The Tao

The way or path that we can all take.

Intuition and that Crazy Feeling

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We tend to place less and less importance on our own personal intuition, instead relying on logic and reasoning in our daily lives. For day to day functionality logic and reason definitely is the way to go as intuition and feelings aren’t too well known for long term planning, but intuition should still play a part in our daily lives.

Intuition is often mistaken for wishful thinking or just emotional judgement. Carl Jung a pioneer of modern psychology in the early twentieth century described intuition as an “irrational function” of the ego relying on feelings more than logic. Intuition and following a hunch is often considered an irrational action as there is no basis of proof or reasoning behind it. However, intuition or ego based thought processes are still based on knowledge and experience. It just happens so quickly that we do not input the superego into the equation.

“Intuition is the key to everything, in painting, filmmaking, business – everything. I think you could have an intellectual ability, but if you can sharpen your intuition, which they say is emotion and intellect joining together, then a knowingness occurs.”
David Lynch

Intuition while it tends to follow emotions is however based on experiences that are remembered and unremembered. While our senses are active our conscious minds only process a fraction of the information, usually what is based on importance and survival. In many cases our minds only process the information that we want to, but the other data points still remain in our subconscious. Even though we may not consciously process that information it is still there as data for the rest of our subconscious minds to analyze and process.
Intuition is most likely an evolutionary process and an extension of reflexive action. Reflexive action is based on stimuli and action. Whether it be a bump to the knee that causes our leg to jerk or the sudden rise in adrenaline and attention at the sound of a loud noise. Intuition expands those basic reactions by creating a sudden urge or impulse based on learned experiences.

In many cases we’ve all experienced what happens when we go against our intuition, or that crazy feeling. We trusted people that we instinctive knew that we shouldn’t because it seemed irrational and later on regretted not following our intuition. We’ve lost out on opportunities that felt right, but seemed wrong. In all of those cases our intuition, the collection of facts and experiences in our subconscious minds is ignored. Just as often we feel regret for not following our intuition and rationalizing ourselves out of a difficult decision.

That doesn’t mean intuition is always right, as there are always exceptions to every rule, but following that gut feeling can generally lead to greater rewards as in many cases following intuition is following a greater risk.

At Yale University in the 70’s a study¬†of intuitive skills showed that for certain intuitive people their sense of intuition was just as accurate without any other information. By only nonverbal facial cues they were able to come to the same conclusion in a much shorter time without anything needing to be said when compared to more rational students who were able to come to the same conclusion only with added information and more time to process the information.

Intuition however is not an issue of wishful thinking. You may purchase a lottery ticket with a gut feeling that you’ll win but it is merely wishful thinking as there is no data for your mind to intuit from. Intuition mainly applies to circumstances where your mind is processing information faster than you can give conscious thought to it, whether it be your gut feelings about a person or relationship, or your intuition on a certain idea.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”

Albert Einstein

Intuition is not a talent or skill based on pure emotion or desire, but based on your brain simply being able to process data than your mind and giving you a rapid fire answer. It is based on pattern recognition and picking up on cues that we normally don’t focus on or realize exist, whether they be certain facial cues in a person, body language or the intonation of their voice. Through our experiences we have seen different combinations of the three thousands of times and also have seen the outcome. While our conscious minds tend to focus more on the words said than the cues given our subconscious mind is able to pick up on cues and hints that were always available to us and can give us a general knowledge of what will happen next based on past experience.

In making decisions on complex issues such as what major to study in college, what car or house to buy and even who to date, studies have shown that the intuitive or gut choice in most cases leads to people being more satisfied with their decision in the long run. Taking the standard route of a pros and cons list when making a big decision doesn’t take into account what is most important to you. In the long run one good reason tends to nullify a hundred other ones.

Passivism and the Art of Doing Nothing

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I would like to begin by admitting that I am one of the great passive people on Earth and that I have mastered the Art of Doing Nothing. It’s the main reason why I started rethinking my life and writing down my thoughts and experiences. For those of us who simply go with the flow and are nothing but passengers in life the greatest sin that we commit is placing blame when it comes times to take responsibility.

