The Circle of Existence: Chapter 11 – Words, Concepts, Expectations

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bypeople-talking-441462_1280 DCH Park

“Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”
– Jon Bon Jovi

“Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception.”

“Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.”
– Edward de Bono

There is a literary and dramatic trope called a perception filter. With a perception filter in place, you tend not to see whatever it is hiding. You avoid it. You don’t see it, either the thing being hidden or the filter itself. You don’t notice them. You just avoid them. The filter doesn’t confer true invisibility but you tend to not notice things that are hidden by it.

The fact is that such perception filters are in place all around us. Real perception filters do not require a technological implementation. All they require is an assumption, an expectation, on the part of the viewer and that viewer will assume that he has seen something that is not there or ignore something that is – all in accordance with his expectations. In other words, the viewer will tend to see what he expects to see, regardless of whether or not what he expects is part of the reality around him.

It sounds crazy but expectations control perception. That means that you can control perception. You just have to control expectations. This seems very powerful but also very silly, even unbelievable. Isn’t it obvious that you see whatever is there to be seen, regardless of expectations?

Actually, you don’t. One very dramatic example is in the notion that the world is flat. Another is in the attitude with which telescopic observations consistent with the Copernican theory of the Universe were greeted. More recent examples include the attitudes that protected small pox (the piercing of which led to development of the first small pox vaccine), the attitude that protected disease in general (the piercing of which led to stopping a plague and the practice of epidemiology), the so-called Ultraviolet Catastrophe (which led to the creation of quantum theory), and the characterization of the chemical nature of DNA.

In the last cited example, people the world over, including leading scientists, assumed that the chemical structure of DNA had to be protein based because up to that time, protein was the only type of molecule that was known to form complex structures. Every complex structure in nature seemed to be based on protein so it seemed reasonable that DNA, which conveys complex information from one generation to the next, would be based on protein.

However every chemical analysis of DNA failed to detect any protein. The chemical nature of DNA remained a mystery until Watson and Crick famously threw out the assumption that DNA had to be protein based. Once they did that, they were free to look at the data with open eyes. They were free of their expectations and consequently, free to receive and follow their observations and able to perceive the right conclusion.

If anything, assumptions and expectations are even more common in everyday life. Lest you assume that such filtering of perception might have been true in the past but is no longer true, please see the Attention Experiment (its website is called “the invisible gorilla”). The Attention Experiment demonstrates that this phenomenon is still active today. (Chabris, Christopher and Simons, Daniel, “the invisible gorilla”, www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html, accessed 17 JUL 14.

Please note that the mere fact that this is going on today does not necessarily mean that we must be this way. It does not imply a boundary or limitation. It illustrates what is going on so that we can be more aware. By being more aware of what is going on (one hopes) we can notice when we slip into unthinking default behavior and perceptions and instead, do something about it.)

Perceptions determine the shape of society. If we’re not careful, those assumptions and expectations can control everything. They can shape how we interact with each other. They can shape how we see and understand ourselves. They can determine whole economies. Arguably, they already do.

How can you free yourself of such control? How can you notice such assumptions and expectations so that you can deal with them and free yourself to determine your own fate? Creative scientists, artists, philosophers, and clerics have wrestled with this question down the ages. Economists and politicians have been motivated by the idea of understanding the people and forces at work to better inspire folks and provide for their needs, hopefully creating a happier society.

To be sure, this is not true of everyone. There are some who seem to be focused on making money and amassing power over others. Their attitude seems to be that things are the way they are and they can’t be changed. They therefore try to fit in to the system as they find it. They are concerned with playing the game better rather than trying to define a better game.

Whether they realize it or not, by acceding to the status quo, they are supporting the status quo. The extant system reflects the choices of everyone who is alive now. If enough of those choices fall in line with the status quo, it should be no surprise that the status quo does not change.

Such change begins with you. I have found that precision and clarity in the things that I say is an important first step toward changing what I say. I cannot heal what I do not see. By the same token, I cannot change what I do not notice. My aim is to become more aware of what I say. Toward this end, I have found that scientific thinking, observation, and honesty are useful, although these things are by no means unique to science. Indeed, I find that they are common to all human pursuits.

What filter or expectations do you have? What do you take for granted or see as “just the way things are?” How do those assumptions shape your experience of things?

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More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 11 – Words, Concepts, Expectations” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Bearhug – Part 1

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by DCH Park

Bear Hug by terren in Virginia https://www.flickr.com/photos/8136496@N05/2257963106/

Bear Hug by terren in Virginia https://www.flickr.com/photos/8136496@N05/2257963106/

Bearhug loved blue skies and warm breezes and fragrant flowers. He welcomed the lazy pace of summer and the busy harvest of autumn but he especially loved wintertime. He relished the snow and the ice and the quiet that only seemed to fill the world when snow is falling or freshly fallen at night or in the evening and he was the first one to cross a virgin field, either alone or with a special companion.

Even in the daytime he marveled at the unbroken freshly fallen snow. It changed the landscape completely. He always relished being the first one to break the surface of a virgin field. Whenever he did, he became part of the winter scene, immersing himself totally in it. He loved winter’s chilly bite and savored feeling the cold, dense winter air deep in his lungs.

The wetness that he was walking through now bore little resemblance to that virgin field yet that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm at all, nor did the wetness itself. The skies were grey and a light mixture of snow and rain had darkened the ground though nothing was falling currently. The world seemed close and standoffish at the same time. Bearhug was trudging along, hands in his pockets, glad for the warmth of his hat, scarf, and jacket. He was taking advantage of a break in the falling slush and just about to follow the path up and to the left before it bent back to go into town when he spied another way going off to the right.

He stopped in mid-stride. This was strange, he thought. He’d walked along this path many times and had never noticed this other way before. He looked down the new way but could see only a short distance before it went around a bend.

He looked at the ground and the trees around the entrance to the new path. The earth was well-packed and the foliage grew as if many people had trained the trees and brush to leave the path open. The way had apparently been there for a long time yet he had never noticed it before. It seemed to be headed directly into the center of town, unlike the other path, so he shrugged his shoulders, made an audible harrumph, and turned to follow the new path.

He quickly lost sight of the previous path and entered a part of the woods that he did not recognize. If it weren’t for the path he was on, he would be completely lost. The woods around him grew stranger and stranger. The weather changed, too. It got warmer and brighter. Even though it should have been a blustery morning in winter, it now seemed more like a balmy summer day.

He took off his jacket, scarf, and hat, stuffed the latter into a jacket sleeve, and then stuffed the whole thing into his shoulder bag. He could feel the heat leaving his body and imagined it warming the air around him. He could feel his skin and hair cooling as they dried. His mind wandered back to his school lessons. He tried to recall the various modes of heat transfer. His brow furrowed with the effort. He imagined himself triumphantly charging into the memory and capturing it. Nevertheless, the harder he tried, the less of it he had. It was like focusing on his goal made it slipperier, in spite of what he’d learned. There was convection and…

He gave up. He couldn’t remember the other two modes of heat transfer but he could recall that there were three in total.

He forgot about it and took in the view before him. The forest was all he could see in any direction. The path was the only visible sign of civilization. He closed his eyes and felt into the forest and the path. There was no menace to either one and he could hear nothing threatening in the forest but he definitely felt a difference between what was ahead of him and what was behind him. To test it, he walked a little farther on, stopped, and felt again. Then he turned around and went a few steps back, past the point he had first stopped at, feeling the woods as he walked.

He stopped again, turned around, and resumed walking down the path. It was certainly possible to go back but he could feel a difference between going back and going on. It was a gentle, subtle difference sort of like walking down a slight incline – one that he could easily ignore, but something was inviting him forward. He decided to follow the invitation.

As he walked along, he began to notice fairy creatures on the edges of his vision. He wasn’t surprised to see them. The path and forest were so strange and how he had found them was so gradual and ordinary at first that it made sense that fairies would be involved.

