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Thoughts About Life

What is love? What is it to genuinely love somebody?

Just a feeling?

Children experience love almost purely as an instinctive feeling which they have little control over, it serves to attach them to the people who help them survive; they love their mother because she is their mother, there is no deeper reasoning, it is a feeling only. Even if she is an alcoholic abusive mother the child will still love her.

But as we get older our relationships start to become more complex. They become conditional on the expectations we hold for others. We love a person because we have reasons to love them. But it seems that most people never fully reach this stage and end up somewhere in the middle.

This is the reason that people have so much trouble with love; they are not explicit in their reasons for allowing themselves to feel it. If you don’t have explicit reasons then you cannot understand why you have the feeling with any clarity. And if you do not understand, you are at risk of feeling love based on a false perception of who the person is which will lead to problems as your false perception inevitably collides with the reality.

Continue reading…..

http://davidnash.co/loving-mindfully/

I was reflecting on a structure to help work out who I am and where I want to go in life. I came up with 6 points and answered them for myself.

1) Decide what kind of person you want to be.

I want to be as heroes and angels are in stories – the universally ideal being that is admired and respected across all cultures. I want to have an inner strength and live with a peaceful heart and mind. I want to connect with others meaningfully and be a positive contributor to others.

2) What kind of basic principles do you live by?

  • I will never inflict intentional suffering.
  • I will guard against inflicting unintentional suffering.
  • I will desire happiness in all people and help them in anyway I can to achieve this.
  • I will be truthful and genuine. I will be transparent.
  • I will focus outwardly and empathetically on other people and analyse the effects of my actions on them. Being a good person requires this.

 3) Build a meaning structure based on these principles to define the person you are and where you are going.

  • I will put energy and focus into my relationships because they give meaning to my life.
  • I will seek knowledge and experience to help grow myself because it gives meaning to my life.
  • My words will have meaning and intention and action to back them up because it is meaningful to me for my word to reflect my true self.
  • I understand that I am part of a vast and complex system of people – a society. It is meaningful to me to make a positive contribution to it and I understand that my actions ripple through its fabric in a potentially large way.

 4) Assess what you want to be better at and take actions for improvement.

  • I want to improve my mindfulness. -> meditation, self monitoring to maintain a mindful state.
  • I want to find new and better ways to think about things -> seek out and befriend people you admire, read good books, watch good talks on the internet.
  • I want to be better at telling stories -> be mindful and develop a habit of putting in effort when telling stories and don’t be self conscious that you might be boring because not telling stories is more boring.

 5) You will now know what you like and where you want to go because you have a firm definition of who you are and what drives you.

  • I surround myself with people I admire and love. I prioritise them above everything else and give them my full focus and attention.
  • I seek an occupation where I can help to train others in these skills.
  • I stay away from routine and seek out new, positive experiences.

6) Understand that this is an ongoing process where you will continuously define your self definition.

I take joy from this ongoing process and sharing it with others as they go through their own. I understand that there cannot be an end that this is something I will do for my entire life.

It would be cool if some people wrote their own answers in the comments :)

We seem not to notice how much the people in our lives constantly change. We tend to behave as though things will be this way forever. But things will change. We each have only so much attention to divide between our relationships. People will move away, colleagues will change jobs, children will grow up, friends will have families or come across people they connect better with. And because of this, the level of attention and importance we give each other will change as well.

Think in your life who was the most important to you 1 year ago? 2 years? 5 years? etc. Who were the top 5 people you gave the most attention to? How have they changed? Why have they changed?

Even our closest friends and family relationships change in strength and importance. Some to the point of extinguishment. Others unshakably close.

I guess the point is that this is a part of life we have to accept. We need to enjoy every moment to the fullest with the people who are currently important to us. Things will probably change soon but at least we made the most of it.

It never ceases to amaze me when people tell me they did X because they felt Y. And when asked why they felt Y they seem to have no idea. As if a feeling alone is enough to justify their actions and there is no need to look more deeply into it. But there is always a reason behind the feeling. Understanding the reasons for the feelings which lead to our actions is what makes us sentient, it is what makes us different from other animals.

So what dictates the feeling we get in response to a certain event? The reason for feeling could be  a combination of the following, with one dominant in any particular case:

1) Conscious Thought

This is when we act based our meaning structure, beliefs and principles. We are consciously aware of why we feel and the consciousness can actually take control of the feeling and either amplify or dampen it.

Examples:

  • Loving someone because you have a clear understanding of why you value them can amplify feelings immensely.
  • Feeling sad because someone has died and you know you will never see them again.
  • Feeling pleasure from achieving something.

2) Conditioning

These will mostly stem from childhood. These feelings started from some kind of concious thoughts (either rational or otherwise). But after some time the thoughts may have been forgotten leaving behind the automatic responses which they created (Much like Pavlov’s dog). This habitual response can be either good or bad. These are the dangerous ones that really hold people back in life. We can mitigate these to varying extents through mindfulness.

Examples:

  • A fear of getting to close to others because of an abusive childhood.
  • A fear of dogs because you were once bitten.
  • An obsession with cleaning things to extreme levels because your mother made you overly afraid of germs.

