Am I Closer to Freedom Than I Think?

Book Notes from: Already Free, by Bruce Tift

As we move with kindness toward what’s difficult, the disturbance—which up until this point has felt bigger than us—starts to feel more manageable. When we start going toward our fears, we begin to have the experience that now we are larger than they are. (And we are ok).

… the gist is that I am ok. I’m fine and most of my suffering isn’t caused by what I think, but by the feelings I’m having about something else (some person, someplace, some event, some outcome). And when I get close to the actual feelings, it becomes clearer the feelings aren’t going to kill me and aren’t actually harmful. Most importantly in the clarity is at their core, the feelings are most likely very useful – if I could just get used to the discomfort for longer than a minute (or 10).

Starting is always hard. Growth doesn’t happen right away, but practice can. Practice leads to growth, and eventually not having to practice – to just being. Things do get better right away – but only just a little bit better. It’s easier not to confuse a little with nothing. Years later it isn’t clear as to “when did this stop being a problem” (like when did I get over that person). And it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Things are just better.

I no longer have to approach this as a practice; it simply takes place spontaneously. I still get captured by historically conditioned issues at times and disturbing emotions continue to arise, but they happen less and less frequently and are difficult to take too seriously.

Just because behaviors used to be critical before – doesn’t mean the same behaviors today are not only unnecessary – but most likely the cause of most suffering.

The ways in which our necessary childhood strategies become our unnecessary adult neuroses is a basic theme in Western developmental work. These strategies were usually worth the price tag when we were young, dependent, immature children in our families of origin. But as adults, the benefits we get are no longer worth the price we pay.

It seems as if those who say the past isn’t important are the people that can’t let go of the past. So yeah, it isn’t about the past. It is about the present. And sometimes to get to the doorway to the present – you have to walk through the hallway of the past.

While Western therapy is sometimes seen as overly focused on the past, it’s actually about the present. It’s about how most of us are, in a variety of ways, living as if the present were the past. We’re operating as if we’re still young children in our families of origin, especially in the realm of relationships. It’s as if we were given a role in a play, and we got such a good response (and we’ve played the part for so long now) that we’ve actually forgotten we’re playing a role. In truth, there is a larger sense of self—a larger life—that we could be living, if only we were able to drop our unconscious identification with this character and become curious about who we might be right now.

Being able to let go – is a super power.

If we can show up without needing to constantly control, plan, or protect ourselves against what might be coming, then every moment is fresh, every moment is a new experiment.

Stop complaining for 30 days. Identify the feeling you want to not have. Sit with it.

When I’m working with people, I often suggest a little practice as a homework assignment. For some period of time—a month maybe—I suggest they drop any claim that there’s something wrong. No more complaints, resentments, or blame for a whole month, just to see what else is there. Whenever they become aware of a complaint, I suggest they ask themselves: “What am I feeling right now that I don’t want to feel?”

Eventually it becomes clearer the feeling isn’t actually going to kill you… or probably won’t kill you.

…if you can gradually learn to tolerate feeling abandoned—which is already how you feel; it’s nothing new—you may find it’s not going to kill you. It’s not going to harm you. It’s not giving you cancer. You’re not becoming dysfunctional. It is not pleasant, of course. Perhaps it’s never going to be pleasant, but it’s not actually harmful.

What is more scary… the thing, or the feeling?

Probably the feeling? the feeling is very uncomfortable. It is supposed to be uncomfortable. Like a stove is hot to touch. It is a warning. The feeling can be useful to avert a disaster if we can stop trying to avoid it.

It has to do with identifying the specific feelings and experiences that we have organized our life around trying not to feel and then, intentionally, going into exactly those feelings, especially as immediate, embodied, sensation-level experience, with no interpretation at all. The purpose is to find out for ourselves whether it’s true that we will be annihilated if we feel these feelings. What bad thing is going to happen? Why are we continually dropping into this sort of survival-level response, as if some really bad thing would happen to us if we were to feel these feelings? In my experience, going directly into the immediate embodied experience of our fear turns out to be a much faster, more direct way to dissolve neurotic organization than addressing the historic issues that gave rise to that organization in the first place.

Awareness: What am I feeling?

We wake up out of our familiar trance states, in which we have been unconsciously taking whatever we experience as if it’s the whole story—whatever’s happening, that’s the way things are.

Practice. Develop tolerance so the uncomfortable becomes comfortable (or more comfortable). That is a super power too.

