A Rough Guide to Happiness…

Ask people what do they really want out of life and the response from the majority will be that first and foremost they want to be happy.

Beyond that initial claim and things start to become more diverse, a lot more subjective. How we all achieve and measure our own happiness is quite rightly a personal thing and there is neither a magic formula nor a percentage barometer to measure whether one is in a nirvana state of mind.

happy

I sat down in front of the Apple TV after work on Friday and once again found an interesting documentary on Netflix called Happy, which had some real thought provoking moments and dovetailed in nicely to my new minimalist approach to life.

According to research, a study has found that around fifty percent of our happiness levels are from our genetic code, so for each and every half of us, our parents dictated at a biological level whether they passed on happy or unhappy genes to us (though I’m sure they were not thinking of that at the time, just their own, immediate and intimate “happy ending”).

Some people often speak of others in not so pleasant terms that folks who are grumpy or negative or psychotic are not “wired up” in the same way as others, so on reflection (although those words should not be used) there is some truth in that.

Imagine if you will that our happiness is a workman’s vertical spirit level, when the bubble is on the line, everything is normal and in balance. There are several mood related neurotransmitters generated by the brain which have a positive or negative effect on our “spirit” level. Serotonin is one (who can ever mistake that chocolate rush for something else) but the main one is Dopamine.

serotonin-and-dopamine

When Dopamine is generated in higher doses, the body reacts in a positive way and our pleasure centre creates a sense of happiness. Conversely, if not enough Dopamine is created, then the pleasure centre shuts up shop for the day so negative and depressive states of mind occur, and in extreme Dopamine lows, suicidal thoughts (when mixed with other factors).

Dopamine is created in naturally occurring higher doses when we experience positive variety or new things, be it from meeting new people, new exercise regimes or by travelling. We can also unnaturally temporarily increase those levels via other means (like drugs and alcohol) but what transpires after the hit is a real low when coming down, the spirit bubble falls way below the equilibrium point, and feelings of unhappiness return until either the body re-adjusts itself or the vicious cycle starts again, ad nausea.

Of the remaining fifty percent of happiness level, ten percent is attributed to our present circumstances (what we earn, where we live, our social status, our current health condition) and forty percent is attributed to intentional activities (actions we choose to do).

So it’s easy to see that with the right balance of a good genetic code, amiable social circumstances and varied / new experiences that folks would be naturally happy. It is also easy to see why those whose family have been troubled with a poor biological code who live under difficult circumstances and only run around the same track every day become depressed and seek out ways to alleviate their experience by turning to synthetics and chemicals.

No one person is excluded from the calculation above. In the current Western society, many folks presume that the happiest people must be the ones with the most money, the nicest houses and the best jobs. Not so.

Jim Carrey once said “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”.

People are largely extrinsic or intrinsic when it comes to goals and life objectives. Those who have extrinsic goals focus in on money, self-image and social status, whereas those with intrinsic goals focus on personal growth, good relationships and a desire to do things for others.

There is no doubt that money and the availability of resources has an important part to play in everyday life, but beyond a certain point having more money and more things beyond the basics adds no value in terms of happiness.

Japan is a country I have never visited before (and I kicked myself for not going over there when I lived in Malaysia) but there is no doubt that it is by far one of the most diverse places in the world; it is both the happiest and saddest place on planet earth.

Take Tokyo, a highly extrinsic city which focuses mainly on money, image and status and breeds a culture of working until you drop and is quite literally working some of its people to death, so beyond the bright city lights a very sad and depressive place to live for some (not all) of its populace.

elderly_japanese_couple

In stark contrast take Okinawa, a highly intrinsic island which focuses almost solely on a sense of community and an ethos of human and spiritual connectivity with a wanting to do things as a collective and to do so for others and with it so much happiness. They live long and happy lives and it is the place on earth which houses the most centenarians.

It’s clear that when individuals are fuelled by ego and extrinsic values that unhappiness follows.

It’s also clear that everybody has to deal with adversity from time to time but in football terms, the happier and intrinsic people have improved levels of “bouncebackability” and return back to the centre line on the spirit level a lot quicker.

Society’s primary aim should be to produce a long and happy life for all of its citizens (not just the privileged few), but sadly in today’s climate it instead peddles such extrinsic values on the masses as this generates more income for the coffers and the rich get richer (though ironically and ultimately no happier).

