Evan on May 15th, 2010

On the Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life blog I had a guest post where I said that I didn’t believe that the Biblical approach was a punitive morality. One commenter said they would like me to say more about this. So this post is for Lex. (It is about my understanding of Biblical Christianity – which is often quite different to what is said and done in denominations.) I hope you like it Lex.

My yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Jesus
What makes for an easy yoke (the metaphor is from using oxen to plough)? That it fits well. That is, it is in accord with the way oxen are made. This is the proper role of any discipline: to make us more truly ourselves; to fit well with what we are and can do so that we can do more.

That the burden be light means that there are no impossible demands. What’s more, the preference is for ease. This is quite different to the Nietzschean, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. Jesus favours ease and doesn’t ask us to risk our health or sanity to prove ourselves (but to who? Nietzsche? Our parents or other authority figures?). This approach can be applied in the martial arts – see the various books by Bruce Frantzis who emphasises doing 70%.

Grace
Biblical Christianity emphasises grace. In secular terms: life comes free. We did not make ourselves living beings. We can shape our lives and experience but we did not originate it. We can collaborate with and develop in harmony with what is real (life), or we can be miserable and fight it.

This can lead us to a life of gratitude. Not for everything in our world (the Bible is quite unsentimental about evil realities) but often for what we have and experience.

The Cross, and . . .
Biblical Christianity is quite often preaching about the cross of the Christ. And Jesus told his followers to take up the cross and follow him. The person carrying their cross was heading for certain death. Today it would be like saying: walk out in front of the firing squad with me.

The death referred to I think is the death of the ‘old nature’ (our bound and miserable existence devoid of true life). This is, often, not easy to do. Anyone who has been through a deeply transformative experience can tell you this. We know that the change is for the better – and we still can feel like we are dying (as in a sense we are).

After the death comes resurrection. Contrary to many a sermon, Biblical Christianity, does not praise the misery or suffering of the cross. Biblical Christianity focuses continually on the resurrection to full and real life. It emphasises the joy of the new way of living – that this is in accord with our true nature – that the old way was a life of delusion and misery.

The spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us from the law of sin and death – Paul
This is perhaps my favourite Bible verse. You can hear the joyfulness, the ecstatic release. The one point I want to emphasise is that for Biblical Christianity life comes in Christ. It is the ‘spirit of life’. Biblical Christianity is continually emphasising that the experience of spirit is one of joy; that it is able to cope with what life can throw at it, the spirit brings life.

This verse profoundly affirms life. God is not against creation but its distortion and misery. Biblical Christianity is a vision of life triumphant.

Flesh and Spirit
There has been much loose talk of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ in Biblical Christianity. The ‘flesh’ is usually taken to be evil. This is not quite right. The problem with the flesh is its weakness (‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ – Jesus. When Isaiah tells the Israelis to not fear the Egyptians horses because they are flesh not spirit, his point is that they are weak and God (being spirit) is strong.

It is known that the flesh in this evil age is weak – a source of vulnerability, but God’s desire (revealed in the vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation) is for healing of the flesh and for more life. Spirit brings more life – as Paul says, the spirit himself gives life to our mortal bodies. In Biblical Christianity there is no hint that creation is essentially evil – only that it has been distorted.

For a superb and insightful examination of flesh and spirit in the Old Testament see Perdersen’s Israel, its life and culture. This book changed the field of biblical anthropology; and its examination of the text is still relevant.

Theological digression. Neither does the Reformer’s doctrine of Total Depravity, despite the name, mean that there is nothing good in people. The reformers were emphasising that reason was not adequate to reach god. They were emphasising that reason too was fallen and not an especially spiritual part of us.

A Biblical Affirmation of Life
Biblical Christianity is for life, it emphasises the experience of joy and self-forgetfulness (to be able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep means being able to set aside our own concerns). And it emphasises that this is not something we can do, however much we fret – it is received as a gift. Biblical Christianity emphasises gratitude. Biblical Christianity emphasises that the way to realise life is light and easy.

This post deals with things that have been the subject of reflection of reflection and argument for a couple of millenia.  For anyone with deep knowledge of these things this post will inevitably look thin and inadequate.  I have only really sketched an approach.  All comments are most welcome.


