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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Advice to Someone Looking for Their Dreams

Examine your cultural assumptions and the conditioning of your family so you don't have to repeat what they did or what they want you to do. If people don't know why you're doing something, they're always going to assign a negative reason for your actions and that's just a survival dinosaur. Hesitate to assign a reason to what could be purely stupidity, and also, there is probably a method to your madness...meaning, embrace change and see meaning in the mundane. Leave negativity in the dust by going toward what you may want.

Never discount the body's signals! Sleep when you're tired. Stop or rest when it hurts. Maintenance is always cheaper than repair. Health is your most important asset to happiness.

Don't sell yourself short just because you don't have good enough or possible opportunities sitting in front of you. Go out and actively explore. You're never going to starve in this culture as long as you can smile, talk and thumb a ride, although you can freeze. Talk to everyone you don't know and show them what's important to you, what motivates you. Strangers want to help you more than you realize. If you make it easy for them to help you by making yourself ready for what they can do for you, they will. Mostly the reason people do not help others is they don't want their gifts or time going unappreciated.

If you have some ideas about what you might want to do, like travel, kids, etc. make a time line of your whole life and generally think of how long things might take. It takes no more than six to ten years of doing just about anything and you can become expert at it, even if you only do it part time. Relationships and learning about them of course will take longer than that, but you don't have to repeat your mistakes more than twice.

Money only opens doors faster. For me, experience is far better than money, even though it takes more time. Get the experience directly by finding people who are already doing it and offer your apprenticeship or friendship. Or go the traditional route if you like schools or if it's required. Remember that the training to do something and the actual nuts and bolts of what you are going to end up doing when you are finished may be very different. Find out if the training leaves something essential out - and go get that first.

Whatever you find yourself doing - that's it! Or what could make you happy is definitely some of it, unless you're not choosing what you do. Look for the obvious and go from there to tailor one of the talents or interested you discover for your own preferences and needs.

The way it worked for me is eventually, whatever I got interested in and kept doing would turn from a hobby into becoming paid for it as time went by. It hasn't been an unhappy strategy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Recognizing Happiness

I've very curious how people figure out what they wanted to do for a living. But I think that the more important and virtual question for me would be, "How can I recognize it when I just did something that made me happy?"

Qualities of happiness for me are subtle, easy, effortless, a sense as natural as breathing. This is opposed to qualities that were more intense, such as no-bad-yucky. I knew right away what I hated, but it was not so easy to learn what I wanted. Things that are not intense require repeated investigation before you really know if you like them or now, or how much it is possible that you might really enjoy them.

So that indicated another question: "How could I check out anything I become interested in doing more of?"

My best strategy that worked really well over and over again was that I would find someone who was doing what it was I thought I might want to do and I'd hang out with them for awhile - being a helpful guest in their life. That would give me a much better sense of what it was really like to do it before I actually did it myself, or trained to do it.

My most brilliant idea to find someone who was doing what I might want to do came from my dad's example. He used to find grown-ups who were doing for a living anything that I expressed an interest in as a child. He was an inventor, so for him my changing whirlwind of interests did not phase him one bit. Because he was 63 when I was born in 1890s, he had seen progress from the time of gas lamps, so he believed that the people who could tell where culture was headed were the creative people.

As I expressed a talent in art, my dad took me to art museums; to art schools; to places where artists rented studios and exhibited in a park together. When I began talking to the DJ, he took me to radio stations. I was horse crazy, so he found a family with a girl my age who raised Arabian horses and paid for riding lessons. He took me backstage at the circus when he saw me trying to do vaulting on a rented horse that I had trained to canter in a tight circle. He dropped me off at the veterinarian's office to help with the dogs and cats that came in. He took me to carrier pigeon exhibitions. He taught me how to get to the San Diego Zoo by myself with a drawing pad and how to dress like the keepers so the birds would sit right next to me.