We hate the experience and want to get out of it, but as a practice, we hang in there longer and longer. This discipline begins to increase our tolerance for the feelings that our neurotic strategies have allowed us to avoid all this time.

The feeling isn’t the real danger. Sit with the feeling. Maybe there is danger around the corner. But the feeling isn’t the danger. The conversation isn’t the danger.

“Yes, I guess I am a dependent person! I can’t say it’s my favorite experience to feel dependent, but after sitting with it over and over, I can admit that it hasn’t killed me.” Once I realized I was out of danger, it was easier to practice acceptance of the truth of my experience—which sometimes included feeling dependent.

What used to be a problem can become an asset… from a “have to go through this” to a “get to go through this”.

As we gradually become more and more able to go deeply into our anxiety—rather than be stopped by it—we discover that it’s not a problem.

The point isn’t the outcome. The point is the process.

…are. As you invite this feeling, try to bring your attention out of any interpretation into whatever raw sensation is happening. For example, many people find that the torso is the location where they feel emotional intensity. Check it out and see if there’s any agitation there. Perhaps you feel numb from the neck down; perhaps there is some sense of tingling in your hands, or aching or fullness or lightness somewhere in your body. Perhaps the experience permeates your whole body. Or maybe you don’t have any awareness of sensations except behind your eyes. It doesn’t really matter what you discover. The point is to be willing to direct your attention toward your experience at the level of sensation. Next, ask yourself whether this sensation you’re feeling is actually a threat in any way. Are you going to die from feeling a ball of pressure in your stomach or a hollowed-out chest or a heavy heart? Is the burning sensation in your solar plexus actually dangerous? Will the tension in your belly or your throat actually constrict you enough to kill you? If you find that experiencing these sensations is not harmful, even if they are disturbing, then experiment with a commitment to having a relationship with these sensations, perhaps for the rest of your life. What feelings arise when you think of this? What sensations?

Are any of these feelings harmful?

Do any of these sensations harm me? If I stay at the level of sensation, applying no interpretation at all, is there any evidence about my worth as a person? About my being worthy of love or not?” The answer is, I don’t find any.

We can just wake up. Just wake up.

Why not just train ourselves to use our disturbance as a signal to wake up and pay attention? To be curious and ask, “What am I feeling right now that I don’t want to feel? And is it a problem?”

Or we can shut down, or go to fight-flight.

In our culture, the two basic choices for working with intensity are repression or discharge.

We don’t see the world or hear the world as it is, We see it as we are. Heard that line in a movie (or show) the other day.

Our emotional reactivity is not really about what our partner has said or done, but about our not wanting to feel the feelings that have been triggered in us.

and… we are just making all of this up as we go… all of this.

We find that it is more true to say that we don’t really know anything with certainty than to say that we do. Even science has placed uncertainty at the heart of its methodology and focuses on describing the activity of matter and energy, rather than making claims about the nature of reality. Especially in the arenas of therapy and spiritual path work, we tend to be most certain about what’s most trivial and least certain about what’s most important. We know where we live, what we usually like to eat, what language we speak. We don’t know who we are, what happens when we die, the meaning of life, how to have the best relationship or be the best parents possible. No one has ever been able to prove just what it means to live the best life possible or how to do so. Basically, we’re all just falling through space, making it up as we go.

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

These are from a conversation @simonsinek had with @arthurcbrooks about his new book LOVE YOUR ENEMIES | How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt.

Arthur Books in conversation with Simon Sinek

I’m not good at any of this. Not 100% sure I want to be – seriously. Don’t have to be sure to try – I guess. Seems like it would maybe make the world a better place if more tried – so might as well do my small part and see what happens.

This doesn’t have to be about changing my mind or giving up on what I believe. It is just taking a first step into maybe something better without knowing where it will lead. That has mostly led to good places for me in the past. This probably won’t be different. I guess I’ll see.

LOVE-YOUR-ENEMIES.001

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Jim Collins on “The Knowledge Podcast”

Just ran across “The Knowledge Podcast” with Shane Parrish. It’s first episode was in 2015 and there are 68 episodes with lots of interesting people – mostly people I’m reading or listing to in other places. I’ve already listened to 3 more and have added 4-5 more to my “waiting to listen to” list.

In this episode, Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and many other cornerstone business books of our generation / not sure what generation that is actually) talks about luck, leadership, ambition, decision making, what it is for a company to be on a 20 mile march, firing bullets before firing cannonballs and the 2 key components to LEARNING how to be a leader.

