Sunday, July 15, 2001

Hunger For Shared Reality

As much as I want to define my own reality, I have an equal desire to enjoy shared reality with people around me. And I don't mean the forced sharing that takes place with family and co-workers, the sharing that we assume will happen in a day. I mean the real intimacy of sharing myself and being accepted and understood by another, and accepting and understanding another.

In recent years, we have come to identify the "male bonding" experiences of watching sports (and drinking beer). Women have their own experiences, mostly shoe shopping and taking a bathroom break with your posse. Oh yes, and those endless telephone conversations. While those experiences are nice and typify shared reality, I really hunger at times for people who can share my experiences of reality and shifts in the assemblage point. I suppose that is the real reason why I'm writing this blog, other than the fact that writing reveals more of myself to me than any other process I've found. At least with this blog, there is the opportunity for shared reality. Maybe no one reads this at all, or maybe there are many lurkers out there. From the act of writing, I create a space for myself that takes the edge off my hunger.

For much of my life, I wanted to share my experiences as a way to validate them, to allow them to be real for me. It was a big shift when I started having experiences and thoughts that I just wanted to keep for myself. It was evidence that my journey had shifted inward, and was the beginning of some real depth in my character. Until that point, I could only hold one emotion at a time, and I expressed everything I felt as I felt it. Until then, I could never be angry with someone and smile at them in a moment. That kind of depth was beyond me, and seemed more like duplicity. I don't think of it as duplicity today. I understand today that there are many currents of emotions that run through me at every second, and I am choosing which stream to connect with, much like an old fashioned telephone operator chooses where to plug in a phone line to make a connection. I encounter people in my working world who I realize have not yet expanded beyond this sort of one dimensional reality, and it helps me to have appropriate expectations for them and conduct effective communication with them. One thing I have learned, still waters don't always run deep. Quiet people are not always thoughtful people. In fact, I've been shocked to discover the things that some quiet people have been thinking, especially since I had assumed they had depth.

I remember when I was finishing up college and doing my student teaching, I felt a strong wave of this hunger. I was working for the first time in a professional environment. My new life experiences were amazing to me, and I felt very much alive. I shared that reality with the other teachers and my students, so I didn't really have a need to talk about my day with my friends and close friends. However, I remember feeling that there was a slice of my life that wasn't shared. I wanted to share my experience of driving in to work each day. I still remember moments of those drives, in the middle of winter before the sun had begun to rise, driving through the countryside to the next town. Isolated homes light up the landscape as light flooded out their windows to their yards, providing beacons of warmth and connection I passed on my long drive. On those mostly cloudy mornings, I would watch the first traces of sunlight begin to illuminate the edge of the horizon, and only begin to see the light after I arrived inside my school building. It was a magical hour to be traveling, and it was that magic I wanted so desperately to share with someone, anyone.

In recent years, I have wanted to share some of my more mystical experiences of life with anyone who can appreciate my view of the world. I have an ongoing hunger to this kind of connection. It has caused me to invite people to hang out in my world that I would not otherwise have kept around me, and the lack of real compatibility did eventually untie the bond between us. There are moments when I feel this hunger strong and I fight against the overwhelming need to share, preventing me from making myself into a fool by sharing with someone who can't understand what I'm about. It's been a curious process.

It seems that no one wants to really have a unique reality. We all want to share overlapping reality with the people we love and trust. Perhaps that is why we love and trust them, because they overlap our reality.

I woke up from a dream last week where I was calling off an engagement. It seems that the relationship was a long one, and marriage was the next logical step. Right before the big day, my guy asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I suspect that he was really looking for a confirmation of my feelings for him. To his surprise, and to my own, instead I realized that marrying him would not be horrible, but it was not what my heart really wanted. So I called it off, and without any regrets or emotional suffering from the shift. Just a realization and boom! A decision that caused a major change in direction. No big deal. This dream left me with a lingering feeling, that I want to live the life of my heart's desire, not continue along the in the same direction just because things are lining up before me. How appropriate for the challenges I face in my life today!