I'm now thinking of taking his example and doing tours for kids at places where people are working to give them a taste of what it was like to be doing it as a living, as he did for me.

My first dreams were to be an artist, (which included a kind of hippie soiree scene) and to go find somewhere with some people where I belonged that wasn't in an urban area, and then to live as often as possible in a "state of grace" consciousness.

Now it's fun to be ready for new dreams!

Monday, August 28, 2006

How I Came To Bolinas

When I was a kid of twelve years old and living in Riverside, CA I had a repeating dream. I was standing on a pastureland cliff, looking out at the ocean. I had never seen a pastureland cliff before, because I had never been north of Santa Barbara. There was a guy standing next to me, shorter than me, with hair flying away from his pony tail and a goatee beard. When I would look at him to see his face from a front view, my dream would end.

The first time I saw Bolinas, it was from the overlook on Panoramic highway over Stinson Beach when I was sixteen. Somehow my mom let me go on a two week camping trip with five other teenagers, average age seventeen. On another trip up highway one, my boyfriend and I picked up John Milan, a famous watercolor painter. He took us to Piero's house where he lived and showed us his paintings - amazing. He told me at the time that I would return to Bolinas, because it was my home. Strangely enough, he turned out to be prophetic in this regard.

When I went to art college in Oakland, I met this person and fell in love with him. I figured that he was the person in my dream when he took me to his house on the edge of the cliff when walked out in the dark to look at the ocean. It was a very strange experience to have realized that and walked away from the relationship, but he taught me so much about how to be in relationship. I was very lucky to have known him for the three and a half years I did. We broke up because I couldn't handle him going through his drug phase in the eighties. I'm sorry I didn't stay with him, but if I had I would have missed all of the amazing other guys that were my consorts through the years.

When I broke up with him, I decided to stay in Bolinas because I had some sense that there was something going on here that I wanted to be a part of. That something was a sense of community - something I knew nothing about then. At this time, it was really one roving party that provided for everyone with an adult education program called Faultline. People would offer classes, get paid by the school system and everyone would go to everyone else's class! What a fun time it was in "the golden age of Bolinas."

There used to be four hundred or so people who were available for any hairbrained scheme that anyone thought up. You could always find help with whatever you wanted to do or make with other people. Now there are only fifty volunteers in the pool or less, so it's very different to make something happen to keep the community center alive. I guess that most of the old geysers who were young and energetic then are grown up, having bought a house and had kids, etc. So now there is no time for the things they did when they were young such as put on theater, make art and music together and dance.

Near where I have lived for the last thirty years:

Maybe I can move to another spot and instigate something like this happening all over again? Bolinas has been a template for how to have a good time in a small town. Now I know what community is all about.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Talk to a Dead Artist

It was at planning an "ahrt scene" one day where a bunch of us came up with the idea to make a little cardboard enclosure as part of the event. On the outside we made a sign: "Talk to a Dead Artist." You could talk to the dead artist who was available at the time. People studied up on artists before the event and then they impersonated them from inside the cardboard box. Once it got going, other people who knew something (or nothing) about an artist would jump into the enclosure as they got inspired.

People who wanted to be inside and impersonate a certain dead artist only had to make up and put a little sign out that said, for instance, "Cezanne is In," or, "John Lennon is In." (We decided that musician would be considered artists too.)
It was amazing what happened, actually. When someone really had someone else to listen to them, people were asking deep questions of life, the universe and everything so the impersonator had to be quite original and thoughtful!

If that were available for you to play with - which artist would you be and which artist would you like to talk with!?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Implied Opposites in Language

I've been working on this for awhile. I'm hoping that it's possible to learn to not use dualistic - either/or type comparisons in the way that we talk when we explain. There are many reasons to do this.

One of the best is positivity, the ability to change.

I'm not so sure why positive, happy experiences are regarded by most people in this culture as being so... banal? Why is negativity sensationalized? If someone does not understand the motives of a mystery, why do they so quickly assign the most negative explanation for the other person's motives? We must be wired to be paranoid, because it's so common in our culture, or at least the one I know.