Image Source: chiefexecutive.net

Luck

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Creative Calling. Book by @chasejarvis

I’ve listened to a few Chase Jarvis Podcasts over the years and the ways he connects with his guest are always real. I’m also a big fan of his Creative Live (CL) app where I learned photography from the ground up – something that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid – but never understood well enough to be even average.

I don’t know if I would be taking photos if I didn’t run across the Creative Live app. I don’t know if I knew I wanted to take photos. And I didn’t know I needed to read this book. But, I clearly did.

To “get” to this book, I needed to struggle with the “work” of photography. I had a very big misconception of what photography was going to look like for me and it is explained in this quote “the creative gap: it’s the distance between what we see in our mind’s eye — what we want to create — and the work we are actually able to create with our current skill set. It’s a painful disconnect. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions . . . you’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I wasn’t thinking of photography as “work” or “a fight” when I started. I should have known better. Since nothing interesting or meaningful for me hasn’t included either a lot of work or a lot of fight (nothing).

This book is about the “work”, the “fight” and the “creation”. It’s about putting in the work and things getting easier and better. it’s way less about talent and way more about work. It is a slow process that builds over time (like Jim Collin’s Flywheel in his book Good to Great).

Next for me is maybe starting to share what I’m creating. Until then, instead of sharing a photo (today), I decided to share this.

Image source: creativelive.com

Creativity

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What the Left Media Does Not Get

I get AND WELCOME all sides of the political debate. I live with a liberal (probably 2 liberals – my daughter/maybe and her mom/for sure*). I live in one of the most liberal zip codes in the country (look it up – 55405) and I work in two of the most conservative states in the country (Texas & Louisiana).

What I don’t welcome is people portraying themselves as neutral and not accepting that their personal opinion of something may not be accepted as fact by (probably) half the country.

If you support Trump you can’t deny that his lack of discipline with regards to his rhetoric makes it way too easy for those on the other side to label him as a racist. That doesn’t mean the majority of those supporters believe he is racist.

Most of Trump’s supporters DON’T believe he is racist. Maybe they are wrong about that – and is an entirely different discussion. But they can be wrong about something and still have an honest opinion that isn’t based on hate.

I have referred before to the article Our Culture of Contempt where Author Brooks describes the polarizing effect of assuming that “your ideology is based on love and your opponents is based on hate”.

If the left wants to be taken more seriously on the issue of race, they should stop labeling EVERY opponent they face as a racist. I’m 52 and have never voted for someone that the left hasn’t labeled as a racist. So sooner or later you just stop listening to the chatter.

Sadly, I don’t see the problem getting better – but getting worse.

Does Trump help? Probably not.

Does he make it worse? Probably so.

Is it necessary? I don’t know – but it might be.

In the mean time, it would be helpful if we could stick to what we want and stop ascribing motives to people’s beliefs and why they support the politicians they choose to support.

Nobody knows those things about other people and it leads us down a very dark path.

History says those dark paths are way darker than we understand and way harder to get back from than we can ever imagine.

*She would take issue with the “for sure”, and would probably say she is independent – which would not be correct. 🙂

The Problem on The Left (or the problem everywhere)

Democrats used to be the party of the working guy (sorry – working person).

They built their base of support by fighting for better wages and better benefits.  They knew those two things were the clearest path to improving the quality of life for their base.  

Today – not so much.  

Fighting for someone else, the old democratic party always held the moral high ground.  While the republicans always came across as fighting to selfishly keep what they had.  As I life long Republican – that is annoyingly true.  

The democrats today are in a tough spot.  They are now the ones in power. They control the board rooms, the banks, silicon valley, the media, and the richest zip codes in the country are overwhelmingly liberal.  

In the past, the democrats rallied AGAINST the powerful.  Today – they ARE the powerful.  

It is clear now that better wages and better benefits for the working class is now something that doesn’t work as well given the left’s new found power base.  

But parties have to fight for something.  So, now instead of fighting for better wages and better benefits for working people – they fight for diversity. 

Why?

They have to know  it isn’t real – 0r it isn’t as real as money.  

For sure isn’t measurable.  And even better – because if something isn’t measurable it is easy to keep moving the goal posts – pretending like we aren’t there yet.  

We are for sure 1000x more diverse today then at any other time in history and somehow TODAY it is our biggest issue?  Is happiness correlated to this 1000x improvement?  I know wages and benefits can be tied to happiness – up to a point.  I don’t remember MLK fighting for diversity.  He fought for economic justice – a fair shake.  Diversity – doesn’t guaranty any of that.  It just sounds or feels good.  It isn’t real.  