Passivism is not the lack of action but the active choice of doing nothing which there are consequences to. In too many cases the passivist takes on the role of the victim and are quick to blame without realizing that our lack of action led to the victimization. By thinking ahead to what possibilities might occur or taking active precautions we can help safeguard ourselves from potential problems that may occur. Successful people tend to prepare for failure and try to minimize the damage that it may inflict. If we take a more active role to avoid, correct or change the circumstances in most cases we can change the outcome to something that is more positive.

A passenger in a car has little to no control in case of an accident and regardless of the circumstances is generally a victim, but looking further back the passenger always had the option to drive for themselves and accept the responsibilities of their life. It is easy to think that someone or something will always be on the lookout for us, to keep us safe whether it be family, friends or even God, but the reality is that in the end we are the ones who are ultimately responsible.

Passivism for me at least was always and attempt to take on as little responsibility as possible, but I realized that in reality it was just an excuse as I was still responsible for ceding control of my life to outside forces and then blamed outside forces when they fail.

Chances are if you feel that your life isn’t where you want it to be or you have hit rock bottom, the first natural reaction will be to place the blame on someone else. If you take the time to look back on the circumstances of where you and look for possible decisions and choices that you could have made you’ll soon realize that you are at the very least partly responsible and in most cases fully responsible for where you are in your life.

Understanding and accepting that you are ultimately responsible for yourself and must shoulder the responsibility yourself regardless of the circumstances is the first step in solving the problems that occur and can occur in your future. Taking on that responsibility forces us to be more aware of things that are happening around us and allow us to be ready for that rainy day. When you are capable of taking care of yourself then you’ll also know that you can help out others as well to build a supportive community and be an active participant in said community. Knowing that you are not just a passive observer in your life, but an active participant with the ability to enact change.

Jean Valjean Overcoming the World View: An Analysis of Les Miserables

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The main character of Les Miserables is Jean Valjean a former convict who after nearly twenty years of forced labor is released back into society. He is initially viewed only by the stigma of being a ‘dangerous’ criminal until he sheds the identity given to him by society to be the man that he truly is.

As soon as he is released he is considered a social outcast and treated cruelly by everyone he encounters because of his past. He had been arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her family, an illegal and immoral act done for good reasons. As society labels him a criminal Valjean begins to accept the role that is given to him. Angry and bitter by the treatment he receives from the world he soon resorts to thievery to survive.

After being given shelter and food by the local Bishop and church Valjean steals the silverware and runs off only to be captured by the police and brought before the Bishop. The Bishop in an act of generosity lies to the police, informing them that the silverware was a gift and even includes a set of silver candlesticks, showing Valjean that while the rest of society views him as a thief and criminal that is not all that he is or has to be. The Bishop implores Valjean to use the silver to start a new life as an honest man.

After another act of thievery Valjean realizes that his life now had reached a crisis point, where he had the option of choosing what to do and who to be. He repents and the identity of Jean Valjean dies only to be reborn as Monsieur Madeleine.

Monsieur Madeleine uses the silver to start a new life and in a few years becomes a wealthy factory owner and Mayor of a small town. He is renowned for his generosity and kindness.

The character of Jean Valjean experiences what Christians would refer to as being ‘born again’ as he turns from a life of a sinner to one of a Christian. Regardless of religion this is something that anyone can do with their life by rejecting their current selves and remaking themselves into a different person. The idea of death and rebirth don’t need to be religious in nature and unfortunately also does not need to be a positive. Valjean’s mistreatment by society and his time in prison can also be seen as a moment of death and rebirth as he is changed from a man caring for his family to the ‘dangerous’ criminal that society viewed him as.

The cycle of death and rebirth often described in Buddhism extends beyond the idea of a physically cycle but to that of a mental, emotional and spiritual cycle that occurs to everyone. The simple concept that people change over time is the realization that the old is gone and the new remains. In some cases like the transformation of Valjean into a criminal it is mainly an occurrence due to outside factors, we simply change into what society sees in us. Whether that society consists of family, friends or the entire world many of us shape ourselves to fill or satisfy a certain viewpoint without even realizing it.

The second transformation of Valjean into Monsieur Madeleine is one of conscious choice. A suicide that kills off the old to make way for the new. These tend to happen when someone reachers a crisis point in their life or in other words hits rock bottom. You see such transformations in ‘Born Again’ Christians or other who find faith in other religious avenues. Again, this change does not need to be a positive one as some when they hit rock bottom can opt to change in the opposite direction.

Valjean before becoming Monsieur Madeleine had the opportunity to make that personal choice to be a criminal or to be a better man.

Who are you?

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It is a simple question that most of us never fully grasp the meaning of throughout our lives. When asked we create a person and fill in the details but never really answer the question. We give the answer a name, an occupation, information about family and friends, hobbies and things we like to do. We can even give information on experiences we have had and accomplishments we have achieved. In an attempt to satisfy the question further, we can even add negatives into the equation. Fears and misdeeds, failures and disasters, pain and suffering we have faced, but the question still remains unanswered.

It is the equivalent of pointing to a car and asking what it is. You can say it is a Ford or Toyota. You can even tell the exact model and year the car was made as well as the color and type of car it is. To go into more detail you can say it is made of steel, has four wheels, an engine, transmission and various other parts to create the whole. One could describe road trips that the car has made the miles that it has travelled and where it has been. You can add a purpose to the car, whether it is used to drive to work, deliver people or things or to simply drive to the beach every weekend.
You can add negatives like the brakes screech at every stop and the engine tends to burn oil too quickly. In any event you can talk in detail about the car and what it has gone through without ever answering the question with the answer ‘a car’.

So who are we really? Are we simple homo sapiens, just people all the same or are we individuals each completely different and unique in our own way. In that case, how can we answer that question of who we are?

“gnothi seauton” Greek for “know thyself”

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The hardest person to get to know if yourself. To be able to truly understand the good and bad parts, but without knowing yourself, you cannot begin to know the relationships you have with others. Like a math problem of a+b=c we need to know at least one of the factors to solve the problem at hand. When interacting with the unknown world we need to know who we are in order to formulate what types of results that we’ll get.

Everyone has a certain self image of themselves whether positive, negative or both. We know what skills we possess and also what traits we have but it is difficult for us to really know the limits of what we can accomplish. Athletes constantly push their physical and mental boundaries to find out exactly how far they can go in order to see how much farther and faster is possible. For the rest of us, we simply don’t know because we never feel the need to push our physical, mental or spiritual limits. We simply guess how far we can go and in many cases take a much too conservative viewpoint.

I’ve always thought highly of some of my abilities, but never pushed them to see what I was really capable of mainly out of the fear of failure. Going to the brink and realizing that it’s nowhere near as far as one thought is a scary experience so I’ve always played it safe within a very narrow scope of view, always saying “If I need to I can.” but never actually going near the deep end of the pool. Instead, I always stood in the shallow end, knowing I can swim but never knowing how far I could go.

That fear is an artificial limiter on our capabilities. If you can swim out to sea for a hundred yards, then by pushing, you can go a hundred more. The act of never trying is the same as trying and failing without any chance of success. In my case the fear of failure always tended to outweigh the benefits of success.

I’m not saying that everyone should suddenly jump in the ocean and try swimming to the next continent but at least take a few strokes and you might experience something new or different. At first it can be baby steps to start breaking down the prison you built for yourself. Try going somewhere new, starting a conversation with a stranger or even eating something different. There will be failures but there will also be successes. You might find yourself discovering something that had been missing from your life and in the worst case scenario at least know that this is a place that doesn’t interest you, that person is boring or this food is disgusting. It is always better to know for sure than to guess.

The more you take steps to interact with the outside world the more you’ll begin to understand yourself better. These are the activities I really enjoy, the ones that calm me, the ones that make me think to the ones that I hate. These are the people I like to talk to, to spend time with and these are people better to avoid. In any case, you won’t know until you try these things out at least once. These are the foods I like to eat and the places that I like to go. The more you know what you really like and dislike the more you can delve into who you are as a person.

