How to be courageous

Q. How do you have a healthy digestive system?

A. Eat healthy food.

 

Q. How do you get fit?

A. Do some exercise.

 

Q. How do you be generous?

A. Do kind things and give stuff away with no expectation of return.

 

Q. How do you be courageous?

A. Do courageous things.

 

It sounds simple doesn’t it?  Then you know it won’t be easy.

 

There’s no point waiting around for “courage” to enter your heart or to be inspired for great action.  That’s just an excuse to do nothing and succumb to your fears.  You need to recognise your fears and face them down, and then take appropriate action.  Even if you can’t face them down just take action anyway.

 

No, you don’t need to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but anything small will get the ball rolling and then you’ll realise you actually are courageous already.  You just didn’t realise it or recognise it because you never leapt over tall buildings.  Once you have that courage confirmed by small things you can then use it for bigger and better things.  (But it’s still best to leave the tall buildings to Superman).

 

Australian Water Dragon

Australian Water Dragon

 

Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten”. GK Chesterton.

 

In my experience dragons are real and they can stop you in your tracks.  They live inside your head.  You don’t need to go out and slay them, but just find their resting place and shoo them away.

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Spirit Hunting

If you wanted to hunt your spirit down and meet it face to face where would you look and how would you go about finding it?  It’s an age old question and there’s an age old answer dressed in modern language.

First of all I used the word spirit but you could easily use soul or consciousness or any word you’d like to use.  None of the words describe it fully (as explained in this post  https://thirdobservation.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/words-understanding-wisdom-and-all-that-stuff/) so use the word you are comfortable with.

When hunting a wild beast (your spirit) it helps to know any trails they leave behind so you can follow the trail and then it helps to know where it might lurk, so you can track it back to its resting place.

You can track your spirit because your spirit (consciousness) drives your awareness.  The trail it leaves behind for you to follow is your awareness.

That’s it.

Your awareness is how you trace yourself back to your spirit.  This is described as being aware of awareness or as watching the watcher, or even mindfulness in some contexts.  On top of my computer screen there a small note that simple reads WtW to remind myself to watch the watcher.  Now that might sound simple, but that usually means that it isn’t easy.  There’s an entire post or two in that one phrase (and dozens of books out there) but very briefly…

When you are in and look at a scene, say a busy city street, you pay attention to what interests you, your eyes record the photons from everything but your brain can’t process all that information so your awareness narrows down your focus (filters the information) to what is important to you.  You might pay attention to the buildings or the shops inside the buildings or the cars or the street or the mass of people or even what those people are wearing or just the path in front of your feet.  It is your spirit or consciousness that drives your awareness depending on your belief systems (see post here https://thirdobservation.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/your-belief-system/).  They are all interlinked and support each other.

Consciously focus your attention on where your attention is being taken.  Be aware of awareness.

Of course meditation is a perfect place to be doing the exercise because your mind will naturally wander on its own without the driving force of needing to be in a specific building for an appointment.  Your natural awareness will go where it wants to go on its own.  Don’t judge it – just watch it as if you are stalking an animal and see where it goes.  You don’t want to control it, just meet it.

So now you have some insights on how to track it, where the heck do you start looking?

I believe that there are two primary motivators in life – fear and love.  Some people take this a step back and say the primary drivers are separation and unity.  I agree with that because separation brings fear which brings any other negative emotion and unity is the essence of love.  But in terms of “real life” and things we can actually recognise and feel, most people simply don’t know how to judge when they’re in “separation” mode but we can very easily know when we are fearful.  Again, relate it to what works for you because it is the concept that’s important not my terminology.

An easy way to know when you are in fear mode is that it shrinks you and contracts you and brings you into yourself.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because sometimes that is what will keep you alive and is why it’s there, but you need to be aware of it and its consequences.  Love on the other hand expands you and brings you into touch with more than just yourself.  Fear holds you in while love reaches out.

