Monday, March 19, 2018

The Power Of Now, Eckhart Tolle

I'm guessing that I read this book for the first time in like 02-03. I remembered it, found it interesting, but very very off the wall and impractical at that time.My copy exists somewhere in the manifested universe (as opposed to the unmanifested (spiritual)), but I could not find it, so I manifested a new paperback version from Amazon to lend to someone that I believe it might resonate with.

When I first read it in I found Tolle to be "From a Galaxy Far Far Away". Fast forward past a number of personal and family crisis, meditation, lots of more mystical (and ancient) Christian teachings and DBT (especially Mindfulness), and it seems a good deal less "out there" ... perhaps "Pluto". Who knows, another couple decades and ....

The statement in the book that resonates most with me is on page 190, "I have lived with several Zen masters, all of them cats." While sometimes I find Tolle taking himself a bit too seriously, that line redeems a lot of mileage for me! One of those masters graces our home today (Ferocious Cabadocious)  -- past masters include Tiger and the ineffible Dobson, sometimes fearsome sage of terrible wisdom.

His best philosophic statement is on 15; "The philosopher Descartes believed he had found the most fundamental truth when he made his famous statement: "I think, therefore I am". he had in fact given expression to the most fundamental error: to equate thinking with Being, and identity the real YOU with your mere thoughts that have far less substance than passing clouds.

If you can learn to sit quietly, observing your breath, and as your mind chatters incessantly, and and you merely OBSERVE IT -- do not judge it (and don't judge the judging which will certainly happen to some degree, at least for a time)!

Treat your chattering mind gently, like a puppy or a toddler -- ACKNOWLEDGE what thoughts are flowing by, and calmly return to focusing on your breath.You will experience Descartes error.

 If you are a "natural", after a "few times", the chatter will slow and you will EXPERIENCE that you are NOT YOUR MIND!!! You HAVE a mind, and a body, and emotions -- but they are not YOU. YOU are spirit ... or consciousness if you prefer.

It is a great way to debunk one of the greatest minds in history in a slightly more metaphysical version of Dr Johnson's "Appeal to the stone".

If you are an UNnatural like me, that experience may take like "100" tries -- the early ones being Panic Attacks, or near so, with LOTS of mind shouting, THIS IS ***NOT*** working! This is stupid!  Satanic!  insane! dangerous! a waste of time!  etc, etc

We Westerners tend to live in and identify with our minds -- it is where our ego resides. My mind was nearly my only residence for my whole IBM career and a few years after. I agree that the EXPERIENCE of being a little "i am' watching your breath, your mind and your emotions is significant, and to a degree "transcendent", possibly even "enlightening" with a very little "e", but I find that Tolle oversells anyway -- much in the same manner as a lot of other marketing.

I'm NOT saying that he is "lying" ... he may well completely believe in all he says. He IS after all Oprah Approved!,  so marketing or truth, it has certainly worked. My advice would be to try DBT first -- it has a lot more research and science behind it, however if Tolle speaks to you, go for it. Scotch, Bourbon, Irish, Canadian ... it's all Whiskey (or Whisky, hard to agree on anything!)

Oh, and getting out of your mind isn't quite enough -- the "real you", the spiritual you, must learn to live in full acceptance of NOW ... this moment and ONLY this moment which is where we ALWAYS exist, AS IT IS! Not as you wish it, believe it "should be", etc, etc. It is here you stand to have the leverage to change the future -- or decide NOT to change the future. The past? Well, the past you are not going to change no matter how much you invest in it. In DBT, we call that Radical Acceptance.

p154, "If you stop investing it with "selfness", the mind loses it's compulsive quality, which is basically the compulsion to judge, and so resist what IS, which creates conflict, drama and new pain." ... a little farther on, "... the greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner [or anyone you deal with] as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way."

The best reason for doing that is because the nearly 100% probability is that you CAN'T change that other person! You might bludgeon them physically or emotionally into "compliance", however unless THEY wanted to change (or they are already less "living in their minds" than you), you will only create pain and damage.

Just as in DBT, many people take this all as "giving up", or "not caring'. Not so -- in fact, you nearly MUST be outside of your mind to actually care, because otherwise, pretty much all you are doing is feeding your own ego. Your mind will continue to have lots of thoughts on lots of things -- you can share them, talk about them, carry signs for them, etc, you will just realize that they are not YOU. You are MUCH more than those things!

