Peace Of Mind In Hard Times

Coping with the Human Condition.

Thoughts of a carer on handling difficult times:

When you live with a bad situation that can’t be controlled or improved, it’s like your life has been turned UPSIDE DOWN!

 

You can’t force things to get better, but you can heal your mind.

 

None of us can escape disappointment and sorrow in life.

They’re part of the Human Condition, largely because we don’t control a lot of what happens to us.

 

We have to ACCEPT whatever life is serving up at the moment.

 

When you live in a bad situation, all your plans get UPENDED, leaving us with a life UPSIDE DOWN!

 

When we become aware of the mental and emotional challenges that accompany a bad situation, it becomes easier to ADJUST and ACCEPT our new lifes.

 

Recipe for Peace of Mind:

One dose of stark reality—our lives and the people in them, are uncertain and unpredictable and do NOT always conform to what we want.

ACCEPTING this is the first step toward making peace with our circumstances.

One dose of practical skills—learning mindfulness.

One dose Humour—good medicine for the heart and mind.

Our inner freedom, freedom from suffering, is limitless regardless of our external circumstances

There are two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it!

The Want Monster whispers: If only you could get your health back, everything would be rosy.

I then realize that this is a delusion, if my health was restored, my life would STILL have problems.

Complaining is a recipe for suffering, it centers around a desire to control what’s happening to us.

A stark reality is that we have limited or NO control how things will unfold in any given moment.

It’s how we RESPOND to a bad situation that makes us miserable or content. If we resist and try to change it, we suffer!

To get peace we have to ACCEPT AND ADAPT.

A Basic Mindfulness Practice:

Take three or four deep conscious breaths—the sensation of the breath is a good anchor, because it takes place in the Present Moment.

 

The Three Components of Physical Discomfort:

The unpleasant sensation, pain, aching nerves and muscles, etc.

You emotional reaction to that discomfort, fear, irritation, anger.

Stressful thoughts related to the first two.

 

If you RESIST stressful thoughts and emotions you create suffering for yourself.

But if you RESPOND with ACCEPTANCE your suffering is eased.

 

It helps to remember that when we see cheerful people, we’re only seeing their public faces. We don’t know what their inner life is like.

They are probably stressful just like us.

We are all subject to illness, injury, aging, and separation from loved ones.

No one gets a pass on this.

Your carer is suffering right along with you.

Their life is also turned UPSIDE DOWN!

 

One reality of the Human Condition is:

IMPERMANENCE. Everything is in flux from moment to moment, including our physical and mental states.

Uncertainty is a fact of life.

 

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our PRESENCE!

Between the carer and the caree many of the difficulties we face overlap.

We’re both isolated socially, we don’t travel much anymore and we both face uncertainty about the future.

 

The worst loneliness is to NOT be comfortable with yourself.

Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept the way things are.

This is very difficult at the start!

 

The wisest response to bad situations that are beyond our control, circumstances we cannot change, is:

NONCONTENTION—which is NO struggling or fighting the situation.

Life is suffering. All of us can expect to encounter: birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow, pain, grief, getting what we don’t want and losing what we have.

What all these items have in common is that none of them are pleasant experiences; they are mentally painful or physically painful or BOTH!

Relentless effort to escape what we cannot escape and to change what we cannot change, this leads us to be miserable.

The good news is that we CAN reach the end of suffering in the mind, even while still suffering in body.

 

There are 3 experiences that are common to the life of every human being:

Suffering

Impermanence

No-Fixed -Self

 

With impermanence comes uncertainty and unpredictability.

BUT, we crave the opposite—security and assurance.

The fact that every aspect of our life is uncertain, unpredictable and in constant flux—we have to look after each moment, cherishing what we still can do, aware that everything could change in an instant.

 

What am I? I am a flow-through of matter, energy and information.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”

The NO SELF statement—“I think, but I am NOT my thoughts.”

NO SELF, NO PROBLEM!

The core of Buddha’s teachings:

Our lives are full of suffering so there are practices that can lead to the end of that mental suffering.

 

The 4 Sublime States:

Kindness; treating ourselves and others with kindness.

Compassion; reaching out to help yourself and others.

Empathetic Joy; feeling joyful when others are happy.

Equanimity; being at peace no matter what our circumstances.

 

Empathetic Joy is central to coming to terms with the life I can no longer lead.

You need the ability to share others’ joy, otherwise you will be steeped in ENVY!

 

Life’s limitations apply to carers as well as the ill, because they also have to forgo activities.

At first, feeling joyful just because others were happy was a SHEER ACT OF WILL. But if you stick with the practice, slowly the fake joy turns into genuine joy.

Equanimity is mental calmness especially in difficult situations.

 

The ill face each day not knowing which symptoms will hit us hard on a particular day.

The ill and their carers don’t know how they will react to the bad situation they are in from day to day.

IT’S DIFFICULT TO STAY CALM IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES!

 

Letting Go involves the peaceful ACCEPTANCE of the unexpected and unwanted situations that arise in our lives.

YOUR SUFFERING ARISES FROM YOUR INTENSE DESIRE FOR CERTAINTY AND PREDICTABILITY.

If you could Let Go of the worry just a little because you have NO control over the bad situation anyway.

If you could Let Go completely, you would have peace and freedom and your struggles would come to an end.

 

THE PRESENT MOMENT IS A REFUGE.

Listening to your breath, in and out, this anchors you in the Present Moment.

The past is history. The future is a mystery. The Present is a gift.

 

WISE ACTION is action that leads to the cessation of suffering.

WISE INACTION can be thought of as NOT engaging in actions that make us feel bad.

 

Sometimes people are under so much stress that they can’t meditate. What to do?

DO NOTHING!

Just sit and do nothing for 5 or 10 minutes.

When I’m doing nothing I feel calm and receptive.

This practice is relaxing, restorative and feels good.

 

Carers should share with friends and family how hard it is for them at times to provide care.

There will be days when you’re NOT up to the task.

So practice Patient Endurance, we face hardship without giving up.

Even at home, care givers may be isolated from their loved one.

The ill loved one fines it hard to visit with the carer.

The carer has great frustration at not being able to make their spouse better.

 

Living with illness and care giving is a work in progress.

Some days you cry out: I wish things were different—but the situation is what it is!

TAKE SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE; DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES ARE PRESENT IN THE LIVES OF ALL BEINGS.

HAVING BEEN BORN, WE ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE, ILLNESS AND DEATH.

IT HAPPENS DIFFERENTLY FOR EACH PERSON.

To sum up: When facing difficult times:

Let It Go

Let It Be

Accept It

Then you will have PEACE OF MIND.

 

Lessons From Oldies

Time is of the Essence–To an Oldie everything is about TIME.

They know that each of our lifetimes are limited.

The young think they have all the time in the world.

The Oldies realise their limited time horizon (think of the sun setting) which exposes the fundamental truth: Life is Short.

I’ve found the speed at which life passes is scary when viewed from the end.

So, what to do? Take advantage of every day and enjoy it. Seize the Day!

The Oldie understands that each day is one you will never get back, so why not make the most of it?

The Oldie knows Happiness is a Choice.

You can’t control all the things that happen in your life, but you can control your reaction to them.

The Oldie is an expert in maintaining a balance between accepting loss and bad situations and keeping an awareness of life’s pleasures.

Time spent worrying is Time Wasted. So Stop Worrying!

When you’re 70 or 80 you don’t have 50 more years to live, that’s the rub, the Oldie has limited time.

Feeling grateful comes out of that realisation.

Every morning Oldies say:

“Yes, I’m alive!”

And at night they say:

“Thanks for the day.”

Sometimes Oldies indulge in distorted thinking when times are bad.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the mind is so adept at distorted thinking.

Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse, BUT that’s NO problem.

This perspective enables you to hold cognitive distortions more lightly.

At times your mind is so unruly, so unreasonable. No wonder your thinking gets distorted.

But you can counter these distortions.

Example: “My legs are weak, I can’t do much.”

Counter that with:

“Given my weak legs, it’s amazing that I can get through each day.

I can drive and walk even with weak legs!”

In conclusion: Live your life whether you are young or old as if life is short, which it is!

Make a choice to be happy in the face of difficulties.

Worry is a waste of your lifetime.

Enjoy daily pleasures.

The Oldies tell us that everything comes to an END sooner or later, so enjoy life while you have it!

