What’s it all about—really?

Few of us will leave this lifetime without experiencing problems and difficulties. And when they happen, most of us have wondered: Why me?  Did you ever think that maybe you set it up that way, that you saw those challenges as opportunities to grow and expand your consciousness?

So, if that is the case…

The idea of having set up our life experiences for a purpose puts one’s life in a whole new context. It brings new meaning to life events because we are seeing them as part of a bigger picture.

Probably the most valuable outcome is that seeing the bigger picture gets us out of victim mode. You know, when we tell our “poor me” stories about how our spouse continually ignores us, our adult children take us for granted and we feel like their servant, or our boss always disregards our brilliant suggestions that would make a genuine improvement in the workplace.

In so many cases, the human tendency is to tell those stories from the point of the aggrieved party—Look what was done to me. These days, theres a lot of that going on in collective stories as well as in our individual ones.

But there are different ways to interpret events, and we can choose the attitude we convey when we tell our stories.

Tell the story from a bigger perspective…

Instead of seeing my life from inside it, I prefer the bigger view. It’s much more empowering to realize that the unfolding of my life was not a random bunch of events tossed together as if they were balls in a lottery drum.

You can do the same thing, approaching it as a thought experiment. You don’t have to believe that you actually did plan your life in advance. You can just play with the idea.

  • What if it were true?
  • Why would I have picked these particular challenges?
  • How did i imagine the experience would benefit me in the long run?

These guidelines might help:

  1. Before starting: It may help to set aside your current beliefs and attitudes on the topic. You can tuck them safely away in an imaginary box or suitcase until your exploration is complete. (This is a thought experiment so you can set this up as you like.)
  2. Ask the question: If it’s true that I created this life to give me certain experiences, how would that explain __insert aspect you’d like to explore________?
  3. Be curious and explore: There’s more than one way to explore a question. Experiment to find what works best for you.

Ask the question to open up the field, and then go about your daily activities. You may find that something relevant pops into your head when you’re not thinking about it. Or you might wake up one morning with an insight. This may happen the next day or a week from now. Working like this tends to unfold in its own time. Your job is to be sincerely curious and open to receive insights when they appear in your field.

Contemplate from the perspective of your inner world. Sit or lie quietly, eyes closed, breathing softly. Drop deep into your belly. This connects you with the wiser aspects of your consciousness, the ones that can help your brain make sense of things from a deeper, broader, more insightful perspective.

Choose what fits for you: When you’ve explored to your satisfaction, you’ll have a rich pool of new insights to consider along with everything you had tucked away in the box or suitcase. With all of that, you are then in a position to choose what fits for you, what makes the most sense… for the time being, at least.

Life  continues to unfold…

At some point, you’ll discover there’s yet a broader perspective that explains even more and fits better with the expanded consciousness that continues to arise as your life unfolds.

And that’s Life…

Doing as Life does.

_________________________

Bibliography

As many of you know, this is one of my favourite stories. It’s relevant to the telling of our own stories…

The moral of the story: The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity and it is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequences of a misfortune… or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

Your Soul’s Plan  by Rob Schwartz

Befriend your Beliefs

We all have beliefs. They help us make sense of things that happen in a world that’s far beyond our comprehension. You might consider beliefs a human coping mechanism to keep us in a game where we don’t remember how things work or why we even thought we wanted to play this game.

Our beliefs are the stories we come up with to give us a bit of security in a confounding situation. Comforting fact: As we grow in consciousness, we also grow in our ability to understand more elements of the game. And as we gain greater understanding, we begin to realize that some of our beliefs actually are untrue.

Our beliefs can be surprising…

Sometimes it is surprising—and a relief—to discover a belief that has been hanging out in your unconscious for years. That was the case for me a while back when I discovered a deeply-held belief that women should not show they’re smarter than the men around them. Whaaat!!? How did that get there? 