So we can we do to become happier? I’ve revisited some of my old books and come up with a neo-Buddhist approach for happiness, a rework / take on the Eight Fold Path:

1. Right Diet: The right balance of all the things you are meant to eat, in the right quantity to the right amount of calories for you, everything in moderation.

2. Right Exercise: The right amount of aerobic exercise, the right stresses and strains (nothing too excessive or unnatural).

3. Right Community: The right selection of family and friends, surround yourself with the right amount of people on the basis it’s quality not quantity.

4. Right Things: The right amount of things to own, make sure that each item has a purpose and a value to you.

5. Right Hobbies: The right activities which keep those Dopamine levels up, seek out new and meaningful experiences.

6: Right Attitude: The right way to be and the right way to act around and towards others, commit to acts of random kindness on a regular basis.

7. Right Goals: The right things to achieve and the right way to achieve them.

8. Right Priorities: The right order in which to do things and not to forget which things are always important and take precedent.

And above all, don’t worry, be happy!

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Minimalism and how to value things…

After what seems like decades of being submersed and trapped inside the capitalist / commercialist paradigm, I came up for air this weekend and it smelled good.

I was flicking through Netflix on Friday and as usual found little substance in the movie section, so I headed on over to the documentary section and found a programme which caught my attention called “Everything That Remains” fronted by a pair of Amercican hipsters who go by the name of The Minimalists.

Although a little self-centred at times, a lot of what they said (not neccessarily in the manner in which they said it) made total sense. Less is most definitely more. However, minimalism it seems, is not without a sense of irony as our hipsters friends try to sell us their library of written materials in an effort to “unminimalise” our bookshelves. 

I read “Faithlessly Religionless” by Timber Hawkeye on the long haul to Cape Town recently and whilst I was somewhat disappointed by the way in which the book was written (again rather self-centred for a modern Buddhist and the overuse of exclamation marks also grated after a while), one thing I did take away was his sound approach towards simple living or minimalism.

Here we had a man who worked in corporate America, a man trapped inside a machine who wanted to get out, a man surrounded by things he did not need. Whilst his next steps were admirable in leaving his life and possessions behind on the mainland, heading out to a gregarious lifestyle of sorts in Hawaii, as a single man with no committments it was a relatively easy thing to do, not much hope of a man with a wife and three children in following those footsteps quite as easily (not that I would want to either, well not just yet).

My main take away however was simplicity. He left behind his gizmos, gadgets and wardrobes full of clothes and reduced the amount of things he owned and travelled with to a more manageable and mobile level.

I have over the past seven months lived out of a suitcase (and a very large suitcase at that), travelling to several exciting and exotic locations for both business and pleasure. It was after getting back on the bathroom scales which displayed a particularly woeful number that I realised that entropy was back with a vengeance. There was no structure in my diet, there was no structure in the things I owned, there was no structure in my wardrobe. Chaos was once again reigning supreme but at least I had been able to stand back this time and acknowledge that disorder had made an unsavory reappearance.

I was both willing and able to change, starting off with the diet. My eldest offspring treats his body like a machine, his motto is “calories in vs calories out, try not to think about how good the food tastes, know that you can pretty much eat what you want as long as you have a set calorie limit”. Whilst no doubt that is flawless logic, knowing in advance what and when to eat requires thought process and planning so I began to adopt a minimalistic approach to breakfast and lunch. Every morning I eat low fat yoghurt with granola, every lunch time I eat a bowl of bran plus a banana, and my evening meal can have the variety the mind seeks to satisfy the wants of the needy limbic system.

My minimalistic meal approach very quickly reaped rewards and the seven kilograms I had gained during the previous seven months of travelling were literally flushed down the pan (very literally in Cape Town after suffering a particularly nasty bout of seasonal gastritis). 

It does become easy after a while, removing the noise from within for craving something different to eat helps to free up time for other activities, there is no pondering at the fridge as the majority of the food is predetermined, there is no anxiety over cravings after a while as the mindset towards food changes. What we give away in terms of palatte pleasure we take back in calorie reduction and more importantly time saved.

Still, there was more to do, a lot more. I opened both of my wardrobes and saw yet more disorder, not only were the clothes spewing from all angles, half of the clothes I did have I never wore. So again taking the minimalist approach, I took a scythe to the lot. I decided that five was a good number (it seemed to work well for the Jacksons and Enid Blyton) and that everything I owned should be reduced to five. Two large refuse sacks later, the law of five reigned supreme; five casual shirts, five formal shirts, five ties, five white t-shirts, five black t-shirts, five jumpers, five jackets, five jeans, five shorts, five (times two) socks, five (times two) pants and five shoes. I followed this up with five gizmos (Kindle, iPhone, SmartWatch, Wireless Headphones and Wired Headphones) and five (times three) books, so I now only possess ninety things. Ninety things sounds like a lot but from where I started from it is a big improvement. Not only has the local charity shop benefitted from the cathartic clothes purge, but I now get back the decison time back to do other things; when in work choose one of the five shirts, when not in work choose a black or white t-shirt with jeans.

Once again the noise of choice has gone, and with it comes real value. I am already starting to really cherish the few items I have in my possession. Going forward, I no longer need to buy anything new, anything which will break that rule of five simply will not be purchased, except to simply cycle out the items I have with replicas when the old ones become dysfunctional.

There is a lot to be said for minimalist living, it gives back time, it gives back money and gives a sense of real value in those things we do possess…

Synchronicity vs Probability…

Post-Modern materialists live within the safe confines of probability and believe that seemingly random events occurring at the same time are merely coincidence, irrespective of the odds. Post-Modern mystics believe that seemingly impossible synchronicities present direct evidence to suggest that there is “something” hidden from view which is pushing such things to those who have come to understand how to look (whether that “something” is a Grand Designer [God] or Post-Human to-be descendants [simulation theory] is yet to be revealed).

How likely is it that everything in the Universe as we know it has been created by chance through a series of incredibly fortuitous conditions (the anthropic principle) leading back from the Big Bang until the dawn of humanity and beyond?

Materialists who support the anthropic principle believe that it is unremarkable that the Universe has developed via a series of fundamental constants (Universal laws) that happen to fall within an incredibly narrow range of conditions thought to be compatible with life, and with that a system capable of supporting living, sentient, conscious beings capable of observing and reflecting upon its creation and continued existence is more than probable given the vastness of space and time.

If one tries to even attempt to come up with a probability ratio of human existence going all the way back to the Big Bang (or at least to the physical conditions within the Universe that makes life possible), the chances would most likely be all but zero. We are not talking chances of winning the lottery here; we are talking of a probability with more “O’s” than a Cheerios factory.

So with that in mind, and with the advances of technology and the journey towards artificial intelligence and virtual reality, is it not entirely possible that there is a Grand Designer (be it God or Geek) and that “we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves” to quote Bill Hicks.

Is it not also entirely possible that we are living a Matrix-type existence and the synchronicities we experience are in fact akin to game hints, and that should we follow them down the rabbit hole, then we can play the game at a deeper level (Westworld in a nut shell)?

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I coined the phrase “Breadcrumb Theory” around the time of my spiritual awakening four years ago, a label created specifically for this blog at the time to identify and track such synchronicities, which in my opinion are markers laid down by someone or something to remind awakened ones that reality does have meaning and does have a purpose to be.

This blog has catalogued many synchronicities and will continue to do so but I’d have to say there are so many happening to me on a daily basis that it would be impossible to document them all (given life’s other priorities).

That said, significance again presented itself yesterday and it was somewhat biblical. My sole purpose of being in Cape Town just now is to release our new product to the office here and yesterday was the Go-Live of the new system.

As the team were busy testing some final things, out Project Lead was summoned into a room. At exactly 11:11 (which has a mystical synchronous significance itself), I opened a Whats App message from my wife back in the UK, and with it was an image of the bleak weather, a massive hailstorm had turned the street white within a matter of seconds. A short while later, the Project Lead came out of the room to advise the Go-Live had been cancelled due to some issues that had not been resolved.

1111

Whilst a little disappointed that we were not able to satisfy the requirement of us being here, I was not totally shocked by the message given the sign I had received at exactly the same time the decision was made.

Over the last four years I’ve often thought how unromantic it would be to live out a materialist existence without having a true purpose or meaning, other than to just be and satisfy the needs of the self (mostly with things).

One thing is for sure, those romantics who seek out meaning, those who seek out the true nature of reality are kept on track by synchronicities…

The digital self…

Many see the human brain as an organic equivalent of a computer’s hard drive. When a computer boots up for the very first time its memory is empty and as time goes by more and more programs are installed, increasing the functionality of the system and eventually over time giving an understanding to the self of how the whole thing works.

computer-brain

If we are lucky, our computer lasts for its intended (albeit finite) lifespan, with only a few minor problems which have no major impact on how it operates, how it runs.

In those early days, some people will come along and install good programs, programs which enrich the computing experience which in time teaches us how best to fine tune the system so that we can harmonise all working parts, guiding us to make the right decisions on which programs are best.

However, some people come along and install bad programs, sometimes for their own pleasure or selfish misguided ends, resulting in our computer not working as it should, crashing constantly and in certain cases to the point where the only solution appears to be to power off one last time never to be booted up again.

malware

There is a solution before such terminal measures are taken. As long as we are aware that our computer has a problem and that we are willing to fix it, then there is hope. There are those that have the knowledge of how to find the bad programs (the malware and viruses) and these people can show us the way to erase or partition those bad sectors to a place which does not affect the main running of the system.

Once we possess the knowledge of what is good and what is bad for the computer, we then have ultimate control of what gets loaded and what does not, having the experience and understanding to know what happens when bad programs are installed and how well the system functions when not.

When we are imbued with this knowledge, we can then educate others on what is good and what is not good; wisdom we did not have in those early days and when we do that, we have the ability to break the previous chain(s) of bad programming, forever.

Talking to professionals, talking to those who have reformatted their hard drives, talking to those who have experienced the good programs and the bad can help all of us who seek the path to optimisation…

The Consciousness Within…

God can be (and has been and will continue to be) defined as a great many things, including:

  • The Creator of the Universe and the Source of all moral authority.
  • A perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped.
  • The One who has power over nature and human fortunes.

I’ve never proactively gone to church, but I have over the last two weekends, not only as an opportunity to see parts of a location not usually frequented but also as a way to remove myself from a heavy workload, tourist schedule and external factors, even if just for one hour.

St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town is steeped in history and is renowned for the political stance it took during apartheid and is recognised as a strong symbol for democracy in South Africa. It’s significance lies not just with the building itself but also by the actions of different clergymen, including Desmond Tutu, the first black archbishop of South Africa who led numerous marches and campaigns for the formal end of apartheid from the front steps. It was a common meeting point for all activists of all races as well as woman’s rights groups who were part of the resistance to apartheid laws and the struggle for social justice, equality and human rights.

cape-town-cathedral

As I sat there listening to the gospels and hymns, one thing struck me. When I started to strip back things within this place, a certainty revealed itself to me at least, hidden for those who choose not to, or know not how to, peel back the layers.

Take away the church building itself. Take away the religious symbols and iconography. Take away the ceremony. Take away the physicality of the congregation. What is left is connection; oneness of being in the same place, a spiritual and aggregated consciousness tuning in to the same frequency.

Whilst in quiet contemplation or prayer during certain times of the service, external reality closes off its influence on the mind and allows one to go beyond the physical to get closer to the core, to inner essence (call it Heaven, call it Nirvana or call it Consciousness – for me it is the same thing).

On the topic of the resurrection, we were reminded by the Bishop that we ourselves should not fear death as life is eternal, and when we leave our mortal bonds we become one with God and join him in Heaven. It was at this point that I was also reminded of a lyric in a song I hold dear, “Presence” by Anathema:

“One has to come to term us with one’s own mortality, and you can’t really help people who are having problems with mortality if you’ve got problems of your own. So you have to begin to sort things out and I thought I had sorted things out until I saw this excerpt from this book, of certainty I shall remember what it said:

“Life is not the opposite of death. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal.”

And I thought that it’s the most profound words I have ever heard and it really put me at peace. And that’s it, what else is there to say? Life is eternal. Surely the opposite of life is not the death, but life is eternal. There is no opposite. It is a state of pure consciousness, stillness and silence. What we are looking for now, we are searching for and we have been searching for is already there; there for ever to seek. It is there and it’s going be there, all the time, forevermore”…

Leaving church left me with a great many things to contemplate. Without the offertory, the amount of churches would diminish and with that those who rely on buildings and ceremony as symbols for hope and peace would be lost. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are bricks and mortar, but true spirituality lies within its patrons and not itself, yet if by going to them reminds one to be more spiritual and less materialistic, then one should go.

