Our Inadequate Knowledge
In both the Tuesday and Thursday night discussion groups the topic of Spinoza‘s theory of inadequate knowledge (falsity of thought) seemed to be of great interest to everyone. So I’ve decided to create post a PDF version of the short book which might give a better idea of some of the concepts.
(For those of you from the Thursday group, I’m told that the Vedantasara postulates very similar theories. But I have yet to track it down, so if somebody got a source please email Gary)
By Peter Russell
Someone recently asked me how I prayed. I answered that I pray not for divine intervention in the world around, but for divine intervention in my mind, for therein lies the root of my discontent.
We usually think of prayer as an appeal to God or some other spiritual entity to change the world in some way. We might pray for someone’s healing, for success in some venture, for a better life, or for guidance on some challenging issue. Behind such prayers is the recognition that we don’t have the power to make the world the way we would like it to be – if we did, we would simply get on with the task – so we beseech a higher power to change things for us.
Changing the world in some way or another occupies much of our time and attention. We want to get the possessions, opportunities, or experiences that we think will make us happy – or conversely, to avoid those that will make us suffer. We believe that if only things were different, we would be happy.
This is the ego’s way of thinking. It is founded on the belief that how we feel inside depends upon what is going on around us. When the world is not the way we think it should be, we experience discontent. This can take many forms: dissatisfaction, disappointment, frustration, annoyance, irritation, depression, despair, sadness, impatience, intolerance, judgment, grievance, even grumbling. Whatever form it may take, this discontent is actually a creation of our own minds. It stems from how we see things, from the interpretations we put on our experience.
For example, if I am stuck in a traffic jam, I can see it as something that is going to make me suffer later – being late for an appointment, missing some experience, or upsetting someone – and thus begin to feel anxious, frustrated, or impatient. Or I can see it as the chance to relax, take it easy, and do nothing for a few minutes. Same situation; two totally different reactions. And the difference is purely in my mind.
The ego believes it has my best interests at heart, and holds on to its view of what I need. Locked into a fixed perception like this, it’s hard for me to see that I am stuck. I blame the world out there, rather than my beliefs about how things should be. So I tell myself a story of what should change in order for me to be happy, and set about trying to make it so.
When I find I cannot make the world the way I think it should be, then I might, if the need seems sufficiently important, beseech some higher power to intervene and change things for me. I am, in effect, asking it to do the bidding of my ego. Yet as most of us have discovered, the ego seldom knows what is truly best for us.
If, on the other hand, I recognize that my suffering may be coming from the way I am seeing things, then it makes more sense to ask not for a change in the world but for a change in my thinking. Instead of praying for the traffic jam to go away, it might be wiser to pray that my feelings of frustration and tension go away.
The help I need is in stepping out of the ego’s way of seeing. So when I pray, I ask, with an attitude of innocent curiosity: “Could there, perhaps, be another way of seeing this?” I do not try to answer the question myself, for that would doubtless activate the ego-mind, which loves to try and work things out for me. I simply pose the question, let it go, and wait.
What then often happens is that a new way of seeing dawns on me. It doesn’t come in the form of words; it comes as an actual shift in perception. I find myself seeing the situation in a new way.
One of the first times I prayed this way concerned some difficulties that I was having with my partner. She wasn’t behaving the way I thought she should (and how many of us have not felt that at times?). After a couple of days of strained relationship, I decided to pray, just inquiring if there might be another way of perceiving this.
Almost immediately, I found myself seeing her in a very different light. Here was another human being, with her own history and her own needs, struggling to navigate a difficult situation. Suddenly everything looked different. I felt compassion for her rather than animosity, understanding rather than judgment. I realized that for the last two days I had been out of love; but now the love had returned.
With conventional prayer I might have prayed for her to change. But the divine intervention I needed was not in her behavior but in my own mind, in the mindsets that were running my thinking.
The results of praying like this never cease to impress me. Invariably, I find my fears and judgments drop away. In their place is a sense of ease. Whoever or whatever was troubling me, I now see through more loving and compassionate eyes. Moreover, the new way of seeing often seems so obvious: Why hadn’t I seen this before? Asking this simple question allows me access to my inner knowing, and lets it shine into my life.
The answer doesn’t always come as rapidly as in the above example, though. Sometimes the shift happens later – in a dream or when I’m relaxing with nothing to do in that moment. The prayer sows the seed; it germinates in its own time. I don’t always get answers to such prayers. But even if I only get an answer half the time, it makes the asking well worthwhile.
