What Makes You “You”

October 6, 2011

Two things define you as an individual: your mind and your body.  Put another way, “nature and nurture.” You were born with a set of potentials (like intelligence or musical talent), just like you were born with certain physical characteristics (like gender or eye color). These potentials influence or predetermine the outcome of your life to some degree.

Your personality is also molded by the experiences you have in life—especially in your early life—particularly in your relationships with other people. In your early years, those potentials were formed by your experience into what you think of as “you.”  These experiences can have a “predetermining” effect on your present reality, too.

Ultimately, though, you determine the events and relationships in your life, apart from any outside influences on your choices. Nothing is truly predetermined; anyone can radically change the course of their life at any moment. Even if you can’t change the characteristics you were born with (like intelligence or shoe size), you can change the ones that your environment shaped (like political views or health).

What you do in life is create a present reality for yourself by choosing from the possibilities “out there” in your daily experience, based on the values you hold “in here”—in your mindset. Your beliefs are one kind of value you’ll find in there. Beliefs are so powerful that, if someone really believes their life is predetermined, this belief will be reinforced by their life experience.

But so will a belief in free will. Or anything else!

If you learn to overcome your beliefs and other false impressions, you can see what’s really happening here: your reality is being created every moment by your mindset (which includes your beliefs, opinions, assumptions, and so on). Then questions like Free will or destiny? and Nature or nurture? won’t be an issue. You will be in control of your own life, and you will see how your experiences contribute to your own decision-making.

We Are Alone in This World

September 19, 2011

We are all utterly alone in this world. Though we may share the company of other people, we are ultimately our own companions.

When we hurt, we alone hurt, even if others try to hurt with us. When we exult in our achievements, we enjoy them ourselves, though others may pat us on the back. People come and go in our lives.

Have you reconciled yourself with the fact that you will die alone?

Someone may be present at both your birth and your death, but when you shed your mortal coil you will leave them behind—alone, as they always have been. In the days in between, that person will not have been a constant companion; you will have celebrated and grieved without them at some point in your life.

And they will have done the same without you.

We try to console ourselves from the thought of our isolation from others by surrounding ourselves with other people, or animals, or things. There is value in this, as long as we don’t succeed in deluding ourselves that we truly share our lives with others. Our lives are our own and, though we may seek to share them with others, other people don’t share our experiences or our perspective.

They can’t.

Our experiences are what we are. Not only do they affect who we are, but they proceed from us. Our mindset creates our experiences as we are reflected back to ourselves in the events and relationships that comprise our human existence.

Paradoxically, though, we are not alone. As our deepest selves are reflected in our experiences, we can come to know ourselves intimately by paying attention to what happens in our lives, all around us.

In this way, all that we know and all that we can see is part of us while we are alive.

(Written in 2005 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)

“Inside” vs. “Outside”: A Proof That All Is One

September 13, 2011

People love to divide and categorize. They place labels on everything and, if anything doesn’t have a name or a definition, someone will think of one. One of the most basic and simplest examples of this tendency is the division of experience into an “inner” and an “outer” world.

The “inner” world includes a person’s thoughts and feelings. It’s the part of one’s experience that is uniquely one’s own, which one may or may not choose to reveal to others. The “outer” world is the world of things, beings, and circumstances, which are seen and shared between us.

Other people are, from this perspective, part of the “outer” world.

Where a person chooses to place the dividing line between the world of (inner) and the world of Thou (outer) is to some degree up to the individual. One might see his or her body as part of I, while another considers the body to be part of Thou.

In reality, though, there is no boundary or separation between I and Thou.

It’s true that, from my own perspective, there can seem to be an inner world that is uniquely mine and an outer world that is not. However, this apparently clean division of the Universe into two parts is an illusion, and clearly so when you consider that there is more than one perspective.

This means that, if there really are two worlds which are separate from one another, then everybody else’s inner world is actually in the outer world. But, if the inner and outer worlds are indeed separate, then one cannot be a part of the other!

In this case, whether the outer is a subset of the inner or the inner is a subset of the outer, there is only one “real” world—and it therefore makes no sense to speak of “inner” and “outer”! A seed or peel is not separate from the apple it constitutes.

The alternative is to consider that the “inner” and “outer” worlds are, in reality, only one world—which only appears to be divided when examined from one’s own perspective.

Whichever way you choose to describe the “division,” it becomes clear that there is no division: only oneness, only unity. Your inner and outer lives are one Life, and so are everyone else’s!

Life is One…but with many perspectives.

(Written in 2004 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)


September 12, 2011

Life is like mining.

As we live, we gather for ourselves the raw dirt of experience. That “dirt” consists of a load of information that we sift through to select the bits that we incorporate into our view of the world.

Our World View

There are many bits of information, of many different qualities, in our experience, and we accept or reject them based on our present world view.

Our world view, at any time, consists of our judgment of the nature and qualities of reality, based on the values we hold in mind, and reinforced by those bits of information we glean from the experiences we “mine” from reality in our daily life.

We choose the information that makes up our world view from all the experiences we encounter…based on our own world view!

Thus, our experience tends to reinforce whatever idea of reality we already have.