Fearless Aging

A few thoughts on ageing fearlessly:

Our culture fears old age. Why? Because we “think” too much!

Assuming we are lucky enough to live into old age, we fear what that entails.

Will it be physically and emotionally painful?

 

Aging is a PROCESS and it’s much better than you think.

You can do as you please and enjoy whatever!

You don’t care what others think.

You don’t need their approval.

 

Now granted, as you age it brings limitations.

You might not walk very well.

If you go places that require walking, you might need a cane. Get help where ever you can.

But you still have your mind and you can do things with it.

 

View aging as a QUEST, an ADVENTURE.

The adventure involves new opportunities and the development of new interests.

 

When you age you must take care of your health.

If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

 

Don’t worry about dying, it’s a waste of time.

Religious people get comfort in thinking there is an afterlife.

But I found the same comfortableness with life’s end among oldies who were non-believers.

Some oldies believe NATURE is GOD.

But to most non-believers life is death and death is life. When you die, you die.

I don’t think about it much now.

I’m going on 81 so I do as much as I can to enjoy what’s left.

I’ve always been interested in science and philosophy, and the more I learned the less religious I became.

Here’s a view from one oldie:

“I think I have to accept growing older and someday dying. It makes life easier.

If you can be realistic about things it’s helpful.

Keep learning and being interested in the world around you, it stimulates the mind.

Stay connected, don’t be isolated socially, engage through learning opportunities and friendships.

 

The ultimate lesson about aging is “don’t fight it”..

Accept and adapt!

 

When I wake up in the morning, I sing:

“Oh, what a beautiful morning.

Oh, what a beautiful day.

I’ve got a beautiful feeling.

Everything’s going my way.”

 

Disregard Negative Thoughts

Here is my buddy Tom’s reply to one of my blogs:

“I used to have to stop and think to get myself centered and able to accept “What Is”.

Now it’s almost automatic. When something happens and I feel like responding negatively, I say to myself, “ I don’t want to respond to that”, and the feeling passes and I feel better!”

 

Now there’s a man who knows how to dismiss a bad thought.

 

The average person will have about 50,000 thoughts enter and leave their mind per day.

We have the ability to disregard many thoughts that are meaningless. It’s good we can do this, otherwise we would go crazy with too much mental activity to handle.

 

But sometimes when we are upset and traumatized, we hold onto negative thoughts as though that would help the situation. Instead we remain miserable.

 

“What’s the process of controlling thoughts?”

“You have very little control over which thoughts enter your mind to BEGIN with.

Your POWER over your thinking begins AFTER the formation of a thought.

Then you have the CHOICE of continuing to think about it OR let it drift away.”

 

“What’s the spanner in the works then?”

“It’s our faulty judgement of what is good or bad that gets us into trouble.

We tend to hang onto bad thoughts and analyse them as if they were very important.”

 

“What happens when we take a negative thought seriously?”

“We start to experience the effects of that thought and to feel all the bad emotions tied to it.”

“I’ve been down that road and it makes me sick!”

“Fortunately, as we learn to disregard negative thoughts we begin to feel better.”

“So, when I dismiss a negative thought and go on to something else I will be free from the negative effects of those thoughts.”

“That’s right. Many of us will TORTURE ourselves with our own distorted thinking.

And the absurd thing is that we are doing it to ourselves!

You are the thinker who is thinking negative thoughts!”

“So, the power to stop negative thinking is in my hands.”

“Yes, it is.  We discover how wonderful it is to feel better again. And the good news is that it gets easier with practice.”

“Keep learning and practicing, that will be my motto.”

 

“Another recommendation is to stay in your WISE SELF. Some people tend to react emotionally to everything.”

THREE WAYS OF THINKING:

The Emotional Self—people who think from this perspective, their emotions control their behaviour. This is NOT in your best interest.

The Reasoning Self—people here think things through before they act and they discount their emotions. In this state it means you’re using logical thinking.

The Wise Self—acting from your Wise Self is finding a balance between your emotional and reasoning selves and figuring out what’s in your best interest in the long term.

When you’re using your Wise Self you’re choosing how to act rather than just reacting.

 

You can always tell you’re in your emotional self when the emotions are intense and you feel caught up in them.

When you’re in your Wise Self, you still feel the emotions but you don’t feel controlled by them.

Instead, you feel a sense of calm and a feeling of being in control, even though the emotions are still present.

 

You’re never too old to learn and practice dismissing negative thoughts.

 

The Stranger Within

“Have you ever felt that all that used to be familiar was now foreign to you?”

“I felt that way after my mother died.”

“This feeling can arise after a loved one passes away or when you or someone close to you is facing an illness. Your world feels unreal!”

“Sometimes I feel isolated after a traumatic event. Especially a situation that you can’t control or stop.”

“Yes, you can perceive your environment in an altered or distorted way. You feel hollow inside. You are a stranger to yourself!”

“I’m always monitoring my feelings and then I feel very uncomfortable.”

“This is known as Self-Focus. You succumb to despair about your predicament.

Obsessive self-focus can lead to endless thinking about unpleasant feelings and hopelessness.”

“You say to yourself, “Am I living for myself or am I living for this mental discomfort?

Who is in control?”

“I’ve said that to myself but what can I do about it?”

“You have to ACCEPT those feelings and the situation you’re in and live your life.

This is called PSYCHOLOGICAL FLEXIBILITY, which means you are accepting your bad emotions as you keep going on living ONE DAY AT A TIME.”

“Now I realize that engaging in life despite discomfort doesn’t always sit well with people.

They say, “I shouldn’t have to live this way, I just want the discomfort to go away!”

“But when you are willing to meet a range of bad emotions head on, you open yourself up to the possibility of going on with life’s possibilities ONE DAY AT A TIME.

That’s all you have to do is keep going on with your daily activities no matter what.”

“So what will guide you?”

“Your personal values, this is the direction you want to travel because it is meaningful to you.”

“So, in summary, lets go over some points:

First, ACCEPT your discomfort while staying engaged in life.

Validate your negative emotions—this means that you accept them and you know they are present and you allow yourself to feel them.

Remember: the more you struggle, the more your emotions will suck you under like quicksand.

The key is: stop fighting your bad feelings and accept your situation. You don’t feel like it but it is what it is!

Once you accept them, they will lose their strength.

Second, defuse your thoughts, observe them and move on.

Third, don’t try to avoid discomfort.

Clarify your values and live by them.”

“Remember: A valued lifestyle and acceptance equals committed action.

You won’t be a stranger to yourself if you follow this advice.

You will be the boss of your inner space.”

DON’T WORRY YOU ARE NOT LOSING IT!”

The Feel Good Part Of You

“Have you ever heard of a part of you called “Your Healthy Mental Functioning?”

“Well, I know we all want to function in a healthy manner.”

“Yes, we all do, but healthy functioning is innate, inborn, your natural state of mind.

It’s your common sense, your peace of mind, it’s really your higher self. It functions when you are not ego thinking. It’s your source of emotional stability.

It’s the part of you that isn’t bothered if the circumstances of your life are bad.”

“How do you get in touch with your healthy functioning?”

“You have to trust that it does exist and have a desire to tap into it.”

“What does it feel like?”

“When you feel a sense of internal stability no matter what happens to be going on around you. It’s when no matter what happens, you keep your cool.”

“Sometimes I feel in charge of myself and other times I feel like I’m losing my cool, why is that?”

“Sometimes you’re into your healthy functioning and sometimes you’re NOT.”

Pause for a moment of pondering

“Your healthy functioning is working when you feel like everything is OK and your perspective is right on target, and NOT distorted.”

“What’s the main thing that your healthy functioning does for you?”

“It allows you to live in the Here and Now, and do the best you can, also it makes you remember that the most important part of life is ENJOYING IT and FEELING PEACEFUL.”

“How does your Thought System compare with Healthy Functioning?”

“Your Thought System is concerned with how you compare to others, your ego pursuits, and your supply of wants and needs. It concerns itself with what happens in your life, good or bad.”

“What about enjoyment and happiness?”

“Happiness. Is a state of mind, not your life circumstances.

Happiness and enjoyment come under your healthy functioning. It’s the part of you that is content. It’s your feel good part.”

“So, healthy Mental Functioning does exist?”

“Absolutely, it always exists when your mind is quiet and clear of negativity and it is NOT focused on your problems.”

“The most important idea is:

LIVE YOUR LIFE IN THE HERE AND NOW AND BE GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE THAT MOMENT.”

Over 80? The Truth!

Being over eighty is a moment of TRUTH. HERE ARE SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS:

Hey baby, YOU ARE OLD, period!

You are unlikely to charm anyone at a party with your smile and you’re preoccupied with wondering about hearing aids and walking sticks.

But anytime after 65 you can run into moments of TRUTH, because of aging.

So, you want to survive the elements of old age. You’ve survived up to now, for some there is a breaking point and for others there is not.

Through life you have hardships, things that are difficult and there is NO sign that anything will get better, that’s the point where people quit. But some don’t, they KEEP GOING ON!

Aging is a physical and emotional trial.

The physical part gets our attention first, many aches and pains and breakdowns even as we try to keep going, exercising and eating healthy foods.

But it’s the emotional part of aging that determines how “graceful” we age.

How we respond to aging determines whether we are content or slip into depression.

Your ATTITUDE is everything!

The last act of the Play of Life takes everything we have to keep on moving forward into the UNKNOWN.

So, lets say “YES” to the life we have. Sure we are scared and unsure but we are still here and we can still do our part.

I don’t run any marathons now. But I never did!

We don’t expect our small ailments to go away—just to be semi-treatable.

Pills are our daily diet.

What do we want and need?

A reason to get up in the morning—hobbies and socializing.

We need people.

We are INVISIBLE to young people. They just see the grey hair, NOT the person inside.

Society seems to write off old people—The Lost Generation!

If you’re lucky you have a wife, you need companionship.

Over 80? By this time you’re more tolerant and understanding.

I could go on another 5-10 years, or just another day.

So it’s not really worth worrying about anything.

Young people can be patronizing to old people—they think we haven’t lived, but we have, we’ve seen and experienced many things.

When I look back on my life, I wonder what I’ve done with it.

I took up writing in my retirement and it keeps me busy.

I’m happy!

I never think about the future, NOT much left anyway, I just live every day and enjoy it.

At this stage, health is more important than money.

On a good day I feel 21 but on a bad day I feel 100!

The worst thing about being old is the aches and pains and the frustration that you can’t do as much as you would like.

Everybody changes along with their circumstances. Some mellow and others become cantankerous!

Since I am an atheist, I find it hard to come to terms with my own mortality—that someday I will cease to exist and life comes to NAUGHT!

Technically speaking, I, as an atheist, should be better off and able to deal with death much easier as opposed to worrying about whether or not I’m getting the Holiday Inn or the Sahara Desert to spend eternity in.

Everything living eventually dies.

People are perhaps the only species aware of this in advance.

Knowing this can be depressing or it can empower you to make every day count.

The only time you have is NOW. You have a choice, spend your only time in existence with a good outlook or spend it in anxiety.

Don’t worry about not existing, for the most part of the past 14 billion years of the lifetime of our world, you did NOT exist.

And after you die, you will return to that state of nonexistence.

You must realize our NATURAL state is nonexistence!

Mother Natures handbag has three items in it:

Matter—Energy—Time.

The definition of aging is the effect of energy on matter over time.

Aging from the Outside—wear and tear on the body from outside sources—sunlight causes skin wrinkling ext.

Aging from the Inside—there is the chemistry of metabolism.

Metabolism allows life by assembling billions of chemical reactions that drive life.

Aging is the flaw, the price we pay for being alive.

The chemical reactions generate TRASH, which accumulates over time to yield what we call aging. Cells die, some get renewed, but NOT all.

So, aging is WEAR AND TEAR, from external and internal energy sources.

Luckily we can self-repair. But the repair mechanism reverses only a part of aging.

So, the EQUATION FOR AGING is:

WEAR AND TEAR MINUS PART REPAIR EQUALS AGING

In conclusion, remember this statement I said on my 80thbirthday:

“As I look back on my life, which has been full of tragic moments—I see it as more of a COMEDY than a TRAGEDY.

One of those comedies in which, while you are laughing your guts out—you feel your heart breaking.

The man that takes life too seriously is doomed.”

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE!

What About the Future?

“Tom, what about the future? Are we headed for utopia or dystopia or maybe Protopia?”

“What is Protopia, Dave?”

“Protopia is a state that is better than today or yesterday. Where progress is steady and measured with the least amount of aggravation.”

“Sounds good. It’s probably NOT possible to have a world where everyone lives in harmony.”

“Dave, how do we make the world a better place, what principles will guide us?”

“Well, reciprocal altruism is one principle. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.

Another one could be: seek happiness with someone else’s happiness in mind. Never seek it through force or fraud.

The same goes for liberty.

Also find rational reasons for your actions by consulting others first to get constructive feedback.

Finally, contribute to the survival and flourishing of other beings.”

“I think we’ve already done a lot towards Protopia, Dave.

We’ve reduced the size of wars, abolished slavery, don’t tolerate torture or the death penalty, expanded suffrage, defended civil rights, legalized same sex marriage and we are trying to protect the animals.”

“That’s right, Tom. Also centralized power will be NO more and location will be irrelevant because you can go anywhere digitally, instantly.”

“I get it, Dave, there will be NO power centers because power will be distributed all over the globe and placed in the handed of citizens locally. The old idea of political power will dissolve.”

“People will come together in geographical cyberspace. With communications such as Skype, talking to people anywhere on earth will be possible with NO barriers to being connected.”

“Hey Dave, I think the motto should be: Think Globally, But Act Locally.”

“I like it, Tom. City states will replace nation states!”

“I think the best government is INVISIBLE, in the sense that no one will notice them until something goes wrong.

When public systems are running smoothly, people don’t think about them.

But that’s not true of bloated bureaucracies, they’re NOT invisible because they are not designed to solve problems speedily or efficiently, if at all!”

“How can we replace bureaucracy, Dave?”

“With an organizational structure that is flexible and can cope with change and solves problems quickly.”

“Bureaucracies evolved in response to rigid hierarchical and slow changing nation states, premised on the presumption that there is one right way to handle things and then standardize it.”

“Adhocracy is the alternative to Bureaucracy. It is premised on innovation and problem solving in response to changing conditions that require unique solutions to new problems.”

“Who would be the power brokers?”

“City states would work with each other globally, and the most powerful person would be the Mayor.”

“Come to think of it, Dave, cities are NOT burdened with issues of borders and sovereignty, which restrict nation states so consequently they don’t work together.”

“The world would be ruled by cities, local democratic entities rather than top-down power or hierarchy.”

“I got it, Dave, we would become a city planet in which activities bypass national boundaries.”

“Tom, cities are the future NOT nations. We’ve become so used to nations as the norm, we forget the concept is barely 200 years old, where as cities date back 10,000 years.”

“The goal would be a global community with a communication system such as the Internet.

Knowledge available to anyone, anywhere and anytime.

A World Economy with markets where anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from governments.

A global culture in which ethnic differences fade away and all people feel they are part of one global species.”

“The democratic way is about a process, in which power is shared equality and liberty is realized within the community. Cities can be the building blocks for global governing.”

Silence while we pondered.

“Well, what do you think, Tom?”

“I think the nation state is failing us on the global scale.

The city was the habitat of first resort and now in today’s globalizing world it has become democracy’s best hope.”

“Yes Tom, I see the emergence of Smart Cities that will be on the cutting edge of urban innovation and promoting intercity cooperation.”

A GLOBAL PARLIAMENT OF MAYORS—BOTTOM UP DEMOCRACY, CITIES WITHOUT BORDERS, THIS IS THE FUTURE!

Facing Fears Is Liberating

Another Tom and Dave discussion.

“Hey Tom, do you know the paradox we are born with?”

“Can’t say that I do, Dave.”

“Let me enlighten you. All humans are born with urges toward Self-Preservation.

We want to survive, to stay alive, yet we live with the knowledge that this desire will inevitably be thwarted!”

“How did we get into this situation?”

“Well Tom, we evolved into a species that became extremely intelligent, so we were conscious of many fears. The greatest fears are:

The Fear of Pain and Suffering.

The Fear of Death. This fear is incapacitating because it literally stops us from living enjoyably.”

 

“Dave, I do know there are two immortality beliefs.”

“Tell me, Tom.”

“Religious belief is one that people believe literally that our existence continues in some form after death.