He’d heard of fairies and knew that they were responsible for things mysteriously disappearing and then reappearing somewhere else and other magical occurrences and mischief but he had never seen any before. Now there were fairies all around the edges of his vision but they disappeared whenever he turned his gaze to focus on them directly. It was maddening.

He felt more than heard their laughter at his frustration. This gave him pause. Laughing at someone seemed to be at odds with the good feeling he got. He felt deeply into the forest, looking for any indication that the laughter was a weapon.

He could find no hint of ill feeling. It didn’t seem to be a weapon. Maybe his knee-jerk assumption was wrong. Maybe the laughter wasn’t a form of mockery. The forest was a happy place. It held no malice. There was no sense of triumphing over enemies or taking pleasure from their misfortune. He was the only one who had negative feelings. He felt frustration and anger.

Then it dawned on him. He was doing it to himself! No wonder the fairies were laughing! He saw the absurdity of it all and he laughed a little, too.

His reaction was spontaneous and unthinking but it helped. It lightened his mood. He didn’t take himself or his mood so seriously. His mood was still present, but he wasn’t completely tied up in it any longer either. He could still feel it but at the same time he could see himself feeling it. He continued to walk but he path suddenly found himself in a clearing. There was no way out other than to retrace his footsteps back.

He looked around the open space, also feeling for his own reaction. He felt safe in it, completely secure. He could see no earthly reason for the feeling but it was definitely real. He sat down in the circle, closed his eyes, and focused on breathing completely and opened himself to whatever came up.

It was like there were two versions of him. One was completely involved in the emotions that came up and took them on their own terms. The other watched from outside. It observed himself experience the emotions that came up without being touched by them. It had no agenda or opinion about how things should go. It didn’t push for any goal or end state. It simply observed what the other part experienced. It witnessed everything in its impartial evenness. He didn’t resist anything in favor of a certain idea of what he “ought” to do and this allowed him to experience everything.

He became aware of himself as a vital, creative human being full of humor and understanding. He was vastly important but only a single mote in a vast web that stretched across all time and spanned the whole Universe. He was no different from any other part of the Universe and being part of the Universe, he was part of all there was. So “all there was” would be lessened somehow if he ceased to exist.

At the same time, he was only a small part of “all there was.” If he didn’t do something, someone else would. In a way, he didn’t matter at all and that meant that he was completely free. He was the most important part of the Universe because he was completely free but every other part was just as important. He wasn’t unique but he was important.

He let go of all thought and desire and settled into a vast emptiness in which he could quickly tell if anything came up. It was like looking out onto a vast, open field. Anything that rose up was immediately apparent. He silently observed what came up. Then he became aware that he was not alone – not just in a figurative sense but literally. Presences were all around him. Even the empty space was filled with an ineffable presence that not only surrounded and penetrated him, it was available to him. The same ineffable presence was in everything. He had direct access to that inexpressible creative potential and one of the main ways he had access to it was through himself. He had direct access to himself. He became aware of everything and took in the energy of the place by noticing and taking in himself.

As his sense of himself cleared, so too did his inner vision. It was like a fog lifted but instead of being composed of water droplets, this fog was made up of blindness. It was composed of overlapping blind-spots that not only hid what was there to be seen, but hid themselves, so that even the blindness was hidden. As the miasma dissipated, he saw and felt things more and more clearly. He began to perceive nearby shapes and eventually perceived more and more distant ones.

Perhaps “shape” wasn’t quite the right word for them. He certainly didn’t perceive them as shapes at first. He sensed only surfaces and textures at first. Dimensionality came in only after a surface popped into 3-D existence – after it was no longer limited to the flat, 2-dimensional image but had depth – after it was an object in space. Foreground and background emerged bit by bit as surface textures became objects and space was defined between them.

Eyes closed, he continued to watch as the veil of blindness dissolved. Objects seemed to have a combination of an internal glow (with different objects having different colors) mixed with some sort of external illumination, though he couldn’t tell where the illumination came from.

He turned his head back and forth and marveled as the vista before him shifted just as an image would if his eyes were open. Many of the objects coincided with trees in the forest. He looked at one such object and realized that it was a building. Fairy buildings were all around him. He was in a vast fairy city. Fairy inhabitants flitted about and into and out of the various tree/buildings. Size didn’t seem to matter. Fairies could shrink or grow as needed.

As he looked around, one fairy appeared to him over and over. Sometimes it was in the foreground, sometimes it was in the background or in between, but it always wore the same colors and after a little while, he could make out a distinctive smile that this fairy always seemed to give him. After a little while longer, he noticed that there always seemed to be a certain tone in the air when the fairy was visible and not when he was gone. It wasn’t his voice in any conventional sense – his mouth was not coordinated with the sound – but it seemed to be associated with him.

Bearhug giggled. A thrill of joy and energy ran through him. Keeping his eyes closed, he saw fairies everywhere. He delighted in their many colors and watched their comings and goings with great joy and energy. Their voices were indistinct to him at first but as time went on he came to distinguish separate songs. There were hundreds of songs sung by hundreds of voices. Each different but somehow harmonizing with the whole. The forest/city was a joyful place.

He felt honored and humbled. For some reason they had invited him into their city. Without realizing what he was doing at first, he found that he could travel within the city without moving. All he had to do was focus on where he wanted to go – either someplace he currently saw or someplace he’d been to before even if he couldn’t see it – and he was there instantly and effortlessly! He traveled about the city this way, flitting from place to place. He took in some of the wonders it had to offer and always the songs were there.

Some time later the songs changed. The many voices were still present but now they sang a single song. It wasn’t that the different songs had stopped and this new song had begun. The various songs had continued unabated. They had simply woven together into a single song.

Was it the songs or his perception of them that changed, he wondered. Maybe both. He had no way of telling. Nor did he know the words or the tune but it was unmistakably a song of greeting. He couldn’t tell how many parts there were – many more than in any song he had heard before – but somehow they all came together. He could hear each part of the song without detracting from the others. Each part was sung by at least one voice but some were sung by many voices together and occasionally a voice would change the part it sang. The parts blended together, making a musical tapestry that was intricate and beautiful at the same time that it formed a unitary whole.

The many parts wove in and out like strands of a rope. Sometimes a single strand would be in the forefront while others played various supporting roles. At others, that strand would relinquish the spotlight while another carried the tune. Each strand followed its own rhythm and timing and honored its own momentum. Some featured variations of the main tune, others focused on harmonies. Still others went a different way entirely. Each strand was a song in itself with its own rhythms and harmonies but they all blended into a beautiful chorus.

He suddenly had a sense that he was sitting in the clearing again. The song of greeting had receded into the background. A fairy emerged from the forest/city and stepped into the circle before him. It was his “friend” from before. There was a sense of movement or continual becoming about him that made him appear to shimmer. Even though no words had ever passed between them, Bearhug felt a kinship and warmth for this being and felt certain that his feeling was reciprocated. He didn’t know how he knew. He knew the same way he knew what blue and sweet were. He just knew. The fairy stood before him and Bearhug opened his eyes to see if his outer vision would match his inner vision. He saw nothing in the clearing. It was almost disappointing.

He closed his eyes again and the being reappeared. It towered over him, looking down from above, but he felt no threat. On the contrary, he felt an easy mirth and humor from the being. Laughing lightness poured forth from the fairy as if it came from an inexhaustible source. Bearhug felt that he could make even the hardest way easy.

Bearhug couldn’t quite make out its face but something seemed familiar about it. The face itself shifted from one visage to another. At times it almost seemed like he was looking into a mirror. At others, the face was something else entirely or he couldn’t discern it but the sense of familiarity was always there.

He saw more deeply into the fairy than just its appearance, too. He knew its intentions. It was as if it communicated telepathically and the thoughts formed fully and instantly in his head without words first and then the words coalesced around the thought but only after it was fully formed. There was a moment before words but after he received the thought in which he understood it without words at all.

In such moments, his understanding of the thought was more complete and simultaneously more indistinct or tenuous. His understanding was broader – he got all of the thought’s implications and all the ways in which it was connected with everything else – but the single thought itself was much easier to hold onto through the words. So he opted to hold onto the thought or his projection or understanding of the thought through the words and only remember the larger, more ephemeral implications and connections as they were implied by the words or what the words evoked.

