Lessons From Integrity

    I plan on starting a new program later this year.  It will be Lessons from Integrity.  Integrity has to do with integrating all the different parts of our self. We are more than just a mind, a body, and emotions. We have a Spirit, a Soul, and a Consciousness as well.  In the Self Mastery Course I have principally focused on the beliefs in the mind that create negative thoughts and contribute to emotional reactions.  For changing one’s life, I feel this is the best place to start.  However, if we are to live truly happy lives, we will need more.

    We have emotions that are from other sources than our belief system or mind made.  We have genuine authentic emotional experiences and are a valuable part of our life.  They inform us and help guide our decisions, relationships, and behavior.  If you want to be in a healthy relationship you will want to feel these natural emotions.  Our natural emotions also help guide us to work in a career we enjoy and is fulfilling to our soul.

    We also have desires that arise from our soul. Instinctively we seek out community and social connections. This nurtures something in us at a Soul level.  At the same time, our Spirit may desire some peace and quiet that requires us to be alone.  These opposing desires won’t make any sense to us at the level of our mind. Our mind is looking to organize these desires in a simple logical way and so the conflict is confusing.

    Living in our Integrity is about balancing these different forces, feelings, and desires within us. They are only in conflict because our mind hasn’t been informed of the larger picture and how to include all of them. We need time and connection with our community and family. We also need time alone, or in nature, to satisfy the yearning of our Spirit. Men may need more time alone than women for reasons too involved to explain here.

    All of this comes down to a deeper level of work that I will be sharing beginning in the summer.  It will help you listen within and get in touch with what is in alignment with your own Integrity.  The details and logistics of the program are still being worked out. As of now I envision it being a live video cast for 2 hours once a month. It will likely be on Sunday morning 9AM Pacific time.  Since the process will build over time it is not feasible for people to drop in and out, or to start late.  There will be homework assignments to practice in the weeks between and probably support groups to share what is going on with the changes in your life.

    A pre-requisite for doing the Lessons from Integrity program will be that you are through, or mostly through the Basic Self Mastery course. You will also need to have done, or be doing Phase II of the Self Mastery Course (previously called the Advanced Series). This background work will make the advanced practices we will be working on much more effective. You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.

    I will let you know of the dates and times and other details in the future.  In the meantime I wanted to let people know of the opportunity and to get started with the Basic Self Mastery Series, or the Phase II so they can be best prepared to get the most out of the Lessons From Integrity Course.

    How Our Mind Works

    One of the ways our Mind Works is to automatically apply meaning to words and other symbols.  This is a function of our learned belief system.

    I am having my book, MindWorks translated to Spanish.  This presents some interesting challenges.  For starters, I don’t speak or read Spanish. So I am relying on the kindness of strangers and deciding to trust.  That part is somewhat easy. Getting the meaning correct is a different thing. Just translating one word in the title, MindWorks, is a challenge by itself.

    MindWorks is a made up word.  You won’t find it in Webster’s dictionary. Although I did check, and it seems there is an urban dictionary definition. It is “the art of creating intellectual value.”  That is not what I had in mind when I gave that title to my book. That’s as equally inaccurate as the definition I learned in engineering school. The physics definition of “Work” is  “Applying a Force to an object and moving it over a Distance. Good thing that there are other definitions for the word “Work” that make it work.

    I thought my book conveyed a good understanding of “HOW” our mind WORKS.  By that I mean the way our mind functions.  I also thought that it conveyed that our mind is constantly producing things, like thoughts, emotions, ideas, images. In that way it is a processing plant, like a foundry or metal works.  MindWorks is also a reference to the work we can do on our mind to improve it and make it operate (work) better.  It is also indicative of the final goal of making our mind work in a high functioning way.

    So because the word can have multiple meanings, and all of them can work, I thought it would be a clever title.

    As I work at changing thoughts, beliefs, clearing up drama from misunderstandings in relationships, and just trying to communicate a message clearly this word-smithing becomes relevant. All of it involves language and meaning and a lot of it involves words.  Often I think about how confusing it is and easy it is to be misunderstood.  I also ponder how we can assume we understand something clearly even though it is not what the speaker or writer intended.