3) Basic Instinct

These are basic human reactions usually hard-wired reactions. Things like hunger, tiredness, basic fears. Aside from being feelings in themselves they can also stimulate a range of other emotions. We can mitigate these to varying extents through mindfulness.

Examples:

  • Getting unexpectedly hit in the nose triggering an automatic anger response.
  • Love at first sight for a stranger we haven’t even spoken to but just like the look of.
  • Fear of heights.

Why does it matter?

Problems often occur when we act upon the feeling without going deeper and finding out what the feeling represents. We need to ask “Why do I feel this way? What are the underlying thoughts? Is this an automatic response?”

Every second in our life we are feeling something. This is an endless and constant process of transition from one feeling to the next. Every thought in our mind, every stimulus we sense, every event in our life will trigger a feeling.

I don’t trust people that do only what they feel. Because feelings are usually selfish in nature and are not based on any ethical principles. This can make such people hurtful if given trust because they may break your trust just to fulfill some feeling they have. Mindfulness is required to empathise and understand who you are. If you can’t even connect to yourself then how can you expect to connect to other people or understand them on a more deep, fundamental level.

Being conscious of our thoughts is what separates us from animals which predominately behave based on pure instinct.

What can we do about it?

Ensure feelings are based initially on thoughts and a set of principles. Then can condition ourself positively based on these rational thoughts so that the process is automatic. We can hijack our own conditioning and train ourselves. This can take a while depending on what you are trying to achieve. Results can be months for some things and years for others. There will then be less mental energy required because behaving optimally will be automatic.

Some good tools to help achieve this could be: writing, meditating, reading and exercise for example.

Ultimately all our actions are because of feelings. The important thing is to understand what is behind the feeling and if it is leading us to a “right” action – one that minimises suffering to self and others.

 

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings…
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.
~Buddha

I helped a man who was bumping his baby’s pram awkwardly down the stairs at a busy underground railway station yesterday.

As usual, I thought about why I like to do little things like this and came up with these answers:

  • Because I define myself by my goodness and base my value on it.
  • Because I am outwardly focused even in a busy station when I am already half way up the steps and having to go the opposite way to help him.
  • Because I have seen strangers help others down steps before and being impressed by this, the idea was resting in my subconscious waiting for the next opportunity. I was inspired by witnessing the kind actions and sought to become this myself.
  • Because I want to also be such an inspiration to others which I think worked because one lady said quite loudly to her friend that she is glad there are still nice people in the world.
  • Because this is how we shift social norms from inward to outward thinking. To a world where a man with a pram will instantly be helped rather than waiting until he is half way down the stairs before one of the many people rushing past him stops to help.

Motives for kind actions:

  • You feel their pleasure by empathising (I think this is the most pure motive)
  • You are able to boost your sense ofself worth.
    • Define yourself as a “good person”. – This always stems from insecurity.
    • Following your philosophical principles (religious, humanist etc.). (also a good motivation in my view).
  • You want them to give you something. Money (directly or indirectly), trust, acceptance, love, sex, opportunities. This drive for self gain could be relatively harmless to others or come in the form of manipulation.

 

Why does this matter? A kind action is a kind action regardless of the intentions behind it the outcome is the same.

I guess it says something about a person’s character. Many people are ego based in their motivations. They will be kind to get things out of people to fulfil ego driven desires that they have probably been carrying around since childhood.

Examples of kindness driven by the wrong motivations:

  • One who showers kindness with the ego centric motive to feel loved and accepted.
  • One who is more interested in creating the perception of being kind than in the kindness itself. Battling their low sense of self worth by being kind so that they are able to define themselves as a “good person” – it will be very important to them that others are aware of these kind actions consider them a “good person”.
  • One who is kind as a conscious manipulative ploy to get something from someone.

A more developed person will be kind because they really feel the happiness within others through empathising. Their actions will also be based on strong principles of how they believe they should live. They will almost never use kind actions as a tool for getting things out of people because they will know that good things will flow their way just be being kind in general since everyone loves kind people.

So thinking on it more, we always get something out of being kind to others. We always get something positive out of everything we do otherwise we wouldn’t do them; whether it be something material or fulfilling some kind of abstract philosophical belief.

I guess to me this matters when determining what place a person should have in my life. I respect those who are more “pure” and “egoless” in their motivations.

Many people describe themselves as “passionate” when they are really just prone to swinging between emotional extremes. Real passion is a concentrated focus of pure emotion towards something. There must be a conscious meaning structure driving it forward. Passion is caring.

If the so called passion is based only on feelings with no deeper reasoning then it will quickly fizzle out (sometimes after driving us into an undesirable situation or relationship). genuinely passionate person will always have a clear explanation behind all the things they are passionate about.

I think most people avoid being passionate because it means raising one’s expectations, it means pursuit, it means effort. This makes us vulnerable to failure. And most of us are inherently afraid of failure. We develop a coping mechanism of shield ourselves from failure by trying not to care too much about anything or anyone.

This leads to the greatest failure of all. A life paralysed by fear. A life partially lived.

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