It seems to me what is deceptive here about experiencing virtual drama is that it desensitizes all sensation. Your sensitivity in general eventually gets dulled, unless you know how to sharpen it. The danger is you might not recognize the subtle beginnings of potential happiness. You begin to assume that what will make you happy has the same intensity level as the excitements of (virtual) negativity. Once you can only recognize intensity, it's easy to forget that happy experiences are subtle. It may take some time to recognize that you do like something or enjoy doing it.

Opposites are a concept of our culture. They don't really exist, as far as I can see. Each thing is just - what it is, not opposite something else. Culture says that if you feel something intense, it's opposite is a direct match. This is a seriously self-deceptive assumption that robs people of recognizing what can make them happy. This desire for intensity has seeped into the way people talk. You don't need to use implied opposites used to illustrate your point, but many people use them as exclusive examples.

There's more reasons that this use of language is a problem. It encourages misunderstanding almost as bad a using a cliche to talk about something. It also has the effect of creating positional arguments when there are none. This comparison of opposing characteristics is a very common activity that contributes to misunderstanding and positional arguing. Using opposites is an expression of a temporarily divided examples, an expression of an artificially divided self. We do it when we talk, it's very common. We have to work really hard to NOT do it. (See, I did it there. I could have said it takes a great deal of effort to both interrupt your own habit of stating something in the negative AND in the next moment come up with another creative response.)

The worst trouble with statements that claim their value by using an implied opposite is that everybody has assigned a different opposite to the one you imply. You don't communicate unless you can somehow read each other's mind.

Many times, when looking for an instance, people habitually go to the extreme to illustrate their point. Life isn't often that neat and obvious. It turns out that generalizations, such as what constitutes "opposite," can be very slimy communication tools.
butterfly closeup It's a bit like a parent giving a toddler two things to choose from; the intent is to give the kid the idea that they have the ability to make their own decisions. The "twick" is (as my four year old friend Adam once said) to be able to think of a completely different choice that has another set of choices that answers both his parent's perference and what he might want. Pretty good for a little kid, huh?

Authorship of Ideas and Ego

Inverness Park and Elephant Mountain In a dialogue group I am still a member of eight years ago an interesting attitude came up about using other people's ideas as sole content. It was quite common at that time that a dialoguer would throw out an idea into the center of the room to see if other people wanted to talk about it - as if it was an idea that came from nowhere, as if they had not said it. The intent was to keep "ego" out of the attachment to the idea.

Having read an author's book was commonly being used in this group as shorthand for what a talker wanted to say - often without giving a little synopsis of the content of the book that was being cited. So it acted a little as name-dropping
sometimes, which was a problem for some people who had not read the book. Dialogue was pretty easily turned into more of a book report or info dump rather than a conversation between peers. It divided the room between those who knew the book and those who didn't and made dialogue more like a classroom.

Evidently people saw citing authors as a way of talking about the ideas without admitting it was "their idea." After investigating this assumption, it came out that talking from your own personal experience was regarded for awhile by this particular dialogue group as evidence of "ego attachment." Ego displays were, of course, to be avoided at all costs carefully by everyone because it meant people may have an "investment" for bringing up the experience. This smelled too much like a personal adgenda of what they wanted the group to do for them. Personal agendas were to be avoided because this was mentioned specifically by David Bohm as something to be avoided. If you had a personal agenda, then you kept steering the conversation back to what you wanted to talk about and that meant it wasn't free to go toward something new for everyone.

When we finally got around to talking about our conceptions of ego, what evolved was a very interesting series of observations. Many member of the group concluded to resolving to risk more personal stories of core experiences behind the various beliefs they held...and this has continued into the Dialogue group that we have today.

The group decided that many author's ideas were all valid, but really, why not admit why you are bringing them up and where it came from that made you hold them to be valuable? Essentially, we discovered as a group that people were being careful to protect their ego by not admitting authorship of their own ideas. There was a risk when the experience of how you came by your idea was not a logical one and it could be picked apart irreverently by the group.