Sounding good or feeling good lets the left keep the moral high ground they held in the past.  The can still be THE virtuous party.  Even though they know what they are fighting for isn’t actually going to help anybody.  
Maybe more than power – the other driving force not just on the left but for us all is the ability to feel good about ourselves and what we are doing – the ability to feel virtuous.  


I’m sure diversity does improve quality of life.  It is why I live in the city and not the suburbs (at a much higher cost).  But at an individual human level it isn’t the same as someone being able to put food on their table or pay their rent.  Those are things most of the people in power  have forgotten – if they ever knew.  


In fairness – nobody in Washington (right or left) remembers any of that too well.   The path to riches in Washington is a very short path.  Look at where AOC lives now.  


Diversity may make people that don’t fret about things like paying for food and paying rent feel better.  But it is clearly not the first problem we should be trying to solve.   


Here is why.  

Solving real problems would most likely do way more to address the real issues we are facing.  

It is clear that the less fear people live in, the less hate they have.  And the less hate people have, the more easily people can love each other, or at the least – hate each other less.  

Telling anybody that they need to focus on loving and accepting others more, when they have a boot on their neck financially, only comes across as out of touch and naive.  


This is all clear to anybody that is paying attention.  Republicans have been the party of the rich (arguable – but mostly true) and now the democrats are the party of the powerful (who are now the REAL rich).    


The working class woke up 1 day and realized they didn’t have a voice anymore.  Trump became that voice and it is that simple.  


Trump didn’t create this problem.  He was the result of the problem.  
Somewhere along the way we stopped talking to each other.  And that stopped way before Trump.  


Deny that – and Trump wins again – for sure.  


For a clearer picture, watch the documentary American Chaos, by Jim Stern who documents his attempt to understand how someone like Trump came to be.  He hates Trump.  He doesn’t change his mind on Trump AT ALL.  But he does start to get the why.  


Or read this more recent article by Tucker Carlson


Two takes from opposites sides of the political spectrum – interestingly landing in pretty much the same place.  When half the country feels left out of the conversation – not a lot of good can happen.  


The only path to start fixing any of this is to start talking (actually listening).  And sadly for me – I don’t see that beginning under Trump.  But I also don’t see a better alternative.  

Trump didn’t create this mess – and he probably won’t fix it.  

Maybe we can at least learn something from all of this and be ready when a real conversation starts again.  How can we learn something? Stop talking and start listening. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Peter Drucker’s One Request of Jim Collins (Be Useful)

After their initial meeting (2 days), Peter Drucker asked one thing of Jim Collins. Change your question from how to be successful to how to be useful.

“But I do have a request. That you change your question a little bit. It seems to me you spend a lot of time trying — worrying about if you’re going to survive. Well, you’ll probably survive. And you spend too much time thinking about if you’ll be successful. It’s the wrong question. The question is, “how to be useful?” And that was the last thing he said that day. He just got out of the car, and closed the door, and walked away.

Listen to Jim Collins tell the story on the Tim Ferris Podcast. Starts around 1hour 38minutes in.

Be honest (or accurate) about the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s Pay Gap

How are we supposed to take the issue of the gender pay gap seriously when “respected” leaders are at best out of touch, lazy, or worst – lying.  

Katie Jacobs Stanton sits on the Board of Directors for TIME. I doubt she is out of touch or dumb.  Can’t answer the lying part. 



Maybe there is another statistic that makes her case.  If so, she should have found and used that one.  Maybe her issue is that the US Men’s Team (who aren’t very good) get more money than the US Women’s Team (who are more than good).  If that is her beef, she has a point.  But it isn’t the point she made.  

The point she made is that the World Cup Men’s team winner got $400MM and the World Cup Women’s Team winner got $30MM.  I don’t know what she thinks they (men and women) should get. But, the underlying math in this case shows the women get a larger take of the gross than the men – actually 44% more.  




If there is a real gender pay gap (and I’m not saying there is or there isn’t), this type of reporting/tweeting isn’t helping to solve the problem.  

If solving the problem is the goal, 1) show where there is a real gender pay gap, 2) show what the facts, and 3) propose a real solution.  

If the gender pay gap is real, my daughter needs serious people to be way more serious and way less flip.  

Information Consumption

Reading

Reading Draft No. 4 by John McPhee cause I want to be a better writer.  In my mind I AM a good writer – up to the point I sit down to begin writing.

  the way to do a piece of writing is there or four times over, never once.  For me, the hardest part comes first, getting something – anything – out in front of me.  Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall.  Blurt out, heave out, babble out something – anything – as a first draft.  With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus.  Then as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye.  Edit it again – top to bottom.  