YOU are "not of this world" ... you have no reason to invest your ego in this world. In fact, as much as possible, your ego is to be DEAD ... either crucified with Christ, or vanished into Tolle's "unmanifested'. Your ego is your mind talking -- it's your "old address' ... like "666 Gray Matter Parkway", vs "The Now, The Kingdom of Christ -- Infinity Drive'.

While Tolle either believes, or simply wants to maximize his audience, he tries to make this book accessible to any or no religion  -- although on this read, I was surprised by how much semi-New Testament he actually does include.

It's a book worthy enough at least to have someone else buy it and lend it to you!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Boundaries, By Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend

This book is one of the highest rated books on the topic of boundaries, and it is very Bible based. I DO recommend the book On page 61 they do the definition:

"Functional Boundaries refer to a person's ability to complete a task, project or job."
"Relational Boundaries refer to the ability to speak truth to others with whom we are in relationship"

Simple, huh?

Due to my contrarian nature, ll start with a critical thought: 

I find the term "boundaries" to be misleading. I understand the reason for the term, and the book does a great job of telling the people that REALLY need to develop some boundaries about how important they are, and how they "should" go about establishing them -- usually putting their foot down, standing 100% firm, and often taking the consequences -- loss of relationship, maybe violence or attempted violence, huge angry outburst, etc.

Obviously, if you are worried about a violent response, the person you are setting this boundary with walking out and never speaking with you again, giant anger, etc, then certainly, you REALLY need "boundaries" -- really best called "walls" in the context the book often talks about. To my mind, a WALL is something put up by one party (like the Berlin wall), and enforced with force -- maybe even "deadly force" as in "comply or this relationship is permanently over".

If I do my version, it will be called "loving contracts", or "good fences make good neighbors", or something of the like. My point is that there is a BIG difference between a neighbor going over to his neighbor and saying "I'd like to put up a fence -- dog issues, kid issues, your 16 year old daughter sunbathing naked is distracting my 13 year old boy, etc ... can we talk together about height, styles, etc over a beer" and you suddenly putting up a 20' lime green monstrosity and telling him "it's on the property line, get over it".

I think they wanted to cover this with page 66, "Don't even try to start setting limits until you have entered into deep abiding attachments with people who will love you no matter what".

Page 156 was important to me. "People don't make other people angry. Your anger has to come from something inside of you". Later; "Problems arise when we make someone else responsible for our needs and wants, and when we blame that person for our disappointments".

Bottom line, we all have to own our feelings -- we are ALL selfish, and we ALL seek to get our needs met by others (and for some needs, have to). In close relationships, that means that we deal with conflicting wants, and we need to NEGOTIATE ... which is much better than slapping up a 20' wall without consulting our "partner'.

Chapter 10, "Boundaries and your Children" needs to be made required reading for those seeking a license for having children. Oh, there isn't such a license? Damn.

"Discipline is an external boundary, designed to develop internal boundaries in our children. It provides a structure of safety until children have enough structure in their character to not need it". Later; "Discipline is not payment for a wrong. It is the natural law of God: our actions reap consequences. Discipline is different from punishment because God is finished punishing us. Punishment ended on the Cross for all those who accept Christ as Savior". 
I grew up on a farm. Hard work was as much a part of life as breathing, and I was a VERY lazy kid -- I still drew breath and worked. I also attended church, often with LOTS of bellyaching -- it was just the way it was. Fast forward to today -- unless parents have the intestinal fortitude to work HARD to insure their children learn responsibility and the fear of God, all bets are off. The Ten Commandments have been removed from most public buildings and certainly from the schools. "Honor your father and mother" is pretty much  considered a matter of discredited "mythology" rather than the only commandment with a promise. "Work" can be nigh on inaccessible at home given "convienience", while the Internet, video games, marketing, social media, etc are INTRUSIVE!

In the middle of 174, "The freedom of the Cross allows us to practice without having to pay a terrible price. The only danger is consequences, not isolation and judgment." .. THANKS BE TO GOD! Paul said in Timothy 1:15 "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." ... he is right about Christ, he is wrong that he is the worst -- I've won that race in personal failure after personal failure for which I am most grievously at fault,

As I've been able to study more an more theology after retirement, the following becomes more and more clear, and more and more scary -- page 260:

"God gives a choice and allows the people involved to make up their minds. When people say no, he allows it and keeps on loving them. He is a giver. And one of the things he always gives is a choice, and like a real giver, he also gives the consequences of those choices. He respects boundaries." 

We live in a world where many people believe that "someone" or "some thing" can allow radically free choices, yet remove the consequences.  They often believe that their choices OUGHT to be free of consequences. People really "ought" to be able to do whatever they want and never suffer the consequences.

