Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

Flexible Focus #65: Shaping Your Future

by William Reed on August 11, 2011

What is the secret to a life of abundance, and is there a simple method for approaching it?

We have seen how abundance, as well as lack, can be experienced in each of the 8 fields of life: Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Learning, and Leisure. The Mandala Chart can help you gain perspective in each of these areas, as well as in how they enhance and complement each other. In effect, we tell our life story in the way in which we integrate and excel in each of these areas. Without a tool such as the Mandala Chart for viewing and balancing our life, it is all too easy to get caught up in the challenges of one or two areas, at the expense of the others. No wonder it takes a lifetime, maybe several, to get it right.

The first step is to seek continuous improvement, not perfection. Living is a dynamic process, and balance is achieved by continual adjustment, not holding on to a status quo. Think of how you keep your balance on a bicycle. At first you wobble, but gradually your adjustments become so smooth that the wobble seems to disappear. Balance is easier to maintain in motion than in standing still. After you learn to steer, the next question is where do you want to go?

What you see is what you get

A story tells of a family driving through a small town to which they were considering settling in. They passed a home where a local resident was sitting on the porch and asked him, “Say, what are the people like in this town?” He replied by asking back, “What were they like where you came from?” The traveler said that they were mean-spirited and closed-minded. The resident told them, “That’s pretty much the way they are here too.” And so the traveler moved on. Later another family passing through asked the resident the same question, and he asked them what the people were like where they came from. This family replied that they were such nice people, so friendly and helpful. He responded, “That’s pretty much the way they are here too.” And so the family settled there.

So much of our experience is conditioned by our expectations, that we sometimes mistake them for reality itself. The first step to leading a life of abundance starts with your mental outlook. The way our expectations condition our experience is known as the Pygmalion Effect. Pygmalion was a Greek sculptor from Cyprus who carved a statue of a woman from ivory, and fell in love with the sculpture. Through the graces of Venus, in time his adoration brought the statue to life. In educational psychology the Pygmalion Effect refers to how the teacher’s expectations can condition a child’s performance in school, and the teacher’s attitude has been proven in numerous studies to be a significant force.

Take a look at yourself as you could be

The same can be said for what we expect of ourselves, as has also been shown in studies where self-esteem and self-image can be the most significant determining factor in performance. This was discovered by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon who found that self-image had a far more lasting and determining effect on a person’s appearance than the temporary changes rendered by plastic surgery. Dr. Maltz is considered the originator of self-image psychology, and his classic book Psycho-Cybernetics sold over 30 million copies since it was originally published in 1960. It was updated in 2002 in the author’s voice, but with more contemporary examples, in an edition called New Psycho-Cybernetics.

While self-image has a powerful determining effect on your performance, it is partially submerged in your subconscious mind, and its shadowy nature makes it difficult to grasp. This is why psychology approaches it indirectly through suggestion and affirmations. If we use positive language, that helps create positive expectations, and improves your self-image. Life is a canvas upon which we paint with our mind’s eye, and which we can modify by our speech and actions.

In addition to this, there is another step we can take to gain greater clarity and leverage in each of the 8 fields of life, using the Mandala Chart. It provides a useful structure for a diary, which might otherwise simply be a journal or personal record of impressions. It serves as a mirror, and doubles as a lens for flexible focus. It can put the past in perspective, and shape the future by setting your expectations in advance. It rescues the self-image from its shadowy existence, and puts your expectations in plain view. With this in mind you begin to change the way you make entries in your Mandala Chart. Instead of simply reporting on the way things are or were, you actually begin to sculpt them into the way things could be. This sets the Pygmalion Effect in motion, and accelerates the rate of positive change.

Therefore why not create images of beauty and abundance in your mind’s eye, awaken the sleeping statue, and see your dreams come to life?

We are rarely 100% committed to what we say we want.

I’m assuming that because you are reading this that to some degree you are committed to the concept of bringing spirituality into business. On a scale of 1-100, where would you put yourself in relation to the degree to which you are committed? If you were 100% committed there would be nothing to stop you and you’d be fulfilled in having reached your desired outcome. However, generally speaking, there are underlying or conflicting commitments that create obstacles to us moving forward towards our stated desires.

