A World of Patterns and The Limit of Language

In computer science, divide-and-conquer is a common technique applied in both practical programming and abstract algorithm to solve complex problems efficiently. In other words, a complex problem is continuously and/or recursively broken down to simple workable chunk to be managed, manipulated, and calculated individually, and finally re-combined to get a solution for the original problem. What a wonderful tactic!

Well well, does that sound kind of familiar? Maybe. Maybe not. I find it quite similar to the way we do things in life.

As humans, to make sense of life, to navigate through human community/society, and also for convenience, we break down reality into small chunks.

In nutshell, with our scientific mind, our logical mind, we analyze reality, break it down into “things” and give “things” names through words/language. As society and civilization become more and more complex, so more “things” and words are developed, and we begin to put many “things” and words together to develop patterns.

So in the beginning, there is reality but no thing.
Then we created things with language.
Then we create patterns of life with things and language.

And as days go by, we create more and more things, more and more words, and more and more patterns. And we are still going at creating more!

Patterns are like boxes.

So now, we are all given birth, and as we grow up, our parents and society would put us in boxes… and we grow up to put ours in boxes (perhaps some newly created ones)

Oh, you must be an upstanding citizen. Patriot who protects the countries. Muslim who worships Allah. Christian who preaches in the name of Jesus. You must be successful. You must make others happy. You are to love your parents. You should never lie. You must not have sex before marriage. You must obey the filial piety according to Confucius. You will become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, hedge fund manager or whatever. Work hard and you will succeed. Eat non-fat and you will be healthy. You need to get married, have a family, and have kids. Max out 401k and IRAs and you can retire. Oh my oh my! Boxes!

So you may be thinking now, “Are you saying we need to destroy and abolish “things”, words, and all patterns of life?” My answer is, “No”.

So what am I trying to get at?

My point is we are missing the point of living the whole way along. It is almost like we used divide-and-conquer without ever re-combining the simple workable chunks, but instead, keep on dividing the chunks into smaller chunks… On top of that, we completely forget the original problem we wanted to solve.

Surely, we all choose to live however we want. Here, I am entertaining the idea that there could be a more favorable experience of living. More specifically, to get better in touch with reality, and hence lead to the result of being able to find harmony with ourselves and our environment.

We have forgotten that we had created things, words, and patterns from the very beginning to navigate reality but they are not the reality. Yes, they are now part of our human reality but still, not THE reality.

Think of it this way, when you see a banana, you can call or think of it as banana. But if you don’t know the word, “banana”, is the banana still reality, or is it not?

You know it.

Reality is more than just words and patterns. When we lack the words and patterns to label and define parts of reality, it does not mean it is not reality!

And so we miss the point.

Us modern people since industrialization, let our logical minds completely dominate, to the point where, words and patterns ARE reality. When reality is something outside of the realm of our words and patterns, we get completely insecure and to make us feel alright again, we invent new patterns to try to force things the way we like, and if unsuccessful, we twist and bend words to conceal and cover the reality. That is, in a most simple example, we would deny a banana is there if we lack the word to call it.

As such, we are often either in denials, or in complete ignorance of reality to do what we need to do as real solution.

We take our patterns too literally. We take ourselves too seriously. Seriously!

Therefore, instead of tips, techniques, or methods, I write what I do here — mostly for my own enjoyment but also — it will be much more substantial for each of us to shift our fundamental attitude of life, of reality to bring about real change.

If I shall put it more strongly, beyond the limit of our rules and language, lies truth and enlightenment.

The one crucial step, to mature as a human being, to become wise, and probably even to enlightenment (if you are so inspired) is to learn the patterns but be able to set them asides, knowing that they are artificial.

Do no abandon words and patterns. Do not fight them. To make use of the patterns (as our original intent of creating them), we just need to re-understand them as patterns. As invention for our own convenience, words and patterns — developed through thoughts and conveyed by words — make good servants but poor masters.

Originally posted 2009-11-18 00:07:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Liberation Not Reached through Hostility

The idea of liberation is quite muggy. And I find people do not behave in ways that will allow them to be liberated even when they say they want liberation. Perhaps because of the mugginess.

Here’s as liberation as I understand it.
To be liberated is to be free from something. To be free from something means that it is okay to walk away from it. And more importantly, it also means that it is okay if you cannot walk away from it. Thus, to be liberated means you had gotten passed, you had outgrown something, or an idea.

I said at the beginning that people do not behave in ways that will allow them to be liberated because currently when most people seek any form of liberation (material, spiritual, or ideal, whatever), they seek it with an attitude of aggression and hostility. Some form of opposition and conflicts are okay and necessary but how could they ever be liberated when they feel so extremely that they cannot be at peace unless they had completely obliterated that something.

If you cannot be at peace until you had completely destroyed or removed something from your life, it cannot be said that you are liberated. The situation is precisely opposite because it really means you still care so much. Ironic, isn’t it?

