Changing Our Perception of Reality

Changing Our Perception of Reality

How do we understand reality, and can we change it and so change ourselves?

There is an ancient Sufi story of an elephant and some blind men which goes as follows:

Once there was a city, the inhabitants of which were all blind. They had heard of elephants and were curious to see [sic] one face to face. They were still full of this desire when one day a caravan arrived and camped outside the city. There was an elephant in the caravan. When the inhabitants of the city heard there was an elephant in the caravan, the wisest and most intelligent men of the city decided to go out and see the elephant. A number of them left the city and went to the place where the elephant was. One stretched out his hands, grasped the elephant’s ear, and perceived something resembling a fan. Another stretched out his hands, grasped the elephant’s trunk, and perceived something resembling a snake. This man decided that the elephant looked like a snake. A third stretched out his hands, grasped the elephant’s leg, and perceived something like a tree. He decided that the elephant looked like a tree. A fourth stretched his hands, grasped the elephant’s tusk, and perceived something like a spear. He decided that the elephant looked like a weapon. Delighted, they all returned to the city. After each one had gone back to his quarter, the people asked: “Did see the elephant?” Each one answered yes. They asked: “What does he look like? What kind of shape has he?” Then one in his quarter replied: “The elephant looks like a fan. And the second man in the second quarter: “The elephant looks like a snake.” The third man in the third quarter: “The elephant looks like a tree.” And the fourth man in fourth quarter: “The elephant looks like a weapon.” And inhabitants of each quarter formed their opinion in accord; with what they had heard.

The blind men and the elephant – everyone sees only a part of a more complex reality, and tends to assume that what they see is the whole picture

It is easy to confuse the part of reality we engage with as the whole.

Everything around us is a system. And every system is part of another system. By understanding how things around us interlink we become better at seeing how things work together and how these same things can be manipulated, changed, modified to our advantage.

This process is called systems thinking .

There is a fundamental mismatch between the nature of reality in complex systems and our predominant ways of thinking about that reality. Structures of which we are unaware hold us prisoner. For instance, our current daily routine is a system (but we often see it linearly). We get up; we brush our teeth; we go to work; we consume information; we do actual work that earns an income; we talk to people, etc. If we do these same things for 20 years, we’ll probably do the same things for the rest of our life.

Our system defines both our present reality and our future reality.

Conversely, learning to see the structures within which we operate begins a process of freeing ourselves from previously unseen forces, and ultimately mastering the ability to work with them and change them.

Being aware of these things allows you to change them, and so your future.

So don’t be put off by the term – Systems Thinking – it is simply a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its parts. At its best Systems Thinking helps us to stop thinking from crisis to crisis and approach the issues we face in a more integrated way.

Systems come in all shapes and sizes and Systems Thinking now pervades many aspects of business, science, and government, because it helps us to better understand our problems and identify how to promote positive change. It also offers us insights and can be quite revealing!

Systems Thinking is concerned with revealing truths, where the unseen is just as important as the seen. Remember the elephant story.

Authors Linda Sweeney and Dennis Booth, out of years of working in this area’, defined a systems thinker as someone who:

• Sees the whole picture;
• Changes perspectives, seeing new ways of approaching an issue;
• Looks for interdependencies;
• Considers how mental models (paradigms of how things work) create our future;
• Gives attention to the long term;
• ‘Goes wide’ to see complex cause and effect relationships;
• Finds where unanticipated consequences emerge;
• Focuses on the structure of the system and not blame;
• Sees oneself as part of and not outside the system;
• Watches out for ‘win / lose mindsets, knowing that they usually make matters worse in situations of high interdependence.

One of the components of Systems Thinking is recognition that, ‘at different levels, observed phenomena exhibit properties that do not exist at lower levels. They are called emergent properties since they only emerge at that particular level.’

As an example of an emergent property, think of your favourite team sport whether cricket or baseball, netball or soccer, rugby, or grid iron. Many of those who follow a team sport would fantasise about the creation of a dream team by identifying spectacular individuals that they would include. This is essentially what team club management does.

But in reality, one cannot always predict the success of a team by looking at individual player performance.

It is really about what ‘emerges’ when these talented individuals come together as a team.

Another example is in chemistry, the taste of saltiness is a property of salt, but that does not mean that it is also a property of sodium and chlorine, the two elements which make up salt. Thus, saltiness is an emergent or a supervenient property of salt.

In our society a common emergent property is distortion of information when errors accumulate as information passes through a social network such as social media.

