Acting with awareness especially with others is not taught much in schools except indirectly. The Radical Act of Action and Reflection: Who are You? intends to very simply point to this gap and offer some simple ways to become more reflective of ourselves and our world, more able to know ourselves as autonomous and united, able to literally co-create.
Youth who seem always connected and are often taught “collaboratively” are still not taught to know themselves and make choices in a way that is possibly more helpful. We have schools that purposely do not teach independent thinking, that maintains teachers as authorities and then if we are lucky, we go on, becoming another “authority” and “qualified” to earn a living.
This post intends to help end this “transference of power” from an authority, back to a self who is ultimately the authority. Words do not teach. Experience teaches. Resistance and resentment, I believe are just entrenched by current methods and beliefs of who is really in charge of our lives. One friend was so committed to the autonomy of his children he allowed them to go to Denmark from the UK. In Denmark, where they could choose studies and teachers themselves.
As the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland asked, Who are you?
In our crazy, hyperactive world, there may be no more radical act than the act of reflection. This post is about acting, reflecting and creating, if you feel called, inspired by your lived experiences and reflections, even your experience of this post.
I offer this post out of my experience. I attended many colleges. Two colleges specifically encouraged reflective writing in which the self, the I, was included as opposed to pedantic scholarly writing with no author revealed, no context for the reader to know more. I am forever grateful for this happenstance.
I am sure you, if a reader, have already been exposed to reflective writing and journaling. While there are many ways I could share this concept of action and reflection, I want to keep it fun and easy. Here is a powerful classic I used in an undergrad class for your consideration. It is A Gift From the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh. (I chose the nicest edition with notes added by the author.) Your library surely has it. While some may consider it too feminine, it is a great opportunity for men to learn a powerful feminine skill (in the Jungian and cultural sense) to begin to gain access to perhaps long-repressed feelings and wonderings.
This might just be your push to begin a very powerful tool: writing down, physically, not on a computer at first (feel it viscerally). I was taught by one wonderful mentor to write my experience as soon after its occurrence as possible and I did this a great deal and gained a great deal. If memories are tough, I believe reading this gentle book may help. I do not promote deep recall of trauma but I suggest a more “sideways”, a gentle approach in appreciation first of yourself, the hero of the story or the creating to become in the future, the dream manifested.
I often went to the web and found pictures that inspired and pasted them in and I had one friend who taught journaling as an art. She drew most of her entries. The main things are doing it as soon after the experience as possible when inspired, and your memory is strong; come up with YOUR way and if possible make it at first by hand (the tactile part is often very powerful and later you can computerize). To the point: keep a journal. You will quickly not only have your dreams memorialized you just may have a product!
What kind of world might we have if every child and adult learned to reflect and act from those conscious reflections together? No wonder meditation is popular. These skills of acting and reflecting and sharing in some form with the community, I believe, are much more useful than meditation alone; life becomes a practice of presence, of aware interaction. Combined with a daily meditation practice, which literally changes the brain? Wonderful!
Recently in an inspirational talk on meditation, the teacher spoke of practicing a kind of virtual reality of imagining in our guts our true nature; I interchange Buddhist concepts and more Earth-centered ones of divinity. You can use your own definition. You may simply imagine yourself as a whole healthy human. (Personally, I have little interest in virtual reality though meditation centers like Spirit Rock are using it; look up via NY Times).
For me and for the teacher I was listening to, our guts are a center of feeling. We all know the old saying, to have a “gut feeling” about something. Well in my practice I live by those intuitive gut feelings and trust, as James Hillman suggests, that the rational thought will align and I will not try to fly off the roof.
After listening to this talk as the shower water poured over me I felt my “gut” which I know better by its Japanese name, hara and indeed I felt very good, whole and open-hearted. The teacher also spoke of doing this for at least 30 days to strengthen our “core” belief in self as perfect just as we are. I also remembered literally strengthening my core muscles in Pilates and as you may know, Pilates was and is used by dancers very effectively. Imagine yourself with the grace and balance of a dancer, moving through your days even when facing challenges. I found myself feeling delighted and remembering one of my all-time favorite books, now old but still very worthy, simply called Hara: The Vital Center of Man.
I will not go into this more except to say I highly recommend it. I find that living from the hara is especially good for men to begin to get it that thoughts and feelings are inter-woven and as Buddhists would say, co-arising. Men have been so trained to repress emotions and that I suggest this split is part of why “heart” disease was an early killer, with emotional expressive (often abused) wives surviving. (My own mentor, a world-famous teacher, and scholar told me personally that women know much more clearly as they get the big picture via their feelings of relationship energetics).
Many men are now very adept at knowing their feelings and now many are learning to able to express quite well in relationships. Feeling vulnerable and open is no longer filled with fear. In fact they learn what was long called “women’s intuition.
I want to move on to the Gut-Brain Axis. I hope you get a sense of how wise cultures that encourage the gut as the “true brain” may be healthier than ours, in which we overrun our gut instincts far too often to our detriment.
For this section, I will be using the work of Chris Kresser, an MS and a Traditional Chinese Medicine integrative health practitioner in San Francisco for several reasons, but mostly for what I see in using his book, The Paleo Cure and reading his very informative blog posts. As you now have the link to his site and brain-gut axis teaching, I suggest if you have brain or gut or other issues you read straight from him. And I will also say that I differ greatly with millionare computer geek turned natural health guru, Kresse. Paleo is not for everyone.