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Could you do with more joy in your life?

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Evan on May 13th, 2010

Our dreams have fascinated people for millennia. In this post I want to outline an approach to learning from your dreams.

A couple of words about this approach. It is not about predicting the future. It presumes that the dream is produced by the person having it (that it is not a message from angels, spirits or anyone other than the person who had the dream). It concerns the dreams we remember once we wake up. It presumes that the dream relates to our waking life. It lets you discover the meaning of your dream for yourself (there are books that give the meaning for particular kinds of dreams – unfortunately they don’t agree with each other. This means that you have to sort out which one to believe based on your experience. I think you may as well go straight to your experience and not bother with the books based on the experience of others.).

1. I have found that it helps to pay attention as soon as you wake up. For me writing helps – but I’m a very wordy person. I find that if I go on with my day presuming I’ll remember the dream just as well later, that I can’t remember it later. For you it may just be staying in bed for a few minutes recalling the dream.
2. If I have a disturbing dream that leaves me with intense emotions, I will usually be able to remember it later. It can be helpful for me to do something routine to get myself back into the waking world and out of the dream world. I then come back to the dream with this bit of distance.
3. Start with the most vivid part of the dream.
4. Take note of any emotions you are feeling. Ask yourself if you are feeling these kinds of emotions in any part of your life (perhaps less intensely).
5. See if you can give a name to this part of the dream. It may be that you find a personal name (if so then over subsequent minutes, or years, you may get to know this person). It may be a quality – in which case ask about the presence or absence of this quality in your life at the moment. Another approach is to imagine writing this part of the dream and then giving a title to it. (Alternatively seeing it as a play, movie, sculpture or some other art form and giving it a name.)
6. Ask what would be perfect for this part of the dream. If this part of the dream is a person ask what would be ‘heaven on earth’ for this person.
7. Do these things for any parts of the dream you have strong feelings about (including a strong feeling that you would like to ignore it).
8. If two parts are in conflict or competing, make sure to do this process for both. If possible it can be helpful to have the different parts of the dream relate to each other. It is best if they can come to agreement or come together in some way.
[In one dream I had a shark and a scientist came together. The scientist melted into the shark and looked out through its eyes: I can spot the point of an argument that needs to be attacked and tear it apart, so that it becomes food for me. In another dream Tarzan agreed to look after his child companion: I found that I could care for the childlike part of me and not judge it harshly.]

I hope this isn’t too abstract. If so, please let me know in the comments. I have found that listening to my dreams can lead me to vivid insights as to what is happening in my life. If you have had vivid experiences from listening to your dreams I’d like to hear about them in the comments too.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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Evan on May 11th, 2010

People (and other organisms) have a desire (or instinct) for growth. There is some sense for us that we wish to become something more. This is most noticeable in the early years of our lives. We want to crawl then walk, imitate sounds then get better at speaking, learn gradually more complicated games, and so on. Later we like to get better at relating to others and at a hobby or our chosen work.

We seem to have some impulsion to growth. The image for this that I like best is the seed or acorn. I like this image because it allows for the influence of environment (soil, wind and so on), the sense of our developing individuality (every oak tree is different), and the sense of a shared identity (every acorn and oak tree are in some sense the same). What’s more, this impulse to growth is natural – we don’t need to tell an acorn to grow into an oak tree.

These kinds of ideas lie at the heart of one approach to self-development. People have a natural impulse for what is good for them – and with the right environment and support they will flourish and become the splendid individual they were meant to be.

I am in complete agreement with this approach. I think that ‘shoulds’ often impede people rather than helping them, in my observation and experience it is acceptance of who we are that leads to change and growth. Whenever I have been in the place where another can share with me what they have most wanted this has always been healthy (however awful the expression of it has been the desire has been healthy. For instance, those who are quite violent can be seeking to protect their vulnerability. VERY important note: this does not mean that behaviour is not dealt with, it means that there is a possibility of the behaviour being changed.)

It can be complicated.
This sounds simple enough. I think it is in some ways.