Reaching out

Sometimes it can get confusing because the differences might be very subtle.  Two simple examples might be sex and charity.  The same action might be done out of fear to protect your own needs and your own desires, or could be done out of genuine giving to another with no expectation for return.  Honesty is the only thing that can tell the difference.

I would say that 97% of people, 97% of the time act out of fear.  It is a survival instinct and most of us are in survival mode, even when we think we are giving.  We simply aren’t aware (there’s that word again) of alternatives so we default to survival mode, which is fear.

Fear shrinks you so your spirit will be curled in the foetal position afraid to look out at the world because you have told it over and over again (through your belief system) that the world is a dangerous place.  That’s why it is so easy to think that the body is all there is to us because our awareness is shrunk inside it.  It appears to us that everything comes from inside the boundary of our body, and essentially it does because it’s a safe haven for the spirit.  Have you seen those cartoons where there is a fierce robot destroying everything but when it finally breaks down or is beaten there’s a tiny alien inside (usually in the middle of the forehead or at the heart) that is terrified.  That’s a good image of us.  A fierce machine tearing up the world to get what we want while inside there’s a very small but scared controller being given images of a fiery world.

Love expands and when you act from true love you see your real awareness in its natural state and it expands to be bigger than you are.  Your spirit doesn’t simply get feedback from your senses as if your spirit is secondary but your spirit then directs your awareness to control your senses to filter the associated images.  Your spirit is the holder of the camera (your awareness) that your senses use to capture images of your world and these images then are used to give your spirit impressions of your world.  When your spirit is free to explore the wonder of the world it looks for (is aware of) beautiful images everywhere and expands even more.  Love is everywhere.

If you think everything is bad and scary then the impressions are bad so you focus on the bad to avoid them, so your spirit shrinks for protection so you aren’t aware of your true self and the spirit is so busy protecting you from the bad images that it doesn’t focus on anything but the impressions it is given.  It’s a slippery slope.

When your awareness expands you realise your physical impressions are as if they are only a small part of you or even as if they belonged to someone else and not the core of you.  It is kind of like your spirit is in a hot air balloon hovering over you and seeing from a distance what is happening to you.  It is no longer that “I am angry” but is more like “look, he is experiencing anger” and the reaction from that awareness from spirit is not one of anger itself but simply knowing the anger is happening.  It is as if there are silk ropes dangling down from the balloon to “me” and every so often a rope is tugged from something that happens and the awareness feels the tug on the rope and says “oh, there goes the frustration rope again”.  Of course every now and again a tug on the rope is so severe that the balloon can be dragged down back into the senses, but even then you know the reality of your spirit as being bigger than you.

Finding your spirit doesn’t mean that you are immune to life.  It simply brings more to your life.

The key to finding it is tracking it through being aware of your awareness.  Tracking it can be a long and tiring process and can be frustrating and even bring up its own fears.  You might wonder why you are doing it to find something that is so elusive it might just be a flight of fancy or a myth.

When starting the hunt you need to use your awareness of your awareness to find your spirit inside yourself.  Silence is the best place to begin the search to look within.  This is the message of the vast majority of spiritual paths and religions.  When you find it you wonder what took you so long to see what was always there, then you smile.

Some people say that there is no process and “enlightenment” takes an instant.  I believe that’s true and that instant is the instant you actually find your spirit but it is very unlikely you’ll find it without looking for it in the first place – the looking is the process and the time taken for the process depends on how close you are to start with and the tools you use to track it.  The most common tools are either desperation or dedication, or sometimes a mix of both.

When you find it you realise there is no need and actually never was a need to look because you are it.  You realise “I am that”, or simply I AM.  The end takes an instant; the path to get there is as varied as you and I.

What do you think?

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Gratitude and how to practice it.

I’ve read that gratitude is important at least a dozen times. Each time I’d think to myself “Yeah, that sounds good – the world is great” and then keep on doing what I’ve always done. Then I’d read that gratitude is not simply a thought or a feeling but is an action.  You’ve probably heard the same about gratitude or even about love.  It isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling but is an action you perform and the warm and fuzzy feeling is a result of the action.  I heard that before and thought “yeah, the world is really great” and kept on going about my business the way I always had.

