envelope

Surviving Stressful Times 2


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We have covered a few important ideas, and I’d like to just review some of them. This question, “How do I experience this, and be at peace at the same time?” It’s one of those relatively simple formulations which allows you to go as deep as you wish into your own experience. So, you know, you have a dispute with your partner, and in that situation it is almost always you want to say, “You, you, you, you!” But you ask this question, “How can I experience having had this dispute,”—or spat, or whatever—“and be at peace at the same time?” I think you’ll find that it changes how you relate to that situation, how you relate to yourself and eventually how you relate to your partner.

The second principle. I am just going to go back here for a moment: In meditation, sitting very deeply, something comes up, old feeling, old memory, then the same thing applies. “How can I experience this and be at peace at the same time?” It allows you to explore how that feeling manifests in the body. “Okay, this feeling comes up and I feel this constriction in my throat.” Okay, rather than trying to get rid of that constriction in the throat, you say, “How can I experience that constriction, and be at peace at the same time?” And the effect of that is that you are going to stop fighting these different physical sensations that arise. This goes right down to this principle: There are no enemies. Start just letting those experiences be there in the body, and by doing that, you actually are creating the conditions in which this old material can arise and be experienced and just go on it’s own way.


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So, it sounds very simple, but it actually goes very, very far. And the second one: Goals and results aren’t the same thing. This is actually quite important, because if we try to make certain results a goal, we end up struggling. For instance, a very common example: If you’re upset about a situation, and somebody says to you, “Just relax!” What happens? [Laughter] Okay, you immediately go “Gr-r-r!” Because there, relaxation is being set up as a goal, saying, “Just do this.“ Now, what if you come in, you are very upset about the situation, and the person says, ”Oh, take a deep breath, let it out slowly. Take another breath, let it out slowly again. Do it one more time.“ How do you feel? You feel more relaxed, right? And that illustrates that this is a result, but when you are told to make it a goal, it just doesn’t work. There a many, many things in our lives that are set up unintentionally or because of the way people think which are actually results of certain kinds of efforts but are set up as goals. Another one that’s come up for me, which I have been thinking about for the last month, is compassion. Compassion actually is a result, and when you make it a goal, you get into all kinds of messes. You have some ideas about that Robyn?

Robyn: I was just thinking, that came out of what I was talking to you about at the break.

Ken: Say more about it.

Robyn: Well, I said to Ken, one thing that’s difficult is that my financial situation is stable and okay. And I am around a bunch of people who are needy, and [I’m] finding the balance of how to be compassionate and generous, and do it wisely. [Laughter]. And when you were saying that, I thought, ”Yeah. Oh, yeah.“ I was making those all into goals, and I am comparing myself with that goal, doing all the things that come up when you…when you create that tension.

Ken: I will give you one other example of this. In my business consultation, I was coaching an executive who had come to the conclusion that—this is several years ago, long before this financial mess hit—that he had to terminate one of his staff. He said, ”But I want to do it compassionately.“ I said, ”Let’s just put that aside for a moment,“ and asked him to go through, first, the business reasons why he felt that he needed to take this step. So he went blah blah, blah. And then I said, ”Okay.“ Because he said, ”I don’t dislike this person, it’s just not working out.“ I said, ”Okay, if you were in this person’s position, how would you want this to take place?“ And he went, well, I’d like it to be done this way, and this way, and this way, etc. So we just went through the nitty gritty of how to do it. Almost mechanically. The result of that was a very respectful approach to this termination. He’d done the research with the HR department, he new exactly what he could offer the person as a package, and so forth. And the result of it was that it was a compassionate termination. But by not making that the goal, but by bringing all of one’s attention to it, it came out as the result. And this is a very,very deep principle that we are talking about here. So you have a very live situation, and we’ll discuss that. I would like to postpone that to the early afternoon, though That’s when we are going to talk about some of these things.

Sophie: I actually have a little struggle.

Ken: Okay, Sophie? We are just down to one microphone because one of the connections is not working.

Sophie: I realize that when you are going through strategy, method, goal, results, that that’s where my confusion is. I don’t know when I’m in a result, or a goal, or a strategy. I think I get mixed up. You know, when’s a method, you know, and what’s an effect. I’ve read it in your book, but still, as you’re going through it now, I’m actually confused as when your saying compassion is a result, it’s not a goal. And yet it seems as it’s almost established as a goal. The Four Immeasurables are almost like goals of a Buddhist practice.