The main complication, as I see it, is that people are a learning species. We have far fewer instincts than other critters. While we desire to flourish (as any organism does), this involves learning much from others – especially in the social world. Most of our lives are spent with others and how we get on with them has a big influence on how enjoyable our lives are and the extent to which we flourish.

Pointing out how important learning is to people highlights the importance of teaching. The most important teaching is usually done by our biological parents or other early care givers. There are also friends and other parent figures as well as those who teach us how to do specific things (from learning hobbies to the tasks we do for paid work).

A big feature of a healthy environment for people is good teaching.

Frustration
Any impulse or desire can lead to frustration (if the impulse can’t be expressed or the desire satisfied). In one sense frustration is a sign of health.

A biological organism, like a person, that has needs which need to be met (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social in my view) will usually experience a life of frustration and satisfaction. The extent to which we flourish depends very much on the extent to which our desires are met and frustrations overcome.

The promise of frustration is clarity. If we are frustrated there is something definite to work with – we know that we want something.

Frustrating Life
If we are frustrated then our impulse to growth is being frustrated in some way: we are ‘hungry’ for something. It may be good food, or friendship, a vocation or to understand. To trust life means to trust our frustration enough to listen to it. If we can listen we will get in touch with our needs and perhaps experience flourishing just that little bit more.

How to listen to a frustration

  • Observe the frustration in your body. What are the sensations? Are there tight muscles? Are there sensations on your skin or inside your skeleton?
  • Pay attention to day dreams. Are there things that you usually think about in idle moments? What kinds of things? These can be a valuable clue to unmet needs or desires for your future.
  • Imagine in what situation you would be free of this frustration. How can you make this more a part of your life? You may not be able to live a life of idleness on a tropical island (giving away something about my daydreams), but you may be able to find times of idleness in your day.

I hope you find these few suggestions helpful. Listening to our frustrations is a pathway to a flourishing life.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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Evan on May 9th, 2010

The Intuitive Warrior: lessons from a Navy SEAL on unleashing your hidden potential by Michael Jaco

Shattering Stereotypes
This is a surprising book. Try to imagine who would write a book on developing your intuition. The book also talks about the “law of attraction” and speaks about the development of the military-industrial complex and how we need to end war. It also speaks of the need to not be controlled by your ego and experiences of synchronicity.

My bet is that the person you imagined was not a member of the US Special Forces (the Navy SEALS) who has also served in Iraq. Michael Jaco is a very surprising person. This book is his story, especially how he has developed his intuition and the implications that this has.

What the Book’s About
This book is about how Michael developed his intuition – and how you can too. There are practical instructions on the basics of developing your intuition. The instructions are practical and easy to follow.

The development of intuition is told through stories from Michael’s life as a warrior (serving in the US Navy and later as a security contractor). These stories are sometimes quite dramatic. Developing your intuition to help you make better business decisions is one thing; using your intuition in a situation that may save your own life and the lives of those under you command is something else again! Stories about intuition in this situation have a way of commanding attention.

The possible draw back is that the stories are mostly about martial arts and the military. If you don’t like these parts of life then you may not enjoy the book. I must say that I am someone who is well and truly in the peacenik camp – and I think this book is quite worthwhile. Michael makes no attempt to glorify war (and towards the end speaks of the need to end it). He also doesn’t indulge in ‘blood and guts’. No doubt because he has been involved in war, he makes no attempt to give it a Hollywood treatment.

The stories are quite well told and revealing, at least to someone like me who has no interest in things military. The rigours of the training for the Navy SEALS are mind-numbing. I don’t know how anyone survives it.

It also gives a glimpse into the culture of camaraderie that is so necessary in these forces, and is quite different to what is sometimes thought. For instance, that your life literally depends on teamwork. Michael also talks about being a warrior (and dedicated to a higher purpose) rather than just a soldier. This book gives a good glimpse into the mindset of someone in the special forces.

The Writing
The writing is direct and simple. There are no rhetorical flourishes. A sense of Michael’s personality shines through. Sometimes it feels a little flat and there was the occasional tortured sentence. However, I found that if I read it a chapter at a time instead of reading it straight through that this was not a problem.

This writing breathes authenticity. There is no doubt that Michael is directly reporting his own experiences in a plain and straightforward manner. This is important – some of the things Michael has experienced and the topics he talks about can be quite ‘out there’.