For too many of us the idea of personal growth died off long ago. We are too caught up in the mundane duties of our daily lives to make time for something new. Fortunately the act of doing or learning something new is easier than we may think. In many cases we simply need to take the opportunity to resurrect our inner child. The child that always wanted to see something new and meet new people. The child that saw excitement in basic everyday curiosity and had a wonder for life. That child no longer comes naturally for most of us, but still exists and we simply need to rekindle that flame every once in awhile.

The main reason to try to expand one’s horizons is to collect data for examination to figure out who you really are as a person. There is no single trait or attribute that encapsulates everything that a person is. Instead, it is made of an almost infinite number of characteristics that for you the individual.

A Jesuit priest once remarked of the Japanese people that they have three hearts. I think that this applies to most of us in the world today. One heart is for the general public to see. How we behave and act in society. The second heart is reserved for family and close friends. How we act privately with those that know us best. The third and final heart is the one that we only reveal to ourselves, the thoughts and desires we dare not share with anyone.

To understand ourselves better we need to know all three hearts. How are we in public when interacting with strangers and coworkers. What image of ourselves do we try to portray? How does that vary from how we are to the people close to us?

My girlfriends would always complain about my personality. When I was out in public I would be very outgoing. Always joking around and having conversations with friends and strangers alike. I was always in a good mood and full of energy. In private with my girlfriends though I would be a different person. Very quiet and introverted only wanting to spend time with them watching a movie or making something to eat together. When I’m alone, I’m even more introverted, content just to sit at a desk in front of a computer.

These are three different aspects to my heart. In public I create a false persona for the world to see, whereas in private I can be myself. The outward heart is one we usually create to protect ourselves from the outside world, it is a suit of armor that we wear. Whether it be someone who seems happy go-lucky without a care in the world to someone who always has an air of confidence and energy. The armor can be something that is meek or strong, quiet or loud as each one is simply an illusion.

PalHachi~

 

The Golden Path

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The Golden Path is an idea brought up in the Dune series of books by Frank Herbert. It stars characters who are prescient or can see the future and the possible paths that lead to a particular end. In order to get to a ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ future for humanity the main characters are forced to take a the Golden Path, a series of actions that cause great immediate harm and suffering to both humanity and themselves but to reach an ultimate ‘ideal’ goal.

Now the idea of prescience or being able to see the future for all of humanity is a bit grandiose but I believe that it is possible to see the future for ourselves as individuals. We do it every day to a certain degree. When we are at work we think about what we’ll have for dinner or going to the bar for a beer. At night before we sleep we think about what we’ll do the following day, what we’ll have for lunch or where we’ll go. We plan our vacations and imagine sitting on the beach or visiting a museum. Each of those ‘visions’ in our head is a possible future that we can make for ourselves as individuals. The idea is that those places in time and space already exist and we just need to find the optimal path to get there.

To reach each possible point that we envision has a path or in some cases paths that we can take. Some are easier than others, but each one exists just like each possible future already exists.

How we reach that end point or goal is wholly dependent on us. It is not an issue of fate, destiny or predestination as we are the ones that make the each choice and decision that will lead there. Like any path or road that we take to a destination, there will be twists and turns. There will be unforeseen obstacles that block our way. It is however up to us to decide whether to desert the idea of the Golden Path or simply to find the detour in the road that leads there.

We all imagine a ‘perfect’ future for ourselves; where we’ll be, what we’ll be doing and in some cases who we’ll be with. Fortunately, we have the ability to actively affect most of those factors. Of course, there are limits to what we as individuals can do, but there is much more we can do than we realize.

As children, we imagined what careers that we would have whether it was to be an astronaut, athlete, movie star or something entirely different. As children, we all had some opportunity or path available to us to reach that goal. Unfortunately, in too many cases we chose different paths to take and ended up in a completely different location, but at the moment of conception of that dream goal there was a path that made that goal possible. In most cases the path was too difficult, so we chose an easier way that led to a different destination.

While long term end goals can be easy to envision and fantasize about reaching those goals and finding the path is even more difficult as we are unable to plan for eventualities that may pop up along the way.

In following entries we’ll take a closer look at if this is at all possible within the confines of science and reason and also what implications it may have on our daily lives.

 

~PalHachi

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