Thursday, March 19, 2020

Control? Separateness?

     Every once in a while, "the shit hits the fan." We are now in such a time (logic behind toilet-paper hoarding?).
     But when things are "normal" aren't we deluding ourselves, sleepwalking through life?

     "Don't hope for a life without problems.
      An easy life results in a judgmental and lazy mind." Kyong Ho

    The only thing we can directly control is our attitude. But because we mistakenly believe that external circumstances completely determine how we feel, we invest almost all of our time & energy struggling to control external circumstances & other uncontrollables: constant change, aging, sickness & death. This is an "illusion of control."
     Related to this compulsion, we spend our lives convinced that each of us is a separate, solid 'thing' - a 'self' independent from & usually in a competitive / adversarial relationship with other people, animals, a harsh uncaring environment, life itself. Loneliness & isolation is becoming an increasingly common, serious psycho-social / medical problem. This is the "myth of separation" - the sense of a contracted, separate self. Einstein long ago felt that the most important question a human being needs to answer is: "Is the universe a friendly place or not?" And if we deeply believe that the universe is unfriendly, peace of mind is rarely possible. Joan Borysenko. “Fire in the Soul. A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism.” Warner Books, 1993.

     But our deeper intelligence tells us that, we're profoundly interconnected & interdependent with everyone & everything - AND - science shows that we're only truly happy while intimately engaged with whoever / whatever we're dealing with in each successive present-moment. Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT. “A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind.” Science 2010; 330(6006): 932.

     We are very slowly, very gradually evolving beyond, growing up from fear-driven autopilot reactivity ("fight / flight / freeze" - our frightened child mode) and embodying mature balanced kind behavior appropriate to our long-term common good ("tend & befriend" - our wise grandparent mode). The individual / collective contracted ego rigidly insists on remaining isolated & unchanged, trying desperately to retain a sense (illusion) of personal / group control to prevent dreaded chaos. But our deeper intelligence ("heart" / "gut") draws us to expand into, reconnect with a far deeper, more expansive, meaningful life.
     From a recent Scientific American article:
     "People who believe that everything is fundamentally one differ in crucial ways from those who do not. In general, those who hold a belief in oneness have a more inclusive identity that reflects their sense of connection with other people, nonhuman animals, and aspects of nature that are all thought to be part of the same 'one thing.' This has some rather broad implications.
     First, this finding is relevant to our current fractured political landscape. It is very interesting that those who reported a greater belief in oneness were also more likely to regard other people like members of their own group and to identify with all of humanity. There is an abundance of identity politics these days, with people believing that their own ideology is the best one, and a belief that those who disagree with one's own ideology are evil or somehow less than human.
     It might be beneficial for people all across the political spectrum to recognize and hold in mind a belief in oneness even as they are asserting their values and political beliefs. Only having 'compassion' for those who are in your in-group, and vilifying or even becoming violent toward those who you perceive as the out-group, is not only antithetical to world peace more broadly, but is also counter-productive to political progress that advances the greater good of all humans on this planet.
     I also think these findings have important implications for education. Even if some adults may be hopeless when it comes to changing their beliefs, most children are not. Other beliefs - such as a belief that intelligence can learn and grow ('growth mindset') - are extraordinarily popular in education these days. However, I wonder what the implications would be if all students were also explicitly trained to believe that we are all part of the same fundamental humanity, actively showing students through group discussions and activities how we all have insecurities and imperfections, and how underneath the superficial differences in opinions and political beliefs, we all have the same fundamental needs for connection, purpose, and to matter in this vast universe.
     Perhaps now, more than ever in the course of human history, we would benefit more from a oneness mindset."
       Scott Barry Kaufman. "What Would Happen If Everyone Truly Believed Everything Is One?"
Scientific American, October 8, 2018

“If a living system is suffering from ill health,
the remedy is to connect it with more of itself.”
Francisco Varela

"When we seek for connection
we restore the world to wholeness.
Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful
as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other."
Margaret Wheatley

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