As I thought about it, I realized it was the prevailing cultural attitude when I was growing up in the 1950s. I am pretty sure I’m not the only little girl who took that on as one of the rules of the game and subconsciously played accordingly, all the while thinking we were liberated.

This discovery came as a total surprise. I had no idea I was holding that belief. And yet, it had a profound effect on my attitudes and behaviours, prompting me to downplay my abilities in subtle ways. Flying under the radar was one of them.

Beliefs can be surprisingly powerful…

Not all beliefs are unconscious, though. You might be aware of a belief and confidently live accordingly for years. Then one day you learn that it does not hold true. That can be disconcerting, to say the least. This happened to my husband at a Christmas dinner long ago. 

His parents had traveled two thousand miles to visit and we wanted to make the meal extra-special by serving all their traditional foods. Husband said Brussels sprouts were a favourite, always on the Christmas table. I’d never cooked sprouts because I knew he didn’t like them, so I got out the Joy of Cooking, found instructions, and bought two baskets of lovely fresh sprouts with the holiday shopping.

On the day, I was in the kitchen carefully cross-cutting the stems so they would cook evenly, when mom-in-law walked in. She looked at the good-sized pot of sprouts and said, “You don’t need to cook many for us.” Really?!

Turns out neither she nor dad-in-law actually liked them. When I asked why she always served them at Christmas, she said, “Because I thought it was good for the boys to learn to eat them.”

I thought it was funny. Husband was not amused. Something he had believed all his life had been definitively disproved. He felt as if the rug has been pulled out from under him. I didn’t expect that. It was just a vegetable, after all. That’s when i learned that beliefs are about more than facts.

Many things can come up for us when we have been dis-illusioned. We may feel betrayed. Duped. Made a fool of. Our security is disrupted. We aren’t sure what to trust any more. It will be different, depending on the person and the illusion. But there is an emotional component to be aware of whenever beliefs are challenged.

Maturing as conscious humans…

It is a confronting moment for most of us… to come to an awareness that something we thought was true actually is not. Revisiting and reconsidering our beliefs is part of the maturation process. 

It helps to recognize how beliefs become part of our psyche to begin with.

When you arrived in this body, there was a lot to figure out, starting with how to operate the body parts and do all the required functions—moving the appendages to navigate around physical space, getting nourishment into your body, expressing what you needed in ways they could understand. And then the more subtle, really tricky challenge—navigating the expectations, customs, and strange practices of the culture you had landed in.

Psychologists say that children are like sponges in the first seven years,  picking up all kinds of information from their environment. And we also know that the human mind is adept at filling in the blanks and jumping to conclusions when the incoming information is unclear or incomplete. It is no wonder that we have all adopted various beliefs as fact. They helped us make sense of our world at a level we could understand.

Beliefs aren’t meant to be held forever…

As we move through life, it’s useful to remember that beliefs aren’t necessarily true, but they did serve a purpose when we adopted them, often at a young and impressionable age.

However, things change. We change.

We’ll navigate more easily through the game of human life if we are open to the possibility that our beliefs may not be true. That there may be another explanation for what we were experiencing if we view the situation from a more expansive perspective.

Awareness is the starting point…

Beliefs shape our behaviours, so you can find clues by observing yourself in action. If something you do doesn’t sit well with you, here’s a potent exploratory question: What must I believe in order to have acted that way?

Recognize your outdated beliefs…

Once you’ve identified a belief, see if you can understand what purpose it served in the beginning. That will help you decided if you wish to continue holding it or not. If not, thank it for its years of service, and let it go.

Then move on…

Look for a new perspective, one that will serve you better in your current state of greater awareness.

And hold your newly-formed belief lightly in case you outgrow it in the future.

Bibliography

Well worth the time…

What would it take?

So… I‘ve declared 2024 as my chance to show what I’m made of, to live without flinching, and to remember why I wanted to come here in the first place. This represents a big change for someone who has found a good deal of security in flying under the radar for many years.

Now what?!

How do I move ahead in the face of this paradox?