On page 121, the authors provide a ray of hope to those injured by "boundaries" that were really walls or 20' ugly fences with no consultation.

"If you set limits with someone and she responds maturely and lovingly, you can renegotiate the boundary. In addition, you can change the boundary if you are in a safer place". 
It is a worthy book, again, I highly recommend it. Just don't go out and put up a 20' chartreuse fence with your neighbor and expect them to bake you a cake ... and if they do, don't eat it!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The High Conflict Couple, Alan E Fruzzetti, PHD

While this book is written to "couples", it will be of nearly equal value to almost anyone that has conflicts in relationships. In today's world, that has to come very close to 100% of us, with the conflicts generally being more nasty and longer lived.

Since the 1960's we have consistently pushed for each of our views, values, wishes, visions, desires, etc to be of ultimate importance, while the old shared values of "God, Country, Family, Church, Community" are now of much less to often even no importance at all to many.

So there are less shared values, more conflict, and one of the ways that many hope to deal with it is to "ignore it and it will go away' ... I find this paragraph from page to 11 to be as true, direct, and scary as pretty much anything I've read in books of this type:

" Unlike the other patterns, in the engage-distance pattern, there is an imbalence between the partners: one moves one way, the other goes in a different direction. That is one person wants to discuss or pursue a topic and be together, but the other person, at least in that moment, does not want to discuss a topic further, or perhaps not even be together, and instead seeks some alone time. What makes this pattern particularly tricky si that the engager or distancer can start out doing so in either an effective or a constructive way or a more destructive, aversive, or avoidant way, but reguardless, the pattern ends up being a disaster." 
Typically, the "avoider" is conflict averse and  REALLY wants it to "just all blow over", or "maybe things will get better on their own" -- they don't. What it leads to is anger in the relationship ... sooner and later. Anger is a valid emotion -- we all have it. The problem with it in relationships is discussed on page 25  " ... there is a very corrosive aspect to anger in close relationships that often overshadows any possible benefits".

"...feeling angry means having increased negative emotional arousal; this in turn churns out judgements. Judgements then increase arousal, which produces more judgements, which leads to inaccurate and ineffective expression of emotion and desires, which then results in misunderstanding and conflict and rarely leads to effective changes. Thus, angry feelings and angry expressions in close relationships almost always create distance, and distance is the enemy of closeness and intimacy ..."  
Page 46 has even worse news:
"In addition, being together passively can be risky: partners may begin to focus a lot of negative attention on each other inside their own heads, running a list of negative past deeds or anticipated future deeds through their minds, privately judging or criticizing the other,  becoming upset and eventually going on "red alert" waiting for the other to do something and then snapping at him or her ..." 

So what are we to do? The big picture  in the book is "DBT" ... of which I have a website here with lots of videos and charts if you are interested.

DBT goes out of it's way to NOT be "Christianity" -- in fact, it is based on Buddhism. However,  the big messages -- "BE STILL!  ... "BE PRESENT" ... "Observe, do not judge", "ACCEPT", "Let go and let God" (or "release your attachments" in the Budhist perspective) are quite similar.

What is important is for both people in any relationship -- "intimate", or other, to follow the principles of DBT as they discuss issues they have -- hopefully as quickly as possible. More "simmering" just tends to insure that everyone gets at least "scorched", if not fully burned.

DBT is like excercise for your mind and emotions. We ALL have BOTH "Emotional Mind" and "Rational Mind" -- if we practice and observe, we get the gift of "Wise Mind". Modern people tend to spend a lot of time trying to talk reason to people in Emotion Mind (totally useless). Here is a link to these pictures. 

"Why we can't communicate" is because we are speaking different languages. For those of us raised in an era where there were more assumptions that emotions are often invalid, and EVERYTHING can be solved by reason, we can be "very good" (in a scientific lawyerly sense) of "making the case" why the emotional position "loses" -- and usually the relationship is what REALLY loses!

Wise mind is a solution to getting on the same page -- at least one party has to "give" and be willing to take the risk of reaching out, AND often accepting some INvalidation, anger, judgement, etc without "giving as good as you get" ... and thus break the cycle and insert hope.

Wise Mind demands being unhurried, being respectful and non-judgemental. It demands Acceptance -- even of things that we really don't like.  We do not have to LIKE or "agree with" things  to accept them ... we can be a parapalegic for life, radically accept it, and not "like" it! Our son can join a cult that worships space aliens, and we can accept it ... and even validate it "I understand how you find the group you joined to be supportive" without AGREEING with him.

Many in our society even encourage denying acceptance of reality in order to not "normalize" some facet of reality. I really like this video of Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT on that topic ...