It’s really not a great surprise that if you keep doing things the way you’ve always been doing them you’ll always get the same results.  Sometimes I wonder why I don’t take my own advice.  I hope you are smarter than me.

I recently saw gratitude in a whole different light that has finally made total sense to me and I just had to share it with you.  It involves the way we perceive the world and the way we interact with the world.  Here’s a brief introduction of the principle.

You are a filter.  I’ve touched on this before with all of the data you receive in any given second and how you are only consciously aware of the parts that are important to you.  But even before that your body filters out what is relevant from all the data that’s available.  Take your eyes as an example.  They don’t see all the light that’s out there, just a very small part of it.  They filter out what isn’t needed.  Your ears do the same thing.

You filter out what is not needed and you absorb what you need.  Then your brain filters this filtered information to only retain what is important to you.  It’s how you work.  It’s how you perceive the world.  You are a filter.

Again, that’s easy to see with physical things like light and sound but how does this work with gratitude? It works in exactly the same way.  I’ll use light as the analogy.

White light has all visible colours in it.  For simplicity’s sake I’ll say it can be made of three primary colours, the same as the colours from your TV set that make all the different colours you see on it.  The millions of colours you see on the TV are just different mixes of the three primary colours.

If you saw nothing but white light you might as well be blind – you wouldn’t be able to “see” or perceive anything but white.  Your eyes have receptors that are tuned for different colours so they can pick out the contrasts and colours so things become distinct and different.  It’s the reverse of your TV set – the TV mixes them and your eyes filter them.  You filter them equally so you see a balanced view of what is projected on the TV screen. If your filters were out of balance then everything would be tainted by the dominant colour.  You filter the light to see the picture so then you can navigate your world on and off the screen.

The practice (or action) of gratitude tells you to focus on the good things in your life so you feel better about it and then attract more of the same.  The problem (for me anyway) was that the word gratitude is so close to attitude that to me they are pretty much the same.  I thought gratitude was just an attitude.  How do you change your attitude without being false about it, or if you can’t really see how it will work or why you’d bother changing?  If your attitude is ingrained in your personality then it might just be too hard to change anyway.  You can see why I thought it was a good idea but didn’t really do anything about it. I had no reason to change because I didn’t see how I could change or if I did then why it would actually work in my favour.

What I'm grateful for right now - I just finished building it

*******

The practice of gratitude is simply a change in the process of where you focus your attention.

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From now I’m not going to use the word gratitude anymore but simply use the word “focus” instead. I think that is much more practical and is not a change in attitude or something intrinsic to your nature but is simply a different way of doing the same thing you’ve always done.

Think of things that happen to you as little packets of energy.  We’ll just call it the stuff that happens to you and to everybody else.  All of that stuff can be considered to be like white light.  Just white light made of types of energy.

“Stuff happens”.

You then filter that energy through your three primary filters (like colour filters) relating to stuff that happens of good, bad, and indifferent.  These primary energies make up the entire emotional picture of your life as you see it, with many different shades made from the combinations of the three primary energies.  You filter the stuff and this makes the emotional picture as you see it.

What you focus on tends to be flagged as important to you so you pay more attention to it so you focus more and see more of it.  If you filter out and focus only on the “bad” part of the overall energy of stuff then your system will be tuned to bad and see more bad.  It’s why depression can be so insidious because you feel bad so you focus on how you feel and see more bad so you feel worse and it becomes hard to see anything but bad.  It is very difficult to dig yourself out of that bad place.

It works the same way if you filter only what you consider to be “good” stuff.  Now it makes more sense to me why these people are said to be wearing rose coloured glasses – they are only filtering the parts they want to see so the world becomes tinted in that emotional colour – just like light.

*******

So let’s look at this in summary.

Stuff happens and it is made of good, bad and indifferent energies.  What you focus on automatically becomes important to you so you filter out more and more of just that one type of energy into your awareness.