Who can say if his memories of such things were accurate or if the words themselves were faithful reflections of the thought-before-words? Maybe the words evoked the “right” connections, maybe they didn’t, but the words made it easier to remember the message and they certainly made it easier to communicate the message with others. They provided solid handles that he could easily hold on to. Sometimes, the words were all that he could remember. At such times, he could imagine a thought to go along with the words but he couldn’t remember the original thought-before-words at all.

Regardless of the relationships between thoughts and words (or vice versa) the intention he received was that the being looked forward to sharing whatever came up and to creating with him. He (She? It?) was ready to challenge and be challenged and he hoped that Bearhug would be open too. He smiled, sharing the warmth, humor, and acceptance with Bearhug.

Bearhug got all of this through the understanding that ran between them. He wasn’t sure what he’d find within himself but he was open to considering things. The fairy was satisfied. A sense of smiling open-ended readiness (that was the best description of the nuanced blend that he got) came to him. Could the fairy “read” his thoughts, too?

The fairy gave him a knowing half smile.

He relaxed into a feeling of cozy confidence, secure that although he didn’t know what was coming, he could weather it. He searched himself and found again the emotion that had almost engulfed him earlier. It had diminished to a distant rumbling but it had never left. He noticed the feeling and also noticed himself feeling it. The emotion came back into his attention like a nagging tooth…

That wasn’t quite right. It didn’t “come back” on its own. He brought it back. He was holding on to it. It was there, in the background, like a weight in his back pocket. He was dragging it along behind him. He swung the frustration around again so it was right before him. It went from being a lurking specter at the back of his awareness to a full-blown presence in front of him. Like an ancient hunter turning to face a charging tiger, he turned into the frustration. He let it wash over and through him. He watched himself feel it. He felt the frustration and asked himself what the feeling reminded him of. There was something familiar about it. Suddenly he was in a different place.

He looked around. He was at work…

To be concluded…

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 10 – Awareness Over Discipline

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by DCH Park

Kids Giving you problems? Hire an Elephant by peasap, https://www.flickr.com/photos/peasap/4684467836/

Kids Giving you problems? Hire an Elephant by peasap, https://www.flickr.com/photos/peasap/4684467836/

“Awareness is empowering.”
– Rita Wilson

“Buddha means awareness, the awareness of body and mind that prevents evil from arising in either.”
– Bodhidharma

“There is no such thing as cold, only absence of heat. There is no such thing as dark, only absence of light. There is no such thing as evil, only absence of connection.”
– anonymous

In my control class in college, we studied various ways to design and analyze dynamic control systems of various types, ranging from purely mechanical ones to electrical ones (which had no transistors) to electronic ones (which did). Analytically, all of these systems could be modeled and understood using the same principles. Mathematically they were identical in spite of the fact that completely different physical components and forces were in operation in different systems.

There are primarily two different philosophies or approaches to designing control circuits. One is called feedback and the other is called feed-forward. Most of the control systems in use in the world today are feedback systems.

In a feedback control circuit, a portion of the output of the system is fed back into the control circuit inputs. The control circuit combines this feedback with the operator control inputs (the other external inputs) to automatically adjust the system. For example, if you adjust the speaker volume in your car radio to a certain level, the volume setting is the “operator” or external control setting. As the volume setting is increased, the control circuit sends a signal to the speaker drivers telling them to work harder.

Since it’s a feedback control circuit, a portion of this speaker driver signal is also sent back to the control circuit and combined with the manual volume setting. Typically, the feedback signal is inverted so that as the volume goes up, the feedback causes the control signal to decrease and if the volume goes down, the feedback control signal increases. This type of negative feedback control tends to be very stable because it tends to push the output toward a stable center – down if the output gets too high and up if it gets too low. This is why it is used so widely.

In positive feedback control, the feedback is not inverted. Thus, it tends to further amplify the system’s outputs. If the output goes up, positive feedback makes it go higher faster. This is what happens when a microphone is placed too closely to the speaker it drives. The speaker output is picked up by the mic and amplified through the speaker, leading to an unstable feedback loop that usually results in screeching.

In a feed-forward control circuit, there is no return input that takes the output back into the system. Certain assumptions are made about the ways in which the external world behaves and the way in which the system should act. The (external) control inputs take these assumptions into account and are simply fed in. As long as the assumptions are accurate, the system behaves as expected, but if the assumptions are off, even just by a small amount, the system might become unstable. Outputs may become unpredictable or even destroy the system altogether.

This is what happens when a car suddenly loses traction on a patch of ice. The car’s behavior suddenly changes so that the driver’s assumptions about how the car will react are suddenly wrong. Control inputs that are normally safe – holding the wheel straight and pressing on the brakes – are no longer safe. Instead of producing normal results – straightening out the car’s trajectory and slowing down – they do something else – promoting a spin with locked wheels. One solution to this problem is to “close the loop” automatically and combine the external outputs of the system with the inputs. In other words, make the feed-forward system into a feedback system by adding a sensor that loops back to the inputs. This is what anti-lock braking systems do.

In exactly the same way, enhancing the feedback control in your body and life can enhance your stability and equanimity. The key is to develop your facility with awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the seminal influences in bringing mindfulness and meditation into the medical establishment mainstream, points out that awareness, like thinking, is an inherent human ability. However, in this culture, unlike thinking, awareness is an ability that is not widely prized or even recognized, much less one that many people are trained in using.

Control via thinking alone is a form of feed-forward control. In the body, feed-forward control is essentially experienced as a kind of numbness that cuts you off from the external world. Without feedback, there is a tendency to slip into a perception that the external world is on the other side of an invisible and inviolable barrier – an impossibly fine and absolutely impregnable curtain that separates you from the external world.

In the body, Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy, is an extreme example of what can happen when feedback is lost and only feed-forward control remains. Hansen’s disease victims lose sensation in their extremities. Loss of sensation starts in the fingertips and toes and progresses inward. Motor function control is unimpaired. However, because all sensation is lost, including pain, victims lose the ability to sense when they have damaged themselves. As a result, they inflict repeated trauma to affected tissues and the body begins to erode. Eventually fingers, toes, noses, and more can be lost to physical trauma.

Hansen’s disease is an extreme example, but the same mechanism is at work in less extreme situations every day. When you feel a headache due to stress or over-work and take an analgesic instead of a break, you are choosing to numb the pain and dampen your natural feedback in favor of a feed-forward control signal to keep working or work harder. You are choosing to ignore the feedback signal to take a break or that something is wrong.

Feed-forward control is experienced as numbness and expressed as discipline. In the absence of sensory connection and immediacy of feeling, exertion of will remains as the only means to gain control. It is like being on one side of a wall and trying to control what happens on the other side by pulling and pushing rods that go through the wall without being able to see, hear, or feel what is happening. Instead, you metaphorically rely on graphical progress reports that are projected on a screen, not knowing if those reports are accurate and timely and having no way to verify them since you blocked the feedback.

Cultivating your awareness is key to addressing this shortcoming. By becoming more fully aware of the many sensory cues (as opposed to cultural, traditional, and other “cues”) that are available to you, you strengthen your feedback loop. Your experience of your surroundings and even of yourself shifts. You pierce the barrier that separates you from your external world and feel the world more richly and subtly.

For example, when I wanted to lose weight, I noticed that it was a struggle as long as I approached it as a discipline. To make matters worse, I was keenly aware of flavor and the sensations of eating, swallowing, and feeling full, which became positive feedback signals that tended to amplify the unhealthy behavior and desire for unhealthy foods. However, once I began to notice other sensations, like the listlessness I felt after a food binge or unhealthy meal and the feeling of tightness and deflation I felt after just one bite of unhealthy food, my relationship with food and weight control began to change significantly. I no longer had to struggle to control something that I could grasp intellectually but not feel. I could cultivate awareness of what was going on in my body and how I felt. Healthy choices dropped out of that awareness effortlessly.

