Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Contemplate This: Gilbert Mane on True Inquiry.

Sit quietly and relax. Let the mind come to rest and equilibrium.

Reflect on a genuine question, on an issue which you would like resolved. Imagine that there is a universal consciousness; a source of knowledge and compassion. Throw caution to the winds for the purposes of this exercise - what have you got to lose?

Frame a question and, with a spirit of openness and a willingness to accept help, ask the question quietly in your mind, or speak it aloud. Then gently let it go. Maintain this state of open willingness for a few moments.

Sometime an answer can come surprisingly quickly and clearly. Sometimes it takes a little time - hours, days, even weeks. Sometimes it pops into your mind or heart. Sometimes a chance phrase jumps off the page or from a snatch of conversation. And sometimes nothing appears to happen. Great. Give it another go. Rome wasn't built in a day.

This contemplation comes from Gilbert Mane's brilliant book, Seven Steps to Freedom.

Richard Wiseman on Goal Achievement and Doublethink

The following is a short quote from the wonderful book by Richard Wiseman, ':59 Seconds'. Fill out the following forms to create a precise goal and plan. This will greatly increase your chances of achieving your goal.

What do I want to be, do, and have?

Goal Planning
My overall goal is to...

Now write no more than five subgoals:

My first subgoal will be to...
I believe I can achieve this goal because...
To achieve this sub-goal, I will...
This will be achieved by the following date...
My reward for achieving this will be...

My second subgoal will be to...
I believe I can achieve this goal because...
To achieve this sub-goal, I will...
This will be achieved by the following date...
My reward for achieving this will be...

My third subgoal will be to...
I believe I can achieve this goal because...
To achieve this sub-goal, I will...
This will be achieved by the following date...
My reward for achieving this will be...

My fourth subgoal will be to...
I believe I can achieve this goal because...
To achieve this sub-goal, I will...
This will be achieved by the following date...
My reward for achieving this will be...

My fifth subgoal will be to...
I believe I can achieve this goal because...
To achieve this sub-goal, I will...
This will be achieved by the following date...
My reward for achieving this will be...

What are the benefits of achieving this overall goal?

I will go public by...

1. What is yoaur goal?
2. Write down one word that reflects an important way you life would be better if you achieved your goal
3. Write down one word that reflects a significant barrier in the way of your getting your goal.
4. Repeat steps two and three.
5. Elaborate on the one word answers in steps three and four. 

How To Change A Habit - the Best of the Best Tips, Studies, Insights, and Practices.

Nothing else works in changing a habit other than making a daily change.

Single points of change increase change across the board. You can start with:

- Positive thinking
- Exercise
- Single-tasking
- One-goal focus
- Eliminating the non-essential
- Kindness
- Daily routine.

So, how do we change a habit?

First of all, we need to understand why: habits save mental energy, so healthy habits mean healthy lives.

Second, the trick is not to resist bad habits but to replace them with good habits. Charles Duhigg is the recognized authority on the subject of habit change, via his brilliant and easy-to-read book The Power of Habits.

Third, to do this, follow this 3-step process:

1. Identify the bad habit you want to change. What happens right before the bad habit? Is it a person, place, thing, feeling, or time? What is the cue?
2. What is some good habit you want to do instead at that time. What is the routine?
3. When you do that good habit, what reward are you going to give yourself? What is the reward?

Cue - routine - reward is the basic formula for habit formation.

How do we keep the changed habit in place? This has to do with other cues. People, places, things and feelings are the main ones that can bring us back into the old habit. Here are some suggestions:

- Change your environment.
- Put up barriers between you and the people or places.
- Make a public declaration of your work to as many people as possible.
- Associate with people who have good habits and do not have your previous bad habit
- Accept and be patient with yourself, knowing that it can take a while to eliminate all the cues.

Here's a simple visual flow-chart of these basic ideas we've discussed.

Here's a great re-statement of the same basic principle of cue - routine - reward and replacing bad habits with good:  "The Golden Rule of Habit Change says that the most effective way to shift a habit is to diagnose and retain the old cue and reward, and try to change only the routine."

Good news! It takes about 66 days on average to develop a new habit! Learn about the vital research into the question here.

Want to learn the basic habit research by psychologists? Jeremy Dean's genius is simply presenting it all in as few words as possible. His book of the same title present eye-popping notions in the same engaging prose:

Making Habits Breaking Habits.

Scott Young breaks the conditioning aspects of habit change down into action steps quite clearly here.

The role of patience, self-acceptance, simplicity, and gentleness is vital to habit formation, and Leo Babatua seems to head this group of memes. For example, nomeatathlete writes about patience beautifully and inspirationally here.