The beauty of this approach is that I am not praying to some power beyond myself. I am praying to my own self for guidance. Below the surface thinking of my ego-mind, my inner being knows the truth. It sees where I have become caught in a particular mindset, and is ever-willing to help set me free.
Moreover, since my prayers are directed within, to my own essence, I have no concerns whether or not they will be heard. The one offering the prayer and the one receiving it are the same.
Make sure your self-talk is helping not hurting
James was a junior tennis champion. He was 16 years old and was hoping to enter the professional circuit. He came from a “tennis family.” He was four years old when he had his first lesson. He won his first competition when he was seven years old. There wasn’t enough cabinet space to display all the trophies he had won since then. The media often billed James as a “future star” of tennis. He was usually seeded number one for the competitions he played in. A lot was expected of James.
James had a perfect mix of natural talent and superb attitude. In tennis you need a great attitude because in every match you play you lose points, commit unforced errors, serve double faults, fail to make returns, and mishit shots, and you still have to remain positive. In fact, in tennis it is possible to lose more points than your opponent and still win the match! In spite of James’s great attitude, he had hit what he called a “mental wall” that he couldn’t dismantle. That was when he decided to see me.
James had not won a tournament for six months—his longest dry spell ever. He had reached seven consecutive competition finals, as he was expected to, but each time he had underperformed and lost to opponents he should have beaten.
“It’s since gone from bad to worse,” James told me. “I’ve now lost in the first round of my last three events.” As I listened more to James’s story, I agreed with him that his failure was not a talent gap, but a mental block.
I asked him, “What do you say to yourself just before you play a match?”
“I just focus.”
James struggled with this line of questioning. He was largely unaware of the inner dialogue of his thoughts. But he eventually identified a single mantra he repeated to himself: “I must win.”
I asked James, “Why precisely do you tell yourself, ‘I must win’?”
He told me, “It’s expected. I’m the favorite. I want to play professional tennis. I must win.”
In our first session, I asked James to say “I must win” out loud 50 times. Each time James repeated “I must win, I must win, I must win,” he noticed that this mantra actually increased his physical tension and mental anxiety. He also noticed how saying “I must win” generated mental pictures of tough points and poor shots.
Next, I got James to repeat “I can win” 100 times.
“Saying ‘I can win’ feels completely different,” he said. “I feel no negative pressure, the tension isn’t there, and all I feel is positive.”
James won his next three tournaments back to back. A different thought, a different result.
Here is the question: “Can a single thought really make that much difference?” Notice your conversation with yourself as you answer this question. It’s important.
A person’s inner dialogue is often the key difference between faith and doubt, courage and fear, success and failure. In essence, the inner dialogue sets the tone for every external dialogue with other people, life events, and creation itself.
People talk to themselves constantly. Psychologists call this behavior inner dialogue or subvocal speech. They estimate that you speak to yourself at a conservative average of 50 words a minute, 3,000 words an hour. If you listen to your inner dialogue, you will notice an assortment of observations, judgments, commentary, beliefs, doubts, hopes, fears, anxieties, chatter, and general nonsense. Fortunately, it takes only one great thought—one inspired piece of inner dialogue—to create some success.
The most important conversations you hold in life are the ones you hold with yourself. Your own inner dialogue is an important key to success.
Notice how often your inner dialogue is a commentary about you. In any moment, you may be praising yourself or putting yourself down; you may be believing in yourself or doubting yourself; you may be encouraging yourself or criticizing yourself; you may be acting as your own best coach or your own worst enemy. Inner dialogue is full of “I am” and “I am not” statements, “I can” and “I can’t” statements, and “I will” and “I won’t” statements. Listening for the wisdom, if any, in each statement is a true test of intelligence.
Thoughts are choices. The most accomplished people experience doubts every day, but they have learned how to choose a higher thought. Great actors experience huge performance anxiety, but they have learned how to choose a higher thought. Sports champions feel like quitting every day, but they too have learned how not to take these thoughts seriously. The same is true for successful artists, writers, teachers, physicians, and peacemakers. As you choose your thoughts, you choose your experience.
Most people I know experience a spectrum of hopes and fears every day of their lives. The people who experience consistent success have learned how to identify with the thoughts that create the best outcomes. Even these people may still hit rough patches. And when they do, they call someone, they pray, they meditate, they get coached, and they find a way to choose again.
Excerpted from Authentic Success by Robert Holden, Ph.D. Copyright © 2011 (Hay House).
Robert Holden, Ph.D., is the Director of The Happiness Project and Success Intelligence. Robert coaches leaders in business, education, politics and healthcare. Visit: RobertHolden.org.
