4 Questions Key to Awakening

“Ask and ye shall receive,” paraphrases the words of prophets concerning the concept of awakening to self… how true is this?

Might we now consider using four basic categories of questions and their hidden agendas.  Are there hidden defenses behind every question?

How useful are these examples to you?

  1. WHAT – do I fear? – What do I perceive I need to fear?
  2. HOW – do I fear? How do I respond to my need fulfillment fear program?
  3. WHY – do I fear? Why do I need to justify my fears’ purpose?
  4. WHO – do I fear? Who do my fearful needs personify?

How does asking a question begin the process of understanding? Asking, for example…

  • Can I keep my intention clear?
  • Have I the willingness to experience surprise?
  • How will I express the courage it takes to accept and commit action to my deeper true answers?
  • What will happen when I follow my sense of inner “knowing”?

Read more 4 Questions Key to Awakening

Balance and Imbalance

Pain is an example of how I can feel out of balance. Attention can change the experience of pain and/or imbalance. Perhaps you’ve had an experience like I’ve had – suffering from a pain somewhere in my body- and then smacking my thumb with a hammer. I remember how the shift of attention to my thumb suddenly seemed to “cure” the original pain.

That’s because I’m not good at consciously attending to more than one thought at a time, I have a preference for past solutions (see The Einstellung Effect), and through selective perception, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” (Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer), I exercise my capacity for focused…


A shift of my attention may be less than .0001% of the total thought volume and yet be significant enough to completely change what I experience.

Focused Attention => Perception => Experience => Sense of Being

Because of my facility for focused attention, I perceive an experience of who I am in relation to my work, my marriage, my family, my home, and etc. – as well as a sense of being out of balance, in need of something, suffering.

How does balance enter the equation, then? I want to live a balanced life, right? How can I be perfectly in balance and have an experience of being out of balance? Is it one OR the other – balance OR imbalance?

Can I be in AND out of balance at the same time?

Perhaps I can – due to an illusory form of thought and perception I experience as attention. This wondrous ability to shift my thought potential in one direction or another presents me with the illusion of experience, the illusion of physicality, the illusion of volition or free will, a sense of being out of balance – all the while maintaining balance.

Equal AND Opposite = Balance

A system that is in complete balance would, for every action, experience an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s first law of motion) in order to stay in equilibrium. For example, let’s say I extend out 2 energetic units in one direction. To stay in balance, I would experience simultaneous extension of 2 energetic units in the opposite direction. 2 – 2 = 0. The entirety would result in non-experience, zero.

When it comes to consciousness, perhaps attention gives me an experience of imbalance while keeping the energetic books balanced:

Attention => imbalance experienced, balance maintained.

Imbalance and Focus!

What makes it seem like I’ve moved in a direction is that I’m attending to (focusing on) that one direction while neglecting alternatives. Focus determines the scope of that neglect. The more focused my attention, the broader the scope of neglect and the fewer alternatives I’ll perceive.

Suffering, then, may be more a matter of attention than condition. Remember the hammer example? Perhaps focus provides me with an illusion of pain intensity by placing alternatives within my scope of neglect. Shifting my attention even the slightest into my scope of neglect may offer me an alternative experience to the pain I’m suffering now.

Balance maintained. Experience changed.

A Call for Compassion

Modern Humans (homo sapiens) have been on the planet for roughly 100,000 years. We’ve been living in civilized groups for maybe just over 10% of that time. Seems like a long time to me as I’ve only been on the planet for a few decades. In the grand scheme of things, though, humanity’s time doesn’t amount to an eye blink or hiccup. It’s literally no time at all.

Over that short period of time, humans have wreaked havoc on this planet. We have driven many species to extinction or near extinction. We’ve polluted and destroyed natural resources that we and other animals depend upon. We’ve even marginalized groups of our own species and at times destroyed them through genocide. What is wrong with us?