Here is the contrary view (as always on the internet) on how to use pings and sticknotes to learn multiple habits at the same time. The basic idea is to put a reminder in your phone, and a physical bit of paper where the new habit will be performed, eg - flossing - sticky note on the bathroom door; stretching - sticknote in the bedroom when you wake up. The author of this excellent piece also suggests that we can chain multiple habits into a super habit of effective rituals when you wake up.

Here's another marvellous contrarian view of changing multiple habits and building super habits.

Finally, the chief web guru on habit formation, Leo Babatua, holds forth here in a comprehensive checklist of to-do items for habit formation.

Self-control is essential in habit formation, and Jeremy Dean on the marvellous psyblog has a bunch of suggestions:

Abstract thinking renews self-control. So dig into your copy of Hegel or Kant on your lunch break! :)
- Self affirmation, thinking about your positive traits, and contemplating what you value and cherish increase self-control. Maybe a new habit can include those things.
- Accept that self-control is a limited resource, use rewards and penalties, lower expectations, and pre-plan around achieving your goals ahead of time, according to this blog entry.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Contemplate This: Richard Wiseman on the Psychology of Goal Achievement.

1. Make a step-by-step plan.
2. Tell other people about my goals.
3. Think about the good things that will happen if I achieve my goal.
4. Reward myself for making progress towards my goal.
5. Record my progress (in a journal or on a chart).

Each of these five tools significantly increased the likelihood of people successfully achieving their aims. Let's look at each one in turn.

1. Make a step-by-step plan. Successful participants broke their overall goal into a series of sub-goals, and thereby created a stop-by-step process that helped remove the fear and hesitation often associated with trying to achieve a major life change. These plans were especially powerful when the sub-goals were concrete, measureable, and time-based.
2. Tell other people about my goals. Keeping your aims to yourself makes it too easy to drift back into your old habits and routines. People are more likely to stick to their views and promises once they have gone public. Other work suggests that the greater the public declaration, the more motivated people are to achieve their goals. 
3. Think about the good things that will happen if I achieve my goal. Those who frequently reminded themselves of the benefits associated with achieving their goals weren't imagining their perfect selves, but rather having an objective checklist of how life would be better once they had obtained their aim.
4. Reward myself for making progress towards my goal. Successful participants ensured that each of their sub-goals had a reward attached to it. Often it was something small but never anything that conflicted with the goal itself.
5. Record my progress (in a journal or on a chart). Successful participants made their plans, progress, rewards and benefits as concrete as possible by expressing them in writing. The act of writing significantly boosted their success.

This short quote comes from Dr Richard Wiseman's book, :59 Seconds. The book has excellent exercises linked to these insights and adds the power of doublethinking to goal setting, looking at benefits and obstacles simultaneously to trigger motivation. It's an excellent book which I recommend.

Contemplate This: Rob Yueng on Brainraining.

Brain-storming takes a lot of time and energy. But brain-raining applies the same principles on a smaller scale even when we are trying to think more creatively on our own. Try this.

Simply work through five questions:

1. What's the rational course of action?
2. What's the emotional thing to do?
3. What would the cleverest person you know - someone you like and respect - do?
4. What would your most compassionate friend do?
5. Finally, what should you do?

This comes from Rob Yueng's brilliant book, The Extra One Per Cent.

Contemplate This: Rob Yueng On the FASTER Way to Resolve Emotions; and On Emotional Writing

The FASTER technique is a thought record, a proven method for combating negative thoughts and becoming more centered.

When you feel in an emotional funk, take pen and paper and work through the 6 steps of the FASTER technique:

1. Feelings. Write down the unhelpful instincts, the tumultuous emotions you're experiencing. Be specific. Rate each emotion from 1 to 10 based on how strongly you feel each one.

2. Actions. How might your feelings be affecting your actions in unhelpful ways?

3. Situation. Describe briefly what happened to trigger those feelings. What were you doing? Who were you with? Who said or did something, or what is certain thoughts or feelings or images that triggered those unhelpful feelings?

4. Thoughts. Write down the unhelpful thoughts that are running around in your head.

5. Evidence against your negative beliefs. Time to look for ways to contradict your unhelpful thoughts. Imagine your most supportive friend asking you questions like "Is that really true?"

6. Review feelings again. Do you feel less emotional, more centered?

On Emotional Writing. 
Writing about our experiences enhances our emotional and physical health. Based on research examining what makes for expressive writing, there are three important guidelines to follow:

- Go back to the episode, but take a few steps back and more away from the experience.
- Write about the meaning of the event and its implications rather than simply describing it again.
- Remember to look back on your situation with compassion.