I believe that the book is of "use" without the PRACTICE of DBT, however it is going to be FAR more powerful with a daily practice of at least Mindfulness and Radical Acceptance (Interpersonal Effectiveness and Emotional Regulation are good as well).

Everyone that reads this blog knows that I believe that Christ is what we really need to restore our broken world full of increasingly broken, addicted,  and too often, suicidal people, often at each others throats. For those that are not going to go there, DBT can help -- you may not learn to love your neighbor, or even your spouse, however you are much more likely to be able to tolerate them -- and even yourself.

 Needless to say, I HIGHLY recommend the book, and or course DBT -- I've become somewhat of a zealot on that topic. I'll leave you with this last video -- there are many more out on the DBT Site link above.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Back When Entertainers Were Funny And Politicians Laughed Together

I'm on too many lists and too many people send me stuff ... I really enjoyed this. I used to think my folks were completely dim when they talked of "the good old days". They may have been ... and that just means I'm just as dim now. In case you are wondering, he DOES juggle as well as do comedy.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

NPR, Straight Up Gridiron

At Gridiron Dinner, Trump Trades Jabs With His 'Opposition Party' : The Two-Way : NPR:

 This is worth a read -- I'd rate it 100% down the middle straight up unbiased reporting from NPR. I complain when I see them as telling us how to think vs reporting, I need to applaud them when I see them doing well.

My belief is that some of the major fault our general modern glumness is the 24x7 news stations where everything is "Special Report", "The Crisis in ... (our minds?)", "ALERT!" ...

We are on this rock for "three score and 10" give or take, and pretty much ALL of us take ourselves WAY too seriously for WAY too much of that time. At least by age 60, we have all generally had broken parts of our body, our lives, our plans, our dreams and lots of embarrassing, even humiliating experiences ... social, medical and otherwise. My belief is that one of the tasks the Good Lord gives  us in this life is to realize that ALL of it is in the blessing column ... maybe especially the parts that we judge to be "bad".

As Joseph told the brothers who sold him into slavery in Genesis 50:20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."

Or even better (on laughter) ... God promising Sarah she would bear a son in Genesis 18
Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will  have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
How impossible it is for old Abram becoming "Father Abraham", the root of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam? We are created in God's image, so we know that the Lord of all knows and understands laughter.

The linked isn't very long, and "feels nice" ... a flavor:
There was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a favorite object of Trump's biting comments on Twitter, getting one this time in person: "You know, it's weird, I offered him a ride over — and he recused himself!"
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Saturday, March 03, 2018

Snow / Cold Batters Europe

Heaviest Snow in Decades Batters U.K., Ireland and the Continent - The New York Times:

Europe is being battered by winter weather ... the UK, snow in Rome, cold on the French Riveara. This is of course WEATHER,

Naturally, this cold and snowy weather is due to ACC  (Anthropogenic Climate Change) the settled science formerly known as AGW ... as is all current weather according to the concept of "settled science".
The cold weather in Britain and northwestern Europe is to some extent a mirror image of the “sudden stratospheric warming” in the arctic, experts say, referring to a disturbance in the polar jet stream that has alarmed scientists and forced some to reconsider even the most pessimistic forecasts for climate change.
 The main science that has been settled relative to climate is that "carbon dioxide determines climate".

The cycles of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 400K+ years have been determined through looking at air trapped in ice cores from Antarctica. ... you can spend the rest of your life studying ice core data if you are interested ... it all looks similar in some ways -- roughly 100K year cycles of lots of cold and glaciers  punctuated by relatively tiny warm interglacial periods of 10-20K years like the one that we and all of human history are in ... the Holocene.

The when coupled with temperature, the charts certainly show a CORRELATION between temperature and CO2, but as any High School statistician will tell you, correlation is NOT causality -- ice cream sales and drowning deaths are definitely correlated, but that is do to a common causal factor (warm days) rather than one causing the other. The correlation between CO2 and temperature could run either way -- warmer temps release more CO2 from oceans so number goes up, OR "something else" ... more animal life, termites, ocean life, fires, SOMETHING raises the CO2 levels to cause the temperature to rise.

Freeman Dyson and myself are the sort of idiots that point out that unless one postulates past human carbon burning civilizations at roughly 120K BC, 240K BC, etc, warming can clearly happen without human causes, so ACC is WAY short of an "explanation".

There is however one rather large object 93 million miles away that just possibly might have some effect on temperature cycles on earth. Strangely, that object ALSO appears to have variation in it's output and we are heading into a projected 500 year low in solar output.