Losing weight and eating more healthily were no longer hard. They became the easiest things to do. Making unhealthy choices became hard because in order to make those choices I would have to ignore what I so clearly felt.

If you don’t have sensation, you might hit your thumb with a hammer and not even know it. Without strict discipline and rigid attention to specific details, you might keep hammering and actually break your thumb or worse. On the other hand, with your awareness and sensation intact, if you hit your thumb with a hammer, you stop pounding because your thumb hurts. Taking care of your thumb becomes the easiest thing to do.

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More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 10 – Awareness Over Discipline” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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A Special Spot

by Ingrid Dean

wolves-58998_1280Worried parents reported that their sixteen-year-old son was missing. They thought he had run away, but they had no idea where. When I arrived at their home, something didn’t feel right. I asked the parents more questions than usual. I asked if the boy got good grades in school and if he had any troubles he was dealing with. They said his grades had gone down recently and that he was on anti-depressants.

When the parents mentioned anti-depressants, I got a very clear thought: This is not a runaway complaint. I don’t know why the word anti-depressant triggered this thought, because usually it doesn’t mean anything to me. I know that anti-depressants are often very helpful to people, even children.

I looked in the boy’s bedroom and saw two unopened packs of cigarettes by his bed. I thought, What sixteen-year-old boy leaves two packs of cigarettes behind? Most teenagers carry their cigarettes with them, especially if their parents allow them to smoke. This was the second hint that the incident was not what it appeared to be.

I didn’t want to ask, but I did: “Do you have any weapons in the house?” The father said yes and that he had already looked. All of the cases were present. I asked if he had opened the cases, and he said no. I told him to go check. When he returned, he reported that a rifle, a Ruegar .280, was missing. I suddenly knew their son was probably dead, but I didn’t say anything. Not yet. It was the third clear thought that came through my mind.

I got the urge to take a look outside. Sure enough, I found footwear impressions in the snow that appeared to be the boy’s— and they seemed to lead into the woods.

The snow was patchy this time of year, so I called Dispatch for canine assistance. While I waited for the dog and handler to arrive, I telephoned the boy’s best friend. I asked if there were any special spots where the boy might have walked. I knew most teenagers have one. Because the snow was minimal, I knew that even with a dog, it might be difficult to track the boy unless I had an idea where to head. Sure enough, the boy had a special spot.

When the canine officer arrived, the dog picked up a scent. It was an overcast winter day. The canine handler, the dog, and I followed the boy’s scent toward his special spot. I was glad I had called the boy’s best friend for directions so that I knew we were on the right track. As we walked I realized how breathtaking this area is. The near-pristine woodlands, hilly terrain, and sand dunes of Leelanau County, Michigan, are absolutely gorgeous. The smell of the pines was pungent and pure. What a pity this young man has taken his own life, when there is so much to love about this land and life. I already knew we’d find him dead.

We continued to follow the boy’s scent. The trees opened up into a small open area in the woods. This was his special spot. We saw him. He had shot his head off with the missing rifle. I was so thankful I had trusted my intuition and hadn’t allowed the boy’s parents to come with us. The bloody scene was too gory for any parent ever to see.

Although it was hard and their grief unbearable, the boy’s parents were relieved I had found their son.

I thought about this case several times afterward. If I had treated this situation like a routine runaway complaint, the boy’s body might never have been found. Corpses are often eaten by animals—sometimes without a trace left—especially in this area of Northern Michigan known for its vultures, eagles, and coyotes. I am sure many of my fellow comrades also rely on intuitive thoughts. Most of us seldom, if ever, talk about it, of course. Policemen are expected to rely on logic and “just the facts.”

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Sand Gets In-Between Your Toes

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by DCH Park

By Skip willits (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I don’t remember what day of the week it was, but it must’ve been a Saturday or Sunday. I used to work a nine-to-five job back then and I remember spending the whole day with you. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t the weekend.”

Jefferson was listening to his father. It was getting late in the afternoon. The sunlight on the floor was decidedly angled and creating shadows that stretched halfway across the room. He looked at the window. He couldn’t see the sun yet but it would probably shine through the glass soon. He shifted slightly so that when it did it wouldn’t shine in his eyes.

“My boss wouldn’t have allowed that…” His father was still talking. “It’s funny though. I can remember spending time with you like it was yesterday. Even from something like this, from when you were a little, tiny person, but I can’t even remember his name…”

After a moment, he continued, “You’d think if I remembered anything, it’d be his name…” He thought about it, losing sight of the here and now.

“Hm. I guess that’s as good an indication as any of what’s really important. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend with someone or trying to do something. The things you remember, the things that’re important, stand out. They come back easily and clearly, even if they only occupy a single moment in time.”

They sat in silence as that unfolded. Henry’s eyes glinted a tiny bit. They were facing each other in a drawing room. Their over-stuffed chairs were soft and inviting. Jefferson saw his dad run his hand over the upholstery of the chair arm, admiring its texture. He noticed that he was rubbing his hand over the upholstery, too. How long had that been going on?

He noticed the smell that lingered over the place. It was like a palpable thing that had, for reasons of its own, moved into the house; an invisible resident of the house, always present, never seen. His dad didn’t seem to notice.

He supposed that every living thing had to have its own smell. After all, bloodhounds had to smell something and there were two people living in the house now – his father and step-mother. Did he have a smell? He supposed that he had to. That thought bothered him. “What about that weekend, dad? What stands out for you?”

“Hm…” Henry let the conversation dangle as he rummaged through his memories. He was silent for so long that Jefferson almost said something but just as he was about to speak up, Henry continued. “Sand. I remember sand. And the smell of the ocean. What do you remember?”

“I don’t remember anything of that day.”

“Yeah, I guess you were about 1½. Probably too young. It was before we moved across country. We were still in New York. I don’t know where your mother was that day. I guess I was already doing things alone with you, even though she and I were years away from the divorce.”

He paused. The divorce had been a sore subject once, but that had been a long time ago. Henry was fine now. He had been for a long time. He had gotten used to the fact that his first marriage had failed. In fact, that failure was a vital part of his growth. The divorce itself was a part of a healing process that had led to many important insights for him. It was an early part of the process but it was an important part.

For reasons of his own, though, Jefferson had been angry. He’d nursed a grudge for a long time – long after his parents’ divorce was final. He’d fed it and it had grown. As it grew, it seemed to consume him. He’d let it grow to the point that it threatened to eclipse his whole life. But that was over now. Maybe the anger was a necessary part of his growth. Either way, Jefferson had gotten to the point where he was constantly amazed with how life unfolded.

“Anyway,” Henry went on, “we were living in New York City and I took it into my head for some reason to take you to the beach. I don’t think you’d ever seen the ocean before. I didn’t bother trying to explain it. I just said that we were going someplace special and that you would enjoy it. That was enough. That was enough for you.” Henry’s voice trailed off.

“You had complete faith in me.” He was quiet for a long time.

“You used to love water. Any water, really, but especially moving water. Do you still?”

“I don’t know.” said Jefferson. “I hadn’t really thought about it.” He thought about it. Henry waited.

“… but I notice now that I don’t associate movement with water. When I think of water, there may be waves but the body of water is still. I have to remind myself that there’s movement.

“When I think of movement I picture people dancing across a dance floor or machinery moving – or their parts, anyway. Solid things. I don’t picture moving water.”

“Maybe that’s why moving water was so fascinating for you.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“You used to stare contentedly at a river or a lake. You wouldn’t budge. You could stare at it for hours. The larger the body of water was, the more fascination it seemed to hold for you. Maybe it was the promise it seemed to carry.

“You could gaze at a fountain forever. I remember pushing you through a mall in a stroller and coming across a fountain. We watched the fountain for a while. When I tried to leave, you complained. You didn’t want to leave! You were so disappointed.” He trailed off again, remembering the baby Jefferson used to be. After a moment he continued.

“So anyway, on that day we drove to Jones Beach. At least I think it was Jones Beach…

“It was late enough in the season that the beach was pretty much deserted. I remember a boardwalk. It was still fairly new back then.