The first thing is to recognize that everything in our lives is influenced by inner and outer energies. That’s the vantage point of my perspective. This isn’t a surprise; it’s a fact of physics. And it means I’ll start by learning a bit about those energies to become clear on two things:

  1. What will I be navigating though?
  2. How can I manage my own energy as gracefully as possible?

Cosmic energy has a major influence on us, whether we are aware of it or not.  Since this is the beginning of a new year, it’s a good time to get the lay of the energetic landscape.

From the perspective of cosmic energy, 2024 has signs of being another turbulent year. But there’s a fundamental difference in the energy. It’s going to be tricky—turbulent but with a nuance that has implications for all of us. Chinese astrology identifies 2024 as the year of the wood dragon. Dragon energy is fiery, and wood fuels fire. So, as you might imagine, the intensity of what we do will be magnified.

Looking at our inner energy, from a mythological perspective, the dragon is a powerful fiery force which is distractive when disconnected from consciousness. And yet fire combined with consciousness results in illumination and wisdom. 

The bottom line is that fire consumes or illuminates, depending on whether or not it is coupled with consciousness. And given the fiery cosmic condition, it’s doubly important that we consciously direct our energy this year. Living by default will not serve us well.

Back to navigating change…

Here’s a basic energy principle I learned from Deepak Chopra many years ago.

Energy flows where attention goes.

In practice, this means that when I concern myself with what I consider wrong with me or the world, I’m feeding those very things I want to change or get rid of, and entrenching them even more. And I will have spent a lot of valuable energy doing so.

Squandering my energy in this way is bound to leave me unhappy, with little energy left for moving toward what I do want.

To be clear, I’m not saying I should ignore the reality of how things are. Awareness is the first step toward change. It is what we do with that awareness that makes the difference.

So if I know trying hard can’t work, what will I do instead?

Since attention activates energy for something to happen, the sensible thing is to direct my attention toward how I’d like things to be, instead of focusing on what I dislike and don’t want. Simple. Not always easy. Takes conscious effort.

The question becomes…

What is it I want?

Or, the better question might be: What do I really want? I’m fortunate to have my survival needs well supplied, and that has left me room to explore how I can contribute to the well-being of life on this planet.

I’ve always had a sense of purpose, a deep knowing that I’m here—here at this particular time—for a reason. So what I really want rests on that foundation.

In this coming year, I want to consciously explore what is true from my perspective, and then articulate it. My posts will be a step in that direction. This approach has arisen from deepening my inner connection through a variety of means. It’s a process of unfolding, and I’ll share more as we go along.

Where to start?

Simply put—start where we’re at. Since I’m moving resolutely into not-yet-known territory—in which I’m likely to encounter a lot of conditions that are different and new—I’m thinking an exploratory attitude will take me a long way. And I do know that nothing is changed until the possibility of it is seen. I’ll start by exploring possibilities.

How to do it?

I ask myself questions. I imagine possibilities and test them by feeling how my body responds. Does it feel light or heavy? Contracted or expanded? Sometimes I feel as if my heart is smiling when I land on a constructive idea. And once I recall doubling over with a feeling of nausea while considering a job that was not aligned with where I needed to go.

If you’re feeling the stirring of the dragon but not sure where you want to put your attention, it’s time fo a bit of an inner adventure. A good way to start an exploration is to wonder what you might want. Here’s a playful approach from author Teresa van Bryce to help you engage your imagination and explore possibilities.

And that might be all it would take for you to put change in motion.

Bibliography

What Next?! Recap & Deeper Dives

From a cosmic perspective, humanity currently has an opportunity to rise to a higher state of consciousness. What we are experiencing at this time is the instability and chaos that precedes such an enormous shift. My previous five posts have been about navigating life through the challenges of 2023 and beyond.

Throughout this group of posts, artificial intelligence (AI) served as an example of the next big challenge that is upon us. Its imminence makes us aware of our need for good navigation skills as we make our way through the future we’re headed into.