Researchers found that words to do with insight (eg, 'realize', 'see', 'understand') and words to do with causation (eg 'because', 'infer', 'thus') were most strongly associated with benefits. People who merely described the situation or reported how they felt at the time reported fewer benefits.

These are quotes I was impressed by from Rob Yueng's book, 'The Extra One Per Cent', describes psychologically validated small changes that make massive differences, and I highly recommend all Doctor Yueng's writing.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Contemplate This: Richard Rohr on Transformation:

Vulnerability is the only space in which transformation takes place. 

Allow the pain of other people to get inside them. Allow other people to change your life, especially the little ones. Allow the world's suffering to influence you. 

So people need to be more present to death. Not just going to the funeral; then it's too late.  You've got to be talking to the person at the death bed two weeks before, three weeks before. Because the veil gets very thin in those last weeks, and people say things and see things and know things. 

And people who were arrogant and invulnerable all their life, you sometimes see these transformations in the last two weeks of life. Get close to it and it's all you ened to change you. You can never live inside the isolated self again. 

So I would encourage people to draw close to death.

- Transliterated from a verbal interview.

Contemplate This: Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy on Turning Goals into Actions.

Anthony Robbins:

When people say "Teach me something new" I can tell they're not into mastery, because it's the consistent daily practices that make our lives a success.

The rule is: never, ever leave the site of a goal without first taking action to build momentum towards the achievement of that goal.

Brian Tracy:

The key to happiness is setting goals, working toward them day by day, and ulitmately achieving them. The very act of thinking about your goals makes you happy even before you have taken the first step toward achieiving them. You should make a habit of daily goal setting and daily goal achieving for the rest of your life.

You can release your full potential by continually working on being, having, and achieving more and more of the things you really want.

Imagine you have the inborn ability to achieve any goal you could ever set yourself? What do you really want to be, have, and do?

What are the activities that give you your greatest sense of meaning and purpose in life?

Look at your life today. How has your thinking created this? What should you change?

Do you think and talk about what you want most of the time - or what you don't want?

What price will you have to pay to achieve the goals that are most important to you?

What one action must you take immediately as a result of your answers to the above questions?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Contemplate This: The Spiritual Practice of Simple Meditation.

Simple meditation is the best meditation to practice. Simple meditation is sitting quietly for a specified amount of time. It need not be any more than that, but people try to complicate it with instructions.

Sitting quietly, you can watch the breathing. Sitting quietly, you can intend the body to stay completely unmoving. Sitting quietly, you can be aware of what is arising, passing, present and absent. But you can also simply sit quietly.

You can pray to know what the best meditation practice is for you. The best practice is the simplest, quietest, and commonest practice, and that practice is sitting quietly. You can sit for five minutes a day. You can sit for an hour a day. You can sit when you are on a bus or waiting at lights or in a meeting. You can stand quietly or lie quietly.

The best spiritual practice is simplest. It is simplest to do this practice simply, without dressup, heralding, or notice. In time it becomes common to everyone: because we all grow old and must sit for certain periods of time.

A meditation teacher was once asked what she taught. "We teach sitting quietly," she said.

"Yes," the questioner asked, "But what religion or school do you belong to?"

"We don't belong to any school or teaching or religion," she said. "We simply meet together and we simply sit together."

That is the simplicity of simple meditation. It is like the simplicity of God Himself. The fact that we can simply sit is a great good. Does it have any effects or rewards? No. The effect of sitting is sitting. The reward of sitting is sitting. And what that effect and reward is, is the sitting itself. Over time it becomes clear that sitting and the rest of life is not two things, but it also becomes clear that sitting and the rest of life are not the same as one another. From sitting, then, a tacit - that is, a felt or a sensed - understanding is born.

Contemplate This: How Brian Tracy Uses "I am responsible!" to Resolve Negative Emotions.

The negative emotions of fear, self-pity, envy, jealousy, feelings of inferiority, and ultimately anger are mostly caused by four factors. Once you identify and remove these factors from your thinking, your negative emotions stop automatically.

The four root causes of negative emotions are:

1. Justification. You can be negative only as long as you can justify to yourself that you are entitled to be angry and upset for some reason.

2. Rationalization. When you rationalize, you attempt to give a socially acceptable explanation for an otherwise socially unacceptable act. You create an explanation that sounds good but is not good.

3. Hypersensitivity. Almost everything we do to earn the respect of others or at least to avoid losing their respect leads to anger, embarrassment, shame, feelings of inferiority and even depression, self-pity, and despair.