So it was no shock to me that soon after my return from the cathedral, that flicking through the channels on the afternoon TV I found one of my favourite films Groundhog Day, an ontological orgasm of a film, whereby Bill Murray plays out the Buddhist eternal return (resurrections included) until he gains enough knowledge and wisdom to move on.

After the film had finished, I phoned home and asked the wife how things were going three weeks in to my six week stint in South Africa, the first words from her mouth were “It’s like Groundhog Day”.

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As if that was not odd enough, I was in work this morning when my colleague and friend shared with me the last two chocolates from the UK, namely two boxes of Mini-Smarties. He turned to me and said “What’s the answer to life, ‘maybe Smarties has the answer’ eh?” the jingle/phrase that accompanied the product on a UK TV advertisement. I turned to him and said “Well you know the answer to the ultimate question is 42 (according to Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) and if there are 42 Smarties inside that box then that is proof that there is something else beyond physical death and life is eternal”.

So there he sat, next to me counting out the Smarties in the small cardboard box into piles of ten. The look of shock on his face and mine when, after four piles were laid out on the desk, he showed me the open box to reveal two left inside.

An extraordinary synchronicity, could that have really been just a coincidence or was it a message from the other side?

Life is experience not knowledge…

What better way to share knowledge than through the written word. Since we picked up the first quill, we have over the ages scribed masterpieces from ancient texts, through Shakespeare and the Classics and on to modern theories of Life, the Universe and Everything via the internet.

Whilst it is just to read to expand the mind and become more knowledgeable, just reading is simply a data transfer between paper/screen and the hippocampus. Life is not simply about reading, understanding and sharing the words of others, life is about taking in knowledge to better experience. Quoting Freud or Nietzsche whilst in dialogue with friends and colleagues only shows that you have retained the knowledge once shared by great thinkers and writers, living and experiencing theories is however something very different.

I have not read a great many books cover-to-cover in my life, I have a tendency to read about fifty to sixty pages of a book, ponder over its content and existential relevance and put it down again perhaps for months, even years, taking in such nuggets and using that knowledge to enhance my experience on Planet Earth.

I was fortunate enough today (for now as this is my last project with my current employer) to be sat in a Business Class seat on-route to Cape Town where I will spend the next six weeks working (and being a culture vulture at weekends). I’m not the greatest of flyers so struggle a little on long haul flights so try to find things to do to keep me occupied for eleven hours fifteen in this case, as sleep as rarely an option. Armed with three books (A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig and The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley), a fully loaded iTunes/Spotify and the in-flight entertainment system, I felt that I had enough to keep the turbulence palm sweats at bay.

Apropos the in-flight entertainment system, I guess like most others I headed straight on to the documentary section and quickly settled on my selections for the flight. The documentary picks where quite easy; Cosmos narrated Neil De Grasse Tyson, Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman (materialism vs mysticism checklist complete) and Robin Williams Remembered (a look-back at the life and works of one the modern-day greats).

Robin-Williams-Death.jpg

I recall the days after he had died as not one of my finest moments. News had reached the UK that he had taken his own life which was a tragic event but what I could not understand at the time was why people where literally crying in the streets, and everybody seemed to share their own grief on social media. My point (wrong as it transpired) was that just because someone a famous person takes their own life, doesn’t make it any more or less tragic than someone who is not, a life is a life. There is some truth in that I guess but this stance got me into some sticky conversations until I rightly rescinded my comments once the views of others had been taken in.

The in-flight fifty-five minute documentary showed a true genius at work, from small beginnings to an Oscar winning performance, from a loner to a global megastar and back again, leaving gaping voids in the people that knew and worked with him.

After I had watch the three documentaries, I cycled through the three-hundred plus films on offer, hopefully taking the opportunity to watch an ontological/existential flick as I rarely get chance at home. Sadly there was nothing there.

Coincidentally though, Good Will Hunting starring Mr Williams was there. It’s a film I watched a long time ago and I recalled it was quite good so on it went. Having read a little Freud recently, I remembered that Williams played a shrink so quite a relevant film (a visual experience to go with the transfer of knowledge). Needless to say and in my opinion (at last!) the film is an absolute classic, with Williams a genius and humbling watch. His performance rightly won him the Oscar, arguably one of the best pieces of acting I’ve ever seen on film.

gwh

There is a scene in the film where doctor (Robin Williams) and patient (Matt Damon) are sitting on a park bench. Here on display, in Technicolor at 37,000ft is a monologue to end all monologues, which describes in majestic detail that life is about practice and not about theory. I just have to share this verbatim as no analysis or opinion is required (SPOILER ALERT!):

“I thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. I stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me. I fell into a deep peaceful sleep and I haven’t thought about you since. You know what occurred to me, you’re just a kid and you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about. You’ve never been out of Boston.