“When you caught your first sight of the ocean, you stood transfixed. You were young enough that you didn’t have many words, yet, but I could feel your wonder. It seemed like you’d never guessed that there could be so much water in the world.

“You just stared at the waves and the vastness of the water. As I recall, you finally moved only because you wanted to stay with me.

“Together we crossed the parking lot and stepped onto the boardwalk. It curved to the right, out onto the beach and around the building where they sold snacks and drinks but the building was closed.

“We must have walked over a mile out along the boardwalk. You were a little guy, so that was a long way for you but you weren’t tired. You almost danced along, watching the water.

“After a while I noticed that the sand had gotten into your shoes and socks. I sat you down on the next bench that we passed with your legs pointing straight out. Even so, your ankles just cleared the edge of the bench. I took your shoes off and they were tiny in my hand. I knocked them against the bench. Then I took off your socks, turned them inside-out, and shook the sand out of the little loops and fibers. Then, after turning them back, I brushed your feet off, tops and bottoms but mostly the soles of your feet. I remember the feel of your feet in my hand.

“I even went between your little toes and into the crevice between your toes and the balls of your feet to make sure no sand remained. Then I pulled your socks and shoes back on before you hopped down.

“You smiled at me and watched me, the water completely forgotten. After that, you wanted to sit down on every bench we passed. You even got sand in your socks deliberately.” Henry smiled, remembering. He was quiet for a while. Then he said, “It was an extraordinary moment that we shared together although you don’t remember it. I never told anyone about it before…

“…it’s been a private memory. I wasn’t hiding it from anyone. It was just something that only I held…”

He sat silently and then said with a sigh, “I never thought about it that way before – as something private or just mine. I’ve only ever been aware of the care it showed. Of the amount of care that we both had for each other. I don’t know if you knew how much you empowered my life…

He caught himself, lost in the rush of emotions. All of his airways suddenly seemed too small and his tongue rolled to the back of his mouth but his mouth was dry. Nevertheless he made several swallowing motions to release the tension. When his throat relaxed enough for him to continue, Henry concluded, “…I liked it, too.” A tiny tear formed in the corner of one eye. Henry wiped it away.

They sat together for a while, each one seeing his own silent world yet each one keeping the other company. Then Henry said, “I can’t remember the walk back or the drive home but I remember walking along the boardwalk with you and you wanting to sit down on every bench we passed and give me your feet. I remember cleaning your feet.”

After a while Jefferson said, “Thanks, Dad. I never knew.”

Then he said, “Brooke is waiting for me. I said that I would meet her.”

He got up and headed for the door. He called over his shoulder, “I’ll see you next time!” Then he was gone.

Henry sat in his chair and savored the evening. At last he got up and padded through the door and down the hall. He entered the kitchen and switched on the light. The dogs were both in their crate, eagerly sitting up and vigorously wagging their tails. It was time for their walk and they knew it.

“Okay, okay, you guys. I haven’t forgotten.” Henry opened the door to the crate and they exploded out and bounded to the door. Chuckling, he followed and grabbed their leashes and the little strap-on rosin bag that they used to carry treats and bags.

Helen would be home soon. He clipped the leashes to their collars and followed them out into the gathering night. He smiled into the dark as they went on their walk together.

###

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Sand Gets In-Between Your Toes” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 8 – Turning Into the Pain

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by DCH Park

Fort Collins Back Pain by Ryan Weisgerber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortcollinschiropractor/6169824610/

Fort Collins Back Pain by Ryan Weisgerber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortcollinschiropractor/6169824610/

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”
– Michael Jordan

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
– Alan Watts

The other day I was coming up some stairs and overheard someone talking on the phone. What I heard was remarkable. The person was apparently celebrating something bad. I gathered that the other party had just shared something that had happened to him or her, probably expecting sympathy, blame, or some other standard means to enlarge the pain.

To her credit, the person whom I overheard did none of those things. Instead, she celebrated it. I doubt that she was trying to encourage more painful experiences with her celebration. Rather, she was remembering that there are no bad things. What she said about it confirmed that this was her attitude.

Rather than ask why a benevolent God (or Universe or whatever) could “let” “bad” things happen to “good” people, consider that there are no bad things. There are painful things (You can substitute any emotion you want in that sentence to replace the word “painful.”) but there are no bad things. The pain serves a purpose. It leads you directly to the wound.

Consider a splinter. You might not notice it at first but as time goes on, the damaged area becomes painful as infection sets in. As more time goes on, it becomes more painful. You can bandage the splintered area and try to cushion it. You can take analgesics to numb the pain (and all sensation along with it). That way you can continue to ignore it. However, the pain is doing you a service. It is showing you exactly where the splinter is. Whereas it might have been too small to notice at first, the pain shows you exactly where it is. As soon as the splinter is removed, healing begins and the wound feels better.

On flights they always say, “Please affix your own oxygen mask before attending to small children who may be traveling with you.” It is a reminder to take care of yourself first. The message conjures images of a small child who has collapsed for lack of oxygen. The well-meaning parent is slumped over for the same reason. The parent has collapsed in trying to get the child’s oxygen mask on first and failed to do so. Even if successful, I wonder, would the child be physically able to attach the parent’s mask? Would the child even be able to reach the dangling mask?

Another common example is found in the advice we give to drivers who are learning to deal with a skid. When the car is spinning out of control, we are told, the thing to do is to turn into the skid. The same advice is given to pilots. Similarly, seamen are taught to drop anchor (and if they have sails to trim them) if they are caught in a storm. They are taught to turn their bow into the storm and “ride it out.”

Individuals who have gone through military training will recognize the advice to run toward the explosion if your unit is targeted by artillery. The “natural” tendency is to run away from the explosion but artillery marksmen find their range by “bracketing.” They deliberately fire down range of their target and then deliberately fire up range of it. That way, they establish their range and they know that their intended target lies somewhere between these two. Then they fire succeeding shots within that range, first down range of the target, then up range of it, each time coming a little closer to the middle. When they hit their target, they “fire for effect.” They let loose with everything they have on the target.

Thus, while on the battlefield, you are actually safer if you run toward the first explosion. That will ideally get you outside of the field of effect. If you run the other way, away from the explosion, you might be running directly into the next blast. It is almost guaranteed that you will run into a blast if you continuously run away from the last explosion. This is counter to popular wisdom but it is in keeping with the advice given to drivers, pilots, sailors, and those seeking oxygen masks on a plane.

The advice that runs through all of these examples is that we heal, we (re)gain control, when we turn into the thing that brings pain, fear, etc. Indeed, it is never as bad as we expect it to be and the storm, spin, explosion, or whatever, is always worst before we go into it. It is never as bad as we imagine it will be. The shortest way to the other side is straight through.

The case of the oxygen masks may seem obscured compared to the other examples, but it is an excellent metaphor. There are people who put the happiness and fulfillment of others before their own. Such people often even define their own happiness in terms of others’. They often see themselves deriving their own happiness (satisfaction, etc.) from that of others. This means that they see themselves as having to make other people happy before they can be happy themselves. Similarly, there are whole industries devoted to creating and selling pain killers of various strengths. The benefit that such pain killers promise is a resumption or intensification of the same activity that caused the pain in the first place, usually in order to continue working! In both cases, the advice is to turn away from or ignore the pain or whatever is coming up within yourself and focus on something outside of yourself.

Thus, we are in an interesting situation. In cases in which lives are not seen to be in immediate danger, we are advised in one way. In situations that are seen as immediately life threatening, we are advised differently. The advice in the two situations is directly opposite. It is also fairly uniform within them. It does not seem to be affected by culture or other factors. Which one do you feel serves you and supports your further growth? Which one would you accept as being true?

I have found that in turning into the pain (fear, etc.) I was not only able to find the center of the wound, I was able to hear it and thus to heal it. In other words, the wound itself tells me what it needs, what it is crying out for. Filling the hole, providing what is missing, constitutes healing the wound. Once it is healed, it goes away like a vanishing fog but you need to listen to it to find out what it needs. In order to listen to it, it helps to be aware of it. That’s what turning into the pain, fear, etc. does.