4. Blame. The propensity to blame other people for our problem is the trunk of the tree of negative emotions. Once you cut down the trunk of the tree, all the fruits of the tree - all the other negative emotions - die immediately.

Responsibility is the antidote.
Simply say "I am responsible!" and you free yourself from neagtive emotions, begin taking control of your life, and short-circuit and cancel out any negative emotions you may be experiencing.

Saying "I am responsible!" whenever you start to feel upset frees you mentally and emotionally so you can begin to channel your energies and enthusiasms in a forward direction.

Without saying "I am responsible!" to negative emotions, no progress is possible.

Once you start saying "I am responsible!" to negative emotions, there are no limits on what you can be, do, and have.

Adapted from Brian Tracy's great book "Goals!"

My comment: There really is no such thing as a justified resentment!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Contemplate This: Success is a Goal, a Goal is a Habit, a Habit is a Set Daily Practice:

Brian Tracy writes:

A group of successful men once got together. They discussed the reasons why they had managed to achieve so much in life. The wisest man among them spoke up and said that: "Success is goals, and all else is commentary."

Charles Duhigg writes:

It occurred to me that the US Military is one of the biggest habit-formation experiments in history. Basic training teaches soldiers carefully designed habits for hot to shoot, think, and communicate under fire.

"Understanding habits is the most important thing I've learned in the army," the major told me. "It's changed everything about how I see the world. You want to fall asleep fast and wake up feeling good? Pay attention to your nighttime patterns and what you automatically do when you get up. You want to make running easy? Create triggers to make it a routine. I drill my kids on this stuff. My wife and I write out habit plans for our marriage... once you see everything as a bunch of habits, it's like someone gave you a flashlight and a crowbar and you can get to work."

Mark Houston says:

"You will observe in a monastery they do everything at the set time, 365 days a year. They taught me the value of discipline. That's why Monday through Friday, 4:30 AM, my feet are on the floor, because in times when the minions don't want to do it my feet are still on the floor because it's a habit. They taught me to find God in the pots and the pans in my dull boring mundane repetittive life. Wow! in washing dishes. In making toast. Find God in the pots and pans. They taught me all those things. They taught me the sacredness of all things, everything. What is not of God? So we handle everything as though it is of God. Woke me up to something again. You pick set times to do things, and you do them, regardless."

Practice, by Mark Houston:
Spiritual success is gained by daily cultivation. 
If you practice for the day, you have won.
If you are lazy for the day, you have lost.

Self-cultivation is the heart of spiritual attainment. 
Gaining insight and ability is not a matter of grand statements, 
dramatic initiations or sporadic moments of enlightenment,
Those things are only highlights in a life of consistent activity.

Whatever system of spirituality you practice, do it every day.
If it's prayer, then pray every day.
If it's meditation, then meditate every day.
If it is exercise, then exercise every day.
Only then will you be able to say that you are truly practicing spirituality.

This methodical approach is reassuring in several ways.

First, it provides you with a process and a means 
to maintain progress even if that particular day is not inspiring or significant. 
Just to practice is already good.

Second it will give you a certain faith. 
If you practice every day it is inevitable you will gain from it. 

Third, constant practice gives you a certain satisfaction:
how can you say to yourself you have truly entered your spiritual path, 
unless you have had years of daily practice 
and can take comfort in the momentum that it has given you?

Contemplate This: A Peaceful Mind Generates Power, by Norman Vincent Peale

The chief struggle in gaining mental peace is the effort of revamping your thinking to the relaxed attitude of acceptance of God's gift of peace.

Simply tell the Lord everything that is bothering you.

Have you experienced a sense of release when you have been able to pour out to somebody whom you can trust worrisome matters that lay heavy upon your heart?

When you empty your mind to God, you receive peace as a gift from God.

Definitely practice emptying your mind of fears, hates, insecurities, regrets and guilt feelings. The mere fact that you consciously make this effort to empty your mind tends to give relief.

Immediately start filling your mind with creative and healthy thoughts.

Let pass across your mind the most peaceful scenes of a beautiful valley filled with the hush of evening-time as the shadows lengthen and the sun sinks to rest.

Let pass across your mind the most peaceful scenes of the silvery light of the moon falling upon rippling waters.

Let pass across your mind the most peaceful scenes of the sea washing gently upon soft shores of sand.

Speak peaceful, quieting words, and your mind will react in a peaceful manner. Repeat that word slowly several times.

For example:


Going about your day, use this line of the 23rd Psalm:

"He leads me beside the still water; he restores my soul."

Go about your day repeating this idea over and over gently.

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