This emergent property reminds me of the party game of ‘telephone’, which starts by giving a secret message to one person in a group. That person whispers the message to a second person, and the message is whispered from one person to another. After everyone has been told the message, the first person and last person tell everyone the message as they understood it. To everyone’s amusement, the last person’s version of the message is typically incorrect in many ways, even though the last person is not a liar.

A failure to realize that a property is emergent, can lead us to serious errors of judgement; similarly, once aware of emergent properties, it is easier to for us ‘see’ what is really happening.

When something adverse happens, our immediate reaction is often to attempt to locate the cause and to apply a fix. However, this “fix” will have effects of its own, and very often these are not positive ones.

So emergent properties will affect the way we interact at many levels of existence. They sit at the heart of the concept of systems thinking as the behaviour of a system is an emergent property of its structure, not of its parts. As Donella H. Meadows put it:
Once we see the relationship between structure and behaviour, we can begin to understand how systems work, what makes them produce poor results, and how to shift them into better behaviour patterns. As our world continues to change rapidly and become more complex, systems thinking will help us manage, adapt, and see the wide range of choices we have before us.

Significantly, she writes that systems can change themselves utterly by creating whole new structures and behaviours.

In our Newtonian world we have been taught to think linearly using our rational ability to trace direct paths from cause to effect, looking at things in small and understandable pieces; but we can complement that way of seeing and thinking with a more intuitive way, a way that allows us to stop casting blame and to see the system as the source of its own problems, and find the courage and wisdom to restructure it.

Systems thinking is concerned with revealing truths of nature, where the unseen is just as important as the seen.

So, as a starting point, we do this through inquiry into the reasons, the foundations, the meanings, and the ways of the unseen. This both broadens our paradigms and allows us to transcend them – changing our beliefs and our attitudinal address to ‘life’.

• Systems Thinking allows us to appreciate the non-obvious as well as the obvious ways we are connected to each other.
• Systems Thinking helps us recognise the unintended impacts of our intentions, thinking, and actions on others as well as ourselves.
• Systems Thinking helps us apply this self-awareness to changing how we relate to others in our system.

The trick to succeeding in our inquiry is to recognise which of our behaviours result from systems and what conditions release those behaviours. In this way we can work to rearrange the structures and conditions of the system to reduce the likelihood of self-destructive behaviours, such as addiction, and encourage more positive behaviours.

This requires self-awareness.

To build self-awareness, we must try to sense our own boundaries and limitations.

By being clear about ourselves and our abilities, gifts, and limitations, we can see the larger system much more clearly.

Guest Blogger Dr Brian Gordon, OAM

See our awareness meditations under Health and Well-Being  HERE 

 

 

Nostalgia, Harmony and Belief

Nostalgia, Harmony and Belief

What happens when the past takes on an intensity that shapes our present behaviour? A backward-looking life, whether shaped by good or bad experiences, spells trouble, because your thoughts and feelings are the tools that will craft your personal world, both now and in the future.

You can’t drive forward looking in your rear-view mirror.

An anagram for nostalgia is ‘lost again’. Indeed, we can become lost and disconnected from what the future holds for us when nostalgia gains a deep grip on us; and we become lost down a line of time. In this form it can become the precursor to severe depression, distorting reality. Nostalgia is a lens that simplifies many of the complexities of the past; it is not a holistic or integrated perception of the times. Nostalgia is a shallow emotion that can deny, in the present, the necessity for transformative thinking and action.

Whatever our past, we need to learn how to escape nostalgia’s gravitational pull, at least in the space where dark emotions lurk. Failure to do so affects our potential as participants in a greater existence. This being so let me metaphorically illustrate what happens when nostalgia or past hurts and disappointments begin to govern our lives.

This metaphor involves ‘God’. Unfortunately, the one concept in our English language over which wars are fought and communities split is the differing concepts of God. However, the reality is that in every mainstream ‘God-believing’ religion on earth, one of the core attributes of God is that God is an entity that one way or another touches or even permeates our existence.

For the purposes of this metaphor, I ask you for a moment to imagine God as creator of the universe, emitting a vast array of musical frequencies, notes and rhythms of life of which we are the potential receptors if we allow ourselves to tune in.

As babies we can receive and play back the odd note; as we grow older the notes become riffs[1] and melodies and then, growing into adulthood (with all the personal development that is implied), we begin to form a quartet and then an orchestra (although some of us may have more violins and others more drums). So we progressively become better able to resonate with the creative emissions of God and the universe in our lives; but then deep nostalgia or past experiences captures us and we go back in time to when we were just a string quartet or played solo.