For whatever reason or reasons, much of society is structured to encourage us to turn away from our pain unless a life threatening condition exists. Consider over-the-counter pain relief. This assumption – that pain, fear, etc. should be taken away without your conscious participation or even understanding – is common on many (perhaps all) levels of “mainstream” society as long as a life threatening situation does not exist. Why are there two conflicting messages?

I have learned over and over in science that if there are two messages about something, either there is something(s) that is(are) not well understood or one is a lie. In the first case, what generally happens is that one situation or both are eventually discovered to be special cases. What appeared to be two situations (or messages) are seen to be one simple one. The unions of quantum physics, Newtonian physics, and relativity are good examples. Newtonian physics is seen as the special case of quantum physics where things are very large. In the same way, Newtonian physics is seen as a special case of relativistic physics wherein things are extremely slow.

Is the advice to turn away from pain a special case in which lives are not threatened? In special cases, the rules are not changed – only the values they operate over change. This can be seen in the cases of Newtonian, quantum, and relativistic physics. It can also be seen in the case of squares, which are special cases of rectangles, and mammals, which are special cases of animals. However, in the different messages about how to deal with pain, rules do seem to change. In one case the suggested rule is to turn into the pain. In the other, the suggested rule is to turn away from the pain. This would seem to imply that one of them is a lie.

(Please note that it is a lie in that it is a delaying action. The Universe is good. There is no “bad” or “evil” as they are commonly understood. There is nothing to resist. The lie does nothing more than encourage a perception of separation between you and your divinity. It slows down your personal growth or even brings it to a standstill. Typically, other forces are accepted or inserted into that separation to be supported or profited. A clever lie even furthers evolution or ties itself to a fundamental truth, the way some gristle might be interwoven into the meat. But sooner or later, the lie will be revealed and further evolution will be stymied.

If, by that point, the unwanted delaying lie has been incorporated into the fabric of what you accept as the fundamental nature of things, you may not even see it.)

By turning into the pain, you can find the metaphorical splinter that causes the infection, remove it, and begin to heal. On the other hand, if you turn away from the pain, no matter where else in the Universe you turn, you will not find the splinter, the cause of your wound. By moving into your discomfort, you move closer to the cause of your wound. You move closer to healing it. By moving away from your discomfort, you move farther away from your healing.

Furthermore, removing a splinter is hardly a life threatening condition in most cases. It would seem that the advice to turn into the pain can lead you to the center of the wound in more situations than life threatening ones. On the other hand, turning away from the pain definitely does not apply in life threatening situations. Perhaps it doesn’t work at all. Perhaps it simply delays the consequences of the wound, allowing it to become even more exacerbated and (as in the case of over-the-counter analgesics) creating an opportunity for even more profit. (“Who is gathering that profit?” is a good question.)

Nature is so marvelously constructed that pain, fear, etc. is not only acutely felt (so it is hard to ignore), it tells you exactly where to look. “As below, so above.” The truth is the truth. Understanding it in one realm leads directly to understanding in other realms. If the realms look unconnected, it’s because one or the other or both are not well enough understood (yet). In other words, their commonality is not yet understood. Their connection to each other or to the truth is not yet understood or not understood well enough.

The only thing that blocks the discovery and articulation of truth is willing blindness to what is there. That’s what pain and other emotions do for us. They indicate our blind spots. What we do, whether we numb ourselves or turn into the pain, is up to us.

When we numb ourselves, we practice being blind. Such blindness or unwillingness is often a function of belief. Wherever such belief might come from, however, it encourages us to get things backward. Rather than being open to what is there and using that experience to lead to truth and further opening, such belief defines or declares what is “true” and shapes observations to fit that expectation. In other words, such blindness leads to less openness, less truth, which is only possible because you’ve numbed yourself.

How open are you to possibilities outside of the things you expect and assume? How do you find your blind spots? Do you turn into the pain or do you turn away from it?

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 8 – Turning Into the Pain” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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This Time, I Was the Victim

by Ingrid Dean

robbingIt was the beginning of the 2003 holiday season when my wife and I were invited to a holiday fundraiser at a posh restaurant in Detroit’s Indian Village area. The purpose was to raise money for less fortunate inner-city kids so they could be supplied with shoes for the upcoming winter.

I did my homework on the event. The mayor and some federal judges were also invited, so I trusted that their security details would have things well in hand. Thus, I did not fear for my wife’s and my safety or that of the other guests, including a police lieutenant from my department and his wife.

The entertainment, food, and drinks were fantastic. A very nice evening, even though the mayor never showed nor did any of the federal judges or other celebrities as promised.

Things were winding down for the evening. The valet girl found me and gave me the keys to my vehicle, saying she was going off duty and would no longer be responsible for my truck. Then, she ran out the door. I went to the door to look for my truck, saw it, and was returning to the restaurant when two gunmen broke in, rushed me with a gun pointed directly at my face, grabbed me by the necktie, and forced me into the dining room. One of them fired a shot next to my head and announced the hold-up. I went to the ground and a second shot was fired, fragmenting when it hit a $40,000 grand piano. A fragment of the slug struck a lady.

I was not armed, as I believed the mayor’s security detail would be present. It’s a good thing I wasn’t because if my weapon were seen I am positive I would have become another Detroit
homicide statistic.

I believed I was going to be shot in the head as I lay face down on the floor. I threw my cash on the floor, as the gunman demanded everybody’s wallets. My wallet had a badge and police ID in it. If that were revealed, I most assuredly would have been shot.

For some unknown reason, I envisioned a crime scene photo with me lying face down on the floor with my brains spilling out of my skull. I was not about to allow that to happen. My wife was only a few feet away, hiding underneath a table. She appeared to be okay.

I began to pray, and I felt the presence of a guardian angel. The fear left me and I was able to focus on the criminals’ actions so that I might become the best witness and see them led off to prison in handcuffs.

I threw my wallet under a table and it landed face open with the badge in full sight. I flipped it closed. How they never saw this had to be the work of an angel.

I was kicked in the groin as the number two gunman gathered up the cash and wallets. They went to a second dining room and I heard screaming and another gunshot. Then all was silent. I immediately called 911 to report the armed robbery with shots fired. I was still on the phone when the first patrol officer arrived, calming everyone and checking for injuries. Before I knew it, there were uniformed officers all over.

Suspects were being picked up in the neighborhood and brought back to the scene, but I couldn’t identify any of them. My wife and I were thankful to go home alive that night with only relatively minor injuries.

About a week later, we were sitting in our kitchen having our Saturday morning coffee, watching the local Detroit news program when I saw a story about a major arrest having been made by the Violent Crimes Task Force, a team comprised of FBI Agents, Michigan State Police Troopers, Detroit Police Officers, and some suburban Detroit officers. The number one gunman’s mug shot was displayed and I immediately recognized him as the one responsible for the armed robbery where we were victims.

All weekend I telephoned the investigator assigned to our case, with no reply. Monday morning, I was able to contact a member of the Task Force and told him our story. The bad guy had been arrested with four others responsible for murder, armed robberies, and carjacking. A fifth suspect, a juvenile, had fled to Alabama, and the FBI was after him. Their specialty was robbing patrons at fundraisers.

Weeks later, I was able to pick him out in a line-up at the Wayne County Jail. Although I never saw the case go to trial, as the number one suspect had already been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, I believe it was the intervention of an angel that saved my life that night. And also some Divine Intervention that led me to watch the local news channel and see the scumbag’s mug shot.

 

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 6 – Defining Beliefs

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by DCH Park

candle-201623_1280“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
– Buddha

“True love doesn’t come to you, it has to be inside you.”
– Julia Roberts

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstances.”
– Bruce Barton

Some people speak of limiting beliefs. Beliefs that we carry can limit our senses of what we can do, who we can be, and what is possible. For example, how likely am I to be successful if I don’t believe that I can be? How likely am I to win the big race if I honestly believe that the other guy is faster or deserves to win more than I do?

However, beliefs and how they can affect us is subtler, more complex, and more powerful than the term limiting belief implies. In fact, these beliefs are defining. Defining beliefs are usually centered on ourselves, our families and friends, society, or the world and our relationships and interactions with them. As such, they can certainly be limiting. However, beyond embodying limits, defining beliefs shape the fundamental nature of the world and our roles in it, as we experience them.

There are at least two different types of defining beliefs. Let’s call them personal and existential. They are distinct but strongly interrelated. At times, the distinction may even seem arbitrary, especially for beliefs that lie on or near the border between them. Nevertheless, as will become clear, the differences are significant.

Personal defining beliefs are those that relate directly to the way of the world and how we have to be in the world to get along. They might take any of several different forms, such as: “The world is safe/unsafe;” “The world is unreliable or impermanent;” “The world is hard and unyielding;” “Life is struggle/joyful;” “Making money is hard or requires sacrifice or is easy;” or “Societal hierarchy is real and important.”

Often personal defining beliefs originate in the aftermath of a significant, surprising trauma. (Please note that I am using “trauma” in the theosophical sense – a change in a love relationship so that you can never experience that love in the same way again.) The natural response to such trauma is shock and pain (and possibly a sense of betrayal) over the loss coupled with bewilderment as to exactly what happened and why.

When this happens (especially when we are young) the emotional pain can be quite intense. As much as we might like to reverse events and unmake the trauma, we don’t know how to reverse it. Perhaps it’s impossible to reverse it. The only thing we can commonly do is try to understand why it happened so that we can protect ourselves from similar pain in the future.

Of course, these post facto decisions about what must have happened are usually flawed, but that doesn’t stop the process nor deter us from latching onto the decision and installing it as a rule. In this way, such decisions are used to define how the world works and how we must be in the world to be safe, effective, loved, etc. In addition, the emotional energy stirred up by the trauma is usually channeled into the decision and resulting rule(s), making them very strong and deeply rooted. Of course, the more potent the original trauma, the more significant we believe the decision to be and the more imperative the derived rule becomes. Some decisions like this can have effects that last an entire lifetime.

For example, a child who suddenly loses a cherished toy as it flies out the car window and then sees his father pull the car over and run out to retrieve the toy, dodging traffic the whole time, might be impressed and decide that there isn’t any loss that can’t be healed with love. He might alternatively focus on the whizzing cars and decide that the world is a hard and heartless place. If the father instead continues to drive on and yells at the child for being so careless, he might decide that the world is basically a cruel and unsafe place where even those he loves the most can turn on him at any time through no fault of his own.

The decisions that the child makes about the way of the world and the interpretations that he draws from those decisions can lead directly to beliefs about how the world operates and who he must be to be safe, loved, and happy. Thus, personal defining beliefs can be understood as beliefs about the rules of the game – how it is played, what the different pieces are, how game pieces are moved, what strategies are best, how to win, what constitutes winning, etc.

In contrast, existential defining beliefs are about the container that holds the game. Whereas personal beliefs focus on how to play a better game, conceptually, existential beliefs focus on which game is played. They are more philosophical in nature, but are of no less importance than personal defining beliefs. In fact, although they seem to be more abstract, in fact they deal with more fundamental questions about existence and experience.

Examples of existential beliefs include: “Evil exists;” “Good is eternally at war with evil;” “It is possible to be separate from someone and thus oppose that person,” “Cosmic laws/rules exist;” and “Cosmic laws are inviolable.” They define the boundaries that limit the scope of play. They are not unlike the mythical edge of the world that sailors used to fear. They are taken to be absolute and discontinuous. Humans (the belief goes) have no choice but to stay away from the limits, safely immersed in the game on the board. Any attempt to cross or even touch the limits of the board, we are told, result in annihilation or madness or both. However, these are only beliefs. They are taken to be more fundamental and thus are often harder to find, but their power, like that of all beliefs, comes from the fact that we accept them.

Interestingly, when we do come across a discontinuous limit, it is a signal that what we thought we knew is wrong. This has been shown over and over throughout history and invariably leads to great discoveries, new knowledge, and heroic achievements. Reaching and breaching limits that were thought to be impervious is a defining characteristic of a hero. Examples abound. In art, the development of Cubism, Impressionism, and other movements is one example. In pop art, there are the characters of Harry Potter and Truman in The Truman Show, among others.

In science, running into and transcending discontinuous limits often heralds paradigm shifts that allow for radically new and exciting possibilities. The notions of the double helix structure of DNA, the failure of Newtonian physics and the emergence of Quantum Theory, and the shift toward plate tectonics in geology are three examples.

In life, as in science and art, meeting and transcending defining beliefs of either type can precipitate huge spurts of growth and creativity. What beliefs do you have that define the world, who you must be, or what is possible and why and how?

###

More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”The Circle of Existence: Chapter 6 – Defining Beliefs” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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The Circle of Existence: Chapter 5 – Casting Shadows

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by DCH Park

By User:Nino Barbieri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Nino Barbieri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

“The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.”
– Leonardo da Vinci

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”
– Carl Sandburg

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Imagine an irregular object floating in space. Light shines down on it, casting a shadow on the floor below. The shadow is a perfect projection of the widest parts of the object even though those widest parts may not be in the same plane.

All you have is the shadow but you are really interested in the object itself. It is easy to see that the shape and behavior of the shadow are determined by the object but going the other way and understanding the nature of the object from nothing more than its shadow can be very hard and in some cases, impossible. For example, a sphere and a cone can both project a circle shadow. There are many other shapes that can project the same shadow, some of which are highly irregular. But if you are reasoning back to the object when all you know is that it projects a circle shadow, the object itself cannot be uniquely determined.

Movement and change in the shadow make understanding the object easier but very simple and straightforward behavior of the object can produce complicated and bizarre behavior in the shadow. Elaborate rules may have to be invented to explain the behavior of the shadow if that’s all you see, whereas no such rules would be needed if the shadow is understood as a projection of the object. Life becomes simpler when behavior of the shadow is understood in terms of behavior of the object.

The truth casts “shadows” into the physical Universe in the same way that a three dimensional object casts shadows onto a plane. Very different shadows can all be cast by the same object just as the same truth can present differently at different times and from different angles. Understanding the truth from nothing more than what it casts into physical reality is like trying to reconstruct an object from nothing more than its shadows – it is not impossible but it can be very hard and it can be very easy to go down a blind alley and not know it.

However, all of the shadows are cast by the same object. Therefore they must all be consistent with each other. In a similar manner, the shadows of truth that we find in the physical Universe are all consistent with each other. Also, the things that are not true – the apparitions cast by things other than the truth – are inconsistent with the truth. With two objects casting shadows, the shadows may appear consistent some of the time but they are from two different things and their apparent consistency will break down sooner or later. In the same way, the apparent consistency between shadows of true things and shadows of untrue things will break down sooner or later (please see also Chapter 13: Consistency).

This is why it is so important to use every sense you have in your body – even senses that go beyond the traditional five. We can’t afford to ignore any clue in working from the physical shadow back to the truth. The clues can be so subtle that it is easy to mistake some or miss them altogether. Who knows which clue might make a critical difference? Yet this is done. Clues are ignored, most frequently to honor or continue to hold old ideas even (some would say “especially”) in the face of clues that point in a different direction.

How is this done? Sometimes a clue’s champion is vilified, ridiculed, or otherwise tainted so that the clue itself is never taken seriously. Alternatively, the clue can be simply ignored. Subtle clue(s) are easily and often ignored. A clue’s subtlety does not mean that it is wrong or doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, history shows that such ignorance is common. In fact, evidence that seems to contradict the common “wisdom” or the established order is frequently ignored, especially by the “powers that be” and those motivated out of a perception of lack – that in order to increase wealth, safety, whatever, it must be taken from someone else. (There is more than enough wealth, safety, food, joy, health, etc. in the Universe for everyone’s needs. We don’t have to take anything from anyone else to have enough for ourselves. In fact, we have more of it when we help others to receive it. Ironically, by denying those things to other people, the size of the whole pie gets smaller, even if the piece we carve out for ourselves is bigger in the next round. Eventually, the pie will shrink to the point where there won’t be enough for everybody.)

