Monday, February 23, 2009

The Elements of Thought

Note: This article uses info from the simple little book Leave your Mind Behind. Authors McKay and Sutker do a great job of delineating how thought works.

The Short Explanation: Thought is what happens in the mind. What happens in the mind determines everything. Therefore, thought determines everything. Or, as was said 2500 years ago, All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.

A review of the OODA Loop processes:

Step 1. We have a perception, an Observation.
Step 2. Orientation. The Mind automatically reacts to the perception with a mix of the various elements of thought. We 'make sense' out of the perception based on the elements of thought that arise in response to the perception.

Remember, what the mind thinks, we believe. Whatever we believe becomes our guidance system that we then use to navigate through reality. Our beliefs form our personal Matrix of hopes, fears, and rules.

Step 3. Decide. We make decisions, choices (based on the flow of our personal Matrix).
Step 4. Our choices translate into Actions, which then have create our lives.

And the process flows on and on, from moment to moment.

Remember- we cannot change Observations, and Actions will change only through a change in the Orientation or Decision process. The Orientation and Decision processes are composed of the elements of thought. Therefore, understanding and mastering the elements of thought is a critical element what I call the Red Pill path (from the film, The Matrix), or living with a free mind.

There are several basic elements of thought. They are listed below in no particular order.

1. Observations - of the present moment

2. Memories - of images, words, and sensations

3. Judgments - good-bad? right-wrong? guilty-not guilty? pretty-ugly? nice-mean? better-worse? brave-cowardly? ...and so on

4. Storytelling Thoughts - that try to explain why things happen, likely explanations

5. Future Thoughts - 3 types (in no particular order)

a. Planning thoughts - figuring out how to handle something in your 'for sure' future - specific steps of coping with something

b. Fantasy thoughts - mental tourism, "mind trips" that might be romantic, escape, financial, sexual, dramatic, creative, scary, dark-- but it isn't real and it isn't happening now

c. Fortune Telling thoughts - commonly called "worrying" - anticipating future problems, their severity, the loss or pain you or others could experience

No element of thought is intrinsically better or worse than any other element. We need them all. Each element of thought has some utility, but the utility depends on the context.

The elements of thought are like the hand tools in our tool box. If you really need a hammer for a job, trying to do the work with a drill will just make a mess and you will probably fail. If the only tool you ever use on any job is hammer, you can do a few jobs well but you will fail at most jobs. We need to understand how to use all of the tools in our toolbox so that we can be effective everywhere we go.

And, we need to be able to see the tool that we are using right this second- what tool is in your hand now?

What element of thought is operating in the mind now? Any given thought is composed of one or more of the elements of thought.

The elements of thought are the foundations of the mind. The mind is the forerunner to all things.

When you are asleep to the nature of the mind, you will believe whatever your mind thinks. You are thus trapped in your personal Matrix, your "blind mind".

When you are awake, when you know and understand the elements of thought, you will have a chance to be free, and that will make all the difference.

And that is enough for now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Culture Quake - the book

I just ordered this book. Given the economic downturn, the imminent arrival of peak oil, and growing world population, there is a perfect storm brewing that will probably really upset the apple cart. Hopefully this book will help us figure out how to prepare a little better for the coming storm.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Thinking Self and the Observing Self

Hi there - This was inspired by the work of Dr. Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living.

The Thinking Self and the Observing Self are the two major aspects of the everyday Mind. Both are always simultaneously operating in the mind. They operate in parallel and they communicate with one another. Both the Thinking Self and the Observing Self have utility; otherwise Nature would have eliminated one of them by now.

Often one or the other dominates the stream of awareness that is the flow of our life, of our experience. Whichever aspect is dominant is heavily influenced by experience but there is also a genetic component as well.

Connection with the experience of the present moment happens through the Observing Self. It involves bringing attention to what is happening here and now without getting distracted or influenced by the Thinking Self.

The Observing Self is by nature nonjudgmental and non-interpretive. In fact, the Observing Self cannot judge experience because judgments are thoughts which are products of the Thinking Self.

The Observing Self cannot (and will never) get into a struggle trying to figure out reality; it sees perceptual sensory data just as it is, in the moment, openly, without constructing a verbal overlay of meaning on top of the data.

The Mental Matrix through which we interpret the world is constructed by the Thinking Self.
If we are having thoughts that things or people shouldn't be as they are, that we shouldn't be as we are, that reality is good or bad, right or wrong, then we can be certain that we are attuned to the Thinking Self. It tells us things like life could be better somewhere else or we could be happier if only we or someone else were different.

When we notice that we are struggling in our thoughts, we can deduce that we are fused with the cognitive creations of the Thinking Self.

The Thinking Self works like special sunglasses that color both what and how we are able to see the world. When we interpret our life experience through the Thinking Self, we perceive the cognitively constructed private subjective world, a world of comparisons, of dichotomies, of expectations.

The Thinking Self allows us to use symbolic language processes like planning, designing, or problem solving, which can be quite handy. You cannot design a building or go to the dentist without the Thinking Self. The most brilliant human pursuits are dependent on the symbolic language of the Thinking Self.

And, importantly, human suffering is made possible through the capabilities of the Thinking Self. For example, only the Thinking Self can get bored. Boredom is a verbal thought process, a story that life would be better, more interesting, or more pleasant if we were just doing something different. The Thinking Self can easily become bored because it can convince itself through mental comparisons that it already knows all it needs to know about the present and it is free to move on, to think about something else.

Whether we're walking down the street, driving to work, eating a meal, having a conversation, or taking a shower, the Thinking Self is quite capable of taking it all for granted. After all, it truly thinks it has done this stuff before, so no further attention to the present moment is required. Rather than help us connect with our reality in the present moment, the Thinking Self often captures our focus and takes us mentally to seemingly more interesting thoughts in a different time and place.

When the Thinking Self dominates, we spend most of our time only partially aware of our surroundings, scarcely capable of noticing the richness of the world we actually inhabit in the present moment.

The Observing Self, unlike the Thinking Self, is incapable of boredom. It perceives everything it notices with openness and interest, because this moment is fleeting, alive only this instant.

The Observing Self is always present and is always available. Through the Observing Self we connect with the vast range of our human experience. It does not matter if the experience is new, exciting, familiar, or unpleasant-- it's all simply acceptable, it is all ok. And, a fascinating thing is that when we have an attitude of openness and curiosity in the present, moments which the Thinking Self had anticipated with dread often either disappear or they turn out to be much less unpleasant than we had expected.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Happiness Trap

I am reading this now - it is great. A very readable, understandable approach to ACT.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be free from the mind.

And, it has a nice followup website for the book as well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Leave Your Mind Behind

I am reading this one now- it is really good. It is a practical little book with 50 lessons on how to not be as trapped by your mind. Highly, highly recommended for anyone who suffers from anxiety, worry, paranoia, emotional reactivity, anger--- etc.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am still here--

The holidays are over and I am full speed as far as health goes. I have been enjoying working in the home based office arrangement I have now.

One of my projects I am working on is "The Red Pill Workbook", a compendium of short lessons on becoming more liberated from your mind,

Easier said than done- that's why I have to write a little book about it.