I don't want to love people just because they share my reality. I want to love people because my heart floods when I'm around them. I want people in my life that allow us to create our own reality instead of so much adjusting to fit into each other's realities. This is what I want.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Understanding Cause & Effect

Over the last several years, I've been integrating the work of one particular teacher into my daily living. I've found this teacher offers me a broad perspective for my life and presents a world view that has stood every test I've given it. In the beginning, the integration process was dramatic, as I made conscious choices that clashed with my habits and patterns. The last year or so, the change have been more subtle, as the inconsistencies between my adopted world view and my patterns are getting smaller. And yet I'm finding that the effects of setting myself free from old thought forms sometimes has a dramatic emotional and mental effect on me. At times, I feel suddenly that the entire world lays before me, awaiting my discovery of it, things I never truly felt in my youth. Those a grand moments.

The greatest difference I've found recently has to do with cause and effect relationships. I remember in my freshman psychology class learning about correlations, about things that can be observed to happen together that may or may not have a cause and effect relationship between them. That idea, of interrelated events with an ambiguous relationship, was brand new to me, as I had always assumed a cause and effect relationship existed between such things, and that I knew which event caused the other. Now, I discover that I've turned around what used to be the cause of events in my life into the effects in my life.

An example will explain what I mean. Last month, my cat died and I visited a cat breeder to look at some kittens. I decided to take one of them home with me, and I needed to leave the breeder to get money from the cash machine before I could complete my transaction. Driving to the bank, I hit a series of yellow lights, and in my emotional state, I first thought that this was a sign that I should use caution in my decision to purchase this kitten. Talking a deep breath, I realized that I had been playing out an old thought form, the idea that signs appear along the path of life to provide guidance. My new way of approaching the world is to turn that around. I truly believe that the yellow light was caused by my emotional state, my momentary confusion about whether or not it was too soon to be taking home a new kitten. Once I connected to that thought, I was able to suddenly clear my own mind and heart, and my emotions shifted. I completed my transaction and am sharing my home now with a wonderful new kitten.

I find that many of my friends talk about their lives in the reversed cause & effect way. They seem to believe, or have a habit of thinking, that life provides clues about the correct life choices to make that we must read at each step. I have found my life runs more smoothly when I turn the tables, when I assume that life is constantly providing me with a mirror, a reflected image of my own mind and heart, in everything I encounter. The basic premise is that I attract things in my outer world that are a match to my inner world at the moment. It's a sort of homeopathic spiritual principle, rather than my previous approach which I could compare to an allopathic approach.

In allopathic (traditional western) medicine, the idea is that we must use substances (usually drugs) to suppress the symptoms of the illness, and that is what makes us better. In contrast, homeopathic medicine believes that the symptoms of "illness" are actually the body's strategy for re-establishing health. In homeopathic wisdom, you take a histamine (rather than an anti-histamine) to support the body's strategy of flooding the sinus cavities with mucus, and take things that induce a fever to support the fever started by your body to maintain stasis. Again, its a reversing of cause and effect, and what we assume about the relationship about correlated events in our experience.

Another example. When I started playing an instrument, I learned that most people naturally breathe backwards, pushing out the chest on the exhale instead of the inhale. (Check yourself and see which way you breathe.)

When I set out to reverse things in my life, I have found that there is a period of confusion where I don't trust my instincts. After all, my instincts had not told me that my natural behavior or assumptions were backwards. It takes some effort to build opposite habits, but eventually the process is completed and life takes on a new freshness. There is natural support for the change once it is completed.

While I am right-handed in most activities, I do bat left-handed. I wonder what I might discover if I turned that relationship around?

Monday, July 09, 2001

What's Yours Is Mine

Two recent events have helped me to see how easy it is to mistake familiarity with real knowledge.