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Ken: Yeah, I know we have this problem. I think it’s a very substantial problem. And when I was writing Wake up to Your Life, this was when I first began to appreciate how deep the problem was, because the Four Immeasurables was really familiar territory to me. I practiced them quite a lot, and quite deeply. And yet, when I started writing that chapter, I wrote complete drivel, it was just terrible. So I’d scratch all of that and start again, and I just couldn’t get anything down on paper that had any substance to it. I couldn’t figure out why. I went back and forth, and back and forth. When I am doing this kind of thing, I often talk to a lot of people. And what gradually came out of this whole examination or exploration was that, compared to the other chapters, I was trying to describe equanimity or compassion, or something like that. And I hadn’t done that in any of the previous chapters. In other words, I was trying to describe what the goal was. And so, as soon as I got clear about that and said, ”No, just describe what to do as the practice,“ then everything started to come together. So being able to make these distinctions between goals, strategies, results and things like that, is very, very helpful in being clear about what efforts we can make in a situation and what efforts to make in a situation. But again, I want to defer that until the early afternoon. That’s when we are going to go into this. What I want to focus on right now is a bit more exploration for all of these stories.

Now, how many of you are at the point in your life that you expected to be 10, 15, 20 years ago? [Laughter] Oh, is this the case of bad planning? Just for the record nobody held up their hand! Okay. So. [Laughter]

Student: We wouldn’t be in your class…[unclear]…it wouldn’t be as great…

Ken: Well, my experience has been that I can ask that question of any audience and very rarely does anybody hold up their hand. So, what does this tell us? Life takes unexpected turns. One of the central myths of this culture—and I think largely of Western society—is that we can actually determine our destiny. We have control over our lives. We can form an intention and our lives are going to unfold that way. This is very deeply ingrained in us. When something goes wrong in our lives, what do we do, particularly here in California?

Student: We go to therapy?

Ken: We either go to therapy, or…

Student: Shopping.

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: No, I was going to say, we either go to therapy or we sue, or we do both. [Laughter] And the whole thing about suing, going to court, is that if something goes wrong in our lives, somebody is to blame and now we are going to make them pay. Does this sound familiar to anybody? And that attitude comes from not accepting, or let’s put it the other way, believing that we can actually control our destiny.

Now, I want to go a step further here. It’s reasonable to say that the sense of self—this goes back to your question Randy, about identity—our sense of who we are, is a fiction, which we construct to endow the chaos of our lives with a semblance or rational consistency. [Laughter] The sense of self, our sense of who we are, is a fiction, which we construct after the fact to endow the chaos of our lives with a semblance of rational consistency. (You like that, do you, Sandy?) Now, the reason this is important…

Student: Irrational?

Ken: Rational, not irrational. Consistency, yes. There is a whole school of psychotherapy built of this. It’s called narrative therapy. The idea is that we tell ourselves a story about who we are and if our story is, ”I am hopeless, I am a loser, I am a fraud, nothing ever goes right for me,“ then it has a tendency to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the idea is, if you say to yourself, ”I’m great, I am wonderful, I can always accomplish what I want to do,“ then it’s more likely that you will move in that direction. And then you get into the whole business of the low self-esteem and the high self-esteem, and things like that. But it’s all different stories. Living by stories, living with an idea of who we are.

From my point of view, believing those stories is part of the problem. Now, I’m going to be talking at a somewhat high level, a big level here. While I’m doing this, what I would like you to be doing, is asking yourself, ”What are the stories that I absolutely believe in, about me or about life.“ Just before this workshop this weekend, I asked Cara to send out a YouTube of the financial crisis with John Ford, and so forth. How many of you had a chance to view that? Okay. It’s wonderful the way it opens. You have, ”How does the financial system work?“ Well you have all of these wonderfully smart people who are going on, and everything is going fine until somebody says, ”Oh, it’s terrible!“ And then the stock market crashes, and then somebody else says, ”Oh no, it’s okay,“ and then it goes up again.

One of the things that a lot of people don’t understand about economics—and the working of financial systems and monetary systems, particularly—is that they are shared stories about a nation, or about a group of people or something, that everybody believes. It’s a shared belief. And it’s when confidence in that particular story erodes that the currencies crash. When people hear this for the first time, they go like, ”You mean all of this is just because we trusted?“ And it’s true. I mean, how much is this worth? It’s a piece of paper. (I’m holding up a dollar bill for those who are listening.) It’s worth nothing. I mean, I doubt if it’s even worth one cent, in terms of real value. However, there is a collective agreement that if I give you this dollar, you will give me a dollar’s worth of goods. It’s a medium of exchange. If I don’t believe that everybody else in the world respects that piece of paper, then it literally has no value.