If you think that mostly bad stuff happens to you then I can almost guarantee that you are focusing on and filtering out the bad parts of the energy stream and ignoring the others.  It isn’t that the others don’t happen it is just that you are filtering only part of the overall energy system.  It is also almost a certainty that you are refusing to acknowledge the good parts of the energy stream and therefore blocking the flow of good stuff through yourself.

If you want to alter the balance in your favour then you need to look at how you operate the process and make slight modifications.  You need to shift your focus of attention to the good part of the energy stream of stuff.  Then you need to increase the flow of the energy you want by acknowledging it and allowing it to move on and not be trapped.  It is really as simple as that but you have to put it into regular practice for yourself in a way that works for you and your situation.  Sometimes you might need someone else, or even a professional to help you see the good you’ve been blinded to.  Sometimes just the change in focus is enough.  But you need to change the focus and that means changing what is probably a habit and that usually takes both time and effort to make a new habit.

If you do that then you will have automatically started a practice of gratitude.  It is simply becoming aware (resetting you filter and changing your focus) of the good things that happen to you, no matter how small at first.  Once you become aware of it then recognise it and be thankful for it so the energy can flow.  A lifetime of a particular energy flow doesn’t usually turn around overnight, but flows can be changed and blockages cleared.

Let me know how you go or if this makes sense to you.

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Sunset and sunrise photos

Hi,

I’m just showing some of my photos because I can.  Sunsets and sunrises are a favourite so I thought I’d start there.

Rainbow at sunset with a pot of gold

Peace is descending

Fire storm

Rain storm at dusk with rainbow for good measure

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Words, understanding, wisdom, and all that stuff

This is how I think we understand things and how things are presented to us.

Take a look at a scene of reality, whatever you think reality is.

We’ll make this simple for the argument of writing and say that the scene of reality we’ll observe is a sunset of of grassy rolling hills gently sloping down to the ocean with patches of trees spotted on the slopes.  There is a sky above and patches of fluffy clouds in the sky.  That is our “reality” for this exercise.

Reality as we see it

Reality

When you observe the scene there are countless photons of light hitting your retina to record the image.  Everything in your direct line of sight is recorded on your retina, but you don’t actually “observe” them all.  It would be impossible to be aware of and remember every blade of grass and every leaf on every tree and every droplet of moisture in every cloud, so what you “see” is only a small portion of the reality in front of you.  Your body and mind act as a filter to sort out what you think is important from the reality in front of you.

But even then what is recorded on your retina is only a small portion of the total reality of what’s in front of you.  What about the other side of each blade of grass and the other side of every leaf on every tree, and the countless small animals hiding in the dirt and grass?  You could only ever possibly see less than half of the reality that is even there.  Then there is the reality that is beyond your vision, such as infrared and ultraviolet light.

You can only ever see a tiny portion of the actual true reality in front of you.  In fact it would be impossible for you to see all of the reality in that scene in front of you.

Reality is “bigger” than anything you can see, or perceive with your senses.

That example was just using a very simple static view to demonstrate a point.  When you consider all of reality across the entire universe and maybe even beyond the universe and through time you can imagine that we can only ever “know” a very small portion of that reality.

Reality is vast and effectively unknowable with our senses.

Concepts

Within that vastness of actual reality are concepts or ideas.  If you were to form a concept of the reality in front of you it can only EVER be a small portion of the total reality.

Our concept of the coulds as we remember them

The concept of the scene used above cannot be as big and complex as the scene itself – it is simply impossible.  It’s just what we think of the scene based on our limited (filtered) senses or our imagination and memory.  Even if they are concepts about reality itself, they can never be as big as the actual reality and cover all of reality.  Concepts and ideas are just a very small representation of reality.

Words/language

If we want to communicate a concept to someone else we need to define it so the other person can understand it as we want them to understand it.  In other words we put a cage around it so that it can be studied.  We need to keep it still and stable so it can be evaluated and discussed under a common understanding.  So we develop a language so we can communicate concpets.

