation, and at that level of income that’s what folks do. Oh, and we ended up owing the gubmint a wee bit ‘o money… It sucked. I also recall working with a client years ago and hearing him complain that he was broke and couldn’t become who he wanted to be. So I had him give me 3 months worth of his bank statements and lo and behold he let it wander off, $1.19, $2.09 at a time (swipe swipe swipe of the card.) The only difference between he and I was where the decimal place was. And so it goes, the mindless swiping of the card whenever the mood or “need” strikes you, and off wanders your money. What to do? PAY ATTENTION! Saber and I teach the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class and the principles are spot on. The “Baby Steps” are simple and achievable but require discipline (that pesky word again.) I strongly encourage you to take the class or at least read the book. The Every Dollar app is excellent: you take your take-home income and spend it all on paper. Tell it where it’s going! Use cash whenever possible, STOP SWIPING! And if you really want to have some fun, go to an on-line compound interest calculator (like https://www.investor.gov/additional-resources/free-financial-planning-tools/compound-interest-calculator) and play around with it. Your mind will be blown when you see how just a few hundred bucks a month can turn into millions over time. OVER TIME! Slow and steady is the way to get rich. Apologies to the impatient out there…
  3. ATTENTION. You go where you look. You feed what you pay attention to. I have held forth on this before so I won’t belabor the ways to do it. Suffice it to say that the intentional control of your attention is the most important discipline you can work on. The previous two will fall into line when you control what you pay attention to! The vast majority of people in the world have no sense of themselves outside their emotional awareness. Judgmental perhaps but the evidence is there. War, famine, greed, ignorance. All have their roots in the (childish) emotional mind. Fear, impatience, selfishness, the same. Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” One cannot examine their life and the patterns therein without the ability to control attention; the emotional mind will drag you off and stick your head in a bucket of suck (the propaganda of the mind) and you won’t learn anything. Anxiety and depression are notorious life-sucks, but with skillful teaching and practice you can literally turn your mind away from them. With all due respect to those who suffer, oftentimes medication is necessary to get you off dead center and maybe even keep you on track long term. They are serious problems and I don’t want to invalidate the experience of them.

All of these elements of control have one thing in common: discipline. I think discipline can be learned, and it doesn’t take a drill sergeant to teach it. You have to know why you’re doing it. Identify your why and you have made a good start. Sick of being broke? Start by learning the basics. Sick of being a slave to others? Get a planner. Sick of being “sick”? Practice mindfulness.

Consistent effort over time equals behavioral change. It’s an equation 🙂 Take charge of these things and you are well on your way to becoming a truly free human being.

 

How could God let ____ happen?

This question plagues both the believer and the non-believer. It is the go-to argument when someone wants to cast doubt or rebut our faith. It’s a fair question but as is often the case with such things a superficial one.

My answer is found of course in science, namely quantum mechanics. The wave equation is, as I see it, the mathematical representation of free will. A choice is made and all possible futures from the choice not taken cease to exist. The function collapses, something is “observed” and becomes real.

So imagine a point in time, then create a fork in the road so to speak, choice A and choice B. My faith and Scripture tell the story of such a choice. When God created the universe he used a set of rules which we know as physics. Everything in creation has to obey these rules, including people. So when God created choice – choose Me or the other thing (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) he was simply following the rules He created.

Choice A was His Way, and everything in it was perfect. There was no flaw, no branching of probabilities. Just perfect. And in perfection there was only more of the same; no flaws or “wobbles” existed. In choice B there were infinite probabilities. And none of them were perfect. Perfection only exists along the path of choice A.

Since choice B was obviously taken, now all manner of weirdness is possible. Instabilities now exist and as a result even more instabilities. A hurricane or tornado exists because of instabilities in the weather system. The worst of human behaviors exist because of instabilities in our genes, our pattern of thinking and feeling and our neurochemistry. “Unhappiness” and suffering exist for the same reason. There can be no perfection or stability, yet we look all around trying desperately to find it.

God made this world, the universe, perfectly. And the rules he put into place to let it run allowed for choice. We chose poorly. And God, knowing that choice B could be made at any time, had the solution prepared beforehand. This is Jesus Christ, God the Son. God loves all of His creation so much that if ever even ONE person chose B God was prepared for it and His plan to redeem that person back to Himself and His perfection. The expression for this is n-1, with n being the entire number of humans who have or ever will exist, and the 1 being the poor chooser.