Now if we look at the manners and attitudes of people around the world who are trying to solve all sorts of human issues, so many of them approach the solution with exactly an extreme kind of aggression and hostility. It becomes no surprise that nothing seems to gets solved, right? As opposite, we seem to have more and more problems to ourselves.

Instead of liberation, we find ourselves entrapment.

True liberation comes from maturity, perception, and wisdom. We humans are teenagers who still have a lot of maturing to do. That is, seeing that human civilization began 5000 years ago while earth is more than 4.5 billion years old, I’d say that’s a fair statement.

Of course, without scientific proof. And without scientific proof coming from some form of some experts, nobody listens, cares, trusts, or gives a shit.

And one more thing, next time you wonder if you are free (from something), try feeling how freely that you are able to walk away (from it)?

Originally posted 2010-09-06 22:52:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Use Your Imagination to Learn

Imagination is a mental capacity that’s enabled by our ability to think. No doubt, it’s a double-edged sword, but used correctly, it can greatly enhance our ability to learn.

Not that I have scientific proof, but it is something I picked up and found tremendously useful when I practice fencing, singing, basketball, piano… especially piano, there is such thing called “mental-play”. Supposedly Beethoven is a master of that, which is he can play perfectly blind!

It is pretty simple, just requires both mental strength and awareness to observe your own thoughts. Whatever you wan to do, be it a physical movement, a goal you want to accomplish, try to imagine yourself doing it.

Now, can you see yourself doing it?

If you can, keep repeating it and most likely, your chance of success will be enhanced. If you CANNOT, that is fine too and it is time to explore what is holding you back.

If it is a physical movement/exercise, you need to feel your own body. How are you breathing? How is your posture? Which part of your body, down to specific muscle, is tense? You need to be able to feel your body to make progress.

If it is a abstract goal, something you need to do, then it is time to examine what is holding you back. What are your values? What skills you need to learn? Why are you not confident? What kind of friends do you keep? How many things are you doing? Maybe you are watching too much TV?

According to Craig Harper, before he opened his gym, he has been running his gym in his mind for years. Before he trained his first client, he has trained thousands of clients in his mind before. I believe him.

I took what I learned from physical activities and applied it in my work settings when have important meetings or presentations, it is quite helpful. Think of imagination as a sub-version of you doing the actual things. Practice makes perfect, right?

Originally posted 2008-11-29 00:22:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Dealing with Emotions

Allow me to share with you today a way to deal with emotions. For the majority’s concern, this is namely about a more healthy way to deal with negative emotions, although it is the same with positive emotions, as people never think in terms of dealing with positive emotions. By no means am I an expert or guru, but this is something I believe and practice and that is why I am sharing with you.

Before going into the description, I categorize below the common ways people act to deal with their emotions. Note that the categories usually happen in combination. After that, I share with you the way I have in mind, and finally I provide an example from my personal experience.

Distraction through External Means
We should all be familiar with this category, whether we know someone or we have done it ourselves. Things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or even food/chocolate… People use these external means to block out the mind and to numb the senses in order to avoid truly feeling emotions. It becomes abuse because the effect of is only temporary, which means they will have to do them incessantly to keep the effect.

Dramatization
This is another way for people to distract themselves from the real emotions, by blowing it out of proportion. “The end is here!” “Everyone hates me!” Is that really true? I doubt it. While the person focuses on those dramaticized thoughts, he does not have to deal with the emotions, and hence, another form of distraction.

Being in Denial
Somewhere in the continuum of human race, the notion that people should not have negative emotions was thought up. The ones who believe this notion refuses to acknowledge the fact when they are feeling emotion such as anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. Those are label as “bad”. It’s not right to have them. And they will relentlessly ignore them and probably claim that everything’s fine and they are happy, optimistic, kind, etc.

Obsession with the Emotion
This is the scenario where the person allows the emotion to completely take over. He loses self-control and most of his logical ability. He fixates on the emotion so much so that all his actions are purely as a result of that emotion. It is very difficult to talk sense into such people but easier to just try to calm them down first, even if just physically.

Substitution
Instead of feeling disappointed, people switch to anger. Instead of feeling sadness, people switch to anger. Instead of feeling love, people switch to hatred, at the end of relationships. It’s like playing musical chair with emotions.

When people react to their emotions in terms of the categories above, more negativity and harm are generated. My hypothesis on why people have so many problems due to emotions lies in the fact that they never deal with the emotions at the root when they happen. They do not fully experience their emotions, especially the negative ones. Therefore, they keep accumulating and eventually lead to detrimental effect, which can take years to happen and then years to resolve. It is similar to how people handle their physical body. They often do not maintain the body where they do not exercise and not have balanced diet until illness occurs, but this is another topic. Moving on to what I think people can do to deal with emotions.