I want to make a few points from my experience and learning. I find the words digestion, nutrition, and nourishment very evocative and metaphorical and very “referential” to the knowing of the gut. All terms of how we take in life experience as nourishment or poison are what I am pointing towards. Does your life nourish you? Are you digesting and assimilating not just food but experience? Is your personal microbiome in good shape, keeping good critters working and bad ones out? Do you have good internal and external boundaries?
I hope by this point you realize that I am mostly focusing holistically, now often called epigenetically, that is, the impact of our personal nature and nurture systems. Who said, as within, without? Let’s put it very bluntly: if you have digestion issues you probably have brain issues and Kresser will tell you more. And I believe if you have these issues, you also have emotional issues, something Kresser will also teach you. The environment you force yourself to live in will make you ill or help you heal. Since beginning my very profound meditation and healing methods, my gut issues have much improved.
I just received this video on trauma and gut issues, like IBS. Perlmutter is very respected and these findings are very profound especially if, like me, you suffered in childhood.
Getting Tested or Self Testing your Poop
uBIOME, just up the way from Stanford University, a leader in genetic research, I believe is the first pro poop testing company. When they first opened I went for it and then they offered me another for free. I definitely need more good bugs in general. As I can no longer afford this service I practice poop watch, not obsessively but as part of my general health self-care. You can easily know whether your poop is good or bad and if you do as I did under genetic guidance before uBIOME was available, I learned to use the Bristol Stool Chart. You can find many online. It is easy and you learn it very fast.
Now that you know you need lots of good, especially soil based, bugs in your guts and you are wanting to improve your digestion and your mood, you may want to add pre or probiotics to increase your gut flora. Kresser seems to prefer prebiotics especially resistant starch, an indigestible fiber that gives your poo great shape and good bugs. For quite a while I made a resistant starch cookie which I will share shortly but it became too expensive for me as it requires organic cashew butter and it is quite expensive. I have a friend now hooked on his own formulation of this. For now, I leave the question of probiotics up to you; many who have other issues, like “leaky gut” from antibiotics can aspirate bacteria into lungs as on friend did, getting pneumonia.
I learned of the resistant starch tigernut flour from outstanding nutrigenomist, Cynthia Smith in a conversation on FaceBook. As usual, I took off on my own research and found this fabulous tigernut ball recipe from https://www.mommypotamus.com/resistant-starch-cookie-dough-recipe/ I made some adjustments, using monks fruit maple syrup as it is sugar-free. I was able to find organic cashew butter locally but at ten dollars a jar, it was unsustainable. I tried sunflower butter but found I am sensitive to it. So, for now, I do not eat these. Enjoy if you can. Of course, organic cocoa nibs, please, in moderation as they can make kidney stones worse as chocolate is high in oxalates, another whole topic.
I hope you have enjoyed this highly eclectic journey, which I feel is a lovely expression of epigenetics: as within, without. You are what you eat and how you feel depends on the nourishment of food and environment. For the open-minded, here is the video that got me going down this trail. talking about virtual reality and our guts. Enjoy.
Phenomenology: You Get to Choose
I loved learning of the science phenomenology in college especially because I attended a school of East-West philosophy, CA Institute of Integral Studies. The school and my doctoral studies in psychological transpersonal phenomenology fit very well with my years in Buddhism.
In a nutshell, phenomenology arose after the Enlightenment, when Westerners had literally dissected most of nature, including human anatomy, and learned “laws” that seemed to control behaviors. BUT if one, such as me and a very famous lineage, wanted to study living human experience, what could be done? One could not kill the test “subject” as in the natural sciences. Many famous practitioners arose, each improving on the earlier revelations of what it meant to be human. Like what does love or hate feel like? Probably my favorite was Merleau-Ponty who basically answered for me questions Buddhism never did. He said we can never escape the perceiver, we are always interpreting via our perceptions.
As a student of Buddhism, I had learned that we were to lose ourselves; I did not understand as I do now, it means we are to lose our preferred attachment to a particular perception, that we could and can transcend any state of being, with training. As Zen master, Suzuki roshi taught, in order to lose ourselves, we must first know ourselves. (His Beginner’s Mind is how I started my meditation practice and recommend it to you. Read a chapter, then try to sit, following your breath for five or ten minutes; I fell in love with it.) I had learned about co-arising; that is one experience arises its opposite or near cousin also can be perceived. Still it was not till I read Merleau-Ponty that it snapped, no, unless we dissociate from our bodies, which I and others do not encourage, there is always a perceiver.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, and many especially men who have been taught to stifle feelings, our most powerful way of knowing how we want to live is through our feelings. Imagination also has a big place in how we co-create our lives. Here is one of my all-time favorite poems by now deceased Buddhist poet, Lew Welch:
[First You Must Love Your Body, In Games,]
First you must love your body, in games,
Then you must enter the world of men and
Then you must return to your mother and
Then return to the world that is
that you may finally walk in the
So phenomenology and Buddhism and other traditions teach two things important to our personal choices and this post: One, everything is connected (I will let you research that if networking especially as found in nature does not make sense to you) and two, you have an absolute free will to choose your mood and actions. It takes practice: at least 15 minutes daily of silent meditation in which I hope you eventually become more comfortable and receptive, perhaps to the transpersonal realms where we are non-physically connected in a field of knowing. As you get comfortable with meditation, you can choose to focus on receiving joy and a great deal more. A quote from the great Sufi poet Rumi: (although it sounds a bit modern to me)
Your depression is connected to your insolence and refusal to praise. Rumi
One last shot that life is so much more than you allow. http://awarenessact.com/scientists-now-believe-the-universe-itself-may-be-conscious/
You have tremendous power to create the reality you want. Meditate and contact me if you want help with meditation and more.