In so doing we are reducing our capacity in ‘the now’ to play God’s song for our lives and be the fantastic orchestra we have the potential to be.

Yet, when playing in the full resonant and harmonic way that we are designed to play, our health, spiritual, relational and material prosperity and wellbeing soars.

As an internal condition, nostalgia may at times be a subtle but insidious obstacle to our reflection of the universe’s true harmonic. Another such internal condition lies in the challenges of our past. These challenges may have resulted in a legacy of bitterness or hardship, or poverty, or, more frequently, rejection. For many of us this can mean that we are now cautious about opportunities and relationships that lie in the present. We have all heard the expression ‘once bitten, twice shy’. As we respond to such sentiments we tune out of the musical frequencies of life.

Such emotional flotsam from our past becomes our baggage, a baggage of wounds, hurts, and outdated beliefs. Its legacy needlessly, and often unconsciously, causes us to drift in a metaphorical Sargasso Sea[2] of our own making, wary of repeating the same ‘mistakes’. As a result we increasingly become non participants in the construct of our future.

With a bit of self-reflection we can all recognize how often we allow the baggage of the past, with its pain, rejection, suffering or nostalgic moments, to create chains that hold us to a place, to a person or to a circumstance long since faded from the present. Such baggage reaches out, down through time and into our present world, eating at our dreams, denying our possibilities and binding our future with their legacy.

Back in the 1960s Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel, wrote a song I am a Rock, which reached the charts in their Sounds of Silence album. It expresses the way in which we all can become self-limiting and emotionally insular, as we retreat from past hurts.

‘I’ve built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.

Its laughter and its loving I disdain.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,

But I’ve heard the words before;

It’s sleeping in my memory.

I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.

If I never loved I never would have cried.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

 I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb,

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,

I am an island’.[3]

But consider for a moment that the world is also filled with successful people who refused to allow the hurts and baggage of their past to impede their future.

People like Oprah Winfrey who overcame a childhood of abuse and molestation to become the world’s first African American billionaire; or Walt Disney who went bankrupt several times before building his successful entertainment empire. People like Thomas Edison, who, when a reporter asked him how it felt to have failed 25,000 times in his effort to create a simple storage battery, replied ‘‘I don’t know why you are calling it a failure. Today I know 25,000 ways not to make a battery.’’ Notably Edison also made over 2,000 attempts at creating a light bulb before perfecting it.

Other examples might include Helen Keller who became the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college and Franklin Roosevelt who contracted polio as a young man and refused to allow his subsequent paraplegia to have an impact on his life, becoming President of the United States of America. In the process, he became a powerful symbol of an individual’s ability to overcome the ravages of one’s past.

History is filled with ordinary people, no different to you or me, who refused to allow their past and outward circumstance to dictate their future.

The baggage of our history and culture affects and shapes our beliefs and thinking. Beliefs are those things you hold to be true that change how you behave and so creates paradigms of our reality. These paradigms can keep us closed and unexpectant, blind to the opportunities of life around us. In a brilliant illustration of what happens when we are blinkered, my favourite poet, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, once wrote:

‘Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God:

But only he, who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware’[4]

Most of us tend to be blackberry eaters, missing the fire of God (however defined) all around us, with its generative possibilities for a fulfilled life, as we live in our self-limiting sensate world, leaning into the past, unbelieving that life holds more for us. To see the burning bush in our lives we need to believe that it exists in the first place. Such celestial burning bushes tend to only exist on the periphery of our vision.

We need to enlarge our paradigms. 

Paradigms are based in what we hold to be true; what we hold to be possible. In other words, they are based in our beliefs. We must create paradigms of reality that are bigger than our experience and more than wishful thinking. We need paradigms that allow us to recognise the unseen universe, the nature of being and weaving the realities of the seen and unseen into a practical philosophy of daily living.

Much is made of the Law of Attraction and its alleged premise that thoughts manifest, or make tangible, a new reality (health, wealth, prosperity, opportunity etc.). This is a casual, if not sloppy, wording. Thoughts do not manifest so much as ‘beliefs’ manifest. Beliefs are those things you hold to be true that change how you behave. Thoughts are mental processes. Dominant beliefs manifest, or make tangible, a changed reality. The belief that because you have been hurt once you will be hurt again will preclude you from opportunity. A belief that life was so much better ‘way back then’ leaves you locked up in a past that can blind you to the present.