You encounter a million and one things in each day, and you don’t notice nearly a million of them. For example, I might have seen an ad for an upcoming marathon. If I did, I didn’t notice it–because running marathons isn’t part of my version of reality. My uncle Mike, on the other hand, who plans his vacations around marathons, definitely would have noticed it!

There is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” experience (although experiences vary in the amount of pleasure or pain we feel, or in how much they jibe with what we want to happen).

Each bit of life experience comes to us judgment-free until we judge it (again based on our world view!). Yet it has value to us because it is a reflection of the mind elements that we consist of. It has value to us because we can learn more about who we are by noticing what things in our experience seem important to us—and what things don’t.

Life Reflects YOU

This is because, just as life is like mining, it is also like a mirror. Just as we pick and choose from our vast experience the bits of information that we already value, so it appears to us that Life occurs in a manner consistent with the values that we already hold in mind.

Thus, as we are, so we experience life:

because of our world view, which affects what we “see” in life, what we see is a reflection of what we are.

To change what you experience (or what you perceive as your experience), you have to change the way you see the world. Amazing things can and will happen when you become aware of the way you see things—and the effect that your view has on your entire life!

“Good” and “bad” are concepts (in this case, judgments) that many people hold in their world view. How do they judge the “good” from the “bad”? Primarily,

  1. violating their own childhood teachings is “bad” and
  2. physical pain and, by extension, death is “bad”—especially their own.

“Good,” then, is the opposite:

  1. seeing the fulfillment of their childhood teachings in their own experience and
  2. avoiding physical pain and death.

Although all events in our experience are neutral in value until we ascribe value to them, the events that we pick out of our wealth of experience are important to our understanding.

They reflect what we value; they also reflect the thoughts we focus on. Our thoughts affect us in two possible ways: they can be positive (nudging us closer to a clear understanding of Life and Love) or negative (hindering our growth).

Negativity, Growth, and Love

Negativity is the accumulation of negative thought. It is also known as sin, evil, baggage, and negative emotions (such as anger, frustration, fear, and depression).

Our thoughts tend to snowball upon each other. Negativity begets negativity; Love begets Love. The good news is that you are more powerful than any negativity. But you can’t beat Love. Although negativity obscures Love temporarily, Love is always there, even if it’s out of sight.

Love is the goal of growth.  Growth is the casting away of negativity; Love is its absence.

If we don’t deal with the negativity that we have accumulated in our lives, it gradually overwhelms us and obscures our perception of the world. The results are:

  1. we see the world as an ever-more hostile or bad place, and other people as our enemies, and
  2. we lose sight of the universal value, Love, and experience it less in our life.

We become miserable, suspicious, cold, closed: we become evil.

Everything that is done can be undone except death, which is itself an undoing. If we have accumulated negativity, we can also cut it off. The way we do so is by becoming aware of it.

Then we can learn how we “got” it and we can undo it in our own lives by seeing the error of its presence and literally commanding it to leave.

Just as the cells of our bodies are part of us, and yet they are also separate yet dependent organisms, so can the elements that make up our personalities be thought of as separate, yet dependent, entities and can be treated as such.

A negative mind element, like a cancer cell, didn’t “come from” anywhere, but was always a part of our psychological makeup. It has only been corrupted.

It is our task to do away with our negativity. Then we can truly say that we have overcome ourselves and the world.

(Written in 2004 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)

Mental Conditioning

September 11, 2011

As adults, virtually all of our actions are conditioned responses. That is, we generally react to whatever (stimulus) happens in our daily life in the same way each time. This is largely because we live in the same environment day after day, and nearly all of our daily activities are a pattern. We’re programmed to operate in a certain way within that pattern of daily life. We are a pattern. We’re conditioned

When we are conditioned to do any particular action, our decision to choose that action nevertheless still can be a conscious one. This is the process:

  1. We perceive a stimulus;
  2. we think of what we will do in response to the stimulus (the conditioned response comes to mind first);
  3. we decide whether to do it or to pursue another response;
  4. we respond.

This takes very little time, and you don’t notice it until you decide to notice it.

When we think of the conditioned response, we can consciously choose not to give that response. Then we will think of another possible response, to which we can also choose yes or no. In this manner, we can take steps to liberate ourselves from conditioning and live more consciously.

Conditioning hardens and leads to living death. Liberation leads to real living: conscious living.

Conscious, waking life can be likened to a dream. We can experience both with varying degrees of consciousness. Some dreams we are hardly aware of, while others are vivid and rich in imagery and meaning. As we increase in consciousness, the waking dream which is our life becomes more vivid and real to us and we experience life more fully until, eventually, we recognize the dream of life for what it is and we become more and more able to influence the course of our life and our relationships with others in it.

Do you understand the significance of being able to determine to a large extent the course of your life and the nature of your relationships? It means that your life reflects your will: what you want to happen.

What does everybody want?  Basically,

  • to be happy and confident that everything is okay;
  • to be their own master;
  • to live more easily;
  • to be sure that they’ll have what they need.

Anyone who wants these things and is determined to have them can have them; it only takes one step. There are a million first steps you could take, but here’s one:

observe yourself when you’re reacting to something.

It doesn’t matter what. Identify your conditioned/automatic response. Decide to do something else instead.

Too easy.

(Written in 2004 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)

%d bloggers like this: