Monday, November 21, 2011

Learn to love life, and to thirst for learning...

"He disciplines his mind so that his ordinary perceptions are more in line with a love of life and thirst for learning, and less inhibited or tainted by past experiences and fear" (Ilgner, p. 98). 

Focusing my attention more and more on life around me, I have noticed a shift in my 27 years. Granted, though, 22 of those years were majorly spent in a selfish world where I didn't take much notice; but, reflection has led me back to places, spaces in my past, where I diverged from the established path I had been treading. These spots recalled now in the present illicit a space of cognitive dissonance. According to the General Experimental Psychology Cognitive Dissonance Lab at Ithaca College:
"People hold a multitude of cognitions simultaneously, and these cognitions form irrelevant, consonant or dissonant relationships with one another.

Cognitive Irrelevance probably describes the bulk of the relationships among a person's cognitions. Irrelevance simply means that the two cognitions have nothing to do with each other. Two cognitions are consonant if one cognition follows from, or fits with, the other. People like consonance among their cognitions. 
Two cognitions are said to be dissonant if one cognition follows from the opposite of another. What happens to people when they discover dissonant cognitions?
The answer to this question forms the basic postulate of Festinger's theory. A person who has dissonant or discrepant cognitions is said to be in a state of psychological dissonance, which is experienced as unpleasant psychological tension.
This tension state has drivelike properties that are much like those of hunger and thirst. Reducing the psychological sate of dissonance is not as simple as eating or drinking however" (citation).
Refracting through a historical lens on the past opportunities that I missed or disregarded to be a better person - a person more in line with love for life and thirst for learning - brings me to revisit, to analyze, and ultimately seek growth and development. I am afforded a rare opportunity. I have no children, I am not married, and for the better part of a day, I spend my time as I please. In all this, I have the ability to rummage over and through things others have possibly long forgot. Perhaps my visions the other night (read this blog entry) sought to remind me that there are continual opportunities to learn and grow from.

All I need do is be open and accepting to the thoughts that may enter my consciousnesses; taking along with me a neutral position of emotion (i.e., not pre-registering a feeling or emotion based on the outcomes of the past).

Often times, discussing the past with a close friend and spiritual being interested in bettering themselves aids me in understanding my own life and things I've done. This, again, is an opportunity to discover, to understand the happenings of my past with a different posturing. I no longer am feeling the emotions associated with this event and therefore a different position presents in the absence of tainted-ness. Emotions to me, seem distant when reconsidering past occurrences. We may recall that we felt a certain way, but generally unless the event was traumatic (i.e., the feelings live-on through memory and resurface without clear distinction between event and emotion), we cannot truly feel again how we had felt in that moment.

For example, you decide today that you are going to go for a run. As you prepare yourself, dress yourself, and begin slipping on your foot attire of choice, you recall the last time you wore these shoes, or went running. Let's say hypothetically, that last time you pulled a muscle in your lower leg and so now you have this preconceived notion of what running may feel like: pain. Perhaps pain illicits anger then  disappointment, and so on. Emotion has this way of snowballing if we do not control the only thing we can truly control - ourselves, our actions, and our emotions, and not the things outside this environment (though we try!). Where I am separating the memory of emotions is here. We recall through our tainted experience and our fears what it was like last time (i.e. memory), but we do not truly recall what the options of emotion could have been (if there is tainted or fearful emotions; perhaps, it was happy so therefore we would register positivity instead). Maybe next time you think of running you'll register the idea of pain, but you won't play into it - being open to the option that this time, you will experience something different.

With time having separated our memories from this emotion, we now have the ability to depict the stiction points: the spots that, despite our best efforts, remain ingrained in the folds of our memory for later reconsideration and learning. There are more colors than the black or white I recall.

Within these folds I can wander, realizing that time is on my side. As I've shared with others, there is no rush to process the elements of our lives that we wish to try again upon. If it takes you to your death bed to finally admit, grow, and learn that something you did was wrong and you are sorry, then you have made it!

Accept that you, I, or anyone else, is flawed and that upon accepting this, we free ourselves to the opportunity of growth. Only when we ignore or dismiss the dissonance in our consciousness do we shuck off the yoke of learning and love for life in all its occurrences there within.


I'll end on this note. It is not always intuitive to reconsider the past that stays with us despite our best efforts to move forward; nor is this intuitiveness timely. If you do find you have something staying with you, don't simply discard it. Find a time to stay with the thought. Talk about it with a close acquaintance or loved one; write about; or, go for a walk in the wilderness and permit your mind to rummage. If you accept to understand that thought, that memory, you will be replenished with a learned moment that never will be forgotten.

Memory, and the learning gained from it, are like riding a bike: once you learn, you hardly ever forget. 