I’m currently working on the next group—the theme is Why Not?!

Until those posts are complete, I’m leaving you with a summary of What Next?! along with opportunties for further exploration if you’re so inclined.

Recapitulation…

  1. What Next?!  Video: The Chinese Farmer -instead of seeing things as good and bad, he holds all occurrences lightly, without judging them.
  2. Thinking Differently & Why It Matters  Video: Mo Gawdat -about avoiding disaster by teaching AI human values.
  3. Holding Your Centre & How You Can  Video: Ashana -playing healing crystal bowls that reinforce our deepest inner connection.
  4. Practising Discernment & Why It Helps  These days we may feel unprepared for the problems we must solve. Discernment helps us navigate with confidence and step up to do the right thing.
  5. Answers & Questions  Video referenced: Yuval Noah Harari –Safe and Responsible AI? Learn from my experience questioning ChatGPT about human values, a quote about questions and answers, and writing a song about discernment. Results are shared in full for anyone who is curious.

DIVING DEEPER…

I’ve selected 2 interviews for further exploration. For this purpose, I’m interested in the thinking processes as much as the content.

Deep Dive #1 – Thinking differently & Practising discernment

The book under discussion in the video that follows is Best Things First. The author, Bjørn Lomborg, concerns himself with global issues that go well beyond climate change.

Lomborg’s starting point is: Panic is not the mode to be in if you want to solve issues. When it comes to global warming, it’s a problem but it’s not the end of the world. Therefore, we have time to enact the “bang-for-your-buck” concept, finding what works best in global issues related to health, hunger, and education…then applying ourselves (and our money) to rapidly improving those things.

Bjørn Lomborg is a globally recognized author and thought-leader renowned for his innovative perspectives on addressing global issues. HIs mission is to help people discover the most effective solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, from disease and hunger to climate and education.

Tom Bilyeu, the interviewer, is a podcaster and entrepreneur. He emphasizes that we can’t already know how to solve global problems that we’ve never encountered before. He urges us to learn how to think through novel problems, building a rubric through which we can approach them. Essentially he’s referring to developing a list of specific criteria to evaluate items under consideration and determine which possibilities meet the criteria.

He sets the framework…

  1. Start with your North Star, your guiding principle. Lomborg identified people, planet, prosperity.
  2. Use benefit/cost analysis to prioritize. In other words, find what works best (greatest benefit for least cost) and pick that.
  3. Do those best things in each area of concern first.

This interview is a good opportunity to observe two people demonstrating how they think as they explore Lomborg’s findings. You might be surprised at what ended up on his list of 12 things to do first.

When people are working through solutions to difficult problems, they are usually thinking differently from what we’re comfortable with. It’s up to each of us to discern how Lomborg’s recommendations sit with us and ask questions when we’re not satisfied. What are the gaps? Is the premise sound?

In other words, it’s a good chance to practise discernment as you listen to the conversation.

 Watch the video… Do These 12 THINGS First If You Want a BRIGHT FUTURE  July 25, 2023

 

Deep Dive #2 – Looking at an issue in the wider cultural context

If you ever think about things like the economic system and how it drives most of what happens in our lives, you will appreciate the breadth and depth of Liv Boeree’s conversation (video ink below) with Daniel Schmachtenberger.

In his introductory comments, Schmachtenberger states his intention: To identify  AI risk scenarios and a way of thinking about the entire risk landscape that is different from the usual way of talking about it… and to provide insight into what might be required to protect against those risks.

Daniel Schmachtenberger is a social philosopher and founding member of The Consilience Project, aimed at improving public sense-making and dialogue. He has a particular interest in the topics of catastrophic and existential risk, as well as civilization and institutional decay and collapse. In her written description of the interview, interviewer Liv Boeree cautions

Not a conversation for the faint-hearted, but crucial nonetheless. This is a deep dive into the game theory and exponential growth underlying our modern economic system, and how recent advancements in AI are poised to turn up the pressure on that system, and its wider environment, in ways we have never seen before.