If I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny about every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him; life’s work, political aspirations, him and the Pope, sexual orientation the whole works, but I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel? You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at the beautiful ceiling, I’ve seen that.

If I ask you about women, you could give me a salver of all your personal favourites, you may have even been laid a few times, but you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

If I ask you about war, you will probably throw Shakespeare at me right: “Once more into the breach dear friends”, but you’ve never been near one. You’ve never had your best friends head in your lap and watch him gasp his last breath looking at you for help,

If I ask you about love, you’d quote me a sonnet, but you’ve never looked at a woman and felt totally vulnerable knowing someone who could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an Angel on earth just for you, who could rescue you from the depths of hell and you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her Angel to have that love for her that will be there forever through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping up in a hospital room for two months holding her hand because the doctors could see that in your eyes the term “visiting hours” don’t apply to you.

You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.

I look at you I don’t see an intelligent confident man, I see a cocky, scared shitless kid, but you’re a genius Will no one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you but you presumed to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and ripped my fucking life apart. You’re an orphan right. Do you think I’d know the first thing about how hard you’re life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you?

Personally I don’t give a shit about all that because you know what, because I can’t learn anything from you that I can’t read from some fucking book, unless you want to talk about you, and who are you – then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want do that do you sport. You’re terrified on what you might say”.

Calmly and expertly delivered, Williams is sharing a part of himself with the viewer, both fragile and moving.

In the final scene, Damon opens up and sobs after Williams (who himself reveals his historic abuse story) repeats time and time again “It’s not your fault; it’s not your fault”. I guess I was kind of glad all of the blinds were down on the airplanes windows and most of the folks were asleep as the tears were rolling down my face like the Victoria Falls I was flying over at the time.

We would do well to remember what William’s said on that bench, life is about experience and not knowledge. If we have had bad experiences thrust upon us, then we can and must try to lose that historical knowledge and live life in the present moment…

To err is to human…

One is never too far away from chaos, from disorder, from entropy. Conjure up if you will an image of a person who appears to be in perfect harmony with the Universe, a person who has a decent understanding of the human condition and who operates a nicely balanced mind, body and soul.

Take that very same person and inject them into a situation where that balance is completely and utterly destroyed by substances they imbibe to the point where everything that they truly believe and everything they actually possess teeters to the point of non-existence.

Whilst it is commonplace (not obligatory) to take alcohol in social situations, excess is a very dark and dangerous path to Freud’s Ego and Id, a solitary and lonely path to disorder.

the-path

Advanced states of inebriation dissolve the Super-Ego like the inevitable next day Berocca; something solid which melts away to reveal churning and cloudiness. Introducing alcohol in large quantities into the system temporarily removes conscience and pride, the staple diet of the Super Ego and without it, all that is left is the bloated Ego and the selfish Id, and with that all reason is lost.

And so it was on Saturday, where I took it upon myself to smash myself out of the park for no real apparent reason, or perhaps one that my external self chooses not to reveal under normal circumstances.

I have of late likened my time living in the corporate world to that of a marionette; an executive order controlling my every move telling me what to do and when to do it, much to the annoyance and disappointment of my inner self. There are times (and that is becoming increasingly regular) that I loathe capitalism, commercialism and coin-based economics, such things never truly bring real happiness. Sometimes it’s seems an easy option to turn to drink to banish those thoughts even if only temporarily, yet invariably things turn out very ugly indeed.

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I do have a grand plan, a plan one day to leave behind all of the pandering to bosses and reliance on money, but for now (with having three children) my Super Ego keeps things in check and perspective (and rightly so) and puts that plan ten years hence, which ordinarily I’m ok with.

However, when the balance is knocked severely off kilter with such force and aggression (mental not physical), egotistic and selfish needs and desires come out to the front of class and exhibit a rather loathsome and disrespectful show and tell, leaving strangers bewildered and confused and loved ones bemused and upset.

The cold light of the next day brings back the conscience ten-fold (leaving pride to scuttle off under the bed), as if its absence the night before needs to take centre stage for every waking moment for days to come, deliberating, cogitating and judging the self’s embarrassing stage show the night before.

