mindingmybiz

This blog is my shared process in working towards integrating self-awareness with all other aspects of life, while on my way to becoming more authentic and whole.

Archive for the category “Wisdom”

Knowing Thy Self

Self-knowledge and wisdom go hand in hand. 

Being awake to what goes on inside of you helps you to sense your unique Self.  Having an unconscious relationship (or insecure attachment for those who understand attachment styles) to your Self creates internal isolation and suffering.

Developing Self-awareness that doesn’t feed off of (but notices) the mental chatter or judgment (the kind of evaluating which leads to either self-contempt or self-aggrandizing) will energize and stabilize you the more you practice this.

Feeding off from judgment (towards Self and others) will cause spiritual decay and death.  This happens when you are ignoring your inner world, which is a habit of the mind in a Self-abandoned state of consciousness.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Socrates

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:16-17
from:

On Morality & Love

There’s a story of a man named Simeon in the Bible (see Luke 2:25-35) who was described as being “righteous and devout”.

What does it mean exactly, to be righteous and devout? I’ve got my personal stereotypes and caricatures that portray someone who is “holy”, meaning a bit emotionally cold or stoic, conditionally approachable, not very down-to-earth or relatable, probably intelligent, sophisticated, and rather arrogant. That’s the best description of the image I find that initially emerges into conscious awareness.

Well according to how Jesus answered a teacher of the law, the highest form of morality can be boiled down to love (see Mark 12:29-31). Sequentially and specifically; loving God with your whole inner and integrated being. And then Jesus adds an addendum that seems inseparable to the first command (and that’s much easier to measure) – ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

So, I think it’s safe to presume that being righteous and devout means loving an external, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract Being with YOUR whole internal, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract being – measured by an empirically validated and evidenced way – how you treat “your neighbor” as well as yourself.

It’s so simple that we don’t buy it and we often find ourselves adding on a multitude of “morality measurements” with countless other morality clauses than what Jesus added. Just love your neighbors as yourself, that’s hard enough. And your “neighbor” is something else to contemplate in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, which I won’t go into in this post.

So, the question I’m pondering here is this: How is mental health and development, factored into this command – to love so integratively in a way that it manifests with congruency with other people?

By all appearances and experiences of mine thus far I’m quite sure of this: being loving is not an inborn human trait. Being loving isn’t innately and independently present in human infants. I’ve given birth to and am raising 3 human souls, and I’ve watched them closely.

Now to be clear— being IN NEED of love, at birth and onward is inborn and innate. And when you form a secure attachment and nurture and protect your babies they coo, smile, and affectionately bond with you right back. It’s a beautiful circle of love. But it didn’t begin with the baby first loving me. It started with a baby who needed to be loved and cared for, FIRST.

The nature of the intimate dyad of human caregiving determines (although not exclusively) a great deal in how “loving” a person will eventually be, influenced by how much they themselves felt loved, or more specifically – securely attached.

“Loving” is not to be confused with merely how “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, or virtuous they appear in public. This is about way more than mere etiquette. Rather, it’s far more about how much they’ll be able to enjoy consensual and reciprocal vulnerability, authenticity, and work through the inevitable interpersonal conflicts with a selected few. In other words: healthy interpersonal relationships.

In an ideal world, humans would produce loving human beings – generation after generation. It doesn’t take much to see that we don’t live in an ideal world. Far from it.

So if children grow without enough of this kind of emotional secure attachment created within their earliest and formative interpersonal relationships, how can we expect them to give what they don’t have? For so many who didn’t, are we screwed? No. There is a path of healing and inner recovery. God is sensitively attuned to the broken-hearted, who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Just meditate on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.

I believe humans are biologically wired to be moral creatures. When we are immoral, we suffer and often find ways to escape or find relief from suffering. To be clear again: We are innately moral creatures which means our biology is wired for thriving when we’re morally strong. And I hope I’ve made it clear enough by now that when I say “moral” I mean we’re biologically created to be loved and loving – this is how we’re morally biologically wired – for love, aka to need to give and receive secure emotional attachments. Possessing a familiarity of attachment styles in both childhood and adulthood is helpful to understanding where I’m coming from. Hopefully if you’re making a living within the mental health field or personal development arena, you’re more than a little familiar with the scientific literature on attachment styles and neurobiology. Hopefully.

I digress. Getting back to morality and love…

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

So, to those who perceive themselves as morally righteous, and therefore loving as described above – What is your detailed and coherent, autobiographical narrative that’s made sense of your adulthood in light of your childhood?

In all transparency, this is somewhat of a trick question. I’ve heard people saying they grew up with love and support from their parents, yet these same people are often times some of the quickest to criticize or judge others and are also some of the most emotionally cold or shallow people I know. To be sure, they are often very “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, and fluent in practicing social graces/etiquette. Yet, there seems to be a gaping hole, a sense of wtf-ness that’s hard to explain and even harder to convince them of.

Now of course, I could very well be totally off myself here. But the disjointed feeling I get in this wtf-ness experience is because I hear they consider themselves as lucky for growing up the way they did, and therefore they don’t “morally” struggle much. Yet at the same time, I observe that they find it very difficult, unvaluable, and unnecessary (if they even notice) to be emotionally vulnerable, authentic, and show capacity to work through interpersonal conflicts with their loved ones. It’s a head-scratcher for me.

This is the best I can come up with to try and explain the dissonance between morality and love, profoundly the kind of love from God, that pours out interpersonally. Unless you experience it yourself with God, it’s hard to explain to others.

There was a woman who was described in Luke 7:37 as “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life”. She wept on Jesus’ feet (portrays her as probably crawling on the floor in approaching and being next to Jesus) kissed his feet, then wiped his feet with her hair, and poured perfume from an alabaster jar.