Rapid Rise to Stardom

During the short [geological] time we’ve been on the planet, we’ve developed a neocortex whose job it is to make sense out of sensual data, help us understand our environment, and invent tools – to our evolutionary advantage.

So far, that evolutionary advantage seems to have done pretty well for us – we sit pretty firmly at the top of the food chain in most environments on earth. We’ve even been able to leave the planet and set our foot on another celestial body. No other mega fauna in history has been so successful so fast over such a wide range of environments. We’re absolutely amazing!

Yet we’ve done such horrible things! Whaddupwiddat?!!

Successful Yet Inept?

One key to our success as a species is our huge brain. Specifically, the size of our cortex, and even more specifically, the size of our neocortex, the “new brain” that distinguishes us from other primates. It has given us the capacity to build technologies that expand our natural capacities in ways other animals would envy had they our capacity for jealousy and greed.

Let me reiterate: our “new brain” area has NOT been experienced by any animal before us (as far as I know, that is). It didn’t come with a manual – though it learns pretty rapidly. It’s capable of very complex thinking – like abstract and deductive thought, science and engineering, imagination, and art – making them susceptible to thinking errors.

Although the new brain has given us an evolutionary advantage, it is, nonetheless, NEW. Even to humanity, that new brain is, well – new! And that is the point –

It’s SO new, the manual has yet to be written!

What?! No User Manual?!!

The human neocortex is new in the same way my first Smartphone was new to me. I had to learn how to swipe and tap and long tap, etc. Hell, I didn’t even know how to turn the thing on when I first unboxed it. I had to LEARN how to use it before it became useful. I’m still learning!

Fortunately, due to some pretty smart engineers, my Smartphone came with a manual, so I could learn from folks who already knew how to use the thing. My neocortex came with that sort of manual – in the form of my parents, grandparents, adult family members and their adult friends. Yet, that manual has flaws in it, as Richard Dawkins explains –

Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. And this very quality automatically makes them vulnerable to infection by mind viruses. (Dawkins, Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 24, Number 5, Aug/Sept., 2004)

However, I soon made the thinking error of choosing to follow instructions offered by my peers, who were working off their own interpretations of the manuals offered them from those they trusted. My parents and the others I trusted early on probably fell to the same thinking error. I soon had a pretty messy user manual for my neocortex that I could pass on to my “lucky” offspring!

What Do I Expect?

It has taken modern humans several tens of thousands of years to figure out how to live in groups larger than a small few. Few because we had this tendency towards war/genocide. Civilization as we understand it arose so recently as to barely make a tic on the human timeline.

In other words, we’re NEW to thinking – which explains why we do it so poorly at times.

I don’t expect my 3 year old granddaughter to just know how to ride a bicycle or do complex trigonometry. She’s a child – new to this world. I feel compassion for her when she oversteps her abilities. I’m quick to jump in and assist her. “It’s okay… Let me help you…”

Yet, I expect wise choices from other adults who, like me, are just learning how to harness the vast capacities of their “in-head” smart devices we know as their neocortex.

I EXPECT a lot from adults [me included] who, although they’ve had lots of training in what to think, have had precious little training in how to think. My expectation is probably a thinking error. The more I learn about my thinking errors, however, the less prone I am to repeating them. One advantage to having and using a neocortex!

Time for a Little Compassion!

So, how about a little compassion for myself and others when we seem to have made a “bonehead” mistake? Rather than entertaining regret for such behavior – and the thinking errors behind it – maybe we can let go of the judgment, guilt, and anger, and simply LEARN something instead.

We humans can LEARN how to overcome thinking errors – learning we can pass on to future generations that will be born with a “new brain” manual in the form of instinct (maybe encoded into their DNA?) for rational thought, innate compassion, and native connection with others (including other species).

Let’s start the human evolutionary ball rolling by exercising a little compassion, people.