Love in life,

'It is not learning that is uncomfortable, but the elements recalled in the process!' 

Friday, November 18, 2011

2 pennies and a quarter: What do the occurrences, the coincidences mean?

Last night was one of the  most interesting evenings I have had in a long while. I was sharing with my friend Molly a few days ago about how my day changed from the norm because I exited the building via a different door. Since that day, I have found occurrences to be shifting in ways that are predictable, yet surprising. I feel some of this revolves around a quote I read out of the Rock Warrior's Way (by Arno Ilgner):
"Develop your receptivity to intuition. When you receive an apparently random thought, don't simply discard it. Stay curious and follow it. See where it leads. Intuition whispers to you between your conscious thoughts. Listen to those subtle thoughts and feelings just below the level of your consciousness (p. 96)."

After struggling mentally and emotionally with a precarious situation involving my RAs, I read an email from a man I had met briefly at Appalachian State. He produced the video for Project Big Green Tree. In the email he shared thoughts about how...
"your words stuck with me. I and my 3 year old daughter walk our dogs everyday, and while we are out, we pick up trash along the 2 miles that we walk...everyday. While we are doing this I try and teach my daughter the importance of not littering in the first place and why we should be responsible and pick up other peoples litter too. It makes me feel good to see a clean stretch of road or to pick up a piece of litter off of a sidewalk that others simply ignore and step over."
These words stuck with me. I, in many ways, could not even begin to comprehend the impact of what this man had written. His thoughts were so sincere, and I feel like I barely had gotten to know him for more than a few hours. But, in that short span of time, this man harbored something that I envisioned and cherished and decided to pass it on back:
"So thank you for your influence on me. I hope it spreads to more people in the future. I know am trying to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. That is one reason I am not there anymore, trying to take care of a problem that was not suppose to be known. But when something tries to put you down, keep on keeping on...especially when you are doing the right thing like you doing. Take care of yourself Al and I hope we meet again one day."
Reading that, I had no clue what to do. The hour was getting late but I had no desire for sleep. My girlfriend Maura had told me of a meteor shower going on in another hour or two at 12 midnight so I decided to venture outward, outside my comfortable apartment.

My walk took me up and around Boone, into the quieter parts of town. I passed a few college students going the same direction as I down the dark street, and in not knowing what to say, told them there was a meteor shower happening from 12p till 5am. They thanked me as I continued past them, bundled against the cold wind on a cloudless night. I eventually came to one of my favorite spots in Boone, Junaluska Neighborhood Park. In this space so close to town, I sought release from the woes of my mind, my day.

As I walked through the parking lot barefoot, having removed my shoes and socks on a passing whim, the blaring yellow of the bright street lights pinned a reflection off a metallic, copper looking object. It was indeed a penny that I had happened across, cold and solid in its perch upon the concrete. My friend Luke would have been stoked! Now, this is where the story takes on some crazy, unexplainable things, but perhaps it relates back to what Arno was saying about receptivity to intuition...

As I picked up the penny a thought popped into my head with the date 2007 (I always am interested in the date of a coin, because I imagine it as a tiny fractile of someone's life that I am picking up, and that I have a duty to be responsible with it). Sure enough as I turned the coin over in my gloved palm, "2007" was the date! What?? How could this be....?

I shrugged it off as luck and paid little attention to the premonition I had in my head about the date. A few steps later, the street light again cast a glimpse off a familiar object: another penny! Again, a date appeared in my head before I even picked up the penny: "2010." Indeed, the date confirmed 2010! What was it that led to this? After the 2nd occurrence of a penny, I realized I had observed an intuitive thought - and in my reflecting and reading this morning - indeed the thought was generated below the level of my consciousness, something that intuition whispered to me, begging curiosity to follow.

Now, if you feel the story has reached its climax, you may be right - as I, too, initially thought. However, this was not the case. I went on to practice rail walking the square wooden fence that lines the park. This fence, maybe 2-3 feet of the ground, is as wide as a 2x4 and as thick as a human thigh - enough to support my weight plus some. In this period of forced concentration, intentional breathing, and bodily balance, I observed the instability of my mind, perhaps my Ego, as I sought to move along the fence line without falling. Many times I took the short stumble to the ground, landing on my feet, but that was only the half of it. I witnessed, as I have in the past on the same fence, the distraction of the higher mind. This cerebral space culled me to be focused in reflection and abstract to the events passed, and away from the 'here and now.' After continually observing the distracting thoughts as I took in the night sky above and felt the chilly air of the evening,  I decided to lay down - hoping to see some meteors as Maura had mentioned.