The evolution of this system took a long time. It took several hundred years. A friend of mine just told me about John Law, who was a Frenchman in the seventeenth century—I didn’t have a chance to read it up on Wikipedia—who was the person who got this idea of currencies backed by central banks and things like that. The financial system we have is very complex, but ultimately it depends on people trusting each other. And that’s why right now the credit markets are frozen, because everybody’s sitting on these bad debts, these…

Student: Subprime [unclear]

Ken: Pardon? Subprime…or these securitized assets and things like that. Highly leveraged and so forth. And as somebody else said to me, ”Here are 10 bottles of water. One of them’s poisoned. Take a drink.“ [Laughter] So what do you do? If I put 10 bottles of water—they look identical—and one of them’s got poison in it, and I said, ”Pick one and have a drink,“ how many of you would have a drink?

Student: It depends on how thirsty you are.

Ken: Well, that’s a very valid point. But initially, you are just going to say no, right? That’s exactly why the credit markets are frozen, because the banks and the companies don’t trust each other. And if DuPont is going to lend to Baxter, they’re going to charge a phenomenal amount of interest for a short term loan. Before it was like two or three per cent, or something like that. Now they are going 10 or 15 per cent because they are afraid that Baxter might not pay them back. Or that they are going to drink some poisoned water. Which is exactly what happened with the Bank of America and Merrill. Bank of America, which was under pressure from the government, agreed to take over Merrill Lynch, went into Merrill Lynch’s books and found out that there was nothing there. So they said, can we have another $25 billion please, and by the way can we put this $118 billion of bad assets over there, because we don’t know? That’s exactly what happened. It’s going to take a long while to discover which bottles of water have the poison in them.

This illustrates fairly explicitly how much of our system depends on belief, on trust, on confidence. And when that evaporates, what happens usually is that we go to the other extreme. And so, instead of trusting everything, which was what was going on before this financial crisis hit, now we trust nothing and everything grinds to a halt. This suggests is that a better approach might be about being able to see things as clearly as possible. And that would give us better information about what to trust and what not to trust.

So, bringing this down to your lives now, what are some of the stories that you believed to be the case, and you have found are no longer the case? And what is happening in you with that? Anybody care to share with that question? A lot of people were going to retire next year, five years from now, or whatever. For other people, it was, ”Oh, it doesn’t matter if I leave this job; I’ll get another job,“ and find out that that’s not possible or is much more difficult than they thought. Anybody have any particular examples from your own lives of things that have changed for you in terms of how you see and understand the world? Is my question too abstract? Mary. Could you pass the mike please? Thanks, Frances.


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Mary: So, I teach at a university. I was told that I would have a second class in the fall, and now they’ve said there’s a freeze so that class most likely will not happen. I lost a fair amount of money in the stock market, so that’s an investment that I thought I had. It’s gone.

Ken: Yeah.

Mary: So how am I dealing with it? Is that the second question? Or…

Ken: Well, more specifically than how you’re dealing with it, the second part that I’m interested in is what has changed in terms of your beliefs?

Mary: [Pause] I would say that I’m more cautious. I am making more lists than ever.

Ken: What kinds of lists, if I may ask?

Mary: Lists on how I can continue working for the rest of my life, how I can keep income coming in so I’m not dependent.

Ken: Okay, so you’re planning.

Mary: I’m planning.

Ken: Right, okay. So you can see a very significant shift: ”Oh, I’m going in this direction and everything is fine,“ and like, ”Oh, now I’ve got to watch everything.“

Mary: Right.

Ken: Okay, very good, thank you.

Student: May I ask a question, please?

Ken: Sure, yeah.

Student: Did you plan for where you are now?

Mary: No, because I’ve gone through a major life-shift, a divorce. So, yes, planning, but planning on a job that isn’t going to happen. I also work in a TV series; the series decided to end. There’s just shifts that are happening.

Student: I get what you’re saying, exactly.

Mary: Yeah, so the shifts are not in my control, so then I have to re-plan. So yes, I always plan, but…

Ken: Things keep happening.

Mary: Keep changing.

Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Thank you very much for that, Mary. Perry.