We could end up just talking to ourselves
Roger Mills taught the children of Modello how to access their innate wisdom. Those children went home and the change in their attitudes caught the attention of their parents, who sought out the teachings of the Three Principles and the miracle of Modello unfolded on its own. Drugs, violence, unemployment, abuse and hatred all disappeared.
Did Roger Mills worry about the quality of the teachers? Or the purity of the teaching? No . . . he planted the seeds in the children and divine mind, divine consciousness, and divine thought worked their own magic.
In Cathy Casey’s recent video interview she talks of prisoners sharing Three Principles insights with each other using primitive communication techniques in an underground illegal network. Do you think the prisoners who received those insights cared about the “quality of the instructor” or the “purity of the message”? Those teachings are saving lives inside those prisons and raising the consciousness of the entire prison.
Humanity needs to hear the Three Principles message . . . any way we can get it out. No effort, no matter how crude, will fail to get results and raise the consciousness of those who hear it. As devotees of Sydney Banks, if we spend time and energy quibbling about the “quality of instructors” or the “purity of the teaching” or who should not be allowed into our groups, we will end up only talking to ourselves and this movement will die a painful death.
The only thing that really matters is that we continually fight the ignorance about how the improper functioning of mind, consciousness and thought creates fear, hatred and prejudice in humans. I for one am going to follow Roger Mills and Cathy Casey’s example and celebrate all who spread the word wherever and whenever as best they can. If it is a homeless person sharing mind, consciousness and thought wisdom with another homeless person, they will get my blessings and encouragement.
I hope you join me in this effort. Together we can change the world.
Let us consider what we all call experience
The entire universe, life, time, space, our family, everyone we know, is in this moment simply experience to us. We experience all the above through five senses, so I am calling all experience, sensations. These sensations are then given name and form by our ability to think and make distinctions.
Stop for a moment and simply experience the totality of your experience simply as sensations now.
Notice that what you experience, your sensations, are changing every moment and therefore cannot be described. In order to describe your experience of Now, you would have to speak volumes and as soon as you spoke, your experience would be already different.
Notice if when you experience like this, without trying to quantify or qualify your sensations, if there is a sense of boundary between you and your experience.
Notice that usually we think we can describe our experience and in this idea there is a sense of“ I”. Notice that in trying to describe our sensations, this activity appears to give the non-existent “ I” a sense of control.
Now notice that you are aware of any experience. This awareness is already present. Whilst being this awareness, see if you can describe awareness.
You will notice that this is impossible.
Where is it?
Are there any boundaries?
What is in it?
We have two words awareness and experience, but really they are only words. We can’t describe either.
Notice if there is any boundary between awareness and experience.
We have the capacity to objectify experience and then it seems like there is an observer and what is observed. This gives a sense of “ I”. From this we can see that the sense of “ I” is an activity and does not actually exist. As soon as the activity ceases, like in deep sleep, there is no sense of “ I”
When experiencing the totality of our experience of Now, there is no possibility to objectify, hence no sense of “ I”.
Now notice what happens if you would like to have a different experience from the experience you are having.
Firstly, is it possible? If the thought that it is possible to have a different experience that what we are having is entertained, then it looks as if “I” can do something about it.
As soon as we do not want the experience we are having, the not wanting it is also an experience and adds another layer into the tapestry of experience. Simply, what it boils down to is tightening up. Mostly we never consciously examine this tightening up and have an unconscious belief that this tightening up helps. Very often, we have resistance to this tightening up, which locks it in.
What we can notice about experience, is that it is always changing. When we don’t want the experience we are having, we freeze-frame it, or objectify it, because we can’t get rid of something that is changing. So in order to get rid of an experience or change it, we have to make it into something.
Check and see if what we make our experience into when we don’t want it, actually exists.
The only human drama there is, is not wanting the experience/ sensations we are having now.
See if this is true!
Not wanting the experience we are having, feels uncomfortable in the body and this registers as a problem. Our thinking is the capacity to solve problems, so our thinking tries to help by projecting what the problem is and what the solution could be. When we don’t want the experience we are having, I am going to call this resisting, all that happens is that our experience gets more intense or subjectively we call it worse. Now that it is worse we don’t want it either, so we resist again, which makes it worse and now that it is worse we don’t want it either, so we resist, ad infinitum. In a matter of moments we feel out of control, the experience we don’t want is still there and we feel overwhelmed. Our experience feels bigger than us. Most people spend their entire lives feeling overwhelmed. There is a sense of too much to do and there is a constant underlying feeling of stress and the feeling that we have to run just to survive.