By compassion I do not mean we allow anyone to do anything whenever they wish. Law is useful until it is no longer useful. I define compassion here as an action to alleviate another’s [mental] suffering due to their lack of education, rather than due to a lack of or flaw in their character. I mean extending the heart of forgiveness and mercy when holding the sword of justice – until we no longer need justice or forgiveness.

How might you feel when you look at the hurtful actions of another person and say to yourself, “They are experiencing a thinking error…” – then identify the specific thinking error involved and seek to find an anecdote for it that you can apply to your own [same or similar] thinking errors?

In other words…

Transformation may require more than evolution.

Make your own user manual for your new brain based on new information, new understandings, new ways of thinking! We can transform the human species through compassionate service and loving acceptance. As we pass on the compassion meme to our offspring, we drive evolution in that direction.

We can do this, people!

Fear and Education 3

According to Wikipedia, “Education is the process of facilitating learning.” Further, “Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences.” The process of education and learning requires some essential ingredients:

  • Memory
  • Recall
  • Choice
  • Humility

By memory, I refer to an inherent ability to store, and through recall, retrieve relevant information. This facilitates a new choice that changes the way things are. Humility refers to the act of acknowledging one’s deficit of understanding and accepting the learning involved in the education. This gives one “a clear perspective and respect for one’s place in context.” (Wikipedia)

Let’s focus on humility.

The word “humility” derives from Latin for “earth” – essentially, grounding to the earth. From that perspective, humility means to be connected to or be one with the earth. The more humility I exhibit, the more connected to the earth and more teachable I become. Fear disconnects one from the earth (ungrounded). Grounding through humility, then, might be thought of as a means to dispel fear while enhancing learning.

Some refer to humility as the opposite of pride. This usually refers to an incorrect sense of personal value or worth. In this perspective, pride is a sort of preemptive defense – a reaction to fear.

When it comes to education, humility acknowledges lack (and perhaps need, too) as an observation rather than a status or value judgment. My observation that I lack understanding about something, for example, is not the same as judging myself less than another because I don’t understand some subject as well as they do.

Humility allows me to learn from others because I’m less likely to compete with them over ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and etc. When humble, I learn because I’m grounded to what IS (“earth”) rather than attending to [often fearful] esoteric thoughts of what “should/could be.”

When Fear Stands in the Way of Education

To be humble enough to learn, I must be ready to release my stranglehold on rightness and allow others to teach me. I’ve found that this easier to say than do. I have learned to be judgmental and defensive when it comes to learning. Due to the Einstellung Effect, I prefer my previous and less-effective strategies to new and more effective strategies.

What shall I do, then?

I can PRACTICE grounding myself – especially during a time when I WANT to learn something. There are many effective techniques for grounding oneself – my favorite is the deep release breath. Sometimes firmly gripping the crown of my head and pressing down firmly will force my mind into the NOW – usually indicated by a focusing of my eyes on something earth-bound rather than an unfocused stare that often accompanies periods of ungrounded spaciness and/or fear.

Sometimes I initiate humility by simply saying to myself, “It’s okay for [the other person] to be right, too.” This often quiets my defensive ego long enough for me to at least [re]consider.

What technique works for you to ground yourself enough to be teachable?

Blindsided by the Einstellung Effect

I’ve been blindsided on occasion – just didn’t see it coming. I’ve also not seen alternatives right in front of me – or chosen an inappropriate or less-than-optimal solution to a challenge facing me. Even when I knew about a better solution.

It’s called the Einstellung effect – a variation on the scotoma effect – a bias for previously stored knowledge over current or new information even when that new information solves or better solves a problem.

“We believe that we generally approach problems with an open mind. However, the brain unconsciously steers our attention towards previously stored knowledge. Any information that does not match the solution or the theory we have already internalized, tends to be ignored or masked.” (Merim Bilalić, Department of Psychology, Alpen-Adria University)

How do I beat what my brain won’t let me see?

Read more Blindsided by the Einstellung Effect