Words we use to define the clouds

The cages we place around concepts are language and words.  Since the concept is now caged and defined we can study it, but cannot know the concept in its free and natural state because it is now effectively limited by the words and the meaning placed on the words and each of our individual understandings of that meaning.

The language is also important so that it captures the concepts effectively.  Can you get a true sense of the experience of eating a banana using only your sight, if I was to mime the act of eating it?  You might know what I mean but you can’t really get a sense of the experience because the language used can’t cover the total experience.

If I was to simply say “gravity” one person might think I meant an apple falling to the ground while another might think I meant the attractive force between masses, while another might think of a warp in the space-time continuum, or the force created by gravitons.  One person might think it is constant while the other might think it is varaible.  Until the terms are clearly defined (caged) we can’t have a clear conversation.

So going backwards:

–          Words and language cage and limit concepts so they can be shared and studied,

–          those concepts can only ever be a small representation of the reality they are trying to portray.

Words, and even concepts cannot ever be a true representation of reality.

  • Words bring knowledge.
  • Concepts bring wisdom.
  • Reality brings…?

What do you think all this means for our concepts about the creation of the universe and of things like time and space, or even religion and God?  How do you think we actually get to know reality as it is, or can we?

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The Bible must be divinely inspired

It is pretty common to hear people say that the Bible can’t be divinely inspired or the word of God because there are too many contradictions and nobody can agree on its meaning.  How can God be real if we can’t agree on what God is like and there are so many Christian denominations all supposedly referring to the same book but disagreeing with each other?  It must prove that God is a phoney and didn’t make us all or we’d agree.

My contention is that this is the exact reason why the only logical conclusion is that the Bible must be divinely inspired and cannot be the works of ordinary people, particularly at the time it was written without any means for collaboration.

To try and demonstrate my point try to think of what you consider the greatest book ever written.  It might be the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or it might be Lord of the Rings, or it might be Moby Dick, or a work by Shakespeare.   I’ll pick Moby Dick simply because it is a classic but is also difficult to read.  Even this classic has maybe 5 ways for it to be read.  It could just be a good story about the high seas, or may be a good story with some lessons in it, or it could be about one man’s journey with his mind, or as some say it could be about one man’s struggle with his spirituality and ultimate success over his own ego.  I’ve said five because there might be another way I can’t think of.

Most books have one or two ways it can be interpreted or three at best.  I think that’s why Moby Dick is a classic and has stood the test of time over all these years; it has so many layers of complexity.

Now the Bible doesn’t have 5 ways to be interpreted and not even 50 ways to be interpreted but has countless ways it can be interpreted and each way seems to be so convincing that it is often used as proof to show how the other ways can’t possibly be right.  Here are some examples I can think of right now – I’m sure you could add some, and I’m not even going to get into the nitty gritty over particular issues such as homosexuality or sex before marriage or eating shellfish.

  • There are so many contradictions in the Bible (one web site lists over 100) that it can’t possibly be right so the Bible is proof that God can’t exist.
  • There are so many prophecies in the Bible (one web site lists hundreds) and all have been proven to have come true so it must be the work of God.
  • The Bible is to be taken literally.
  • The Bible is written in parables to be read with the understanding of the reader.
  • God should have made it clear so that anybody could read it and understand it.
  • The Bible is easy to read and understand.
  • The Bible can only be understood with guidance from the Holy Spirit.
  • It is historical fact.
  • It is a good story and nothing more and may be loosely “based” on fact but is not factual in any sense of the word.
  • It is not divine but has some good rules that can be applied to your life.
  • The Bible is encrypted with mathematical code to reveal its true meaning.
  • It is the Word of God.
  • It has been through so many translations you can’t trust the words.
  • The meaning is what is important.
  • God is loving and merciful.
  • God is a psychopathic murderer that demands loyalty or he’ll condemn you for eternity.
  • The Bible is a rule book with clear instructions on how to live your life.
  • The Bible is a metaphysical guide to deeper understanding.

