Zoe practices her gongfu

I awoke today with an urge to post something somewhat New Yearzy, some words of wisdom to raise the spirits and steel the mettle for the choppy seas that loom on the horizon. “I shall write about ‘organizing to the rightness’ in our lives,” I says to myself. (The chatty part of my brain was trying to pull itself out of the blissful miasma of a sleeping in a warm bed in a blessedly chilly bedroom at the end of December. The not-so-chatty brain parts were considerably less interested, concerning themselves with not disturbing the cat between my feet, who by all appearances, has mastered the art of blissful miasma. It took a few hours, but Mr. Loquacious eventually turned the tide and here I am pecking away.)

I have run into many people lately who self-identify as “anxious” or are “filled with anxiety.” It’s a topic I wrote about recently (see “Anxiety and Non-coherence: What Me Worry?”), where I described an effective technique for establishing energetic coherence easily and effectively. More important, the technique (Energetic Coherence 2.0), if practiced diligently over time (gongfu) will likely rearrange your brain’s architecture and create a stable NON-anxious state. The few who have tried it attest to a profound shift in their baseline equanimity.

However, if anxiety is so chronic that you self-identify that way (“I have anxiety.”), then you will probably need more incentive to actually do the practice than, “It works if you do it enough.” That chatty part of your brain that is so busy updating your personal narrative moment-by-moment quickly converts “Energetic Coherence 2.0” into just another piece of the story, into “Oh yeah, that pointing thing. I tried it a couple times.”
Chance of success = 0.0.

I understand. There’s nothing glamorous or triumphant about pointing a finger. And equanimity won so easily is almost insulting to the suffering resulting from persistent anxiety. It needs a bigger context, one that incentivizes such a simple action.

And that brings us back to “organizing to the rightness” and my plan to write about that. When my early morning brainfog cleared I remembered something, “Oh yeah, I wrote that already.” I checked my blog and sure enough, there it was. I sent it to a friend who has a strong interest in the topic, since it addressed a conversation we had recently. Her response was “That’s nice. I skimmed it over breakfast. I had read it before. Something about ‘Look on the bright side.'”

Not exactly. It’s not about Pollyanna platitudes. It’s about how the story you tell yourself affects your relationship to the world you inhabit.

Your conscious mind, your It-mind, has a hugely disproportional impact on the way you perceive the events of your life and your emotional response to them. It creates a “user illusion,” like the way a video monitor presents an image recognizable to humans. The computer is processing billions of electrical pulses to produce the image on the screen. Your conscious mind is where the trillions of impulses that happen each moment among the 70-odd trillion cells in your body are filtered down into a vaguely recognizable idea that occupies your attention for a moment, then moves on to the next moment.

The It-mind not only reflects the vast activity of the pre-conscious mind, but is also capable of changing the channel. It can do a Stephen King and transform a tranquil small town into a horror show, or it can turn a political argument with the in-laws into a nostalgic saunter through baby pictures and dessert. It’s your mind and you get to take it in whatever direction you like.

You have more control over your “user illusion” than you know. There are those who argue that you have no control and that “thoughts arise” of their own in an impersonal manner. Some scientific materialists say that our thoughts are merely a product of electrical impulses in the brain. Idealist philosophers argue that since “there is no self,” and “everything is one,” then it is impossible to have a thought of “your own.”

Answering either of these positions in substance is beyond the scope of this post. For now I suggest you act “as if” you can control your thoughts and see if you feel better that way. I know I do. And if you happen to choose a channel where you get a moment in your life that is reasonably enjoyable, where’s the harm in that?

In celebration of the Gregorian calendar’s idea of a “new year” I am re-posting the aforementioned blog. The title “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” is only partly ironic, an homage to the dark humor of Monty Python. Those tempted to take the title literally as naive optimism, please don’t. (The singers being crucified are a tip off that there is a wink-wink going on.)

If you are plagued with anxiety, or know someone who is, you may want to check out these two posts and use them as a guide for changing your brain for 2019. It is a two-pronged approach:

1.Change your energy, change your circumstances. When your energy is more coherent, you feel more whole. And that is a good thing. Your body will like it. (see “Anxiety and Non-coherence: What Me Worry?”) You’ll feel better. And the more you do, the better you will feel. And you may find that you attract more coherence in turn.

2.Change your story. It’s your movie. You are the star, the writer, the director, the producer. How do you want the next part to go? Make it interesting. Fun. Rewarding. Or not. It’s your call. (see “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”) If life has been a bit too dark for a while, it might be time to lighten it up a bit. Too comfortable? Stir the pot and see what floats to the surface.

And I hope that this next slide down the Gregorian flume is exactly as delightfully enchanting as you can stand. Happy New Year!