Perri: Well, you know, I thought I was essentially financially set for life. Now, that is so not the case.

Ken: That’s a pretty drastic adjustment.

Perri: Yeah, yeah. And countless other things. I mean, there’s a lot of fallout in that direction.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: There’s a Latin phrase, compos sui, which is ”Master of our Fate“.

Ken: Yes, that’s right.

Student: And I’ve operated most of my life with that assumption, that I can effect changes in my life, in directions that I want them to change. And for me, a big part of the paradigm shift of what’s been going on in the world economically is that realization that that isn’t the case. So now we are non compos sui.

Ken: And actually, never were.

Student: Yeah.

Ken: C-o-m-p-o-s s-u-i-t, right?

Student: S-u-i.

Ken: S-u-i. Compos sui.

Student: [Off mike] What does that mean?

Student: Master of your fate, master of your own life.

Ken: I can’t remember what the literal Latin means.

Student: It’s Latin, yeah, I don’t know what the literal translation is, but that’s the sense of it. It’s used in legal terms, as well.

Ken: Yeah. Okay, Valerie?

Valerie: Well, I think on some level I believed that America was the greatest country on Earth and that we had this incredible financial system, and it would always be that way. I mean, I think that on some level, in spite of rational evidence to the contrary. Or that things were stable and unchanging. There was some part of me that thought it’s going to be this way forever. And now that’s been replaced with a lot of uncertainty. Anyway, it’s sort of a deep shift.

Ken: Quite a deep shift, yes. Yeah. Sharon.

Sharon: Possibly I’m just a negative person, but something always felt off to me, and it’s almost now that everything is such a mess, it’s kind of like, ”Yeah, it was. It was just under the carpet somehow.“ But then, I’m surprised there’s this latent positive thing that I had no clue was even there, that is saying if the Bush years hadn’t been so horrible, we probably would never have had the possibility of having Obama.And the things that have changed, like where he is sending his kids to school. When I was a child, the senators withdrew their children because there was one black child admitted to the kindergarten that wasn’t even in the same part of the school. So, there’s also some really incredible, very positive things that are happening in the bottom of the lotus pond.

Ken: [Laughs] Thank you. Yes, Randy.

Randy: This comes back to goals and results again. I think we’ve all had our goals, you know, going to have a house or a car or family, whatever, you know, job and retire at 65 or whatever it is. And you know, poof, it’s gone. Whether it was this economic crisis or being let go from a job when there is no crisis, whatever it is. And I think we have to become…to see how we can get to the results more than the goals.

Ken: Nick.

Nick: I think I’m by nature a very frugal person. I was saving when everyone else was accumulating debt at university. I managed to somehow come out with a black bank balance. And I’ve always been investing in a pension, in the future, in the far distant future, from a very, very early age, almost to the detriment of the present, you know, staving off a little bit of what could have been used to live the moment, or to travel, or to experience different things, with the good, honest intention of having a future that would be looked after. So then, when I find that that isn’t the case, and that percentage increase that you’ve been told you were doing the right thing, it was a good thing to do, is not the case, and that you’ve lost what you had, then I find myself feeling defrauded of this dream. And then I go spinning off into the opposite direction and go, okay, well, how do you then actually just stop yourself from going, ”I’m going to live everything as if this is the moment and this is all that you get?“


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Ken: Okay. So these are all very, very good examples, so thank you very much.

And I think Nick, in his last comment, touched on the central dilemma. On the one hand, there is a certain order to the world and if you put money away, then it accumulates and you’re able to retire. And in the same way, that if you take care of your body, then your good health, you’ll live for a long time.And if you’re polite to people and considerate of them, then you’ll have friends, et cetera. All of these different things, that there is a certain order to things. And then, at the same time, things happen. Financial system does a belly-flop and there’s severe disruption and chaos. We work steadily at a job and the company goes out of business and suddenly we’re dead in the water and we think, ”Oh, why didn’t I just enjoy all of that, because it was taken from me anyway, and I didn’t get any enjoyment out of it. I put it away in a bank.“

Yet, if we live our lives purely on the basis of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we don’t know what’s going to happen, then equally well we can wind up in very difficult circumstances, because we may have a healthy body that just lives for a long time. [Laughs] And even though we abuse it with all kinds of drugs and things like that, it just refuses to die. [Laughs] So this is what I want to take as the subject of our next period of contemplation: ”What are the beliefs that I held up to this point, or what beliefs do I hold, and what do these prevent me from seeing or envisioning?“