    So the editor on the Spanish translation of my book informs me that there is no direct translation for the “Works” part of my title to Spanish.  This isn’t surprising. I can google translate, and it gives me “funciona la mente”. Which refers to the functioning of the mind.  My editor thinks I should go more with the “trabajo” verb which translates more as “to labor”.  This would work better than “construcion” which means construction or building of something.  There are other words that are close but don’t give the same effect as Mindworks.  They are more often used to mean things like “Tricks of the Mind” or “Resetting your Mind”.  I think these are meanings that I would like to include because that is part of what the book is about.  There just isn’t one word that includes all of them the way it does in English.

    All of this leads me to some interesting questions.  It is pretty clear that we can easily mis-translate something from another language.  But closer to home I think this can happen even when two people are using a common language.

    If someone asks you, “Why did you do that?” you can respond in different ways depending on what you think they are asking.  If our boss asks us we might feel we need to justify or defend our choice. This may be somewhat due to the relative position of authority of the person asking us. When we were children we most likely felt a need to defend and explain when adults asked us.  However if we are the adult, or the boss who is asked, we feel more power and authority and aren’t as likely to interpret that we are being challenged.  We are more likely to see the question as a curious inquiry. Thinking someone is challenging us or doubting us is a meaning we can mis-apply easily. It can also go the other way as we ask someone out of curiosity. They hear a challenge, or a doubt in your voice from their own beliefs and might feel the need to defend their actions.

    What if your boss asks you if you finished something before it is due?  Do you feel they are pushing you? Do you feel they are expecting it or wanting it done early? Do you think they forgot about the agreed deadline?  Do you feel they aren’t holding up their end of the agreement?  Or do you feel she just wants a progress update and you are happy to give it?  You can apply a lot of meanings that are never spoken and produce emotions from your implied meanings that aren’t necessarily part of the question asked. It all depends on what your mind interprets the meaning to be. These interpretations happen instantly and unconsciously. They are part of how our belief system applies and can distort our understanding.  It can even cause huge emotional reactions unnecessarily. What the belief system is doing can be difficult to perceive because it operates in the same invisible space of how we automatically translate meaning.

    At this point it can help to do some WORK on your communication and notice how we automatically apply different meanings.  The kind of work that might seem like labor.  First you apply a force and will a distance between you and your emotions so you can consider a different interpretation. You make the work effort to deconstruct what was said and misunderstood.  You search and consider alternate meanings. You then work to reconstruct a new meaning that is clear, or at least clearer.  There are some tricks to this, ones that aren’t employed automatically by the way a mind translates words into meaning. The mind works very quickly and automatically to translate what we hear into meanings. It takes into account context, tone, circumstance, emotions, facial and body language, and derives the meaning that works (“functions”) the best. Once it has a conclusion of meaning it rarely considers alternates. We fixate on what our mind has worked up and assume that what it worked to provide us was correct.  Our mind can produce a lot of meanings and often they can be misunderstandings.  It requires a bit of mindfulness to observe your mind translating words into meanings and to recognize that there may be different, or more accurate meaning, than the one we first apply. Asking for clearer understanding may seem laborious at times, but it is far less work than assuming the incorrect understanding.

    I’m pretty sure that different people who read this will interpret different meanings from what I wrote. There seem to be multiple meanings for the word “Work.”  I wonder how we can expect to always translate that meaning correctly, just in one language.  I wonder if we might be misunderstanding other more complex communication, such as phrases, whole sentences, or paragraphs correctly?

    We can use the same words and come away with different meanings. It is work (effort) to understand each other. Of course if you don’t make the effort, it makes your relationships a lot more labor intensive work. The important question to ask yourself is, “Are you willing to do the work (perform the tasks) that will make your relationships work (function) better.

    I hope that helps you to be aware of just how quickly our mind applies meaning to words we hear and read without you noticing. And hopefully question your thoughts and beliefs a bit more.

    More insights available from the Self Mastery Course and my book MindWorks.