I'm not a huge Beatles fan, but I have always liked their songs and I've followed Paul McCartney through the years. He has a kindness in his face that makes him likable to me. I was quite surprised recently when I dreamed that I was on a date with him in NYC. The date was a lot of fun, we were laughing and visiting different places, spending a day exploring. I felt quite awkward, however, as the day went on. I began realizing that I held opinions about Paul's life and character that I had picked up over the years, things that I was suddenly embarrassed to discover while actually in his presence. I thought I understood the nature of his relationship with Lennon, and how he felt about his life pre- and post-Beatles. This assumed knowledge was getting in the way of actually getting to know him! I shared with him what I was feeling, and my awkwardness suddenly at being with him, realizing I know nothing about him, and at the same time, discovering that I thought I knew a lot about him. We laughed, and he told me that he encounters that all of the time--that he considers that sort of false knowledge one of the costs of fame. Once I told him what I was feeling, I began to discover that it was easier to set it aside, and went on to learn about the real man.

When I awoke, I was surprised and shaken up. Using my normal dream analysis tools, I realized that I have always seen Paul as an example of a fully alive and creative person, and that my message to myself was that I was just starting to encounter my own creative core. That was exciting, and seemed to be a personal growth milestone. But I was equally disturbed to realize that so much of what I hold to be true about the world around me is based on assumptions I've made. It's as if I've been connecting the dots of some real information, perhaps, but still not based on real knowledge, first-hand knowledge. I realized that the things I'm familiar with are the things that are most at risk for this sort of false knowledge and intimacy. I carried that feeling of my assumptions crashing against reality, like waves crashing on a cliff, with me for several days.

The second event is something I have observed over the last few weeks. My parents purchased a building nearly 30 years ago to use for a family business. The building is estimated to be more than 150 years old, and started its life as a one room school house. In the 1930s, it was purchased and turned into a residence, and then in the 1970s, my parents converted the residence into a professional office building. Recently, they sold the building and the land to a huge corporate conglomerate who wanted it for the location of a chain retail establishment. This is a big event in their small town, and required many meetings with the zoning commission and the city council before it was approved. The surprise event was the public outcry against tearing down that historic building. People who don't know my family attending the public meeting to express their outrage over the loss of a building they had become used to seeing. Some even claimed that the building was on the National Register of Historic Buildings, which would mean that it could not be torn down. I watched these events unfold with a detached sense of bewilderment, since none of these people had ever been inside the building, they didn't know us, and they had the facts wrong. They had mistaken familiarity with real knowledge. After additional statements from my family, the plans were finally approved, but the loss of this building remains a sore spot in the town's collective consciousness.

I'm grateful that these experiences have helped me to see myself in a different light, and have cast a shadow of doubt on the truth of my knowledge of things around me. In a sense, I want to toss aside everything I hold as knowledge about the world around me, to see the world with fresh eyes, and only have knowledge based on personal experience. I suspect this kind of purity can't be obtained by making such a decision, but can be facilitated by intending to see the world in a new way, a real way. I have noticed that I question my knowledge occasionally now, that I will evaluate its reliability by asking myself how I came to believe something was true, or came to have this knowledge. These questions raise the awareness of the issue, but I'm not really prepared to analyze everything I think of. There has to be another way to reach this goal.

In fact, the thought of discarding this false knowledge lets me see just how chaotic my world would be without it. It is my assumptions about patterns that allow me to live in a predictable world, where I can plan and set goals, and live in an orderly world where things progress. They also keep my assemblage point focused very close to its current location, since new knowledge only refines what I've already assumed is true about the world.

In The Art of Dreaming, Castaneda talks about traveling to other realities as the result of a significant shift in the assemblage point location, and how foreign and disorienting these other locations are for him. In the past, I've had significant experiences that have allowed me to remain in this reality and yet to begin to incorporate a bigger world and universe into my ever present awareness. There are some myths surrounding Castaneda's death, with some people believing that he actually took his physical body with him to a different assemblage point reality. I'm not prepared to make that kind of a break with reality myself, but I am curious to explore how I can get past my own assumptions of reality and encounter reality first hand. It seems like an interesting way to live.