There will be those who are offended by my journey into the non-secular. 2 responses: 1) Get over it, and 2) counter my argument. I am always open to the points of view of others. Why? Because I have spent a LOT of time thinking about this and so am quite comfortable and confident of my understanding. Folks who don’t do that, who are intellectually lazy and emotional children, just get offended when presented with an opinion that doesn’t match theirs. I call these people Wainwrights…

Don’t be a Wainwright, make a good comment.090404-farside-wolves

Propaganda

“A lie told long enough is accepted as truth.” Lenin

The key to really great propaganda is to have a grain of truth, a thread that leads back from the lie to some minuscule fact. Whether in politics or the emotional mind propaganda is everywhere.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, or false cause, is a well known logical fallacy, yet its prevalence continues unabated. Why? Because (in my humble opinion of course) we as a country have become intellectually and emotionally lazy; we are not taught critical thinking or informal logic anymore and the effects have become devastating.

It is the adolescentization of America…

Guns, immigration, race, gender; the list is becoming endless, and only serves to divide us, to create a rift between people that is based on propaganda. I heard someone the other day talking about how it is sexist for a man to be “giving orders to a woman”. The woman being Siri or Alexa… It creates an atmosphere of gender inequality. Or some such crap as that. When I was a kid the Roadrunner and Wyle E. Coyote battled it out every week on Saturday morning, yet no warnings or disclaimers of “do not try this at home” were necessary. Why? Because we were not idiots. Because there was no YouTube or Instagram for our idiocy to turn viral and other idiots following suit.

Another delightful perspective, also with respect to gender, came from an article in the New York Times. The author, a self-proclaimed heterosexual male, decried the use of gender pronouns (he, she, him, her etc) and called for a wholesale revamping of the language to eliminate these bias-producing terms and replace them with “neutral” identifiers such as “they.” This attempt – and people are buying this crap – is nothing less than the devolution of our language, culture and humanity.

Up here in the foothills of the Appalachians we view the changes in culture with a rather guarded and skeptical eye. This doesn’t always work in our favor; we too often remain intentionally ignorant, holding onto the old ways. We label y’all “citiots” (or at least I do, having thought up that word on my journey to the Big Town this morning…)

There is value is civil discourse but that value has been propagandized into near-extinction, just as logic and reason have. I mourn for this country.

We propagandize ourselves as well. Our emotional mind takes a grain of truth and turns up the volume, creating noise. “If I’m so smart why aren’t I rich?!” Grains of truth but no correlation to reality. A pattern is formed of believing the propaganda without checking the facts, without any critical thinking turned towards our own emotions and experience, We judge and are reinforced by our judgment. More fallacious thinking (confirmation bias.)

Check your premises, do your research. Be truly informed so you can make an actual argument. Stop buying what the world and your own mind is selling. It’s propaganda.

You are missing from me

I read somewhere that the phrase “I miss you” is inadequate. It is, and also inaccurate. In French (so the story goes) the sentiment is more accurately said “you are missing from me.” Much more expressive of the feeling.

Recently a dear friend, one of my “first circle”, went missing from my life. And I am devastated. It is not that I miss her, it that she is missing from me. My life is incomplete without her in it. There is a hollowness that is beyond sadness, and compounding this loss is my role in it. I went too deep too fast, not allowing for her woundedness as a barrier to receiving my love.

I had to examine my part in this disaster. And what I discovered disturbs me… Beck said I am “missing a sensitivity chip.” She was right of course; being a minor Aspy can do that. She had told me when we reconnected that her ex-husband had died not to long ago and that one of her children had also died. Both from alcoholism. The sorrow I felt completely overwhelmed the reality she experienced. When we talked it was pretty much the second anniversary of her daughter’s death, and her ex had only died less than 3 months before. While he had been awful to her and she had divorced him several years before, 35 years of marriage is not so easily dismissed. Yet I did; my emotions came to the forefront, disrespecting the depth of hers. So incredibly insensitive. She then went on to use more cruel descriptives of me, which I did not deserve, but I can understand how she would feel this way. And now she is missing from me.

