This post is under construction, yet all comments are welcome.
My basic statement:
- The universe is dynamic in nature.
- A lot of thinking is static in nature.
- It is better to learn how to think dynamically.
How are we thinking?
I believe a lot of general ingrained patterns in thought are feeding a lot of big problems worldwide. Yet where is the guide on how to do it better? The aim of this post is to give principles and examples to arrive at a more dynamic, more adaptive and rich way of thinking.
We all have our crises. It’s normal to get “stuck” while searching for answers to life’s biggest questions. Some believe searching for existential answers only gives rise to more questions, more thinking and a threatening feeling of emptiness. Yet I found that next to confusion, unrest and mental overload there are mental principles that actually help to understand the world.
These principles are often implicit and therefore not communicated clearly enough. They might seem evident, but everyone is blundering on them. I really mean everyone including me. Even the highest spiritual guide, the people regarded as the wisest, they all fail because it is impossible to think the truth. We are all juggling to get it right. It’s most serious and at the same time it is a play, because the truth is never in words.
I have long searched for these answers, at times it was really a struggle. In the process I realized this is actually a fundamental problem of our society. I noticed my own thinking has different qualities in different situations. Sometimes my thought is sloppy and chaotic, other times it is clear and insightfull. I recognize everyone in our society has the fluctuations in the quality of their thinking. The construction of our thought systems and beliefs are most of the time not fundamental enough. We don’t take the necessary time and don’t have the right techniques to think it through. That is what this post is about – learning new ways of thinking that open up our true potential in order to build a better world for ourselves and others.
Convergent and divergent thinking.
One way of approaching the difference between static and dynamic thinking is by the difference between “convergent” and “divergent” thinking.
As simple as I can explain:
convergent thinking: only one solution is possible to one specific problem.
divergent thinking: many solutions are possible to a problem and there are many possible ways to get to those solutions.
Here is a beautiful video about this subject:
Leaving ideas next to each other, “and” vs “or”:
This is part of the difference between convergent and divergent thinking. Ideas can exist next to each other instead of needing to take the one place available for this idea. The word “and” indicates option, “or” indicates only one possibility. Should I do this “or” should I do that? I have this option “and” I have this option.
It might seem to obvious at, but I noticed it is a common mistake. Often I was searching for a way, a clarity to see how I can do right, to find meaning in my life, to direct the meaning in my life. I searched for “the” right answer. The possible answers started to compete. Perfectionism or searching for “right” and “wrong” doesn’t allow the whole to be and to the possibility there might be different answers to one problem.
One of the biggest problems in convergent thinking and communicating is that it means one dominating the other. By definition it doesn’t allow for another idea or feeling to exist. You need to make choices and before you make those choices you can allow multiple perspectives.
We are often cought in judgmental thinking, in moralisation in which we only leave the space for one option. There are many ways to deal with life and many of them are worthwhile. There is no one truth. The truth is carried in many ways.
And some ways are yet unknown…
Nagual and Tonal – the approach of Carlos Castaneda and the evolution of thought.
Carlos Castaneda talks about the difference between the “tonal and the nagual”. The “island of the tonal” is our world as we know it. It is full of labels, symbols, interpretations about the nature of our universe. It is the principles we know of in our conscious thinking.
The tonal is an island on the nagual, including everything in the universe which is not named yet. A lot of people take our world for granted. The way we look at our universe is our universe. Everything we can imagine is the only thing in existence. I think that is an absurd statement. We have no possibility to know that we see as reality is all there is.
An example: 2000 years ago a computer was part of the nagual. It didn’t exist yet. It was impossible for humans to think of something like a computer. It probably couldn’t exist for the people of that age.
Copernicus turned the world view around of so many people. Now we see it as evident truth that our world turns around the sun and is part of a solar system. How many of us really realize that there could be an infinite amount of copernican evolutions yet to come?
String theory has a similar concept, in a sense that our dimensions and perceptions are built out of strings and an infinite amount of other strings are possible.
