Tag Archives: Byron Katie

Quick Thoughts on Will Smith’s “After Earth”

Have you seen Will Smith’s new sci-fi flick, After Earth? The box office indicates that you probably haven’t as it came in 3rd this weekend with just under $30 million domestically. If you happen to read movie reviews online, you’ll know that there’s almost been what looks like a one-upmanship contest to see who can give a more scathing review of After Earth. One of the most striking reviews is the attempts to connect Will Smith to Scientology. I may be wrong, but from what I’ve heard of Will Smith on the subject of spirituality, these claims seem to be a bit far-fetched.

I had the chance to see the movie over the last couple of days and let me tell you… I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the reviews would have you believe. In fact, there was a pretty good post about the movie from io9 that serves as an FAQ/review with spoilers. As I’ve gone back and read some of the reviews, there certainly seem to be some valid points. Although, I wouldn’t consider myself a film critic by any stretch of the imagination nor a film expert. While I’ve seen many movies, I don’t know what to look for the same way that someone who’s studied film would.

This may be a bit out of left field, but I wonder if the reaction to the movie has more to do with the philosophy it espouses than the “poor acting.” I remember Cloud Atlas wasn’t received with open arms, but there were some folks who did still give it positive reviews. There was certainly a philosophical bent to Cloud Atlas, though different from the one in After Earth.

The philosophy from After Earth reminded me a lot of what you might find if you read some of Byron Katie’s writings. In fact, the mini-monologue that Will’s character gives to Jaden’s character seemed like it might be something that Katie could have said herself!

If You Want to Be Happy, Tame Your Expectations

I wanted to finish 2012 with what I think is my biggest “insight.” That is, the thing that I felt taught me the most about myself and other people. As you know, if you follow me on Twitter  Facebook, or read what I write about here (follow button on the right-hand side!), I like to learn. I think that learning doesn’t end once you leave school (whether we like it or not) and I think that learning about ourselves never ends.

I’ve certainly came across quite a few techniques, perspectives, and ways for being in the world and handling stress. In particular, I think that Byron Katie‘s The Work can be quite powerful. While I’ve never attended one of her seminars, watching the videos of people “doing The Work” can have its own cathartic experience.

I’ve noticed that one of the revelations I’ve come to this year is very similar to what Katie has said, but I still feel it to be slightly different. It’s the idea that our expectations about the world are what cause us stress, unhappiness, and you name it. I’m speaking very abstractly, so let me give you a concrete example.

Let’s say I’m having a problem with a coworker. Let’s say that coworker does something that I don’t like. Why does this upset me? Without getting into any psychological underpinnings and staying right at the surface, it’s simply about my expectations of what that coworker should (or shouldn’t) be doing that’s causing me trouble. How? Well, assuming you believe that each human being is entitled to their own autonomy, they have free will to do as they please (within the law, I suppose). If the person is acting in a way that displeases me, it’s probably because I expect them to be acting in some other way — and they aren’t. Again, still kind of abstract, so let’s make it really concrete.

Let’s say that this coworker (by the way, this example works for family, friends, spouses, pets, pretty much anything), has a particular way of answering a question with a question. And let’s say that I find this really annoying (in fact, I’d find it intriguing, but let’s go with annoying, for now). Every time I see this coworker, I’m going to remember that this coworker asks me questions whenever I ask them questions — so it’s going to make me unhappy, just seeing this person! If I happen to need to ask them something and they ask me a question back, I might begin to feel angry. Why am I feeling angry? Simply because my expectations are that this coworker should not ask me questions when I ask them questions. Should this really matter? No! This coworker can ask me questions when I ask them questions — they’re certainly allowed to do that.

Let’s try another example for which I’m sure we can all relate: traffic. Have you ever been sitting in traffic, late for something? I know I have. While sitting in this traffic, do you ever notice that sometimes people will try to “jump the line?” Does that bother you? If I’m being honest, this has certainly bothered me at times. Why should this bother me (or you)? Well, we expect that people will be kind and wait their turn right. We expect… Oh boy — there it is again! Expectations! If I didn’t have expectations that people wouldn’t try to jump the line, this wouldn’t make me upset. I might think, ‘Oh, maybe they’re in a really big hurry. Maybe someone they know is in trouble and they’re trying to go save them.’ It’s really impossible to know why someone would try to jump the line in traffic, so far be it from me to expect something from them in the way that they behave to the other drivers.