It would help to understand these terms…

Moloch: Moloch has appeared in literature in a variety of forms. The Canaanite god Moloch was the recipient of child sacrifice according to the account of the Hebrew Bible. Moloch is depicted in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost as one of the greatest warriors of the rebel angels, vengeful and militant.

In the 19th century, “Moloch” came to be used allegorically for any idol or cause requiring excessive sacrifice. Bertrand Russell in 1903 used Moloch to describe oppressive religion, and Winston Churchill in his 1948 history The Gathering Storm used “Moloch” as a metaphor for Adolf Hitler‘s cult of personality.

In modern usage it denotes a tyrannical power, such as “the great Moloch of war” or “duty has become the Moloch of modern life.” Liv Boeree, the interviewer and an expert in game theory, defines Moloch as the God of unhealthy competition.

Meta-crisis: The meta-crisis is an entangled series of crises—ecological, psychological, spiritual, cultural, governmental, and economic. The meta-crisis is all of these and not reducible to any one of them alone. AI is not one of the risks embedded within the meta-crisis; it is an accelerant of all of them.

The meta-crisis is a self-accelerating phenomenon that grows more and more complex each day. For example, ChatGPT was version 3.5 when it was launched on the internet a few months ago. Since then, version 4 has been made available. Although ChatGPT4 has access to current information (unlike 3.5 which was limited to pre-2021) version 4 is still only programmed to do certain kinds of things.

The next step is AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), which will be fully autonomous and therefore immune to any human efforts to pull the plug. It will be able to set its own goals, independent from ours, and then take steps to implement actions toward those goals. It won’t matter if we like their goals or not. The concern of Schmachtenberger, along with many others, is that AGI will be intelligence unbound by wisdom (more below).

Compounding the meta crisis is technology—technology that makes us more distracted, divided, and confused, thereby reducing our ability to act wisely. And yet, paradoxically, this same technology gives us god-like powers which increase the need to act wisely. A very good talk: Confronting The Meta-Crisis: Criteria for Turning The Titanic – Terry Patten speaking at Google

The Alignment Problem: Misalignment is a challenging, wide-ranging problem to which there is currently no known solution. As AI systems get more powerful, they don’t necessarily get better at dooing what humans want them to.

For example, large language models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Google’s Lamda get more powerful as they scale. When they get more powerful, they exhibit novel, unpredictable capabilities—a characteristic called emergence. Alignment seeks to ensure that, as these new capabilities emerge, they continue to align with the human goals the AI system was designed to achieve.

The problem comes from a misalignment of intelligence and wisdom. Any system can be misaligned, even one that is highly intelligent, if the wisdom piece is missing. Think back to Mo Gawdat and his idea about teaching human values to our AI. That solution is aimed at addressing the alignment problem by teaching wisdom to our AI.

Intelligence and wisdom…

At this point, it is worth interjecting Schmachtenberger’s discussion of intelligence and wisdom  in another interview (starting at 2:46:25). From his deep-and-wider context, here are the key points:

  • It is fair to say that human intelligence, unbound by wisdom, is the cause of the meta-crisis.
  • This same intelligence has created all the technologies—the agricultural, industrial, digital, nuclear weapons, energy harvesting…
  • It also made the system of capitalism, of communism, of…
  • This type of intelligence takes our physical (corporeal) capacities and extends them considerably—in the way a fist is extended through a hammer, or an eye is extended through a microscope or telescope (extra-corporeal).
  • And now, the type of intelligence that does this “is having the extra-corporeal intelligence be that type of intelligence itself—in maximum recursion, not bound by wisdom, driven by international, multipolar, military traps and markets.”
  • The narrow optimization it fosters is very dangerous.
  • This system is structured to perpetuate narrow short-term goals at the expense of long-term wide values. The question is, what goals are worthy of optimization?
  • What we need is systems of collective intelligence and wisdom that are based on the thriving of life in all perpetuity. Nothing less will be effective.
  • Intelligence has to be bound by wisdom.
  • Wisdom requires more than just being able to attune to the known metrics, and more than just the optimization and logic processes of those metrics.
  • Wisdom will always be bound to restraint.
  • Wisdom is more possible at smaller scale, where people can be in richer relationships with each other,
  • Understanding the limits of our own models is wisdom. There are aways unknowns that models cannot account for.