We can only see what we are “trained” to see. We can only percieve the what our senses allow us to see.
There is no one doubting there are radio-signals in the air, together with wi-fi, television, telephone, light, gps,… But yet to some the eastern concept of energy, qi, prana, kundalini are impossible.
The difficult moment in every big discovery or new way of thinking is the point where worldview isn’t the right anymore. This means alienation, fear, the unknown.
I had the same experience with the ideas of Carlos Castaneda and his of way of approaching them. The books can be creepy, confusing, dark and frightening while they pretend to have the only worthwhile answer to life. They give access to another experience of the world, but they can be very confusing as they don’t give a fulfilling answer to all the feelings of emptiness that comes with these truths.
In one of his books Don Juan, the teacher of Castaneda says life makes no sense to him. He enjoys the greatness of perception, but doesn’t care about mankind and it’s follies. Most people to him are unaware, idiots.
I don’t like this way of thinking and I long searched for an answer. I give my answer later on, but first I want to explain how the problem of clarity manifests in our daily reality.
A good description of the nagual, though a bit different as I approach it:
The illusion of clarity and the ideas of Carl Popper
Most thought systems that give guidance to the behavior of people, like psychotherapy, eastern philosophy or religion try to search and give clear answers to people. These clear answers can seem very real.
Think about the good advice you get from self help literature or people who don’t really know or understand you – how often the other treats their advice as “certain”, as truth, and how often do you really feel helped by what you hear?
There is a certain feeling of “being right” and following that a seeming certainty. It seems honest, complete, true. The clearest description of this phenomenon I read in the first book of Carlos Castaneda: the clarity of mind gives us a false certainty. In the books it is explained as “a point before your eyes”.
Here is a link to a clear description of this principle: http://www.prismagems.com/castaneda/donjuan1.html
I think of it as more complex than a mere illusion. A lot of truths are sold together with nonsense.
An example: People teaching in a shiatsu school often see their acquired knowledge as absolute. They can make very certain statements about the reason why a person has a certain ilness.
The teacher has noticed that his way of treating can sometimes really helped some people, but doesn’t realize the limits of his knowledge. I personally know a teacher that tells his students that every organ in the body is connected to a country in the world. This to me is a preposterous idea, but I believe he can be good at shiatsu.
The teacher in the example interprets his thinking as clear enough, but in fact his thinking is to quick. He fools himself by a false feeling of “being right” Interpretations goes to fast.
The philosopher Carl Popper held similar ideas – he made up that falsification is the only way to search for truth. Thoroughly searching for a reason why a claim is false is the only way to know wether it is true.
In the last few years I have started to notice how fundamental this problem is. This false security of knowing is a difficult trap to overcome.
One of the causes of this problem I try do describe under the next title.
The difference between stock and flow, knowledge and awareness
I want to outline a difference in dealing with knowledge. It goes for dealing with any kind of knowledge. I’ll give two words which are sides of a spectrum. Left is more static knowledge to the right more dynamic. One is more focused, one point, the other is more “open and wide”.
narrow focus <-> broad focus
stock <-> flow (information management theory)
knowledge <-> realisation
knowledge <-> awareness
schematic outlining <-> full experience
understanding <-> internalising
digital <-> analog
external view <-> internal dynamics
focus <-> presence
imposed <-> natural
analytic <-> felt through
academic <-> out of personal experience
spotlight attention <-> floodlight attention
This doesn’t mean the left side is bad and right is good. I think there needs to be a balance. Sometimes the appropriate balance is to the right, sometimes it’s to the left.
Examples on the web:
Body intelligence vs mental knowledge – internal dynamics vs spoken language
I studied mime theatre, contemporary dance and bodywork. I encountered a lot of theories about the body which seem to overlap and contradict each other. I realized the body is a complex system.
- There is conscious intelligence, the part of us that thinks and interprets our perception while we are awake. This information is only a small part of the information processed in our body.