Another trick that has been used many times throughout history is to confound two or more otherwise inconsistent things. The basic tactic is to present one thing every time another thing comes up so you learn to associate one thing with the other. The only relationship between them is the forced one but people tend to forget that fact and come to associate one thing with the other habitually. It may sound silly but after a while the two things may come to be so closely associated in people’s minds that they have trouble even conceiving of them as separate entities any longer. (One example of this is found in the attitudes some people had toward women working outside of the home. Some people believed that women were delicate creatures and were not well suited to do “unsightly” or complex jobs, such as police work or management. Such attitudes are rare in the U.S. today but they were common here not too long ago.)

Nevertheless, the essential observation – that a habitual bond is formed between different ideas that have nothing to do with each other – is sound. The end result is a belief that the two ideas are an inseparable unit. In practice, one idea is often true and the confounded idea is often untrue. In order to honor the truth, you must first recognize the truth as separate from its confounded idea. You must separate them again.

A more subtle tactic, albeit one that seems to be more common these days, is distraction combined with a default. As the pace of life increases, people become busier and busier just trying to survive. As their time and energy are more and more consumed, they have less and less to devote to healing, silence, and joy. Consequently, they believe that they have to accept the existing default in order to survive, in order to keep up. (Who forces them and why and how are good questions.)

People don’t typically devote time or energy to considering what they accept. They simply accept what is given and move on. This acceptance is currently encouraged in society, ostensibly for the sake of alacrity, but the fact is that simply accepting something (for any reason) does not mean that the choice made is the best choice nor that the range from which it was chosen even reflects the full range of possible choices. It may only reflect what was done before or a way of thinking that is common or something else, but that doesn’t make it any more right. (A powerful result from Organization Theory is that choosing the set of things that someone else will choose from is one way to exercise power. Please also see the note in “Chapter 25: Freedom.”)

When ignorance isn’t enough, some folks resort to violently enforcing the established point of view. It can be an act of defiance to recognize and honor the truth. Many of those who argue for the status quo are wont to conjure images of violence, chaos, and death as the certain outcomes of changing things. They seem to argue that the only alternative to the status quo is chaos and a complete lack of order. But a change in the order is not lack of order. It is interesting that the same people who decry change because of violence are often the first ones to resort to exactly the same violence they decry.

All of this can be rather confusing. What is truth and what is untruth? Where/how is one commonly associated with the other? Is that link between them real? Whom does that link benefit? Whom does that link damage? You are best served to trust yourself and really observe for yourself what is there. Find the truth-nuggets in what is said, no matter who is saying it. What is important is what is said, not who is saying it.

When things seem confusing, it is usually because part of the puzzle is misunderstood or yet to be revealed. Confusion makes confounding things easier but there is always a mismatch or giveaway. This is why it is so important to be aware of all of your senses and what they are telling you. Anything that seems to be inconsistent or that leads to complications bears further consideration. There may be other things going on besides the truth but if there are, the inconsistencies are always there to be seen.

There may be some people who try to gain advantage by hiding a part of the puzzle, seeking to use the truth only for themselves and their chosen few. They seem to prefer to “rule in hell” instead of recognizing other people as equals. They would rather be top of the heap of a very small ant hill than equal members in a community that raises itself to the stars. My sense is that this attitude also comes from an incomplete or inaccurate picture. As these inaccuracies are revealed and healed, such attitudes are naturally diminished. The natural result is an evolution toward a community of equals.

This community of equals is what most creative scientists and artists imagine for everyone. They are concerned with discovering and elucidating the truth, whatever it may be and wherever they may find it. How we organize ourselves – the economic and social implications of that truth – is taken by them to be a consequence of the truth. It falls out of the truth. It doesn’t direct it or determine its course. It certainly doesn’t limit the truth. And you find the truth by looking for consistencies between shadows.

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More of the book, The Circle of Existence can be found at www.smashwords.com.

© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Feeding Time

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by DCH Park

doggy-635408_1280Fitzwilly and Charley Girl came back inside with their person. It was morning time and they had just gone outside to relieve themselves. It was still dark out but the cold air hadn’t penetrated their cloaks of warmth, yet. They were still toasty in their cores. That was a benefit of being speedy. Now it was time for food!

As soon as their leashes were unsnapped, they happily scampered to the crate in the kitchen. Charley Girl was the bigger of the two and she was part Whippet, so she generally got there first. Sometimes on a turn she ran so fast that her body went one way while her paws went another and she hit the ground but that never slowed her down much. In fact, Fitzwilly wasn’t even sure she felt the hits. She always seemed to scramble to her feet right away and run off. For his part, Fitzwilly was a Yorkshire Terrier but he was plucky. He didn’t give up, not that he would over such a short distance.

Once they got there, they climbed inside, turned around, and laid down on the blankets, waiting for their person to feed them. He was maddeningly slow. Sometimes he was slower than at others though Fitzwilly wasn’t sure why. It was clear that he moved at human speed, not dog speed. He slowly walked from the door to their crate, retrieved their bowls, and filled them with food. He didn’t know why the human took so long but he wished he would hurry up.

When the food was finally sitting in front of them, they had to wait again for the command to eat! It was torture to wait. He could smell the food. Fitzwilly occasionally looked up to see what the human was doing but mostly he watched the food. He could imagine how good it would taste and how it would feel in his stomach. He only glanced up to let the person know that he was waiting. It didn’t occur to Fitzwilly that the person was waiting for him to look up.

Once he began eating, he lost himself in his frenzy. He was consumed in a symphony of teeth and tongue and swallowing. He didn’t even waste time chewing, like Charley Girl did. He simply swallowed the food whole. He felt that it was important to eat everything he could as quickly as he could so that no other dog could. Never mind that he and Charley Girl had separate bowls and separate food and there was no other dog around. Nor did he know that there were dogs who had food in their bowls all the time and ate only intermittently. All that he saw was the food right in front of him.

After he gobbled his food and licked his bowl to get any crumbs, he made it a habit to inspect Charley Girl’s bowl, too. Usually there was nothing there but occasionally she would miss something or wouldn’t eat. Then he would feast, assuming the human didn’t remove the bowl before he was done.

He forgot himself completely when he ate. He wasn’t aware of anything but his food. He didn’t remember himself at all until after he was done. Only then did he become aware enough of himself again to have any hope of becoming Doggie Chi. He didn’t bite or growl or anything like that but he wasn’t conscious of himself, either.

Lying down afterwards, digesting his meal, he speculated on the difference between his own behavior and that of Charley Girl. Her behavior was not inconsistent with the exuberance of The Puppy Wonder but his behavior was most definitely different from the enlightened awareness of Doggie Chi.

Feeling full and satisfied, he laid his head down between his fore paws and his eyelids drooped. While his body dissolved into the familiar rhythms of sleep, he pondered the difference between the way he was when he ate and the practice of being aware that led to Doggie Chi. There were definitely two different practices. One focused on being aware. The other emphasized a particular goal and suppressed everything else.

The gathering sense of relaxation continued to mount. His thoughts slowed down as he did. Why did he descend into his animal nature at such times? Why did he forget himself? Was it just a habit? Wasn’t it natural for higher forms like dogs to evolve toward something finer, more divine?

He imagined his ideal dog, with soft fur, slim, strong tail, and keen nose, towering over other dogs. He imagined himself as that ideal dog and smiled to himself as sleep overcame him.

Some time later, he resurfaced into his final burst of wakefulness. He groggily continued his train of thought. He reminded himself that base animal behavior was completely concerned with getting food, shelter, and warmth – the things of survival. But surely he had progressed beyond that stage…

…hadn’t he?

As the last remnants of conscious awareness disappeared, he was left with this final question. No one, however, could say if he knew its context any longer.

Then he was sound asleep.

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© 2015, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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”Feeding Time” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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