But a belief that you can move mountains, shape your destiny, unlock riches, achieve new heights whether creative, spiritual, relational or temporal, such a belief will change your future and take you into a new dimension. Such a belief, as will be demonstrated, calls down the intervention of forces in your life that are greater than you; forces that are drawn, or are attracted, by your belief as it signals to the universe.

‘What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve’, (Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich).

Belief gives an emotional quality to our thoughts, and that emotional quality has much more power for change than our thoughts alone. This is so because such belief will also encourage you to take the steps you know are necessary in your life to realise your dreams.

Beliefs are broader than material facts.

Beliefs give us confidence where the presenting ‘facts’ might lead us to doubt. It’s been said that if you want to attain your dreams, work with ideas, not facts. Dwell upon the end result, not the ‘hows’ of it. Do not worry about the logistics, the people or the money you need to make the result happen; but think of the end result you dream of. The ‘facts’ of apparent difficulties and lack of resources will be overcome by the creational storehouse of the universe.

Our subsequent actions, which actualise our new life, are the tip of an iceberg, the hidden base of which is formed by our beliefs, and between the two are our values layered with thoughts and emotions.

Beliefs form the foundation and bedrock of our being.

Change your beliefs – and you will change your life.

Do not be afraid to recognise your ability. Move past nostalgia, or saudade, rejection, bitterness and fear and become the destiny that is yours.

Guest Blogger: Dr Brian Gordon, OAM

[1] short, often repeated series of notes in pop music or jazz

[2] The Sargasso Sea is famous in mythology for its images of fleets of derelict sailing ships, crewed by bleached white skeletons, and trapped in dense mats of clinging seaweed.(http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2000/05/11/125857.htm?site=science/greatmomentsinscience)

[3] Lyricsfreak Retrieved 17 July 2008 from http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/simon+and+garfunkel/i+am+a+rock_20124809.html

[4] Browning, E.B. 1856 The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning Thomas Crowell and Company New York p134

Health and Well-Being meditations here

 

 

What is a Paradigm?

What is a Paradigm?

A  paradigm is the thinking that serves as a pattern or model. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.These assumptions are often not consciously held and so we tend not to challenge them.

How can we challenge what we are not aware of?

If we construct our view of reality through our paradigms, then it follows that if we can change our paradigms, we change our reality.

The following true story is a classic tale of a paradigm (reality) changing experience by a naval officer, Frank Koch, which appeared in an issue of Proceedings, the magazine of the United States Naval Institute (1)

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on manoeuvres in heavy weather for several days. Koch was serving on the lead battleship and was standing watch on the bridge as night fell. He recounts his experience.
The visibility was extremely poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on our navigation activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, ‘Light bearing on the starboard bow!’
The captain called out, ‘is it steady or moving astern?’
The lookout replied, ‘steady captain’, which meant that we were on a collision course with that source of light.
The captain then called to the signalman, ‘Signal that ship: We are on a collision course … advise you change course 20 degrees.’
Back came the signal from the other ship. ‘Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees’. The captain barked, ‘Send, I am a captain … change course 20 degrees immediately.’
‘I am a seaman second class,’ came the reply. ‘You had better change course 20 degrees’.
By this time, the captain was furious. He spat out, ‘Send, I am a battleship! Change course 20 degrees.’
Back came the signal from the flashing light …’I am a lighthouse’.
We changed course.

Because paradigms are based in what we hold to be true, they dictate what we hold to be possible.

In other words, they reflect our beliefs. Our beliefs can also be shaped by others who might cling to their paradigms even in the face of reason, and so limit our understanding of ‘reality’.

For example. For centuries mankind’s understanding of astronomy was based in what is known as Ptolemaic astronomy which portrayed a cosmos with the earth stationary at its centre and the stars, sun, and planets rotating around it. Then along came Copernicus in 1543 who strongly argued that far from being immobile, the earth and the other planets moved around the sun.

This was such an affront to the generally held paradigm that when Galileo began to promote this idea the Inquisition forced him to recant or be convicted of heresy.

Paradigms reflect our beliefs, and no-one likes having their beliefs challenged, not least the establishment …

We construct belief systems based on an incomplete view of the world then surround those cherished systems with high walls to guard against the intrusion of new evidence.