- The body itself is directed by other parts of the brain, the spinal cord, the rest of the nervous system and, if you are open to it, Qi or energy, another form of intelligence.
- We perceive the body as one entity and yet know a lot of different processes happen. We see one, we tend to group and see a certain function or organ or system. We create a “oneness” a “solid” image in our mind of what we are and how we function.
The contradiction is:
- >We need this oneness in our perception to judge reality, in order to know which choices to make. We need to label better or worse.
- <In it’s function the body’s intelligence structures information in completely different ways. It is not thinking the way our neocortex is thinking. This “body intelligence” has a dynamic of it’s own.
For example your body’s balance – Could you exactly describe how the body keeps its balance? There are people researching the topic, but the mechanisms are only gradually showing itself.
Another example: do you know how you walk? What is happening on a muscular level? How does your body coordinate your actions?
As I imagine the mental brain evolved mainly because out of a practical advantage. It organised social structures in groups and actions of early humans in order to hunt and to survive. The mind started labeling information in order to get control.
But the mind needs a lot of time to mentally understand the different dynamics of the body. There is a huge amount of information going through the body and brains. It is infinitely complex.
Yet there are patterns and we learn to understand those patterns better and better.
The mind tries to “grasp” reality and doesn’t realize it’s impatience. You need to observe very long to notice what really goes on. Spoken language doesn’t really cover what happens on a subtle level. A lot of words don’t exist yet.
And people who do bodywork and develop spiritually train their minds.
Good teachers help, but abstract thinking takes time to get it right. A lot of time. A huge lot of time.
Pain and emptiness
We search for definite answers in order to avoid pain. Of course this avoidance in the long run doesn’t pay of, but here and right now it seems to be a good strategy to avoid pain by creating the illusion of a definite answer.
Take an addiction – the mind creates the illusion your addiction is going to get rid of the pain.
With emptiness I mean the fear that the most fundamental nature of the universe would be the fact there is no real meaning to it all. If we go deep enough into the emptiness and don’t have a strong spiritual basis, we start to believe there is nothing worth living for.
A real but disputed answer: there is a benevolent and intelligent force in the universe.
I think it is of the essence to be able to connect to the notion there is something essentially positive about the universe. Call it God, Allah, “something”, the universe, love or music, happiness… we need a mental understanding that what we perceive as “good” exists on a universal scale.
For some life makes sense just to be able to percieve, it is great, it is wonder. Love makes sense because gives you a fuller experience, it opens your system to experience, to enjoy, to connect and it offers you a compass in life.
But for a lot of us value needs an bigger all encompassing mental structure and we fear despair if it’s not there. If the only truth would be emptiness then what is the sense in living? Not believing in the positive side of our universe means a life without true meaning.
Problem with the word God is that it has a lot of bad publicity. A lot of innocent people were killed in the name of God. Morality can be manipulation. To me the term “axis of evil” is a horrible example of this.
So what about the really big and horrible problems?
There is no God if he allows for such terror as war and rape. If he allows us to continually be afraid, angry, destructive, confused and in pain. So much horror.
I struggled with this realization a lot. Yet I notice their are ways of feeling better. There are solutions and if we don’t see them it is a good thing to realize there is something positive which is bigger then ourselves.
We are small and huge at the same time.
We need to realize we are only a very small part of the universe. I learned to look more positively at the word “humbleness”. To me it doesn’t mean following a spiritual leader and being humble to his principles, to me it means nobody on this earth is certain what our existence is about. We can stay open for answers, because nobody really knows. And then it helps to believe in a positive “force or intelligence” outside of ourselves. The moment I really started connecting to the bigger, an intelligence stronger than my mental (often habitually determined brain), my life changed fundamentally for the good.
Structure vs Chaos and complexity
The biggest problem in my life handling with the huge amount of information is finding a workable structure.
- Any structure allows you to do certain things but limits certain possibilities. A structure bounds absolute freedom in order to build something.
- setting a structure needs time and energy.
- Structures cannot necessarily be combined. They often need different kinds of focus.