And this can go either way. The belief that, ”I can do whatever I want,“ leads you in one direction and blinds you to the possibility of having to plan for the long term, and the belief that everything has a nice order and will unfold blinds you to the possibility that things can go to chaos overnight. Many years ago, I knew a woman who was Jewish but her family was from Egypt, and her father and mother were very well off in Cairo. And then the Six-Day War happened, and they of course had to leave Egypt. They went to Israel, and with absolutely nothing. The parents split up very shortly afterwards, because they had two completely different philosophies of life, given this disruption. The father’s attitude was, ”Well, I earned it all once; I can earn it all again.“ And he just went to work and actually built up another business and was successful at it. The mother was extremely embittered that her life of luxury had been taken away, and hated the world from that point onwards and never made any constructive move in her life as a consequence. Two very, very different reactions to the same situation.


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So, what I would like to do now, I’ll try to frame as clearly as possible. Things have changed. I think Valerie put it very well, for her. She said, ”I always believed that America was the greatest country in the world.“ Well, as I think Sharon and others are saying, there’s extraordinary positive qualities in America, but we’ve come out of a kind of dream, which was sustained by various beliefs. Okay, so things have changed for us. What I’d like is to sit for a few minutes with, ”Okay, what did I believe was the case? What do I believe is the case now?“ And then hold both of those two together.

Student: Say that again.

Ken: ”What did I believe was the case?“ And do this about you and your life. ”What do I believe is the case now?“ And then—and I’ll talk you through this—and then we’re going to hold the two together, which is always an interesting exercise. For instance, Martha’s example right at the beginning, where she was hired to run this company before everything hit, right? There were all kinds of expectations and beliefs and things going on. Am I correct? And that’s changed somewhat, has it? [Laughs] Okay. But just as one person described how things had really shifted, so now she didn’t trust anything? Who was that? I can’t remember. In the same way, we tend to move from one set of beliefs to the polar opposite, and that’s what I want you to explore a bit.

Okay? Is this sufficiently clear? This is a reflection meditation. Okay, so let’s just sit for a few minutes, and I’ll give some verbal promptings at various points. So just take a few minutes. Rest in the experience of breathing; let the mind and body settle.

[Pause for silent meditation]

And then, ask yourself the question, ”What did I believe was the case? How did I believe things were?“ Go back to whatever is an appropriate time, maybe three months, six months. Feel how you were then, how you looked at the world, and what you believed about yourself, about the world, about your life. What you believed was possible, what you believed was due to you, what you believed you deserved, what did you believe you were capable of, et cetera.

[Pause for silent meditation]

Now, fast-forward to the present. What do you believe about your life now? What do you believe about you? What do you believe about the world? What do you believe is possible? What do you believe you are capable of? Same questions, but here in the present.

[Pause for silent meditation]

Now, I’d like you to take these two sets of beliefs and hold them together at the same time. You can imagine holding one in one hand and one in the other, if you wish. [Pause] What did you, and do you, believe about yourself? What did you, and do you, believe about the world? What did you, and do you, believe is possible?

When you do this, you may experience some shifts in the body. Your brain may feel a little schizophrenic. Just open to that experience. Don’t try to sort anything out. Just open to the experience of holding both belief systems at the same time. You don’t have to make them rational, or consistent with each other. They probably aren’t. Just see what arises when you do this.

[Pause for silent meditation]

[Bell. Bell. Bell.]


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Okay, what was this like? Questions, challenges or insights. Anybody? Mary.

Mary: I experienced a certain amount of chaos, going from deconstructing my beliefs of the country taking care of me, or whatever parental feelings I have on, ”I am safe.“ But I’m also a cancer survivor, so I experienced that nine years ago, of having my life pulled out. So, in revisiting it again in terms of taking care of myself and believing I can, I start to feel a creative opening which is actually very exciting. So when I start thinking of what I can do now in my present life, I just got a million ideas, and I got excited. So, fear is something I walk with. So, over time I’ve just…I make friends with it, I succumb to it, I get lost in it, and then I walk through it.

Ken: Thank you. Romey.

Romey: I was going to say my experience of what I felt when comparing the two states, and I guess I felt anger and fear, where it’s almost like, ”This isn’t the way it was supposed to be,“ you know?

Ken: [Laughs] This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Yes.

Romey: So all that, yeah, it brought up anger and fear.