So, if I had to choose one thing to offer you from 2012, moving into 2013, it would be your expectations. Notice when you get upset/angry about something and try to discern what it is that you’re expecting should be happening in that situation. If you want to take it a step beyond, try to tame that expectations. Though, for starters, I think it’s important to notice what it is that you’re expecting in a situation. From here, you’ll certainly be well on your way to determining the root of your unhappiness.

Do You Know Where Your Filters Are?

It’s been a couple of days since I last published a post. I’ll try to make sure that I have something published everyday for the next couple of days, but it is near the end of the semester and I have more exams (3) than I’m accustomed to.

I’ve had this link on my list of things to write about, so I thought I’d put something together really quickly this afternoon and clear it off the list. I’ve written before about the importance of cleaning off the list to allow for new ideas to come in.

The title of the post at the link I’ve had on my list to talk about is: “6 surprising facts about how we see the world.” I want to be encourage you to go and read the post on the other site because there are lots of good graphics/picture/videos that help to reinforce points. That being said, there are a two things that I’ll share.

Before sharing a couple of things, I do want to mention something I remember learning during my first Master’s (that’s reinforced in this link I’ll be talking about): we don’t see the world in the present. Pardon? That’s right. We don’t see the world as it’s happening — instead — we see it as it happened. That must sound a bit strange, but it makes sense after I add some more context to it. Think about how we see the world — through our eyes. When light enters our eyes, our lens focuses the light on the retina. The retina then carries signals of light to a somewhere in the brain by way of the optic nerve. While this happens fast, it still takes time. As a result, there is a delay (albeit a small one) between when light hits your retina and your brain processing what you see. Therefore, we don’t see the world in the present. Okay, now back to that link:

According to Dr. Mark Changizi, what is also common to trichromat primates is exposed facial skin (ie. faces not covered with fur). When the skin is exposed, these primates can communicate their emotional state based on the level of hemoglobin and oxygen in the blood. A green hue of the skin usually indicates sickness (low hemoglobin, oxygen), redindicates blushing or excitement (high hemoglobin, oxygen), blue – cold, lethargy(high hemoglobin concentration), and yellow – fear or bloodless (low hemoglobin concentration).

In other words, we see color not because color exists in the physical world but because color vision is useful for communication.

It never occurred to me (though, I never sat down to consider it) that seeing color was evolutionary. There’s a great picture of what we as (trichromats) vs. other mammals.

The other thing I wanted to share:

Now let’s go a step further. We’ll show how people’s need to find answers to the most important questions of life has less to do with some spiritual search for meaning and more with the fact that we evolved a mechanism which actively interprets the phenomena we experience. In other words, we form beliefs about ourselves and the world around us because these beliefs are useful for our survival.

So what exactly is this mechanism? Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga, in his article The Interpreter Within: The Glue of Conscious Experience, explains:

The answer appears to be that we have a specialized left-hemisphere system that my colleagues and I call the “interpreter.” This Interpreter is a device (or system or mechanism) that seeks explanations for why events occur. The advantage of having such a system is obvious. By going beyond simply observing contiguous events to asking why they happened, a brain can cope with such events more effectively should they happen again.

Yet, the answers we seek do not have to be based in reality. They merely have to be consistent with our experiences and perception

Beliefs can be very powerful. They can cause us to war with each other or they can simply cause us to believe something that might not be based in fact. If you’ve never heard of Byron Katie or The Work and you’re interested in learning about some of the ‘filters’ you might use to see the world, I strongly urge you to check it out.

 

Oprah Exudes Gratitude: “We Did It!”

Oprah's Final Farewell; Photo Courtesy: (Screengrab from The Huffington Post video link; No Copyright Infringement Intended)I didn’t have the chance to see any of the celebrity-studded final shows of nor did I have the chance to see her actual finale. I did, however, see (the only one I’ve found of its kind), that had Oprah’s “final monologue.” There’s a 4-minute video in the article that I wanted to embed here for your viewing pleasure, but it’s un-embeddable (at least un-embeddable as far as my Internet know-how goes).

I have written out her final monologue, should you prefer reading to watching/listening:

Every single day I came down from my makeup room on our Harpo elevator I would offer a prayer of gratitude for the delight and the privilege of doing this show. Gratitude is the single greatest treasure I will take with me from this experience. The opportunity to have done this work. To be embraced by all of you who watched is one of the greatest honors any human being could have. I’ve been asked many times during this farewell season, ‘is ending the show bittersweet?’ Well I say all sweet — no bitter. And here’s why. Many of us have been together for 25 years. We have hooted and hollered together. Had our aha moments. We ugly cried together. And we did our gratitude journals. So, I thank you all for your support and your trust in me. I thank you for sharing this yellow brick road of blessings. I thank you for tuning in everyday along with your mothers and your sisters and your daughters, your partners — gay and otherwise — your friends and all the husbands who got coaxed into watchin’ Oprah. And I thank you for being as much of a sweet inspiration for me as I’ve tried to be for you. I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say until we meet again. To God be the glory.