    Becoming The Observer

    Becoming the Observer is more than just thinking about yourself. It really is a different state of mind. Whether you are doing meditation, mindfulness practices, therapy, or other personal development work, becoming the observer is a critical skill to learn in order to make personal changes. Being the observer is more than noticing how you think about your self, and even your behaviors.

    Being an observer of your self requires that you be aware of very subtle emotions, impulses, feelings in your body, and behaviors. In this state of mind you will have a different mental process. It would be more like sitting in a hunting perch watching and waiting to see what comes through the meadow. This can be difficult when we watch our self. Many of our behaviors, emotions, and impulses are automatic, and keep our attention so engaged that we don’t have any bandwidth left to notice when that impulse, thought, or emotion happened. We end up doing the response before noticing the sensation or thought that stimulated a response. Once we are engaged in the response or reaction, the opportunity to notice is lost.

    Take time to listen to this free audio which will guide you through a meditation exercise on becoming the observer.

    Becoming the Observer Exercise Practice ( 25 min)

    The ability to become the observer of your self and your behavior is a vital step in changing your behavior and emotional reactions.  For instance, if you are prone to get angry ( or some other emotion or sabotaging behavior) you want to be able to choose not to say something before it comes out of your mouth in a way that you will regret. Since most outbursts happen so fast, just within the time it takes to have a nerve react, how do you intercede when the common sense of your intellect seems displaced during this time? It may seem to only show up after to tell you how poorly you handled it?  The answer is to develop a number of new neural pathways in the brain that act as a kind of monitoring system. This will give your mind, and your brain, a new way of working to help change the old ways.

    New neural pathways can be accomplished by doing some exercises regularly over a few weeks. Once developed, you will have a kind of conscious monitoring system in your mind paying attention to little triggers, your emotional state, and patterns of thoughts that often precede your outbursts. By being the observer you will have learned the important signposts to look for within your self, or in the environment that tell you that you are nearing one of those angry outbursts.  Before investigating these lead up signals you won’t know they are there.  You usually discover them through a process of reviewing past outbursts.  In any case, once you have them you will see the signposts and getting a warning.  This is what the observer part of your mind is able to do.

    Once you have the warning, you are also in a different conscious state. Not only do you have the observer mind working but now you can also have your common sense reasoning on site early to consider the consequences of an angry outburst and that will help motivate you not to go there. With your observer active in your mind, along with your common sense reasoning, you have a much better chance of refraining when the angry aspect shows up to rant. You will have three parts of your mind working, two of them for refraining, and one pushing for the angry outburst. In the beginning the two parts might still be small and get overrun by the anger, but with time those patterns of the mind become stronger and can hold back the angry behaviors and words.

    As you progress further you might use the power of your observer skills to look into the sources of your anger. You will find the exercises and practices of the Self Mastery Course will both help you to develop this observer state of mind, and give you an objective mindset from which to investigate the beliefs causing your reactions and behaviors.

    Aspects of Being the Observer

    When you get good at observing your self you will notice it the moment something triggers you. You will notice the first sensation of feeling uncomfortable, the impulse to want to do something in response, such as move, speak, or to withdraw from someone.  When you are very skilled at being an observer you will be able to observe this impulse and refrain from acting on it. In this moment you will notice a second response, the one that happens in our body and emotions when we don’t follow the automated response of the first stimulus.  It is in these moments that we grow out of old patterns and begin to consciously create new patterns and behaviors.

    Becoming the observer requires that we do it in a neutral witness manner.  It is not enough to just think about our self, any egotistical person can do that. When the ego part of the mind thinks about our self it often does it with a mode of comparison. The ego part of the mind will compare us to someone else, or an idealized version of our self we hold in our belief system.  It is evaluating how well or how poorly we did something based on that standard for comparison. It might even judge us for not being very spiritually aware. It produces thoughts about whether other people are noticing us and what they might think. It is an egotistical thought that says we are not meditating enough or not doing enough mindfulness practices.  While these may seem like observations, they are not. These thoughts are criticisms with an agenda.  The result of which is that we feel worse.