In a complex world, forming theories to guide and orient oneself is essential to narrow down the overwhelming task of decision making. But we face a problem in the fortification we erect around those systems. Dogmas are created, elevated to truths and defended, sometimes to the death as superior to new insights into reality. (Erdmann and Stover, 1993:60)

Guest Blogger, Dr Brian Gordon

*Regular mindful meditation increases awareness, helping to give insight to imbedded paradigms. AL

 

The Intactness Within

The Intactness Within

 How strange life can be,
It’s not always as it seems,
What seems so right 
What seems so wrong.

Go out, go out they say,
But pause just a little,
Before you go,
Maybe first there are things to know.

What we seek, it looks for us,
Hoping too, that in our search, we stop
It’s only ourselves we seek,
No more and yet no less.

It’s in the eyes this presence bright
Who would seek to subdue that light?
In oneself or others too,
That colour, it’s God’s own hue.

 

This little poem came together with a life of its own having met an old friend on a walk, a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time but knew had been unwell over recent years with a neurological condition.

His speech and walking were quite badly impaired but what struck me most were his eyes first and then the look on his face.

You see, he was all there, but more so than I had ever seen, more intent, stronger, more alive.

The thing is, he doesn’t have a neurological condition, his body does. The inner life of him is intact and even strengthened.

We cant always choose what happens to us, but we can choose who we are in dealing with it.

Guest Blogger Tim, UK

 

See our well-being meditations  to enhance insight. AL

My Way

My Way

I often wonder why I love science fiction and science fantasy so much.

My friends read all the latest books that win prizes and are much vaulted. I do try and read them but too many of them are dry, depressing, and boring.

‘What about space?’ I think, ‘what about dragons?’

I am in an ordinary life, it is pretty mundane in the main, with pockets of excitement, warm family times, and outings with friends. But these books allow my spirit to soar, ideas to develop, lift me to see the impossible for our lives today. It gives me both hope for the future and a taste of the possible other worlds, which generates optimism in me and makes the move towards growth and openness in myself.

What can beat the satisfaction of a good read? Whatever the genre? Some would say its escapism, but for me I think it’s both a coping mechanism to the stresses of everyday life and a soaring of the imagination that adds a richness to oneself. A reminder that we are not alone in the universe, that anything is possible.

If we dismiss the imagination we are in danger of dismissing possibility, and closing off so much. Imagination opens us to new things, to growth, development and  improvement.

We all  have our ways into this. Meditation is another way of mine, offering peace, knowledge and gentle motivation in the sitting and dwelling, as well as bounteous undertsandings, insights and knowings.

Add all this to my favourite genre of books and I am ready to fly!

Being open to books, to meditation, to difference, helps me be more tolerant, able to see the bigger picture of life, believe in God and see the wonder of the universe.

What is your way?

Chris UK,  Guest Blogger

Access relaxations, visulalisations and meditations

 

Lost your Career Path?

Lost your Career Path?

It isn’t a failure if you decide after many years that your career isn’t for you. People change and their priorities with them. So, it’s normal to find yourself with over ten years of experience in a field that isn’t for you anymore.

According to Indeed, 49% of employees have done a dramatic career change at some point. You aren’t alone. Here are some signs that will help you decide if your career isn’t for you.

You Hate Talking About Your Career

One of the first signs that your career isn’t for you is that you hate talking about it. Every time you meet with friends and family the first thing people ask is: How are you doing? Or, How is work going?

When you don’t like what you do you start dreading those moments when people ask you those questions. This uncomfortable feeling comes from the fact that you probably feel like your career doesn’t represent who you are. It doesn’t align with what you want or your personality and you probably feel like an impostor.

Sometimes we do this unconsciously and it’s hard to identify it as a sign that we are on the wrong path. Pay attention to your reactions to the questions mentioned before and try to determine how you feel when people ask them.

It Doesn’t Align With Your Values

Another sign is that your career doesn’t align with your values. The hard part about this is that you have to have a clear picture of who you are as a person and what is important to you. If you don’t know what your values are, you won’t know if your career fits them. Take some time to think about it. Maybe your values are honesty, humility, and passion, and what you want most in life is to help others.

Then, you can choose a career where your everyday work has an impact on other people’s lives, such as a doctor, lawyer, or even machine learning engineer to a lesser degree. Our values are generally what defines how we live our lives, so the point is to have a career that doesn’t go against them.

It’s Not Your Passion

Your work not being your passion isn’t a sign by itself. Very few people around the world work in what their passion is. But this coupled with all the other signs is just another reason why you should make a change. You should at least be passionate about the impact your work has.

Guest Blogger Artur Meyster, Career Karma

(Clarity Contemplation in Meditations)