Then the question came out of what exactly does someone have to lose by revealing your core values to a group in dialogue? Together we realized that talking about "other people's ideas" more often meant mistrust that you may be attacked by the group or someone in the group!

So we decided to "dare" to reveal core experiences to each other. We went into as a group what exactly was "attacking" and what was considered "investigation" and we explored exactly where this line was. Over time, this ongoing conversational topic evolved into a quite a codified ideal of what the group was going to put up with and for how long from people who had no clue what Dialogue was. This was a quite tolerant group of people, so there was little "rule-making" other than someone would ask for another topic when two people would get into what we joked was a "Duo-logue." Our solution for that was that another person would suggest that new topic. Also, people in the group saw a need to say something to come to the defense of someone they believed was being "attacked." This happened by identifying common debate tactics that discredit the speaker such as name-calling.

One time, two people who were strangers to Dialogue came into the group and got into a passionate, exclusive conversation they would not stop. After what we usually did for a solution described above obviously did not work, we realized we needed to invent another measure to deal with the situation. Nobody seemed to want to play the authority to remove the offenders from the room. Suddenly, the entire group of about thirty people responded in the heartbeat of one breath; every person suddenly started talking to their neighbor in multiple private conversations, drowning out the two who wanted to continue arguing in front of everyone! It was a hilarious solution - but it worked.

Anyway - those are some of the interesting things that happened in our dialogue group.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fitting the Culture

Yes, sometimes people who don't know me act as if I'm flaunting my freedom. I realize that I would do better for making their fearful reactions go off to turn my intensity levels down a little. But sometimes I just get miffed having to constantly toe the line of a repressed, unaffectionate, confused, dispassionate society.

In Dialogue, a beautiful, talented Latina talked about how she has to hold back her "natural" sensuality, or "natural" expressiveness around the white people so they don't feel intimidated and uncomfortable around her. She asked fascinating questions; "Why shouldn't these hung up, repressed people feel their own uncomfortableness and lack of creativity? Why do I have to put their consideration first and reign in my ability to express myself?" It was quite a rant to be on the other side of. Because I have felt it so often myself with how affectionate I am compared to how my culture never touches each other except as a sexual come-on. For years I've learned to "train" people to allow me to touch them without freaking out.

The reason to "rein myself in" has to be a better and better one to change myself around for the benefit of someone else as I get older. My skill in establishing rapport and bringing hung up people over to my point of view seems to be getting more and more convincing, flexible and artistic. Somehow, I find it working more often in my favor rather than against me.

Now that I've got a working model after thirty years of sorting out a particular subculture, I'm about to change cultures - ironic, isn't it?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Percentage of the Whole

It has always bothered me that I have such a tricky time using English words to describe the relative percentages of how many different feelings I might have in my relationship to someone or something. When I say something using English, other people I'm talking with can't get past the connotation that what I am saying is the priority quality of what I mean, merely by the fact that I uttered it.

I don't know if that's the mannerism of talking I learned as a child, or what, but I notice its limitation in communication and I don't know what to do about it. What I really want to do is to say something, then say lots of somethings, and then assign a percentage to them independently that shows their relationship to how I feel about the whole thing I'm concerned with. I can't do that so easily with English. So thats' why I think English words are a lousy way to describe what I'm trying to make the language do. I want a way that I can articulate many opposing feelings and points of view, and then I want to assign their priority in relationship to how I am going to allow me to guide my decision-making, or create the effect I'm going to have on someone else to communicate, teach or entertain. I want to have an emotional truth, a factual truth, a complete fantasy and a bottom line truth - and many more truths - all operating at once inside me...because this is how I experience my own perceptual self.