Ken: Okay. Martha?

Martha: I found trying to hold them together really interesting, because to the extent that I believed any particular thing, like, ”The world is a safe place,“ I found that I actually believed the opposite, too, which is that the world isn’t safe at all. And when I held them together, I was sort of looking at two ends of the spectrum. It isn’t safe; it’s absolutely safe. And I felt like, well, there’s probably some middle ground in here.

Ken: [Laughing] A great deal of middle ground.

Martha: And probably in some place, some place in that middle ground, there’s some truth. But also that those might not be the only beliefs that it would be possible to hold, along those continuums. There might be a whole bunch of other stuff, that believing one set of things or the other impedes your ability to create some other stuff.

Ken: Um-hmm. Thank you.

Sophie: Well, it was interesting, in doing the first part, of what were my goals. Not my goals, but what were the beliefs. And I realized that those formed all my goals. So I was kind of coming up with my own definition, that what I thought I wanted to do, or believed in, was like a goal, but it really isn’t what is, what the experience is. And so the result is, that’s not true. And I don’t feel that to be true. Then, when, like trying to take what’s now, and I look at this change in our elected officials, and I definitely want to believe a positive change is possible. But at the same time, there’s this other part of me saying we should be cautious of beliefs, because you could lay a belief out there and what if Obama was corrupted, or, you know? All of a sudden, I found myself going in a whole other way. So it made me distrustful of that, it didn’t work in the past and it feels like it probably won’t work in the future to have that belief, those kind of beliefs, that the government will serve the people. So, then, all of a sudden I thought, well now, what do I do with that, other than just kind of experience it as it’s coming?

Ken: Okay. Anybody else?

Perri: Well, I was working with a belief, you know, initially, like, ”I’m financially set for life,“ which is the belief I had, and it really wasn’t true. And then I went from having that to needing to figure out how to pay my rent. And you know, the thought like, ”Well, now I’m not financially set for life,“ was also not necessarily true. Nothing really changed, effectively, in the moment, in that I managed to get my rent paid, and I managed to…you know, okay I’ve changed. I didn’t buy this and I didn’t do that, and I figured it out, but I went from one month taking care of myself in one way, and the next month taking care of myself in another way. And this is all to say that…

Ken: Life goes on?

Perri: Yeah, life goes on.

[Laughter]

Perri: You know, I was able to take care of…I was able to meet my basic needs, and in some ways things…it was just a story. The money being there was a story, and the money not being there, maybe a story, too.

Ken: Well, difficult as it may be, there’s truth in what Perri says. Yeah, I mean, it can be difficult, yes. Randye?

Randye: When I held up the then and now side by side, what came up was just a very, very deep sadness. And it was about the idea of having a belief, and not having a belief, and not having hope, optimism. You kind of touched on that, about the letting go of beliefs entirely, because they change. You can’t trust a belief. And there was a lot of sadness with that, because humans are kind of optimistic creatures, and there’s almost a sense of letting go of hope, with that.

Ken: Almost.

Randye: Almost, yeah. It’s not the same…

Ken: We’ll be going into that this afternoon. Couple more. You first, and then Nick.

Student: I noticed that when I was in the beliefs from the past, and the beliefs now, there were a lot of words. It was very verbal about my beliefs, and very articulate and clear. And when I held them together I didn’t have words anymore.

Ken: What was that like?

Student: Very freeing.

Ken: Okay. Nick.

Nick: When you described about holding the beliefs in two hands, I formed that mental image to help me try and resolve how they might co-exist. And it was interesting that when I held that visual, the channel between left hand and right hand outstretched was the core of me, in the middle. And so, for some reason, those were external events from me, and then the middle became an internal event. So I found myself trying to believe in myself, because that’s what I could trust, and not be dependent upon what information I was given. Then the bell chimed, so I didn’t get any further than that.

[Laughter]


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Ken: Yes, got to get rid of that bell chiming. Okay. I just wanted to make a few comments on this before I break for lunch. I said at the beginning of this that when we operate on one belief system and it’s disrupted, the tendency is to go to the other extreme. It’s just like a pendulum. It’s over here, swings over here. We see this in the banking system. Everybody’s reacting to this in terms of employment and that’s why we’ve heard several people talk about hiring freezes. Like six months ago, we had all the money in the world. Things are just going to keep going, we’ll just keep hiring people. And now, no, we don’t have any money, we can’t hire anything, everything’s got to stop. We’ve just got to, you know—it’s just one extreme to another.