As uncomfortable as I felt on my date with Paul, I've started to embrace that awkward feeling as a gift, a new awareness that my thoughts are not in synch with the reality around me in those moments. It's as if I've started to develop a false knowledge detector within my stomach that lets me know when my mind pulls me away from experiencing reality for myself. After living 42 years, there are many things I'm familiar with, and quite a few that I actually have first hand experience with. Perhaps now I am beginning to distinguish between these two.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

Language & The Assemblage Point

Language is one of the keys to creating shared reality.

In my college years, I experimented with different views of reality and joined a church. I soon discovered that there was a huge vocabulary for the religious experience. It included common words with very specific religious meaning as well as new words that I had not encountered in my pre-religion life. It took quite a while to master the vocabulary, and I remained silent for a long time so I would not make a fool of myself from improper word choices.

Soon, after listening to the speech patterns of others who were praised as examples, I began to string together phrases and sentences that showed my commitment to the religious issues at hand. In those days, my little church was actively protesting the movie Star Wars for it's anti-Christian world view. My sentences soon became longer pieces of language as I joined in the vocal crowd speaking for a deep personal experience and against the world that made a deep personal experience seem unnecessary. But what I discovered is that I was speaking gobilty gook, long phrases that really had no meaning for me.

I made a decision that I was only going to use my own words to describe my experiences. This small decision pushed me to explore and examining my own deep personal experience, and to talk about it in a way that was honest and personally revealing. For me, it was a decision that resulted in greater integrity, and curiously enough, pushed me to an even deeper personal experience. This same decision, however, caused others to look at me with suspicion, and to question the sincerity of my life. In fact, with that one decision, I set in place the events that would eventually lead to the demise of my church membership. Because my words were of my own choosing, I was seen as an outsider, a person who was lacking a deep personal experience, and definite not one of the true believers.

However, I found that talking about my deep personal experience in my own words opened up the communication I had with people outside of my small church. I could talk with people who held different religious beliefs about my reflections on my own life in a way that allowed for honest and real exchanges of ideas, experiences and perspective. I also found that this decision spread into other areas of my life, freeing me from a dependence on slang terms so I could talk about all areas of my life with greater ease and success.

In June 2001, I was working to train employees inside a corporation to use a new computer system, and as always, my training manual included an extensive glossary to support the new vocabulary these workers needed to take on. Most of the terms were required by the software itself, but some of them came from the business decisions made around the software implementation. It allowed me to reflect again on the important of language to coordinate the activities and thoughts of a group of people towards a goal.

I have always been interested in the development and science for creating dictionaries, and believe me, I'm grateful that we have standardized word definitions and spellings. It facilitates the exchange of ideas, allowing our media to thrive and explore the world for us. I'm not suggesting that shared language is harmful in a general sense. I am convinced from my own life that language is part of the bond for factions within subcultural groups, identifying insiders from outsiders. No matter how qualified a TV journalist may be, the newbie to the region is always identified by mispronunciations of names that are known to the long time residents.

There are many stories out there about the localization of language. I've heard that the Navajo have no word for art, and that the Eskimos have 14 words for snow. While language provides us with a set of shortcuts for communicating messages, there is great personal value in examining word choices and consciously deciding to use personal, descriptive words. If words help to hold us within the local assemblage point setting, careful word selection can also free us from blinding membership to any subgroup.

Isn't it ironic that I've chosen a phrase defined by Castaneda as the name for my blog? I suppose this is appropriate, as my goal is to use the column to explore my awareness of assemblage point issues in my life, and Castaneda's work was about pointing out the presence and role of the assemblage point to those who are not aware of it. By choosing this title, I join myself to that subculture faction that is exploring the assemblage point and its impact on personal reality.

I feel like I should illustrate this bit of writing with one of those pictures that shows a person holding a TV that is showing the same person holding a TV, which shows... you get the idea.