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I have been accused by some friends as being annoyingly positive. They will be complaining about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and I’ll ask, “So what was the better time and place to be a human?” The 1940s, perhaps? When 50 million people were killed in the Second World War? Or the 1950s, when we had regular drills in school where we were told to put our heads under our schooldesks in the event of a nuclear attack by the evil commies? I agree with president Obama: if you didn’t know who you will be or where you will be born, there is no better time to live in than now.
While not as chipper as Eric Idle’s character in The Life of Brian, I do tend to appreciate the water that is in the glass rather than complain that it’s not quite full enough. This is a conscious strategy on my part, based on a pragmatic belief that things seem to go a lot better when you are in a state of heightened coherence. And heightened coherence needs to be supported by a coherent world view or it quickly fades. I call it “organize to the rightness.” Not a punchy title, admittedly, but it is accurate.
The most human of abilities is our construction and telling of stories. It’s how we make sense of life. We identify things in our environment and try to explain how those things fit in with other things that we’ve already experienced. We’ve been doing that since we were babies. This is the It-mind doing the job it is programmed for.
The most important story that It-mind must consider, and the driving force for all stories is, “What does all this mean to ME?” Even when we abnegate our personal responsibility for sorting things out, and buy into someone else’s story…hook, line, and sinker…we do so because it gives meaning to the events of MY life. How I choose to organize the story goes a long way to create the reality that I encounter and my emotional reaction to that reality. Psychologist Lawrence LeShan wrote, “Finely or broadly articulated, we each, at each moment, have a world picture. Generally, we are not aware of what it is, but it is always present, and determines much of what we perceive and how we act.”
While we are not generally aware of our “world picture,” (our weltanshauung as German philosophers would label it) part of the process of waking up from the Trance of Objectification is becoming more conscious of it. Then we can ask ourselves, “Really? Is that the best way to think about things?” We move a little closer to the driver’s seat in the bus of our own thoughts.
When we organize our narrative around what is wrong, we accentuate that element and all is evaluated in that light. Sometimes this is absolutely necessary: “I smell smoke. My stove is on fire. I’d better do something about that or things could go south pretty quickly.” Something is “wrong,” and I am organizing my thinking around that to create a more positive outcome. But the underlying assumption, and the “rightness” that I’m really organizing around, is that “It’s a good thing that I have a stove/kitchen/home that I would like to not burn up, and there is something I can do about this threat.”
If my weltanshauung is fatalistic, however, the internal monologue might run something like this: “Bad stuff is always happening to me. No matter what I do, it always goes wrong. What’s the use?” Not very helpful, particularly if battling a fire requires quick thinking and courage.
A pretty teenage girl is eagerly anticipating her first prom. She has a crush on her date. Her dress is perfect. So excited, she can hardly sleep. Then, the day before, she gets a big honking pimple on her nose. All she can think about is that pimple. It’s ruining her life. Nothing else matters.
Her story is dominated by the pimple. Forget that everything else is perfect, the only thing that matters is this pernicious pustule. She is organizing her thinking to the wrongness. She is generating non-coherence by her thoughts and they become realer by the minute. “See, I told you life sucks!”
When working with my clients, I often encourage them to find something right about the condition they are complaining about. While this is quite annoying if they think you are trivializing their suffering, there is a method to my madness: coherence begets more coherence, and all healing is born of heightened coherence. (At least that is my story. It’s been working pretty well so far.) Sure, we need to break the eggs to make the omelet (non-coherence), but that is in service to even greater coherence: breakfast. We surrender the wholeness of the raw eggs to create a new wholeness that is a good deal more appetizing to most of us.
Life is an interplay of coherence and non-coherence. When the non-coherence becomes too intense, the system breaks down. It doesn’t function as well. The system is alerted that there is danger and something must be done to restore order. We humans have the unique ability to generate copious non-coherence just by telling ourselves stories that scare the bejeezus out of us.

That’s fun for a while. We kick up some some dopamine, some epinephrine, and get motivated to take some effective action. The autonomic nervous system goes sympathetic full-bore and the parasympathetic gets kicked to the curb temporarily. This is fine for handling emergencies, but becomes problematic when the system stays on high-alert for a long time. The parasympathetic nervous system restores the homeostasis (coherence) to the system and is necessary for healing to occur.

St-John-the-Baptist by da Vinci

So when our world view, our weltanshauung, is dominated by negativity, non-coherence dominates and the wheels start coming off the cart. Worry turns into anxiety turns into fatigue turns into illness…you get the picture. But no matter how far gone we are, we begin to turn things around by interjecting some coherence into the mix.

Of course, faithful readers are already pointing their index fingers at every opportunity to heighten their coherence and body/mind/spirit integration. But some get frustrated because that brief flash of transrational/transpersonal awareness is quickly engulfed by another wave of self-defeating narrative. It’s a laborious process to rewrite a personal narrative that is based on Fear, but absolutely necessary if you wish to awaken from the Trance of Objectification.

You begin by finding something–anything–that is at all positive in the present moment. Try to get into awareness of the present moment because you want to FEEL the coherence, not just think about it. While anything you conceptualize will take you out of the present, some thoughts leave a trail of bread crumbs back to the present. They remind us to feel, rather than just create abstractions. When you start to feel the coherence, your thinking will change too. You choose Love over Fear.  You then think of more “rightness” in the moment and go into resonance with that. Your mood starts to lighten and it becomes easier to feel the coherence.

Of course, some will argue that this is not “realistic.” How dare you feel positive emotion when something somewhere is going so badly? Someone was killed in Europe or Asia. The market is falling in Japan. You have a tumor on your kidney. Your dog died.

These things are very “real” to the person experiencing them. And one must respect their emotional response to their circumstances, and even sympathize when appropriate. But I have found that I can more effectively deal with challenges with the clear mind that accompanies energetic coherence. Physical change is also possible.

Fear and worry are natural responses if you hear that you have a tumor, for example. You want to assess the actual threat to health and survival. You want to consider its impact on your quality of life. But a tumor is a physical expression of non-coherence. It is a renegade body part that does not play well with others. Worry and anxiety feed that non-coherence. They also can diminish your quality of life.

The moment you Meet the tumor with your whole being, coherence is heightened. Healing begins. More coherence = more healing. Some conditions spontaneously disappear. Some need time. Some need the assistance of appropriate medical treatment.

A very high level martial artist that I know had pancreatic cancer about twenty years ago. He said he cured it with “fresh fruit juice and laughter.” The five-year survival rate is about 25%. He’s in his 80s now and still going strong.

Organize to the rightness and feel the coherence.