For most of us, the habit is to tighten up as soon as we wake, if we don’t wake up already contracted, from what we have dreamt. We do this by thinking of what we have to do this day and unconsciously or consciously believing that this tightening up somehow helps us to survive.
Once we have tightened up, this registers as a problem and then our mind tries to help ………….. etc
In western psychology, what we call the subconscious mind is everything we never want to experience again and everything we think we want to experience, in other words all our unfilled desires, that we think will make us happy. All of this is our resistance to our experience NOW.
This is what our thinking produces when we have sensations we are resisting, in trying to help us by identifying what the problem is and what the solution could be.
As soon as we think we know what the problem is, in other words, whats wrong outside or inside of us, we project that what is “wrong” needs changing or fixing. We spend enormous amounts of energy trying to do the impossible. The non-existent “ I” trying to change, fix or get rid of what doesn’t exist.
Stop. Notice what your mind is constantly busy with.
Notice if what your mind is working with in this moment brings you peace. Could you for a moment simply let go of believing that thinking will help? Could you let go of believing that tightening up will help?
In this moment, being embodied awareness, aware in every cell, simply being, how is it? Notice if there is any boundary.
Notice that all experience is welcome. Some call this unconditional love or everything.
It is never the experience we are having that troubles us, it is whether or not there is an automatic habit of trying to not have the experience we are already having that troubles us.
Notice where in your body you experience not wanting the experience you are having. How does it feel? Can you notice or find anything worthwhile about resisting your experience? Could you let go of resisting having the experience you are having.
Most people measure themselves and their lives by their experience. What we could call waking up, is a shift, where we no longer believe in the describing of our sensations. In other words, we stop believing our thinking and the whole activity of trying to separate from our sensations.
Notice, that, That which is aware, is not a thing, not an object that you can sense. Some call this nothing. Where does this begin and end?
No beginning no end. This answers the koan, where were you before you were born.
A famous sage said, “When I know I am nothing this is wisdom and when I know I am everything this is love and between the two my life flows”.
The Keith Blevens Handout
At The Thursday, May 19th Three Principles Meetup group Joe Bailey had an excellent article by Keith Blevens “How our Thinking Works”. For those that missed the handout here it is: Blevens-Handout
Good Stories and Bad Stories
|Written by Gina Lake|
|The egoic mind is obsessed with its story about how life is going for me. Have you noticed? It’s always checking to see how things are going for me and adjusting its story about my life accordingly. When something “good” happens, the story is a good one; when something “bad” happens, the story turns bad. On some days the story of me is going great, while on others it takes a terrible turn! This telling of stories turns life into a rollercoaster: One minute you’re up (happy), and one minute you’re down (unhappy), depending on how your story is going or on what specifics in your story you are focusing on.
When the moment is stripped of any story about how your life is going, then life is pretty simple and uncomplicated. Things are arising in the moment—sensations, thoughts, sights, sounds, intuitions, inspirations, urges to act, desires, and feelings. All of those things are life happening. We respond or not respond to these things, and that is part of life happening as well. Part of what shows up in most moments is also some kind of thought about how things are going. Often it’s a story about not having something, wanting something, or not wanting to do or experience something. Even when the story is a good one—“Things are going great,” “I’m making lots of money,” “I’m feeling wonderful,” “I have everything I want”—there is still only real life, showing up the way it does, as sensations, thoughts, sights, sounds, intuitions, inspirations, urges to act, desires, and feelings. The same things need to get done (e.g., take a shower, do the laundry, go to the store, walk the dog, do your work, etc.) whether your story about how life is going is a good one or a bad one.
Most would agree that a good story is preferable to a bad one. Good stories make us feel good, and bad ones make us feel bad. Stories color our experience of real life: When our story is good, we don’t mind taking a shower, doing the laundry, going to the store, and doing all the other things that are part of real life, part of the moment. We feel happier and act more loving when our story about how our life is going is a good one. When our story is a bad one, whatever is showing up in life tends to feel like a burden and a problem, even things that might not ordinarily be. We resist life. We feel bad, and we are likely to behave badly toward others. More...
Not to be Missed Readings
Most of the suggested readings are available at your neighborhood library by way of the wonderful Minnesota cooperative library system called MNLink. With a library card from any Minnesota library you can order books that are available in any Library in the state (I’ve gotten some books from as far away as Montana) and have them delivered right to your local library. Two of Sydney Banks books are available via MN Link, Second Chance and The Enlightened Gardener. I love this service. But if you are serious about this stuff you’ll want to start building your own personal library.