If I am communicating using music, or art, or other multi-media, etc. I can contain all the opposing points of view into a whole much easier. In words there are so many oppositions that are supposed to preclude and cancel out each other, that I am constantly frustrated when I try to communicate the relational importance of the content of what I'm saying. What my culture defines as opposite gets in my way.

I imagine that's why description is so much of our image of something and how it seems to us now. It strikes me also that's why science tries to limit experiments so their descriptive results actually "prove" something about this shared reality that we squirelley humans are perceiving and creating.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why Make Up New Words?

Someone in Dialogue was wondering about the relationship of the experience to the word for it. I think what they were saying was that language is a code for the cultural agreement of experience, and that experience "drives" someone to make a word for it. I'm not sure about this - what do you think?

Voicebox - drawing by Franis Engel Drawn during Dialogue by Franis

When a person has an experience, the language they happen to know structures what they may say about it and how they describe it - as well as their command of the language. The lack of language to describe certain common human experiences begs for the various artistic disciplines. Why else would the arts exist if not to describe what language can't quite cover?

I've had some "unexplained experiences" that didn't fit into anything that I previously knew a person could experience. After such and my attempts to describe it, I also noticed that the person you tell your raw experience to tends to structure how you express yourself about it. Much later I realized it was important for me to go back to remembering the raw original experience, instead of remembering what I said about it to the first person with whom I communicated.

Usually it doesn't occur to people to "make up a word" to describe an experience. It's only when a bunch of people get together and share or have a similar experience or idea that they imagine it is unique enough to need a new word.

People rightly question if there is no need for a particular new word because it's just like this other word or combination of words that are good enough. But I also know that's a classic way of dismissing new ideas - to say it's identical to the old ideas.

I'm asking here, these are my honest questions, without any intention of disrespect. What is the difference between this word you want to make up and the word people use? Why use this use of the word, instead of the usual word, and then qualify it as being a similar or dissimliar? Is it the Greek historical continuity that people want to refer to by using the word? Do people draw a parallel between it and a similar or inter-relationship with the word - and if so, what is that commonality or difference and is it important enough to create a new word? Would a person be using this new word ratio to talk about the commonality of reason?

When I run into a new word/concept that I learn, I also want to learn about how to use the word in context so that other people can understand what makes it unique and why there is a need for the word.

This comes from my own distaste for "buzz words," which came from learning Neuro-linguistic Programming. Also, I had childhood history of being raised by well-read parents who did not differentiate between using a "big word" and "kid friendly" word. As a kid I was accused by other children for showing off my intelligence/knowledge, when I was just being articulate. This made me come to dislike shows of arrogance, and the divisiveness created by name-dropping and using words without explaining their meaning. If I can educate people, I can accept that's valuable, because I can explain what the new word means, and why there is a need for it. But I hate using new words as if they are name-dropping...and I hate name-dropping. That's why people often don't drop names without providing a link for those who aren't familiar with the content of what we're referring to. - Although I think that whatever someone has to say is authority enough to make me think more about it, I think that's a wonderful and polite way of accommodating people who are learning new concepts and words.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Unafraid of Crazy People

Many people are afraid of going crazy in some way. They seem to have the urge to reinforce themselves against this fear. Most people merely remember their personality. I'm not sure that doing this is the best remedy for this fear!

I'm very curious about those who have had many 'unusual experiences' of altered consciousness or awareness, (as I had when only thirteen) who managed to find a way to recocile them with their sense of purpose and meaning through the course of their life. Now I would say that probably many of us have had unusual experiences as kids, but different people react very differently to what happened to them.

I believe that to choose your reaction is the only choice people really have, and that people most often forget to choose on purpose. So this all may have to do more with how any person may be conditioned to respond or react than how they would choose if they could. That is, given that everyone perhaps has this capacity - both to experience and to choose beyond their conditioning. I'm beginning to realize that these two together are uncommon.