It occurs to me that unconditional love is without expectations, conditions or attachments to what is received from the object of our love; we love because it is what we do. I noticed this when my granddog Teddy was over. I hold Teddy and just love on him, and what I get back is a perfect reflection of what I am pouring out. My friend has a lovely dog (who liked me when we met, apparently unusual but I’m not surprised) and she can love her dog in just that way but I don’t think she has made the connection between that feeling of unconditional love for her dog and what I am offering to her, which is exactly the same thing. And it is frustrating beyond words.

As I have mentioned before, love is a state of mind, an inside-out existence that transcends the common, worldly notion that it must be reciprocated in kind, or that sex is a necessary component of the deepest relationships.

To love another person unconditionally is a rare and precious experience; too often it is tainted or filtered by attachments. What a shame, and such a loss for both of us.

Dissonance

My friend Becky shared a video recently

The question was, basically, what would the best year of your life look like? Simon goes into great detail, asking the listener to deeply consider real life (or the lack of it…)

I took this challenge and remarkably found that aside from “where” and a few minor details, I was in fact living just as I desire to. This has taken a lot of effort and time of course. It’s pretty nice to have this perspective…

Got me to thinking about our real versus ideal selves. Carl Jung posited this idea way back when; our self as we see us now (judgmental as hell of course) versus our ideal self – who we would like to be (or think we are but know we’re lying.)

I liken this to a rubber band: the further apart the real and ideal are, the more tension exists in the rubber band, and the more likely it is to break. Or at least become stretched and distorted over time.

“Normal” thinking would tell us that we best get busy and strive for that ideal self. Well of course I am far from normal so I dissent. I would say that both must move towards the middle. Both must give to the other reasonably, with gratitude and contentment guiding the negotiations.

I may have to let go of living in Breckenridge (at least for now) but when I consider the many qualities of my current environment this is not so hard to do. There are other factors – work, interpersonal relationships, a combination of those two, recreation and other fun. Many offsets. As much as I may from time to time yearn for thin air, I’m okay with it not being there. I can rent it…

Learning the give and take in life, “seeking the middle path”, eases the tension and creates movement towards our best selves.

 

The Beginning of the End of Learning

I have been on a journey for several weeks, the specifics of which shall remain for another time. It has been fraught, FRAUGHT with emotions. Serious emotions. Even depression (the real thing.)

What I have learned, what I found at the bottom of this particularly deep rabbit hole is this: the emotional mind has 2 sides or facets to it. One is Childish, the other Adult.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV

I determined that the destructive and most fearful thoughts and emotions I felt during this journey were a result of my childish emotional mind. The child cares not for what it costs to get what it wants, or what wreckage is causes. Fuck it all, burn it down. This was a strong component of my old pattern, and wreckage it did cause. And while it may have actually saved my life 30 years ago it was childish nonetheless.

When I experienced those fearful and destructive thoughts I was able to turn towards them ( a benefit of controlling attention!) and I began to see them for what they were. Childish. True, but still…

And I carried on down the rabbit hole, knowing that I was not yet at the end and the learning there. The journey itself is learning of course, but the most important lesson could only be found at the bottom. And there it was, at the end of the journey…

I learned two things: First, that my adult emotional mind was not destructive, as opposed to the childish one. The adult emotional mind is curious and creative. “Some men look at things as they are and ask “why?” I dream of things that never were and say “Why not?”” G.B. Shaw

The common, vapid and superficial response to my journey tended to be “Stop! You’re going down the wrong path! It will lead to destruction.” True, if the mind was that of a child. But mine is not. The “why not?” is an expression of the elevated, evolved emotion of love. The expression of the greatest gift one person can give to another. The gift of your best self, your authentic self. This is the second lesson.

If I love you I want to offer you the gift of myself. Without fear and with full vulnerability. Without condition, expectation or attachment to how you respond. The real gift is this: that you now have the choice to respond in kind and give me the gift of yourself, knowing that you will not be judged, that you are safe, that you are loved without agenda. No attachment, condition or expectation. This is freedom to love with full authenticity, the giving and receiving of our best selves.

Beware though; if any expectation, condition or attachment is present or becomes present it will block or filter both the giving and receiving. This is the common, the superficial, the childish and the fearful. Turn your mind towards these diseases and understand them. Understanding destroys their authority and frees the soul to experience love.