We are never too far away from chaos and should do everything to avoid entropy at all costs; we must be reminded that a life of moderation and not excess brings balance.

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him” – Buddha

Have you ever questioned your reality?

After having watched the first episode of Westworld, one of the more thought-provoking ontological lines from the show was “Have you ever questioned the nature of your own reality?

For a large part of my life I often wondered about the vastness of space and the beginning of the Universe without going further down the rabbit hole. After reaching what I have come to know as my spiritual epiphany a few years back, searching deeper within myself and questioning the true nature of reality revealed something quite special, that there was something beyond what we perceive with our senses and believe with our minds.

true-reality

Once a connection with the inner self and wider collective consciousness has been established, materialist layers start to peel away to open up a brand new way to perceive and understand the reality we live in day-to-day.

I have of late not watched much TV during my downtime after the kids have gone to bed, on the basis that the schedules are truly awful and lacking in both quality and substance. One only has to cycle through the channels to see that, from Booze Britain to The “Real” Housewives of Someplace, all cheap TV showing humankind at its worst and most shallow.

So Tuesday night came and tired after a day at work and household chores, I gave the “magic moving pictures box” another shot and of the four-hundred channels of abject garbage, the only programme of note was The Himalayas: Natural World, narrated by the wonderfully calming voice of David Attenborough. The scenery was breath taking, the accompany dialogue just as impressive, on display a majestic and remote ecosystem devoid of greed and ego (no humans present), just the animal kingdom in all of its glory showing its own primal need to exist as individuals and co-exist with others.

snow-leopard

By stark contrast, take the human kingdom; here we have a catastrophically dysfunctional ecosystem, rank with the fetid stench of ego, greed and extreme aggression. Switching channels I watched a programme called The Lost Children of Syria, a harrowing account of several children dispersed across Greece living on the streets with no security, no hope and no future, evidently. Our external reality it seems is destined to implode sometime soon based on this evidence and other events going on all over our little blue dot. What these kids have seen and experienced will stay with them forever, some will die even (perhaps soon), some will never recover yet some will go onto use their experience to help others and do some good in a chaotic world.

aleppo

Closing down the TV for the night made me feel both sad in what I had just witnessed and helpless as an individual who seemingly has no real impact in what goes on in the world. Sure I have my own political opinions and the right vote. Sure I have some designated charities which help out in a small way. Sure I have this blog which reaches out and propagates to both like-minded individuals and the collective consciousness but what real impression does any of this have? All that I know now is that what I am doing as an individual is positive, and by sharing that with family friends and the internet is the right thing to do. I can and will do more when the time is right.

All of that said there is magic in this world and whilst there are atrocities that occur on a daily basis, one must not give up on humanity. We are reminded on a daily basis how majestic and humbling just being in the here and now can be, like every morning when my daughter climbs in to my bed for morning cuddles before school.

As Dolores Abernathy says in Westworld episode one (my favourite quote of the show): “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty”.

monument-valley

There is no doubt there is a shift in the world with writers like Eckhart Tolle, Ervin Laszlo and Anthony Peake who are rightly bringing into question the whole materialist-reductionist paradigm and with that the questioning of reality itself, and the follow-on action for change. If their words reach out and resonate with growing millions then so should we share those words via the means available to us. If we all have a book in us, then we should make it happen, especially if it the content changes the materialists mind-set.

Something further to ponder on is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now: Are we living out a mundane and meaningless existence; are we living in a mystical and evolving era which feeds and evolves a hidden stream of consciousness or are we living in a virtual reality simulation our futures selves have created.

That my friends is the topic of my next blog…

The Ego and the Tree…

Consider the lily, I mean sycamore tree. Today I sat parked under a sycamore tree reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, a title which was passed on to me by a dear and like-minded friend as something he thought I’d be interested in. He wasn’t wrong.

the-tree

Within the space of one and a half earth hours, I had read sixty-eight pages, quite a feat for someone with a tortoise-like pace when it comes to reading. It is both a riveting and “revelationary” read, scribing that we appear to be living in the dawn of an age which is starting to redefine consciousness, awareness and inner essence.

Noetics, mysticism and new age thinking intrigues me to the point that I want to find out a lot more on how the Cosmos truly works, but sometimes I struggle with scientific descriptors and technical theories as to how the Universe works (at the quantum level for example) and how this maps into the collective consciousness or The Source.