I'd prefer to remember back to my original experiences...rather than remembering merely what I said about them! I'm doing that now, thinking of myself making the choice to to find other people who had that amazing, unique experience that might be similiar to mine. I have held the belief that evidently rare people must exist who had also had similar experiences as me for so long, that I don't remember the moment it happened. It was so far back now, I can't remember enough to be inside the original moment when I knew that my experience wasn't an insane abberation but a rare, positive human capacity for delight, gratitude, openness & awareness.

Christmas Window Swirl - by Franis Engel After telling this story of my experience to someone, they asked me, "How did you make the leap to imagine that you weren't crazy?" It's a good question.

I think that people have amazing experiences every day - and they just ignore their uniqueness, or they are busy reinforcing their habits. I see amazing people everywhere...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Estranged Friendship

I have just had someone who was a fast and close friend, who took an unforgivable offense at something that I mentioned about her. I made the mistake of assuming that she was proud of her "freebie" lifestyle, when it seems she wanted to keep the sources of her financial life secret. I'm someone who knows no shame about the way I live, and am proud of my "volunteer poverty" status, (which has even been given a more complimentary name of "voluntary simplicity.") Because the two of us were so similar in so many ways, I assumed wrongly that she shared my attitude about being proud about living cheaply - when she didn't.

After she held on to her anger for a few days, I took away her access to my house where her stuff was because she wanted to move everything out while I was gone. She couldn't be there when I was because she was still so angry. So I packed her stuff for her and her friends helped to move for her. Once she was mad at me, she declared I hurt her further with whatever else I did for her. She found fault with my packing her stuff, possibly because she didn't use her glasses to see how I labeled what I packed for her and she had mixed our stuff together. She accuses me of stealing her jewelry (which I have no attraction to having) to our mutual friends, when she hasn't been able to look through it all yet because it is still packed. So the paranoia I wanted to avoid by not having her go through our house when she was mad seemed to go both ways. Probably the things are just misplaced.

Multiple people who are our friends in common are finding her crazy to the point of being amazingly laughable, but she doesn't know this. She seems to have abandoned all reason and now compounds every action of mine to make me more and more wrong, even blaming me for things I could have not possibly have done to hurt her. Their reports to me only make me sad and worried about her. Holding on to this kind of anger and self-imposed stress is what makes people get sickly.

Forgiveness is not something she's willing to do still.

I imagine that she'll talk to me, given enough time, because she's been in a codependent relationship with a drunk and forgiven him for many more complaints that were a great deal more shameful than what happened between us. I'm not sure there was enough time for her to come feel connected to me as I came to feel about her, so maybe that won't happen with us. It's hard to give up hope that she will get over this and be my friend again.

After such a final and unforgiving anger that she flew into and has upheld for two months now, I'm not sure that I could ever trust her again either. She wants to steal back any things she ever gave or did for me, but she doesn't return what I gave her or give me back the stuff I gave her the right to use. When she came and got her stuff on my porch after a month of storage, she took also the plants that she had given to me. Now I'll wonder what else she will steal that was something else she gave to me in the past. That makes reconciliation even more difficult. There is a big difference in my mind when someone acts to intentionally hurt you rather than blunders and tries to make up for what they did.

Being able to forgive that you might not be put first in your friend's most important priorities is to me an essential ingredient that is necessary for trust. But perhaps she will convince me otherwise in the future. I guess we got too close too fast, without being able to understand each other's uniqueness.

Evidently she didn't respond very well to my way of adopting family members. When I take someone into my adopted family, I take away the boundaries between how much generosity is "too much," in both directions. Although I talked about what family meant to me, I guess I must have violated what family meant to her, despite all I did for her before I asked her for her help for my needs this summer.

She seems to have forgotten that I was willing to continue to give. Or perhaps she didn't need me to give to her, now that she had her new boyfriend that I helped her to be able to have. Or perhaps she could only clean house for privileges for one of us at a time. I thought this instant sort of falling out only happened in intimate sexual relationships, but I guess not. I feel a little like a jilted lover, although we were non-sexual friends. I hope I meet her again somewhere else in the world and things will be different, or that she could just forgive me now. But I don't think that will happen any time soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hurt and Trust

I have evolved a conviction that "I only hurt myself." It's the idea that I am responsible for the hurt I feel because I am the one that administered the hurt by reacting the way I did.