Then there’s Symbolic belief in which people believe they will “live on” through their work, through people they have known, through memorials marking their graves, and finally through their children.

These two beliefs help us manage the terror that comes from knowing that our physical death is inevitable.”

***

“Right on, Tom. The other resource for managing terror is a feeling of personal significance known as Self-Esteem.

Self-Esteem helps us to believe we are important beings rather than just creatures destined to be obliterated.”

 

“Facing Pain and Suffering is a problem isn’t it, Dave?”

“Yes my friend, but we can do it. As long as we are embodied (incased in a body), we will be vulnerable to Pain. Because of this we are susceptible to illness and accidents. We must face the pain of getting old and seeing our body wear out. Pain is a fact of life, but when you face it you will be free of the fear.”

“Life has its sweetness and its dreadfulness. To live enjoyably we MUST ACCEPT life as it is.”

“Right on Tom. Now what about suffering? Suffering occurs when the mine responds NEGATIVELY to pain.

So, it follows, Pain in life is inevitable while suffering is OPTIONAL!

“What brings on suffering, Dave?”

“Suffering is generated by RESISTANCE, which is wanting the moment to be other than it actually is.

Some people respond to illness, in themselves or loved ones, with fear, panic and anger.

This is resisting the pain of life and the more we resist, the greater our suffering.”

“What do we do, Dave?”

“Deep breathing is great therapy. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. You will feel relaxed and you will be in the Here and Now.”

 

“Dave, what about facing the grim reaper?”

“When you face death you will free yourself from the fear and give you a greater appreciation for every moment you have.

So, reflecting on and facing the grim reaper is not only liberating but essential to living a full satisfying life.”

“I see, Dave, face our fears and we are liberated to enjoy the Here and Now and our minds will be tranquil.”

“Yes Tom, and often we forget that our lives are TRANSITORY, NOT PERMANENT, plus we have a habit of worrying over everything, but when we face death we recognize that worrying is Not worth the fight and agro.”

We both were quiet for a minute soaking up the knowledge.

“Tom, it will help to liberate you if you remember these five statements:

I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.

I am subject to illness, mental and physical. Illness is unavoidable.

I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.

Someday I will be separated and parted from the people that are dear to me.

What I do, good or bad, I will reap.

 

“Tom, when you are deep breathing be aware of each breath and then:

Notice how great it is to be alive this day.”

Silence to ponder.

“In conclusion:

If we can live in the Present and Accept that all things are impermanent, we can enjoy this moment, right now.

ENJOY THE DAY—THE NOW IS ALL YOU HAVE!!!

Why Do We Believe?

A Tom and Dave Discussion—That Popular Blog Series.

“Hey Tom, I think “BELIEF” would be an important subject to discuss because I find it surprising that so little research has been done on it, since it exerts such a great influence over human life.”

“I agree, Dave, since we are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our reasoning, we need to find out what belief is all about.”

“Tom, do you remember the TV series The X Files?”

“Yes, I do, I even remember the catchphrases:

“Trust No One”, “I Want To Believe”, “The Truth Is Out There”, “Question Everything”. It was a good series.”

“That series was all about skeptics and believers in a struggle between reality and fantasy, fact and fiction and government secrets.

Do you believe the truth is out there?”

“Oh yes, Dave, I’m a skeptic BUT I want to believe and I want to know.

But how can we know the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true?”

“I guess Science is the answer. We live in The Age of Science where beliefs are supposed to be grounded in solid evidence and empirical (verifiable observation) data.”

“Why then, do 75% of people believe in religion and only 45% believe in science such as The Theory of Evolution? Doesn’t science mean anything to the 75%?”

“That’s disturbing, but it seems to me beliefs come first and reasons for them follow. Our brains find patterns in the world, and these patterns are formed from both meaningful and meaningless data and then we infuse them with meaning until they become beliefs. From then on, we find confirmatory evidence to support those beliefs.”

“Give me a simple answer to Why People Believe?”

“The nitty gritty is that our brains are Belief Engines!

Data flows in from the senses and the brain looks for patterns and then infuses them with meaning. It tries to explain why things happen and in doing so it shapes our understanding of reality.”

“Very interesting.”