Finished reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck which explores the differences between people who operate mostly from a fixed-mindset or a growth-mindset view of the world (“mostly” because nobody is all one or the other).

You Tube

Watched Who Are the Racists on Prager U

To call someone a racist is a serious charge. Conservatives are accused of racism by the left on a daily basis. Are the accusations fair? Or is something else going on? Derryck Green of Project 21 provides some provocative answers.

Podcasts

Went further down the Russell Brand rabbit hole and listened to 2 episodes he did with Jordan Peterson.  I want to do a post about the content of these episodes separately as they are very rich – so much that I listened to both episodes multiple times.  

Watched

Finished Game of Thrones (like most of the world) but 2x.  The second time through was 1000x better.  

Watched the entire series of Silicon Valley.  not what I expected at all – but worthwhile.  

Information Consumption

Books

Reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck which explores the differences between people who operate mostly from a fixed-mindset or a growth-mindset view of the world (“mostly” because nobody is all one or the other).

People may start with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way. Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement, or

as Binet recognizes, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.

Finished reading Lincoln at Cooper Union, by, Harold Holzer about what most believe was the speech that made Lincoln President. The book paints a picture that puts the future of the nation and the issue of slavery in the hands of a seemingly unnoticeable evening in New York. Lincoln, with all his wisdom knew what this opportunity represented for himself & the ideas he believed, spending hundreds of hours over months preparing for the moment of his and potentially the nation’s life.

The Cooper Union address tested whether Lincoln’s appeal could extend from the podium to the page, and from the rollicking campaigns of the rural West to the urban East, where theaters, lecture halls, and museums vied with politics for public attention. Cooper Union held the promise of transforming Lincoln from a regional phenomenon to a national figure. Lincoln knew it, and rose to the occasion.

Finished reading The Orchid and the Dandelion, by Thomas Boyce, which was recommended in a weekly email blast by Susan Cain, author of Quiet (which I read last year).  Insightful research geared towards kids, but just as relevant in looking at the entire family, work and life experiences with different types of people and what makes them tick.

Articles

The Health Care Bell Curve
by: Atul Gawande
in: The New Yorker

About what happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are. Their reactions are probably not what you would think.

And the lengths one doctor goes to to be better than just really good.

in medicine, we are used to confronting failure; all doctors have unforeseen deaths and complications. What we’re not used to is comparing our records of success and failure with those of our peers. I am a surgeon in a department that is, our members like to believe, one of the best in the country. But the truth is that we have had no reliable evidence about whether we’re as good as we think we are. Baseball teams have win-loss records. Businesses have quarterly earnings reports. What about doctors?

In this short speech was the core of Warwick’s world view. He believed that excellence came from seeing, on a daily basis, the difference between being 99.5-per-cent successful and being 99.95-per-cent successful. Many activities are like that, of course: catching fly balls, manufacturing microchips, delivering overnight packages. Medicine’s only distinction is that lives are lost in those slim margins.

Public Education’s Dirty Secret
by: Mary Hudson
in: Quillette

It is not poor teaching or a lack of money that is failing our most vulnerable populations. The real problem is an ethos of rejection that has never been openly admitted by those in authority.

Why should millions of perfectly normal adolescents, not all of them ghettoized, resist being educated? The reason is that they know deep down that due to the color of their skin, less is expected of them. This they deeply resent. How could they not resent being seen as less capable? It makes perfect psychological sense. Being very young, however, they cannot articulate their resentment, or understand the reasons for it, especially since the adults in charge hide the truth. So they take out their rage on the only ones they can: themselves and their teachers.

They also take revenge on a fraudulent system that pretends to educate them. The authorities cover up their own incompetence, and when that fails, blame the parents and teachers, or lack of funding, or “poverty,” “racism,” and so on. The media follow suit. Starting with our lawmakers, the whole country swallows the lie. 

Listened to

Podcast: Myth & reality: General Stanley McChrystal
On: The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast

Discussion about:

-leadership,
-McChrystal’s new book Leaders: Myth and Reality that covers 13 leaders across many fields (a few you wouldn’t expect),
Service Year Alliance and his effort to get funding for 4 million kids to be able to spend a year doing service after high school and before college. That is compared to the 200,000 spots open today in the Americorps program. McChrystal says that there are 2 million kids a year that want to do service but can’t afford to spend the year without SOME income.

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