Mastering the weapon

For those of you who have been learning the “weapon” of Mindfulness, here are the final instructions. DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE FIRST DONE THE PREVIOUS LESSONS! That’s cheating and you are only defrauding yourself.

Sorry to disappoint you, but the final stages are simply an extension of the previous ones (25 and 50 count experiences.) Stage 3 is a 100 count experience. Go through the same process as before, doing the 100 a few times to become aware of the nature of your thoughts. There will be, as before, a pattern to them. Now, think those thoughts in advance and enter into the experience of counting, slowly and deliberately, 100 breaths.

Once you have done this a couple of times (yes, it does take a while!) now you are ready for the final steps to very real control of your attention. The next to last step is to do a 200 count experience. This is a difficult thing to do as it will take you over an hour (at 3 breaths per minute anyway.) NOT 100×2 but 200 straight through. You will likely experience a significantly quiet mind. Or you may fall asleep… As always, you will experience random thoughts but they will tend to only appear in your awareness and not fully attended to.

Once you have done 200 straight through go back to 100 counts. Now, though, you may engage with a thought, turning towards it rather than back to the breath. The nature of these thoughts may seem random but the “voice” is actually the voice of your Wise Mind, and THAT is one that is worth listening to, attending to. Before starting an experience you can ask your Wise Mind a question and then listen during the experience for the answer. The answer may not be in a form you expect. It may be another question, or just a seemingly random thought. Follow it. Don’t worry about the count or even your breath, but always be able to turn back to your breath.

And there you have it. Weaponized Mindfulness. I dare anyone to seriously pursue this learning and then tell me that their anxiety, depression, or impulsivity has not diminished in some worthwhile way. Not eliminated, just better. Maybe much better. Beats the hell out of the alternative.

Stage II Weapons Training

This may disappoint some but Stage II is not significantly different than Stage I (25 breaths.) The process is the same but now the count is 50 breaths. NOT 25×2, but 50. It is a different experience, a different set of thoughts that emerge. Performed once a day, you will notice many of the same patterns of thought emerge. Do the same practice as before: be aware of them, when they happen and the form they take, and then think them in advance of starting an experience. By now these patterns should not control your attention but only occur in your awareness.

In a 50 count the patterns shift, sometimes subtly. Go through the same exercise and notice the nature and content of the thoughts. Notice the pattern and move them to your awareness, not giving them attention.

In Stage 2 it is important to time yourself. 50 breaths should take no less than 10 minutes, preferably 14 give or take. Timing matters as you are working on the discipline of slowing each breath down, paying close attention to each breath. Pole Pole as they say on Kilimanjaro. Slow slow!

I do a 50 count as maintenance, with the most noticeable random thought being the urge to stop after 25 breaths, thinking “I got this down, no need to go all the way to 50.” I breathe very slowly now so 50 takes a while… Then I am aware of the thought that is a value, the value being integrity. The thought arises to quit at 25 – “I got this, no big deal to just stop at 25…” I think “No, I chose to do 50 so that is what I will do.” Always at war with my old pattern it seems!

I am looking forward to your shared experiences!

Added Bonus: A Nuclear Weapon to play with!

The DBT skills manual includes a section on distress tolerance, and one of the skills noted is TIP, or Temperature, Intense Exercise, and Pressure breathing. The nuclear weapon of distress tolerance is ice water. Nothing – no thought, emotion or body sensation can withstand it.

Place a large bowl with ice on your kitchen counter, island or table. Fill a pitcher with water and have a hand towel nearby. Fill the bowl with water and allow the water to get very cold.

Now, put your face in the ice water. 20 seconds max please. I don’t use a timer or anything, because when my mind (and your most likely) “reboots” the very first thought/urge will be to get your face out of the water because it’s freakin’ COLD! And it hurts. Notice this urge but don’t give in to it. Wait a beat or two and then CHOOSE to remove your face from the water.

The next thing to load is the urge to grab the towel and dry off your face. Again, wait a beat and then choose to dry your face.

Now, notice what loads next. This is your Wise Mind being very aware of your thoughts, emotions and urges. If what is loading is unwanted it is much easier to dismiss it. I learned this from a patient who used a hand gesture much like a dismissal, shooing the unwanted emotion away. And it didn’t come back.

Try this. Don’t worry about the “mess” or whatever – it’s water… I look forward to your observations!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