These conflicting commitments are in alignment to a desire to remain invulnerable and avoid what we consider undesirable. In essence we want to remain secure and stable within our comfort zones. The degree to which we are committed to our conflicting commitment is the degree to which we use avoidance, distraction, procrastination and denial as strategies; this keeps us doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. What occurs is a dilemma, the consequence of which is a feeling of being stuck, confused, doubtful and lost. The bottom line is that we are confounded by the dilemma with which we find ourselves.

Dilemma

I’m prematurely slipping in a D word here, because this is where life gets sticky. How one chooses to be with dilemmas will contribute to the inevitable outcome.

When we distinguish what we are committed to from our conflicting commitment we can see that we are at a choice-point. So, on the one hand we want change; on the other hand we want to avoid the undesirable consequences that accompany change. Hence, we have a dilemma. How do we choose? How do we choose to choose what we choose?

What most of us do, because we are unaware of our choice-making process that has brought about this dilemma, is to compromise our stand for what we say we want, at the same time compromising our stand for what we don’t want. We become professional fence-sitters. If you are interested in creating transformation or a paradigm shift within yourself or your organization it won’t happen by using compromise as a strategy.

What becomes clear as you sit with this dilemma, at this choice-point, perhaps with a thinking partner who can see the bigger picture for you, is a couple of things:

  • First, either choice will require surrendering or relinquishing your attachment to the outcome.
  • Second, the consequence of either choice will mean being confronted by vulnerability and loss of whatever you are attempting to hold onto. This is the nature of cultivating spiritual practices within the workplace. It is an allowing of the unfolding of the natural course of things to occur in service to what you say you want. This is also when the practice of faith kicks in, as you begin to consider the possibility of crossing the threshold, anticipating that first step required of you in order to begin this journey.

What’s at Stake?

What I like about working in corporations is that there is far more at stake for individuals, departments and the organization itself to actually walk its talk. The risk is greater and so is the reward. Not unlike any other institution and group of individuals, there is a culture and that culture has rules – some are spoken and some are not. Always – always we are walking the line between cultivating an environment that supports us and one that protects us. Again, if we are looking for a paradigm shift we have to surrender our attachment to this walking-on-a-fence approach to change and really challenge ourselves to practice acting in alignment with our speaking. What’s at stake will be different for each individual and organization. Generally though, we are afraid of losing what we have.

The distinction between business coaching and transformational coaching is that transformational coaching requires you to step into your commitments; to expand your comfort zone; to confront beliefs, interpretations, expectations and assumption that may not serve you or your organization; and to create a practice within which you exercise muscles that support cultivating consciousness and compassion for yourself and all beings impacted by the current paradigm shift. Transformational coaching requires you to be with the BIG-FAT-BE-WITHS that challenge current interpretations regarding personal gain and loss, as well as death of a way of being that no longer serves the highest good of all. It also requires a different way of choice-making in support of your commitment.

To choose to shift the degree to which you are committed by even one degree is enough to allow even baby steps to be taken towards your desired outcome; it’s enough to empower you to be with the anxiety and discomfort that comes with letting go and letting a higher power provide support, the consequence being that the process unfolds effortlessly. This is where the spiritual rubber meets the three dimensional world.

If Nothing Else

If nothing else, cultivating awareness through the practice of noticing will inevitably create profound shifts. Consciousness generates a greater capacity to change, to create and to generate from an empowered stand. This stand is grounded in a conviction to follow through with intent. It is far more powerful than just wishing and hoping for change to occur. A fascinating phenomenon that is challenging to grasp from a logical/rational perspective is that by intentionally increasing your awareness of what you are wanting, and bringing yourself – your being into alignment with your intention creates a vibrational modification in yourself and your environment. This in itself generates profound shifts beyond your wildest imagination. What isn’t in alignment with that vibrational state will either shift or it will disappear. Transformation at its finest!

Consciousness results in self-realization that we hope will translate into self-actualization. Without acting in alignment with our realization – well, all things will remain the same except for the fact that we know more then we use to. As I said above, if you shift how you are being to be more in alignment with your highest knowing, this in itself is transformational. You don’t have to overtly attempt to change your world or your organization. Just notice, shift and allow. This in itself is bringing spirituality into business.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Rosie Kuhn will be speaking on the topic of “Spiritual Wounding in the Workplace” at the San Francisco New Living Expo, Concourse Exhibition Center, Room #7, San Francisco, April 29th, 2011 at 7:00PM.