Overall
This is a good book, a well told story and clear instructions on how to develop intuition. Even someone like me, who is fairly much a peacenik, found that I agreed with almost everything in it.

If you would like to develop your intuition this is a great place to start. The instructions are straightforward, it is easy to read and the stories are quite involving.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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Evan on May 7th, 2010

I’ve recently been thinking about how valuable habits are. In one sense our lives is the acquisition of more and better habits – so that we are freed to devote our awareness to newer domains. I’m thinking about developing some courses designed to make habitual valuable areas of our lives – the first two being checking in with ourselves to develop authenticity and listening to others.

Which brings me to this post on the Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life blog. It is about habits that are authentically part of us – and how we can develop these kinds of habits. It is also about whether authenticity can become a habit – I don’t think so, but I can think we can make a habit of taking time to check in with ourselves and so open a space for our authenticity. I hope you like the post, it’s called Habitually Authentic.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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Evan on May 4th, 2010

Please consider posting this announcement anywhere you feel is appropriate.

We are pleased to announce a new resource for the trauma survivor community.

Trauma Recovery Highlights is a quarterly Ezine, with its first issue to be published in June 2010. You can access the homepage through the link included here, or through the sidebar on Mind Parts, where the Ezine will be hosted.

The goal of Trauma Recovery Highlights is to publish selective content chosen by a small editorial team. As such, we will “highlight” resources for trauma recovery from all over the Web. The focus is on all aspects of healing as well as understanding trauma and its related effects (including dissociation).

Some of the job of seeking out content (i.e., “highlights”) will come directly from the editorial team. However, we are also aiming to include content and resources submitted by anyone. All resources must be content readers can link to online. You can submit content that you have written yourself and published on a blog, for example. You can also submit blog articles from others, as well any other resources people may find helpful, such as books, peer-reviewed articles, healing activities, or anything else you would like us to consider.

To submit “highlights” for us to consider, please visit: Trauma Recovery Highlights Submissions.

Subscribe to Trauma Recovery Highlights by email.

After one full year of actively blogging about these issues and being involved in the survivor community in various ways for decades, I felt there was a need for creating such a resource.

For more information, please contact paul@mindparts.org.

Evan on April 29th, 2010

The paradox of acceptance is that it brings change. This is the topic of a guest blog I have on the Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life blog.

Pushing for change usually brings resistance while accepting the way things are is required to make realistic changes. And accepting who we are is normally needed to make personal changes.

I hope you like the post, it is called The Paradox of Acceptance.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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Evan on April 29th, 2010

Long, long ago, in a universe far, far away (or so the story goes) there was a very strange land.

The name of this land was Slauq. In the land of Slauq all the people did all day was compete for jackets. There were many jackets – many colours and styles to fit many shapes and sizes. But the most coveted of all was the white jacket. The most able and talented all over the land of Slauq would compete for the right to where a white jacket.

Why did people want to wear such a thing? In Slauq it meant you were more likely to earn more money and people who could wear the jacket were deemed more trustworthy. (This meant that everyone would talk about the wearers of white jackets who turned out to be untrustworthy.) Those with the right to where the white jacket were allowed to do things that others weren’t.

The curious thing was that the way you earned the right to a jacket had little to do with what you did once you had it. Those who could memorise the words of the ancients were entrusted with training the new generation. Those who could say exactly where to find the words of the ancients were considered wise. Not only this, but there were even rules about how you could say where the ancients had said something! Slauq was a very strange place.

These jackets were different to any that exist in the normal world. They were made so that they became part of the person who wore them. They would gradually sink into the person so that they moved in particular ways – and even thought in particular ways. Most surprising of all, this was known and desired by those strange people of Slauq. It was a great compliment to a Slauqian to tell them that the jacket had sunk into them, had become part of them and that you could no longer tell where they stopped and the jacket began.

In all of Slauq there were only a very few people who thought this was silly. They said that it would be good to think about the future. They even asserted that it didn’t matter too much how you told others where the ancients had said what they said. Nobody paid any attention to these strange people – they were even laughed at. Slauq was a very strange place.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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