    When we act in the way of a neutral observer we notice different things. We notice when those thoughts are arising from parts of our ego and the emotions they produce. In more heightened states of awareness we might also notice the idealized version in the background of our mind being used as comparison. We might notice the idea that we could sit down and spend some time in quiet meditation, and then notice how our emotions, thoughts, and body reacts to that idea. As an observer we might notice negative thoughts rebut why it is not a good time, we are busy, or that we will be better served by something else instead. In these moments we can see the micro seconds it takes for our agenda to be changed, procrastination to happen, or for a conflict in agenda to arise and feel uncomfortable. The Observer state of mind doesn’t see any of these rebuttals or redirects as a problem as that would have an agenda. It just notices as if you were studying the brush stroke style in a particular painting, or the wood grain in a piece of furniture. If it were to think anything about them it would say, “I notice a rebuttal or conflict coming from parts of my mind,,, interesting.”

    The Observer Aware of Itself as a State of Mind

    When you become the observer you will notice that your thoughts arise all by themselves. You will notice that your mind thinks all by itself and you can sit there and listen to it and watch the images it projects. In the beginning of noticing you will often have reaction to the chatter of internal dialog. There might be thoughts wishing it would quiet down, or that you aren’t meditating very well, or confused as to why they don’t stop. At this stage you are having too many reactions to really be the observer yet, but you are a step closer to that state of mind. After a while you move on to observe the reactions as well as the initial impulses. This is another state of mind for extending your mindfulness practice.

    One of the byproducts of this process is that you realize that you can sit and listen without responding to the initial impulses, or the reactions to those impulses and thoughts. When you are doing this you realize yourself as something separate from these impulses and the mind that is doing the thinking, talking, and reacting. You are calm and conscious of your self while around you the mind is busy with chatter and impulses to do something. You become aware that your mind is separate from you. With this awareness you also become aware that you are separate from your mind. This can be both a very interesting new sense of self, and uncomfortably unsettling at the same time. The unsettling part will soon pass.

    As you practice becoming the observer you will notice more subtle things that affect you.  In the beginning you might notice you are procrastinating. Over time you will notice the different things you are doing to procrastinate. With progress you will notice how when you think of starting on a task that your mind jumps to checking your email, or calling a friend.  With more practice you might observe a kind of automatic impulse down your arm that moves your hand to your computer or phone.  You will become aware that you really barely thought about doing something and your body was already in the action.  You may begin to wonder what is making this happen and why does it happen?  This kind of curiosity will help with motivation to practice more and diversify your mindfulness practices. In this state of mind there can be a sense of curiosity about all these subtle things happening.  You might have a state of wonder, or watchfulness while watching your mind, as if you were waiting at a coffee shop for someone you are interested in but have only talked on the phone.

    Resistance to this Mindfulness Practice

    At the same time, the ego part of your mind will likely be doing things to push you away from further investigation. Becoming the observer of these resistance dynamics such as procrastination challenges the status quo of the ego and unconscious belief system.  This may cause uncomfortable feelings.  This will lead to the next layer of practice for an observer.  You will need to observe these uncomfortable feelings and refrain from acting on them. You might notice that these feelings send the signal to your mind that you should get busy doing something so you feel better. The result of acting on these feelings will likely be that you become so busy that you don’t have time to practice being the observer as intently as you were doing. You might notice that this is a kind of defense by the belief system to stop the changes in new behavior you are making.  What I am saying here is that your ego mind and unconscious beliefs will put up various kinds of resistance and roadblocks to your practice of becoming the observer. And of course each person’s experience will vary.  Some people might find it easy, but I have found those people to be rare. Sometimes it happens that a person is in a place in their life that such a self awareness happens quickly and easily. For most people becoming a self aware observer is to be worked at.

    As a practical exercise, begin sitting still and noticing all the sensations you feel with each inhale and exhale of your breath.  Then begin to observe all the things that come to pull your attention away from observing the sensation of breathing. This will give you a good start for developing the skills of a conscious observer.

    You will find many useful practices and exercises to help you become a more self aware observer in the Self Mastery Course.  These are action oriented exercises, and often very practical like the meditation you can find in the early part of this article.

    This article and all content provided by Gary van Warmerdam

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    The Self Mastery Course: Practical Tools for getting rid of the emotional drama in your life

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