Perri was referring to that in her particular circumstances. So we have one system; we’ll just call that ”then“ for our purposes. And then it swings over to ”now“ and we think, ”Okay, we’ve moved. This was shown to be false. Now we’re in what is true.“ But as Martha pointed out—and this is very much my intention in this exercise—I asked you to hold the two together because, as she pointed out, there’s a whole spectrum between these two, and when you have a spectrum, you have many, many more possibilities.

You know, there’s a tendency for people to see things in terms of black and white. Whenever you have two polarities, two seeming opposites, black and white, there’s always an underlying principle of which those two poles are expressions. What is the underlying principle of which black and white are expressions? Color. So, how many more possibilities are there in a world of color, as opposed to a world of black and white? Even if you just go to shades of gray, there are still many more possibilities.

And this is what belief systems tend to do. We get fixed in one system, and we can only see things according to that system and so we don’t see any of this. In particular, we don’t see that. And then when this crumbles, we go over to the other extreme, and now we don’t see any of this. And we are consequently limited. This is exactly what’s going on, globally and nationally, and locally, now, in many, many people’s lives. They’ve moved from here to here, and the whole spectrum in between is being ignored.

That’s one of the reasons why I thought this might be useful, because when you hold the two together, then we get something along the lines that Nick was describing. Okay, we have this, and this, and your relationship, when you hold the two together is, ”Oh, neither of these is me“. Is that a fair? Yeah, ”Neither of these is me.“ Now, what me or I is, that’s a very difficult question. I’m not going to get into that one particularly. Maybe later, late this afternoon we’ll get into that a bit, but what’s important here is that neither of these belief systems defines who or what we are.

Okay, if neither of these belief systems defines who or what we are, how many more possibilities have opened up to us?

Student: Infinite.

Ken: Infinite, really. All kinds of possibilities.

Sandy: Only if you accept that you don’t need to be in a solid belief system.

Ken: ”Only if you accept that you don’t need to be in a solid belief system,“ says Sandy. Okay. I agree, only if you accept that. But I’m going to say that the argument is in my favor here. Because we find that holding a belief system always ends up limiting what we can see. Now, do we need belief systems in order to function? Absolutely. But the problem arises when we take the belief system as being what is true, rather than being a way of understanding our experience.

From this point of view, what I’m suggesting here is a rather pragmatic approach to life, that even though you’re operating within a belief system necessarily—that things are going to be a certain way—you’re also constantly testing it. ”Is this actually the case?“ That’s what you were referring to earlier, Sharon, was testing the belief system. ”Is this actually what’s going on?“ You said, ”This doesn’t feel right, you know? It’s a little out of balance here.“ Okay? And maybe this afternoon we’ll have time to go into ways that you can be testing your belief system, to see.

One of the big principles is, are things out of balance? You may remember in the video from Enrique, he talked about the secret report. It was in the Warren Buffet statement in 2002, that there was a fatal problem in the thing. Well, Warren Buffet and a lot of other people could see at those very, very early stages, that there was a problem, and it was only going to be a matter of time before it blew up. And so, this is what is possible when you don’t allow yourself to be completely seduced by a particular belief system. You operate on the spectrum.

Now, Martha said there is a middle way, and there’s some truth in that. The whole notion of truth is a very, very tricky thing. I’m going to make the rather radical statement, that there is no such thing as truth. There is only what happens. And I have good support for this. Emmanuel Kant, among others. Rather than looking for truth, which is an abstract concept, my feeling is it is better to see—as clearly as we are able to in any given situation—what is happening. Because when people say, ”Well, I want the truth,“ they’re actually asking for more than what is happening. They want an interpretation of what is happening that accords with their belief system.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yes, supports their belief system. Rather than what is happening. And you cannot see what is happening if you can only see within the context of a belief system. You step out of that, you engage the spectrum, which involves—and this goes back to a point you asked about, or mentioned, right at the very beginning—which involves dis-identifying with anything. And this is, again, what you were referring to, Sandy. Just say, ”Okay, that’s a possibility, but this is a possibility.” Let’s open up to all of the possibilities. You have a much better chance of seeing what’s actually going on, what’s really happening, if you’re able to step out of those identifications. Okay?

So, we’re a little after 12:30. Let’s break here for lunch. I hope you’re getting something out of this. Okay, very good. We will meet back here at 1:45 ready to go, okay? Thank you.


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