Reading on, I came to the chapter about the ego. I’ve never really understood the true meaning of ego until now, my take was that ego was purely personality, and in particular arrogance (e.g. “M’s” ego is huge, what a tool). Not so. The internet defines the ego thusly:

  • Ego – A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance, or
  • Ego – In philosophy (metaphysics), a conscious thinking subject, or
  • Ego – In psychoanalysis, the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.

My present understanding of the ego was bullet point one above, bullet point two got me thinking and bullet point three set me off on a quest for more information and with that came Freud’s concept of the human psyche:

human-psyche

A picture normally sets things straight for me and although the above image helped, I still wasn’t clear about what the Id , Ego and the Super-Ego are. In terms of simplistic definitions, I found the following really helped:

  • Id – Is the primitive and instinctive component of personality, consisting of inherited biological (genetic) components of personality present at birth. Id is unconscious and has no direct connection with external reality. When a child is born it is all Id, only over time does it develop an Ego and Super-Ego (sometimes not if genetics / defects prevent it). The Id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical and irrational, reality is purely objective and selfish.
  • Ego – Is that part of the psyche that develops in order to mediate between the objective and selfish Id and external reality. Ego is the decision making component and works by reason (using social situations, etiquette and rules in deciding how to behave), working out realistic ways of satisfying the Id’s demands, often compromising to avoid negative consequences of external reality (society), sometimes at the detriment and annoyance of the Id. Ego has no concept of right or wrong, something is good if it achieves goals of satisfying itself and Id. The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem solving.
  • Super-Ego – Is that part of the psyche that acts as a moral compass, incorporating the values and morals of society learned from parents and/or others. Super-Ego develops around the age of five and its function is to control the Id’s impulses, especially those which forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the Ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection. Super-Ego consists of two systems: Conscience and Ideal Self; Conscience can punish the Ego through guilt; Ideal Self is an imaginary picture of how you ought to be, and represents aspirations, how to treat other people, and how to behave in external reality. Falling short of the Ideal Self goals may be punished by the Super-Ego through guilt, or rewarded through a sense of pride.

With that in mind and reading on in Tolle’s book, the present human condition becomes more understandable, leaving one with the observation that only with complete balance (at an individual and communal level) can humanity survive.

We have been through the evolutionary chain of events (if one is to believe that) when only the Id existed, our monkey-to-man era; the missing link being that light bulb moment where consciousness / ego was “created” for the first time.

A society devoid of Super-Ego would I guess only would result in destruction, a society without a moral compass would I’m sure only lead to the end of civilisation as we know it, and it sure fells like we are on that path just now.

As I sat there looking out of the car window, “helicopter” pods and sycamore leaves heralding the start of Autumn by periodically hitting the roof and windscreen and at that point I meditated and became the tree. I was a self-replicating organic construct who had grown in this field for perhaps over two-hundred years, without Ego, without Super-Ego, just there, just being. Although this tree was a living thing, made up of exactly the same building blocks as man, we are different. I am conscious and it is not. We both posses an Id of sorts (impulses, instincts and a primal need to survive) but I have an Ego and Super-ego, it does not.

Freud’s work falls short for me. Whilst it describes the very nature of how the “mind” works very well, consciousness he states is purely an epiphenomenon of the brain and nothing more, and collective consciousness does not and cannot exist (the materialistic reductionist paradigm right there in a nutshell – mind and body exists but not the soul).

Deep meditation and dabbling’s with esoteric means has opened my door of perception to an alternative and deeper reality, a reality beyond physics and metaphysics.

For me, people confuse the definition of spirituality. As Tolle defines, spirituality is a connection with inner essence, with the collective consciousness; it is not a belief system, a belief that one is spiritual by perhaps believing in God without adherence to an organised religion with associated doctrines and dogmas.

After spending one of the most curious one-and-a-half hours of my life with a book, a tree and an inquisitive mind (there’s another problem right there – if trees didn’t exist then neither would I (oxygen starvation), yet because they do exist then I do too, and in turn man turns trees into books so that we can share information about the mind!), I close the book as my son approaches from his latest casting workshop, and as I do so, I “see” for the first time that the front cover of A New Earth has on it, a wire-frame image of a sycamore tree leaf similar to those I could see on the windscreen…

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If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is…