- Dabrowski speaks about “positive desintegration”. If one level of functioning is not supporting your experience and perception of your own life, you disentegrate in order to find a higher level structure. This structural development is continual; it has no ending, it keeps evolving.
The feeling and principle of resonance as a guideline
The snare of a violin gives resonance, sound waves that can be felt through the instrument and in our body. Some things resonate better with the other.
You can apply this to ideas as well. If information “resonates” with your feeling, this might be good information for you at this time. You can connect it to what is alive in your own perception. This doesn’t make this information is absolutely “right”, just the kind of infomation that allows you to develop your awareness at the moment you encounter it.
Kidoma, resonance and divergent thinking.
I used to translate kidoma as “the right action on the right moment in the right place”. Better would be “a right action in a right moment in a right place”. In order to have a positive effect on people or a situation you need to take into account the timing, the area where you will apply it, and which action is suitable action for this moment.
Identification, emptiness and openness
One eastern concept is that of emptiness. If you peel the skins of an onion, what you will find is emptiness. It is a metaphor often used to explain the fact that you cannot mentally understand what life is really about. Things are the way they are, you can only experience them. In a negative way it could mean life is just that “empty”. In a positive way it means that with an open mind change is almost always possible.
The feeling of emptiness can be dreary, can be hard, can be lonely, can be depressing. When depressed this emptiness seems to be “all there is”. There is no way around. The negative truths seem more true than anything else.
This is a limitied perception. The problem is you identify with what your mind tells you. You make it your ultimate truth. You are ultimately believing your experience is more true than anything else. Often the need behind this is recognition but a lot of other needs, which are real and fundamental needs are not being met.
The multiple meanings of words
The same words are often used in different ways, with different meanings. The way a word is defined for a particular person is not clarified enough. I give a few examples:
For a lot of guru’s, religion’s and thought systems the ego is something to conquer, to vanquish, to eliminate.
To other’s it is something you need to balance in order to be able to achieve something in society.
What is it exactly? Well it is defined differently by different people.
a few possible definitions:
- your idea of self worth
- your entire concept, all of your ideas about who you are
- the one that makes decisions in you
- the part of you that believes your emotions are important
- your pride
More on the unfortunate different and unclear uses of the word ego in this text: The ego By James Harvey Stout
The biggest risk in this misconception is that people actually start to believe the ego is something to get rid of without exactly knowing what they are getting rid of. And that can be a destructive conviction, it can make people believe they are battling the source of all evil while in fact they are killing their ability to make decisions. I don’t say healing your self-perception or humbling or questioning your feeling of importance is a bad thing. I’m saying it needs to be with care for the multiple meanings of the word.
The power of empathy and observation
If you truly learn to see how others experience the world it makes a lot of mental battles, a lot of judgment unnecessary. It opens up your understanding of what is really going on in the world.
People lacking empathy don’t realize what they are missing, so I see it as my challenge to make people aware about what really moves others.
There are a lot of ways to be empathical, I’ll open a post on that later probably.
The charge on our thoughts and feelings
from the source: http://www.westegg.com/etymology/
- Demon (German and English)
- From the Greek “Daimon” for a non-human power somewhere between people and gods, without any negative connotations. An example would be the daimon of Socrates. The daimon had a wisdom which has nothing to do with our modern conceptions of good or evil: it was a force of nature that could offer hints about fateful situations and actions.
The meaning of things gets a certain connotation and a certain “charge”. In my bodywork class one of the teachers called them “elementals”. It is the emotion that is charged, loaded on a word or a symbol or any kind of mental or perception entity.
another example: if you say the word cancer, it holds a certain emotion, a certain fear, that is present directly after the word is spoken.
Optimism versus realism
There is a subtle fight between happy and unhappy people. Those unhappy struggle for recognition and those happy struggle to maintain there happiness.
And I say this fight is unnecessary. Unhappy people deserve recognition, but in order to give them they and you need understanding of where and the other really experiences. This understanding takes time, empathy and openness.