In watching the clip or reading this monologue, it’s hard not to see the gratitude bursting through. is grateful — through and through. She is to have had the chance to do the work that she does. It beams through in this monologue, it beams through in the clip from the article I’ve linked to, and most of what I’ve read about her general mood about and around the final season is that . And don’t we all have some room to ?

The one thing that strikes me the most from the clip, (which is not included in the monologue), but when Oprah emerges backstage and is hugging her team, is the words she uses. She isn’t crying because it’s over, no. Oprah is saying, “we did it!” We did it. She isn’t mourning the loss of her TV show, she is celebrating the opportunity to have done it. She is offering gratitude for being able to have shared in something so great. She is thankful towards her team for helping her put together 25 years of television that won’t soon be forgotten. And why shouldn’t she be grateful. She’s had an awesome run as far as TV goes and she’s been at the top of for quite some time!

A young boy asks Byron Katie what she would do , “Celebrate!” And why not, right? Sure there can be time for mourning, but there’s so much to celebrate. Katie lists a number of reasons as to why one could be happy for someone’s death (including: they can never be hurt again, they might get to be fertilizer to help something grow to help something else grow, etc.) Here’s another example in a blog post from Katie: “.”

Bring it back to Oprah and gratitude and the last 2 minutes of the clip — you can feel the emotion when she says, “Awww we did it!” There’s so much heart in that exclamation. She’s truly grateful. I am grateful to have had the chance to see the last monologue of The Oprah Winfrey Show and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with all of you. What are you grateful for?

Politicians Are Inherently Good

I believe that people are inherently good and because I believe that politicians are people, too, I also believe that politicians are inherently good. [.] You’ll find many about the topic as to whether people are good and you’ll also find many people in general debating this topic (, , and ). Some people think it’s clear that . You’ll even find academic articles written on the subject of humans inherent goodness ( and ). While I acknowledge the religious component to this debate, from everything I’ve seen of people, I think they are inherently good.

Yes, there are heinous acts committed everyday around the world, but I don’t think that people are doing these things in their “right mind.” That is, I think that there is some form of . I think that people couldn’t do some of the things that they do without being, in some way, detached from what they are doing. While the human condition encompasses a wide variety of human behavior, I don’t think that humans, without being (unaware) to some extent, of what they are doing, that they could do what they do (when they harm other humans).

I am in the process of working on a series of posts where I make the claim that is way behind and while this implicates the politicians who, by the very nature of the system, are directly involved with the writing and publishing of American public policy, I do not think that politicians are deliberately (and maliciously, that’s key) making it this way. I think that because of the way that the system of the American government is set up and the system of the American media, it’s much easier for American politicians to get away with the kinds of things they get away with, but I don’t think there is harmful intent.

Some may call me idealistic, but I believe that (most) humans on the planet, given an opportunity to help a fellow human, would do so. When presented with an , I think that most humans will do what they can to help someone out. More importantly, I think that those who wouldn’t help out are still human, but are expressing what would call, “.”

We can understand this a little easier by looking at some of the things that  has to say: “The thoughts that go through your mind, of course, are linked to the collective mind of the culture you live in – humanity as a whole. They are not your thoughts as such, but you pick them up from the collective… You believe in every thought that arises and you derive your sense of who you are from what your mind is telling you who you are.”

And then pair them with the lens of : “…when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer…”

Inherently people are good. While I understand that some people my disagree, this is a topic that I have a hard time honestly taking a step back and hearing both sides. I think that people always, always mean well. Like I said earlier, yes, there are some “bad” things that happen in the world, but I do not think that its intentionally harmful (and I really hope not, too). I think that psychology’s perspective on the shadow, along with viewpoints from spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie help us to understand why some people may do “bad things,” and still, inherently, be good people.

Lastly, I wanted to offer a perspective from someone who I think has something important to say on this topic. wrote, what I think, is one of the more important books of this generation. It came out in 2010 and it has already been translated into more than 30 languages. He gave (50 minutes), which was then turned into a . The implications are profound and I have included the animated speech below for your viewing pleasure.