Be Okay with Emotions
The first and foremost thing to understand is that it is okay to have emotions. Any types of emotion. Human beings are emotional creatures. It is part of being humans. You feel emotions. I feel emotions. Every single day. Lots of time during a day. As long as we are still breathing, emotions will happen. So it is okay to feel sadness, jealousy, hatred, anger, disappointment, frustration… Just as it is okay to feel happy, satisfied, excitement, passion, love… You need to understand that they are your emotions. Your emotions are not you. It is a big step if you can simply be aware that you have the emotions when you do. You want to fully feel your emotions as they happen.

Identify the Thoughts
Now that you know it is okay to feel emotions. You can be more comfortable with them. When you are sad, you feel sad. Just as when you are happy, you feel happy. This is about simply being with your emotions. When you are okay with having emotions, you can be aware of them. Once you are aware of what you are feeling, you can begin to understand what are the thoughts associated with it. Why do I feel sad? Why do I feel anger? The answers to those questions are our thoughts, which are the true culprits of the pain those emotions are causing you. These thoughts exist together with your emotions. Emotions are created from thoughts. And more thoughts can intensify emotions. Now that you know you have these thoughts, know that it is also okay for thoughts to exist also.

So the first two steps involve identifying the emotions and thoughts that exist within you. By no means are these two steps small or easy. It is very uncomfortable to do at first, but like everything else, it comes with practice. It may be so hard at first that you will want to run away and go back to the usual routine of distraction, dramatization, denial, obsession, or subsitution. We all do it. So let me say that this is also okay, but try to be aware of the behavior and if you can, return to identifying what are the emotions and thoughts. If you cannot, just try to stay calm and not act rashly for awhile. Then try again.

Check with Priorities
Now you are aware of the thoughts that you have. These thoughts are at the heart of why you are feeling the emotions. Remember I talked about priorities before. It is beneficial to line up those thoughts with your priorities, your values in life. The thoughts you are having, are they aligned with the priorities in life? If they don’t pertain, maybe they are not so important after all. Have you done your best in terms of your priorities in the event that leads you to feel those emotions? If you have done so, maybe it is not so bad after all because you did not abandon your values. If you haven’t, it’s also okay, because we all make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from it and do your best next time.

This is not an easy process, and it doesn’t make emotions and problems go away immediately. However, I do believe by following this process, you can face your emotions with a sense of peace and not to do anything destrustive to yourself and others. This is a process of fully experiencing your emotions and thoughts. I am also confident that you will “handle” the emotions in a shorter time frame instead of having them linger for ages. The more you practice experiencing emotion as described, the quicker it gets to free yourself from the burden of emotion.

I have briefly mentioned that I experienced a break up in a recent post. I will use what I have gone through as an example. Break up is never easy, as for you, as for me. As long as one is truly devoting one’s self to a relationship, the end is never easy. Definitely I was sad. Besides that, I also somewhat confused and then a bit angry. I think that is normal for most people :)

My Sadness
The fact is that I only enter into a relationship when I genuinely like the person a lot. I would like to spend time with her and have fun together, go through experience with her and be able to support each other through good and bad time. I sincerely care for this person, and hope that I can be there to make her and her days better. But in the end, she made the decision to leave. All these things combined together are the thoughts that made me sad. I still feel some sadness, but it is okay. During the time we are together, I did my best being the person I truly am and giving in the way I believe in. “I truly did my best yet it still ended”, that maybe another thought that is causing me sadness. That doesn’t matter because it is okay to have sadness. On the flip side, it can be, “I truly did my best and I have no regret.”

My Confusion
As for the true reason behind the end of relationship, I probably will never find out, which causes confusion. Being human and being me, I am curious. I also wonder what I could have or should not have done. However, the reason behind and all the wondering mean nothing. Does it really matter if it is really due to circumstances in life, or if she has found someone else? The bottom line is that she is certain about the choice. By staying calm during the conversation, that is exactly what I endeavored to ascertain with her. She has made up her mind. She has made the choice to walk a different path, and I will just have to be okay with it. And I am okay with it.

My Anger
As for anger…I am not quite sure, but probably for all the reasons that left me sad and confused. And also perhaps I was looking forward to spend our holidays together, decorating Christmas tree. A happy scene only to be decimated. A bit of anger was there, but it is now gone. After all, there is not that much to be angry about once I can be okay with my sadness and confusion. I should be thankful that we had a chance to share a part of our lives together.

In a nutshell, the key point here is to be aware and to be okay with your emotions, truly experiencing the emotion when it happens. Staying calm and just feeling it, know that it is there. It is okay for it to be there. Once you can do that, you can move on to seeing your thoughts. If you can do something about those thoughts, then do something about them. If you cannot, then there is nothing to do and no reason to have those thoughts and therefore no reason to have those emotions. And if there is emotion remaining still, just be okay and experience them. And repeat the process.

It will take time to develop this way of dealing with emotion. However, there is definitely this peace you feel by doing so, which will allow you do deal with more emotions that happen in the moments in life.

On a final note, this post has a lot to do with awareness, so if you enjoy reading this, feel free to check out my post on Awareness and Zen.

Originally posted 2007-12-21 16:54:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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