Watch the interview… Misalignment, AI & Moloch  March 30, 2023

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What Next?!

I’ve been contemplating it a lot lately—What next for me? What next in the world at large? And, I know I’m not alone in wondering what will present itself and how I’ll navigate whatever appears. 

I doubt that anyone has been immune to discombobulation as we’ve been confronted by one unexpected and unthinkable event after another. A confounding US presidential election result, the rapid arrival of a global pandemic, a war in Europe that has gone on for well over a year—just a few of the events of enormous magnitude that turned our world upside down.

And now, just as we thought we’d found our feet again, we’re dealing with yet another—the general accessibility of an artificial intelligence with capabilities that have stunned even people in the industry. These events, along with numerous others, have greatly disrupted our comfortable mindset about how life works.

Shifting perspective…

Most of us would prefer to avoid disruption, but it can be a good thing. When life turns upside down, we get a chance to see things differently… if we choose to.

I remember the story that first shifted my thinking about good and bad fortune. Here’s a charming version narrated by Alan Watts. Watts, who died in 1973, was an early interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. This is his telling of the story about a Chinese farmer, his horse, and his son…

Maybe…

Going back to the disruptive events we are experiencing, perhaps we can learn something from this story. What looks like a bad thing might turn out to be a good thing in the long run.

For example, the AI that has recently got our attention, known as ChatGPT, is evoking a lot of fear—about loss of jobs for humans, its power to impersonate humans, the rate at which it is evolving…

Those are legitimate concerns. But, on the other hand, perhaps the disconcerting  appearance of ChatGPT is actually serving a useful purpose.

What if the potential for ChatGPT to run amok prompts us to look deeper within to see what we value and what makes us human?

What if awareness of what is important and what makes us human prompts us to take responsibility for our own actions and to conduct our lives in accordance with that awareness of what we value as humans?

And what if, instead of worrying that AI is going to take us over, we teach it our values, just as parents do with their developing children?

Choose to see things differently

Is AI a bad thing?

Maybe.

Is AI a good thing?

Maybe.

How can we make it a good thing? That is the key question.

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True, but partial…

As I wrote last week, there are many definitions of consciousness, depending on the viewpoint of the person creating the definition. Each definition is based on limited information, and the interpretations are all true…but partial.

The problem with partial information…

Continue reading

Worst Day Ever?

Worst day ever? It all depends on how you look at it.

The poem below was written by Brooklyn teenager, Chani Gorkin, for a school assignment. A semi-finalist in a 2014 poetry contest, it was published on Poetry Nation.

As you read this poem, pay attention to the emotions and the energy field it creates. If you can, read it aloud—that will make the effect more palpable. Continue reading

Cultivating empathy…

This is my concluding post on empathy. It’s a subject that has been on my mind a lot as I keep seeing how desperately we need more empathy in this world—and as I’ve become aware that there is room for increasing it in myself.

Two types of empathy…

Continue reading

Empathy at work…

Last week we heard Simon Sinek speak about empathy in the workplace, and how empathetic leadership is essential for workers to thrive.

Empathy is also related to business in another way—through the output of business, the products and services we buy. The satisfaction we derive from these products and services is greater when the designers put themselves in our shoes before production begins.

That is a common definition of empathy—walking in someone else’s shoes, seeing through their eyes—more formally referred to as perspective-taking.

Industrial Design

Industrial design is an example of empathy at work. Continue reading