In that open, face-up position on the ground nothing came that could be attributed to things of interest. I enjoyed the quiet space my mind and body found together for a number of minutes and decided that it was too early for the meteor shower. I stood up and proceeded through the far side of the park back towards downtown. Along my way was another smaller park that I often frequent for solitude and reflection. This park had no trees above its square, green play space, and so therefore sightlines yielded to the open sky above. It was here that I lay down along the edge of the mulching to take in the view overhead.

"Stronger my concentration grew while faster and faster my eyeballs in rapid movements moved as thoughts spun and spun."

As I gazed above into the vast void, face-up, my eyes quickly distorted focus and the stars in sky above began to quiver and disappear. Gone into my mind my thoughts and vision went. I became a passenger on a whirl ride of visions. Many of these visions were reflections of my life to date: my sister Stephanie and I having a snow ball fight from 15 years ago, a fight we had over the vacuum cleaner that resulted in upset; the spot where I lost my virginity - the details about the scene never noticed before; to name a few that I can recall. As the VCR-like fast-forward continued in reverse, I found the images to be dizzying, yet I wasn't loosing focus. Stronger my concentration grew while faster and faster my eyeballs in rapid movements moved as thoughts spun and spun. No longer was my mind engaged in my body, but solely in the inner space near the body's 3rd eye. Eventually there was an apex: my thoughts settled into numbers and then onto one number: 33. This was where the spinning and swirling of thoughts ceased. In this clairvoyance, I once again felt stability in my mind, and feeling in my physical self as my eyes slowly blinked open.
My body had become quiet cold as I had shunted all attention to my mind, completely relaxing my body - as we practice in yoga class at the end (corpse pose). I rolled over, sat-up and proceeded in silence down the narrow path towards a large parking lot with silence registering in my consciousness. In each intentional direction I looked, I saw instances of the number 3. The few parked cars that were there had almost all, in some form, an iteration of the number 3. I saw a few North Carolina plates, but nothing that surprised me outright. In the next moment I observed the thought of an Illinois plate in the low light only to realize it was a Georgia plate (my oldest sister lives in Illinois). I kept following curiosity and eventually came to a parking spot numbered 33. At first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Nothing at all. Then, similar to how Arno writes in the Rock Warrior's way, I had an intuitive moment to continue following curiosity and commit to less thinking - giving way to a lower, perceptive brain center to lead me. I found myself moving to observe the empty parking space from a different angle; to perceive it in a light I hadn't upon first glance. As I stepped backwards and again to the left, my curiosity led me to the spot beside it, number 32. There on the ground at my feet was a shiny quarter, an Illinois quarter to be exact! To many people, finding change isn't unusual, but in many occurrences before this, I had pursued loose change in this same parking lot with intentional thought and mind, only to come away empty. This time, however, I had found a rarity in the change-finding world: a quarter! and one that connected a loved one with my thoughts.
The pennies and quarter discovered!


As I lay  down to bed, I slept with no recollection of any dreams I may have had. I barely even remember laying down. I awoke the next morning to the thoughts of the evening and events that had transpired. I had to write, to cast out what it is that I had experienced the evening before. 

What is it that I am to learn from all of this?  The events that transpired in the detailed story above serve to demonstrate something in my life. Perhaps you the reader extract something different, but to me, I have new renewal in my life. To follow my curiosity, to continue the non-violent fight for preserving what it is that I am passionate about: the wild spaces. And, to find a way to communicate the message about our responsibilities as humans on this Earth.

As I sit here and finish these final thoughts, I recall a moment earlier during my writing when I looked out my apartment window and saw 2 University employees smoking cigarettes, only to see them (sadly) discard their finished butts on the ground...

...and that is why I am alive, here on this Earth!
If you wish to join the non-violent fight, I would love to connect with you.

Much love to those that harbor thoughts towards a future different than the today. To those that have not seen the possibilities yet, I also have love for you because I know somewhere inside you is a bit of compassion for something you love; and, in turn, life will seek to extract that out. Be patient, stay the course of possibilities...always.

Much appreciation to all that have helped me in my path; and to those I have yet to meet, grow, and learn with.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


"Half-assed for most his life, piss poor little ham"
I have found myself to be highly defiant lately. I don't jive with the decisions that my superiors freely hand out to be implemented.

A more correct answer would be to not challenge those I perceive to be "wrong". I sit for a moment and observe the dialogue in my head, challenge is inevitable in life, the time and place is not. There may be no opportunity for me to ever share my feedback or how I perceive things with those that challenge me. There will be, however, an opportunity to do something right when it is my turn to lead, my turn to be on the other side and understand that smaller person's position. That I look forward to. I hope to learn and grow from this. There is a better balance.

If I had to take one thing that I feel this blog is about, it would be a lesson in life. The lesson I extract today is that as a leader, we should never hand down decisions without allowing those it affects to have some say in what that decision ultimately looks like. It's a group process...enjoy the noise!