It's an idea that assigns the possibility that I could have reacted differently. Nowadays, I never say, "you made me feel..." to anyone. This doesn't mean I don't get that accusation from them!

Most people seem to negatively interpret another's actions to mean they were being malicious, manipulative, and small-minded. This amazes me. Inventing a perfectly innocent and logical explanation for someone's apparently objectionable actions, (even if those actions were, in fact, meant maliciously,) is a very constuctive ploy that gets troublemakers to behave. It does take some creativity under stress. The misbehaving will usually choose my more innocent creative explanation as a convenient way out. The innocent are also absolved from blame. Every once in awhile the tactic backfires, and the person declares they are, in fact, trying to hurt me intentionally.

There is another saying similar to that: "Hurt me once, shame on you; Hurt me twice, shame on me." Meaning, the first hurt is unavoidable. It may be nothing more than an inconvenient misunderstanding. It's possible he second hurt on the same theme could be intentful. But why would people try to hurt each other as friends? I consider some further misunderstandings along the same theme still forgiveable, because sometimes it takes a long time to change a habit. People's habits can hurt each other.

I make a huge distinction in what my response might be between hurt that is unintentionally applied and actions that are maliciously intended, just as the distinctions between unintentional manslaughter and intent to kill are different. But some people do not. Most people operate on the assumption that I should have known better the first time, which I think is unfair. If someone treads on your toes without knowing if you're going to bite, you should growl first.

I think that I allow someone else to hurt me by giving to them my concern about what they can do. For instance, I might depend on them. I want to continue being in contact. I want them to respond to me, to talk to me. I might have some idea about an opportunity we have to work together or some other attraction. If none of those is ever going to happen, then my concern must become humanitarian. It must be a concern that I can extend to the next friend.

I find that it's handy to at least know when I'm extending my expectations, even to be able to tell someone that "the ball is in your court, I'm trusting you now." But I find it's even better to "trust" someone with something you can afford to lose without notifying them how it matter to you - just to see how they do. As if it's a sort of test to see what they might do with more responsibility before you get closer. I didn't do this with my friend - I just promoted her to family status without going through any hurdles of trust. For instance, loaning someone a book that you don't particularly care about just to see how many times you have to ask them for it back. Then you'll find out if they keep track of books, if you should trust them with books. Then you trust them with other stuff... Perhaps more important trusts they will take care of in better ways.

The Hawaiian culture does that with people. They are incredibly generous with what they have and love to share with whoever they meet. They have a word for this generousity; they call it the "Spirit of Aloha." There is a bumpersticker on a car I saw that said, "Aloha - Don't Leave Home Without It!" Meaning, politeness in driving as well as in doing every action as if it were an action of love. That's a pretty high ideal!

Unfortunately, after being ripped off for their "Aloha" repeatedly by visitors to Hawaii, some Hawaiians have learned to cut their losses and run when they encounter a stranger who doesn't give back. I guess it's an issue of boundaries to be able to "write someone off your list," so to speak. The term I've heard in Hawaii is something muttered like, "No fucking Aloha there..."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Persistent, Maddening Habits

Changing a persistent and unconscious habit is one of the most difficult things that a grown-up can do. Most adults have little patience and capacity for such an undertaking, and as such, are strongly motivated to accept things the way they are and even make up reasons for actively working to keep things the same.

Take for instance changing an all-pervasive habit such as a facial tic. In a situation as this, the reasons why a person would want to make this change would not be fully experienced until the change had been made.