That’s just a short list and I can understand why any one person has any one particular point of view but how is it logically possible that people have those incredibly different and contradictory views about the one book and each thinks they are right?

It isn’t logically possible at all and it doesn’t happen with any other book.  Sure, there are disagreements over personal preferences and likes but not fundamental disagreements over content and meaning.

In my opinion, the Bible is a map of humanity as it is now and as it has been through history and at various stages of maturity for the individual, and also as it is and as it could be.  When you look at that map you can recognise features that are familiar to you, and that’s how you derive your “meaning” of its words.  That is why people are so adamant that what they see is what is there – the map shows them what they recognise and because they recognise what’s already there it is true for them.  How else can you explain so many different meanings for so many people unless they are all there within the words, waiting to be revealed by the individual reader?

How could people thousands of years ago and with no real way of collaboration have devised such an utterly clever and simple way to reveal humanity to itself with all of its complexity, contradictions, beauty and also conflicts?

I can only conclude that it was inspired.

What do you think?

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Identity

If I was to extend my arm through the internet and through your screen and punch you in the face you would feel the pain (if it was a good punch).  That’s because your physical system is designed to identify the pain as your own so your physical system can react to the situation and protect you.

It’s this process of identification that allows your body to react quickly to a situation.  It’s set up that way to protect you.  If it was simply you thinking that there was some pain somewhere that is the result of a physical process and when the process stops the pain will also stop, then you might be a bit slow to react to the fist heading your way.  But because you identify it as your pain you act quickly.

The pain is not “yours” it does not belong to you and it does not identify you.  The pain is just the result of a process that needs you to identify with it so that it is fully effective.

Because your system is set up this way you also identify many other physical processes as yours and identify yourself based on these processes when in fact they are not you at all but just things that happen to you through the process of your system.

Your mental processes and thoughts are designed in the same way so that you identify the process as “yours”.

If I was to extend my thoughts through the internet and onto your screen and insult you to your face you would feel the pain of the insult (if it was a good insult).  That’s because your mental system is designed to identify the pain as your own so your mental system can react to the situation and protect you.

It’s this process of identification that allows your system to react quickly to a situation.  It’s set up that way to protect you.  If it was simply you thinking that there was some pain somewhere that is the result of a mental process and when the process stops the pain will also stop, then you might be a bit slow to react to the insult heading your way.  But because you identify it as your pain you act quickly.

The mental pain is not “yours” it does not belong to you and it does not identify you.  The pain is just the result of a process that needs you to identify with it so that it is fully effective.

Because your system is set up this way you also identify many other mental processes as yours and identify yourself based on these processes when in fact they are not you at all but just things that happen to you through the process of your system.

Your spiritual processes are designed in the same way so that you identify the process as “yours”.  This part is more difficult to conceptualise but it does work in the same way.

If I was to extend my spirit through the internet and onto your screen and try to convince you to rob a bank and hold a gun to the teller’s face you would feel the pain of your conscience (if it was a convincing argument).  That’s because your spiritual system is designed to identify the pain as your own so your spiritual system can react to the situation and protect you.

It’s this process of identification that allows your system to react quickly to a situation.  It’s set up that way to protect you.  If it was simply you thinking that there was some pain somewhere that is the result of a process and when the process stops the pain will also stop, then you might be a bit slow to react to the spiritual dilemma heading your way.  But because you identify it as your pain you act quickly.

The spiritual pain is not “yours” it does not belong to you and it does not identify you.  The pain is just the result of a process that needs you to identify with it so that it is fully effective.

Because your system is set up this way you also identify many other spiritual processes as yours and identify yourself based on these processes when in fact they are not you at all but just things that happen to you through the process of your system.

The physical sensations you feel do not identify you, and the mental thoughts you think do not identify you and the spiritual issues you face do not identify you.  “You” are apart from all of those, even though all of those are a part of you.

So then just who are you?

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