From the linked article quote above, it is clear that climate scientists ASSUME that warm temps at the N pole show that we are still warming. Since the N pole is ocean, the best we can hope for as a proxy is cores from Greenland -- interestingly, it appears that the oldest core data from Greenland is only aout 150K years old  ... meaning that when it gets as warm as it did in the last interglacial, the ice on Greenland melts.

Since record keeping humans have never lived through the ending of a warm period, the LONG period of cold and continental glaciers, followed by the start of a new warm period in 100K years or so, my assertion is that the ONLY thing about climate that is actually "settled" is a lot like what is settled about the Stock Market ... "it fluctuates".

While everyone else is apocalyptic about the perils of a few degrees of extra warmth, I've long had a fascination with what it will be like the next time the planet leaves the interglacial we are in now and enters a new glacial. My best guess is that the  weather will fluctuate wildly and we will begin to see more events like what we see in Europe right now -- in my mind, solar output is likely a LARGE factor, along with ever greater and longer lasting snow cover on the continents. For a good long while, the oceans might actually remain or even increase in warmth -- thus keeping the N pole ice free while the continents start to develop larger and larger continental glaciers.

When I was in college in the '70s, concern about an upcoming ice age was the primary "climate issue", although it was much more a pure science discussion ... the ice core data shows that we SEEM to be "overdue" for an ice age, however, given the length of these cycles, we don't really know if the last "million years" are "typical" relative to frequency and length of glacials / interglacials. Geologists think we have been in an "ice age" for the last 60 million years or so, meaning that there is SOME ice on the planet, which there isn't in the truly warm periods.

Although it will no doubt make a LARGE change in human life on the planet, I must admit that even though it would certainly be WAY more challenging than warming, living through something like the "Little Ice Age" where lakes in this part of the world stayed mostly frozen year around ... back in 2014 we had ice floating around Lake Superior in the middle of June ... events like that and this one in Europe fit my idea of what early cooling might look like.

Other than my religious faith, I tend to enjoy things that are NOT "settled"!

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Friday, March 02, 2018


Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed : NPR:

I'm old enough to remember when breathless NPR reporting on the superb conditions inside the USSR was a standard -- it was important at that time for Americans to recognize the benefits of the Soviet system, especially for labor -- May Day was an important holiday, a day for "Workers of the the world to unite!".

Connections between the USSR and international labor unions were well known and well understood ... the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) as well as other other union organizations regularly and openly interacted and openly declared their goals to be "communist".

As an aside, I have been attempting to listen to the audio book version of "Enlightenment Now" by Steven Pinker on my travels of the past couple weeks. Pinker is at far reaches of atheist scientism, however because his "rule" is numbers, he finds the fall of communism was a gigantic boon to mans well being.

“The collapse of communism and a recognition of its economic and humanitarian catastrophes took the romance out of revolutionary violence and cast doubt on the wisdom of redistributing wealth at the point of a gun.” (Pinker)
It will be interesting to see how the various leftward forces of socialism and environmentalism shake out on Pinker's paean to "it's the best time to be alive!" Sure we are dying soul-less chemical reactions in an entropic universe, but hey, science shows you how to grab for all the gusto you can in ways never before dreamed in human history!

Just because society threw away the old morals doesn't mean it is that easy to come to agreement on new ones ... as the linked review of the book makes very clear.

The "proper NPR view" on Russia has certainly changed since 2012 when BO chided Mittens that "the 1980's called and wanted their foreign policy back". Mittens mistakenly thought Russia was an adversary, BO had to condescend to let him know they were now wonderful allies (2012) ... and must have still been in 2013 when Russia became a "diplomatic ally in Syria" as BO's "Red Line" on chemical weapons was "enforced" via Assad receiving a stern talking to from the Russians. It was also 2013 when the Clinton Foundations receipts of 10's of millions of dollars resulted in the consummation of the Uranium One deal, providing Russia with 20% of the N American uranium reserves.`

One would need a scorecard to keep track of approved NPR attitude toward the Russian Bear if you assumed they were a "news" vs a political organization. So far, given my assumption  that NPR is an arm of the Democrat Party, it is pretty easy -- interaction with Russia approved by, or benefiting a Democrat? Interaction positive, no problem!

Any form of interaction with Russia by Republican? "Collusion", very likely treasonous.

I'm guessing that since NASA is part of the Administrative State, and since the Administrative State retains it's war footing with Trump, the planned launch of BOistan Astronauts to the ISS this summer will meet NPR's test for legitimate interaction with Russia ... as long as Trump doesn't comment on it!

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