Flexible Focus #46: Lens on Consciousness

by William Reed on March 24, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked deeper into the realm of the mind, looking through the lens of consciousness to see our life from higher, bigger, and deeper perspectives. And yet even from vastly different perspectives, it is all in the context of our daily familiar existence. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

MIND MANDALA BODY (From Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing)

Out of your comfort zone…into freedom

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible. When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it, will break it. The fear of breaking causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

A NEW MODEL FOR COACHING (From Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude)

You are not the only one in trouble…Make the world a better place

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today. The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

A NEW KIND OF NATION (From Flexible Focus #40: The 8 Frames of Life: Society)

Social Media is a classless…and virtually free territory

What is your place in society? At one time, and still in many countries, this was a not a question which you were permitted to answer or control. Rather, it was a matter of birth, circumstance, good or bad fortune, and your place in society was largely determined by people and circumstances beyond your control. Throughout history in various times and places, individuals and groups of people have raised this question, and asserted their right of self-determination, the right to determine their own role and mission in society. Now due to the momentum of such movements in the past, and the amazing impact of technology to connect people and facilitate communication, these questions are being raised widely around the world, not just in the traditional style of political movements, but in a brand new style of personal movements.

YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN A MANDALA PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #41: Your 100 Year Lifespan)

The past can be changed…and the future is fixed

You periodically encounter popular sayings that life ends or begins at 30, or at 50, depending on the attitude and experience of the person saying it. It is a poor and arbitrary perspective really, and let’s face it, sour grapes living produces sour grapes sayings. Yet there are many people who lose the plot of their life somewhere along the way. If you look closely there is a plot, and although life’s drama unfolds differently for each person, there are underlying themes that are remarkably consistent in a meaningful life. The originator of the MandalaChart system Matsumura Yasuo created a framework using the 8×8 B-style Mandala Chart, called the 100 Year Life Span. He said that, “The past can be changed, and the future is fixed.” How can this be? Commonsense tells us that you cannot change what has already happened, and that no one can say for sure what is coming. However, using the Mandala Chart you can reframe what has happened, and you can pre-frame what is coming.

PUTTING TIME IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie)

The Mandala Chart takes you out of conventional time…gives you a new perspective

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time? Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET (From Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness)

The central premise…is that our thoughts create our world

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of. What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF BALANCE (From Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance)

How many things are juggled already in perfect balance…without any effort or interference on our part

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all. Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying. At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center.

ABUNDANCE IN 8 AREAS OF LIFE (From Flexible Focus #45: My Cup Runneth Over)

Gratitude grows into giving…and is a principle seen everywhere in nature

In our pursuit of prosperity, we tend to take for granted the blessings that we already have in abundance. A Greek myth which made a big impression on me as a child was the story of King Midas and the Golden Touch. The King was granted a gift to his greed that whatever he touched would turn to gold, but the gift was a curse because he petrified everything and everyone he touched, turning it into a golden object devoid of life. Gold is as perennial in our culture as greed itself. While we talk about a heart of gold, good as gold, and the Golden Age, we often find that gold can bring out the worst in human nature, from gold diggers to Goldfinger. It is often taken as a symbol of wealth, the gold standard. But it is seldom seen as a symbol of abundance. Let your helping hand be one of Kindness, not a golden touch.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness

by William Reed on March 3, 2011

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness.

The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of.

What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core. This can be visualized in concentric circles, as shown in the illustration. These terms were made familiar in Western psychology through Sigmund Freud who studied the seventh level, the Ego; and Carl Jung who studied the eighth level, the Unconscious.

In fact, Jung in particular was heavily influenced by Asian thought on the eight levels of consciousness, which actually date back 1500 years to a 4th-century Indian Buddhist Scholar Monk named Vasubandhu, and the teachings of Yogacara. This is a complex body of thought, with many permutations and interpretations in India, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on how this structure of 8 levels of consciousness affects our awareness, the way we see the world, and how we can make practical use of it with the Mandala Chart.

What you see is NOT what you get

Have you ever been startled by something that turned out to be something else? Perhaps what you thought was a snake turned out to be a length or coiled rope; or maybe you put salt in your coffee instead of sugar by mistake. We are taken in by our assumptions and mis-perceptions more often than we would like to admit.