“Here’s another interesting point:

Reality exists independent of human minds, BUT our understanding of it depends upon our beliefs.”

***

“Tom, have you ever heard the statement:

Your Worldview is NOT the World!”

“Yes I have, Dave, everything we know about reality enters our brains via one or more of our five senses.”

“That’s right, Tom, a person living in a specific location on Earth will encounter No more than 1% of all the info and experiences that are available on the planet.

We won’t read all the books or visit all the places and we won’t meet all the people or see all the animals or insects.

The “world” each of us labels as “reality” is in fact a CONSTRUCT in our brain, built from the miniscule slivers of data we take in through our senses.”

Two questions, Dave:

Why does our world feel like the whole world to us?

Why do we believe anything BEYOND the concrete, present-moment data gathered by our senses?”

“Our world is what comes in from our senses. But to survive in the world we need our beliefs to give us confidence.

Since full awareness of reality is NOT an option, evolution has equipped us with a brain capable of generating an illusion (model) of reality in our small worlds.”

***

“Hey Dave, I’ve heard that “beliefs are absolutely necessary to life”, is this true?”

“That’s right, my friend, without beliefs we would have no context to understand ourselves and our lives.

We would be ineffective. Our brains generate beliefs because they are necessary for biological survival.

We actively pursue and trust as true, info we have not personally verified in order to experience our lives in a context we feel good about.”

“Tom, do you know how our brains convince us that we are RIGHT in our beliefs?”

“I guess it’s quite a process involving intuition and reasoning and cognitive biases (feel or show an inclination for prejudgment for or against someone or something).”

“Right again, Tom, I think we better examine this in detail.

The motto is: Intuition First, Reasoning Second. That’s how our minds handle things. Once we have beliefs we maintain and reinforce them through a number of powerful cognitive HEURISTICS that guarantee our beliefs are correct.”

“Heuristics?”

“Yes Tom, a heuristic is a mental method of solving a problem through intuition or trial and error. These heuristics are sometimes called Rules of Thumb, better known as cognitive biases.”

“How does that method work?”

“Okay Tom, I’ll play the Budda. A joke to lighten your day!

No matter what belief system is in place—religious, philosophical, political or social—these cognitive biases shape how we interpret info that comes through our senses and molds it to fit the way we want the world to be but NOT necessarily how it really is.

This is called BELIEF CONFIRMATION.”

“Very interesting, Dave.”

“Lets look at four of these Biases:

Hindsight Bias—the tendency to reconstruct the PAST to fit with the PRESENT.

These are the “Monday Morning Quarterbacks”—after a weekend of games we all know what plays should have been called but weren’t!

We are critical of leaders after events have happened—thinking they should of seen these events coming.

Self-Justification Bias—is the tendency to RATIONALIZE decisions after the fact, to convince ourselves that what we did was the best thing to do.

Sunk-Cost Bias—the tendency to believe in something because of the COST sunk into that belief.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost billions with thousands of war dead and casualties, but the leaders said “we have to stay the course” and soldiers cannot die in vain.

Bias Blind Spot—the tendency to recognize the power of biases in other people but to be blind to their influences on our beliefs.”

“Wow! That’s quite a list.”

“Well Tom, The Truth Is Out There!

Science is so potent because it employs a well-defined method for getting answers to questions about the world. It uses empiricism, evidence and observational experiments.”

“All I can say, Dave, is Question Everything and Trust No One.”

“Right on, Tom.”

There was a moment of silence to soak up all the points of the discussion.

“The human species who weighs all the decisions with cold hard logic and rational analysis probably never existed.

Mr. Spock is fiction!

If you analyse everything you would stand frozen in indecision—Analysis Paralysis.”

“I guess Dave, a leap of faith beyond reason is often required just to get through the day, let alone make big life decisions.”

“That’s right, we are all trying to make sense of the world and nature has provided us with a double-edged sword that cuts FOR and AGAINST.

On one edge our brains are great info-processing machines capable of understanding many things.

On the other edge, we are also capable of self-deception and illusion, fooling ourselves even when we are trying to avoid being fooled.”

***

“Well Tom, in conclusion I will say:

 

I WANT TO KNOW—THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE AND SCIENCE IS THE BEST TOOL WE HAVE FOR UNCOVERING IT.”