The main problem in influencing this mannerism is it seems to repeat itself automatically without registering that anything has intentionally happened. People around someone with a facial tic would try to ignore it also and never bring up the uncontrollable characteristic of it, even though it's distracting to remember to disregard the tic as a meaningless gesture. If the person with the problem was a woman and she thought of designing a strategic feedback of the event for herself, perhaps braiding her hair so a strand hung down over her face would help her feel a new sensation as her face rubbed against the braid. This way she could be aware right before she was beginning to start the habitual expression and thus be able to begin to interrupt herself doing it.

Also an important point of improvement would be her response to unsuccessful prevention of the action. Changing an action such as this would be discouraging at first if she didn't appreciate how many times her body/mind had practiced this activity and how difficult the challenge really is. The most likely outcome of her experiments would be that her will to do differently would be quite unsuccessful at first. She would be very lucky to have even partial success. This would be because after not very long, she would tend to disregard her strategic indicator!

Habits are extremely tricky and coersive. Their complete and utter invasiveness is justified by a very strong sense of self preservation gone wild. They have everything to do with you - because you designed them to address some intention of yours, or you let them run wild and legislate how you are spending your energy without doing anything about how your habits affect you.

I'm saying this from my own experiences at changing the way I would breathe and speak - which was challenging in a very similar all-pervasive way. The greatest moment comes when you suddenly realize or remember the intention that was usually lost in the past when you installed the habit.

It comes as an insight as you're staying with yourself moment to moment. Sometimes it's such a complete insight that the need for the habits drops away instantly. My insight concerning the way I'd learned to talk was that somehow as a child who did not want to seem threatening, I learned to take a breath, let it out and then start talking on the most tiniest bit of air possible. In spite of the insight, it still took me some very attentive work over a two year period before I could take the first free breath of my life without unnecessary pressure and force...and then let it out while I began to talk, no big deal, over and over again like most people with beautiful voices can talk.

Using the Experience Of Others; Scripting & Abstraction

Many people seem to have a hard time with abstraction. It seems if someone is taught a certain way and in a certain context, that is the way they will most often continue to perform the action, without much innovation.

Some people find it tricky to translate the story into their own situation. Many people are too literal or linear to improvise inserting their own parts that they might regard as valuable. This "implied meaning" in an account is often related to the story itself. Of course, some stories can stand on their own, leaving the meaning to you to draw for yourself - but so much more could be available. Most people need to be led down a pathway to be able to understand meaning.

Getting the benefit of someone else's experience requires a person to abstract and apply the other person's experience or account to what they do know. Of course, some stories can stand on their own, leaving you to draw meaning for yourself as if the story leaves out the "moral." But for some people, the story always tends to stand alone as a story and can't easily be used as raw experience by the listener.

It seems that the teller needs to give the listener an experience that communicates to the listeners as well as reporting what happened in their story. Movies are an attempts to do this, and movie makers have gotten good at eliciting emotions in their movie-goers. But is that something they can use in their life, or only an escape? I guess that would depend on the story.

I'm curious for learning more ways to use information & experience in other contexts - as a speaker and a writer. I'd like to hear from people if they know other ways to improve on doing this - in blogging.

I discovered the concept of "scripting" from the Artificial Intelligence field. I liked the concept because a script frames and, in a sense, interprets meaning for you by providing a real-time context.

For instance, what I just said above is too abstract for many people. (In fact, this whole blog is too abstract for most people!) But if I tell you the same message with examples from when I used to teach juggling, then you have a better idea what I'm saying. Some people have a hard time extracting meaning from a story until they understand and can place themselves into the script itself.

As a juggling teacher, most of my job was getting people to update how they were taught to throw as children. People were taught to throw by their parents, and then usually never changed their process of throwing, even when it caused them trouble because it couldn't allow them to make the object they were throwing do what they wanted it to.

Sometimes placing yourself into the experience someone is communicating takes alot more familiarity with the situation - sort of like having to experience an unfamiliar activity quite a bit before you know what questions to ask about it to learn it. It's funny that people often know right away what they hate, but need to experience something repeatedly before they know they love doing it!