Our tendency to misperceive, or even to miss altogether, that which is in front of our face is the subject of a fascinating book called The Invisible Gorilla, by Christoper Chabris and Daniel Simons. Their now renowned gorilla experiment can be seen on video, in which a group of students pass a basketball many times among themselves, and you are asked to count the number of times the students in white T-shirts pass the ball in one minute. The students are moving around, and half of them are dressed in black T-shirts, and if you pay attention you just might get the answer right. However, about half of the people who watch this video completely miss the fact that a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the center of the moving students, beats his chest, and then walks off the scene on the other side. Once you know about the gorilla you can’t miss it, but half of the time even very observant people completely miss it when they first watch the video.

The authors argue that this is quite a common phenomenon, that we are taken in by illusions of awareness all of the time in our perceptions, memories, and assumptions. This can cause us all kinds of trouble. Think about accidents caused by inattentive drivers in traffic, miscarriages of justice due to witnesses with selective memories, and aggravations caused by people who think they know when in fact they don’t. At the very least, this book makes you more humble about what you thought you knew about your world.

While this phenomenon is a fairly recent discovery in Western psychology, it has been core to Buddhist thinking for 15 centuries. One of the tenets that comes from this is the idea that the world we know is actually an illusory world, the Maya or veil of illusion of Hindu philosophy, and the Yuishiki (only mind) of Buddhist thought. In this sense, the snake turning out to be a rope, and the invisible gorilla in our midst are not just misperceptions, but profound metaphors for how we see the world.

Accessing the Unconscious

While Buddhist philosophy, depending on which culture, era, and school you consult, delineates a complex set of mindsets, deities, and layers of consciousness, there are several ways in which you can approach this subject. There is enough history and philosophy behind it to have kept scholars busy for the past 15 centuries. Students of Yogacara may approach it as a meditation or way of life, in an effort to deepen their consciousness or achieve some level of enlightenment.

Or you can study the psychology of consciousness, in an effort to better understand yourself and have a higher quality of life. This is the approach that we take with the Mandala Chart. Once you are aware that your perceptions are actually filtered by your preconceptions, and that the world is often not as it seems, then you can begin to explore what are the causes of our ignorance. According to Buddhist as well as Western philosophy, the trouble begins in the seventh layer, that of the Ego, the seat of selfish desires.

We have all met the EGOTIST, who falls for the ultimate illusion that they are the center of the universe. Perhaps at times we have been one. Shakespeare described him in Hamlet, as suffering in a state of madness.

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” – Hamlet

The philosopher Blaise Pascal described God and the universe as a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. This is the ultimate in flexible focus, and in the meaning of the word Mandala, which is Sanskrit for Universe. The Mandala Chart then, can help us through flexible focus to overcome the madness of the Ego-Centric view, by restoring in some measure the flexible focus which is a more accurate perception of the Universe.

However, the eighth level of SEED Consciousness, which some define as basal consciousness, causal consciousness, or universal consciousness, is hidden from us or at least filtered by the seventh level or veil of Mana Obscurity, the Shadow, the Ego.

The Storehouse contains the SEEDs which we plant, and gives them back to us in kind. Whatever grows from this Storehouse, whether a garden or a jungle, the Ego takes for granted and acts upon accordingly, thereby filtering our perceptions of what we see and what we do not see. It determines how we experience and respond to the world, our karma, the cycle of cause and effect, our work, our destiny, whether we experience suffering or experience bliss.

As a Man Thinketh

James Allen (1864~1912), through his book As a Man Thinketh, wrote the seminal work of the self-improvement movement, and a key influence on Norman Vincent Peale, Earl Nightingale, Denis Waitley and Tony Robbins, and others. The central premise of this short volume is that our thoughts create our world. Allen compares our subconscious mind to a garden, which bears fruit according to the seeds which are planted and cultivated. He was most certainly familiar with Indian philosophy and Buddhism, as evident from his writings, and from contemporary accounts of the friends of James Allen.

The lesson we can draw from it, and the practical application with the Mandala Chart, is to cultivate a flexible focus and select positive and harmonious seeds to plant in our unconscious. You manifest and feed what you focus on, so given the choice, why not focus on abundance in each of the eight fields of life?

We know that the Ego can be intransigent, stubborn, insistent on having its own way. How then can we free ourselves from this tyranny of our own making? The solution in Buddhist thought is that the Ego can be transformed from a tyrant into a humble servant through an attitude of gratitude, as we have seen in the article on the Principle of Gratitude.

The more you study the process, the more everything starts to fit. This is truly food for thought.