To be loved and to love.

I think she gets it.

Intuitively.

Without explanation.

Her story might help shed light on this gaping hole for those who need an explanation. Jesus saw that Simon the Pharisee didn’t get it either.

“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Luke 7:44-47

How well you understand the love of God for yourself has much to do with how much you’ve experienced forgiveness from God. And if in your own self-estimation, you don’t have much to be forgiven for, you’ll find it hard to love others who do.

It boils down to compassion. If you don’t have much need for compassion from others, you won’t feel much compassion for others either.

If you’ve never felt much need for love from others, you likely won’t feel much love for others.

Superb Literature Messes With Me

I believe that the Bible contains within its page’s superb literature.  I think it’s superb because I no longer see it telling me what to think, rather it MAKES me think.  It MESSES with me.  It engages with me and I it, deeply and reflectively.  It is provocative literature.

For years now, off and on, I’ve been captivated by the story in Genesis 3, probably because I’ve always journaled this question “what’s wrong with me” ever since I was a teenager.  “Nothing is wrong with you other than that you think something is wrong with you” is the rebuttal.  Yet – that is a judgment that doesn’t completely resonate.  It sounds corrective and even enlightening, but there’s something amiss and dismissive about it.  The truth is, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt a subtle disquieted thing in my soul.  It’s hard to explain.  I wrote many pages trying to find out how it got there but the longer I seek insight and wrestle with this, the more I see that this is not a “me” phenomenon.  This is not a “Kristen” issue.  It’s not merely personal, it seems to be universal.  The ancients seemed haunted by this and wrote down a profound story to try and answer “what’s wrong with us?” – that is how I see Genesis 3 in a nutshell.  In other words, I’m not alone in this search.  The ancient ancestors echoed this.  Perhaps this is really a universal and human phenomenon.  This story beautifully illustrates something profound and relatable to me even though it’s a very ancient story.

Yesterday I asked God to help me become less and less offendable over time.  I thought about asking God to make me unoffendable and found several books on Amazon by Christians titled “Unoffendable” but I’m skeptical about the reality or implications of attaining that goal.  I rest in the opinion that only God is truly and purely unoffendable, and Jesus demonstrated this.  Yet for me, at least right now it boasts as too perfectionistic, and not very down to earth.  I see spiritual bypassing to attain that goal, at least for me.  Nonetheless, I’d like to become less easily offended.  I told God that I’m pretty hypocritical in this respect, I have a low tolerance level for people (especially those who are closest to me probably because they mirror certain aspects of my shadow) who are easily offended and take everything so damn personally and react by hiding this fact and lash out at me for their shit.  To be fair, I can admit that I do this too – but not as much as other people I can think of!  Maybe I’m wrong and I need to first look at the log in my own eye…“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  – Matthew 7:3-5, NRSV   

I digress…irregardless, I told God and myself that I’m offended by how easily offended I am!

This morning these thoughts came… (I swear, I’m a bit obsessed with Genesis 3 again)…

Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is about feeding off the narrative or getting my sense of self or identity or value from moral judgments about others including myself.  Moralizing the Self and others leads to polarizing the Self and others.  Having or possessing judgments versus them having or possessing me is a subtle but very important distinction.  Humility grows with practicing this distinction.


Judgements about good and evil present as “desirable knowledge” that will elevate me.  I do become a bit of a “God in my own image” as I feed my Self with moral judgements.  I forget that I am ummm, NOT GOD.  That role is not well fitted for me because when I take up this role unconsciously, blurred lines cross over into identity. Without humble conscious awareness, this creates relational ruptures within myself and others, to varying degrees. What is more useful is to focus more on judging what I can know to be true or false, for me. 

I cannot know for certain what is right or wrong for others because I cannot perceive for others, objectively.  I have a human bias, specifically I have a “Kristen bias” and you have a “(your name) bias”.  This isn’t “good or bad” but I do believe it is what is, which is truth – simply what is.  

I was listening to a Jordan Peterson podcast and Jonathan Haidt said something that has both struck me and stuck with me along similar lines of Genesis 3!  Mr. Haidt said that “Moralism messes everything up” when Jordan asked him to clarify what he meant by “moralism” Mr. Haidt said “Moralism is that if you look at things in a framework not of true versus false but of right versus wrong, bad versus good, once you put on that frame…Tyler Cowen has a quote somewhere in a Ted Talk he says ‘We think in stories but as soon as you interpret things in a good versus evil story, your IQ drops by 10-15 points’….Arguments become all out war…you lose touch with truth and your goal is to win and strangely you win in ways that alienate the person you are trying to persuade…making your case with moral grandstanding…”  

This really struck me as profound in light of the Genesis 3 story and the symbolic “tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  Today I am witness that eating from this tree creates many problems; the least is of polarization and alienation between intimates and every level of society.  When we receive our sense of identity, meaning, or value from our moral judgments/positions (eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil), the environment for polarization is ripe. I suppose this is what Jonathan Haidt meant when he said “moralism messes everything up”. It’s not that having moral judgments is problematic, but rather – moralism is not merely possessing moral judgments, but being possessed by them – they are your source of life and identity and defending them starts to cause you to lose touch with a conscious state of what is true and what is false. And I would add what we don’t know is true or false, admitting that is admitting a kind of truth in itself which is ultimately what I’m coming to understand is humility. Owning and making peace with the truth of our human limitations with openness and acceptance is being in harmony with the truth. In contrast being offended and resistant to our limitations (humility) can lead to hiding from the truth within, and when we defend ourselves from owning our truths that we don’t like, there’s a self-rejection/denial that must be defended with something that is not so warm and sincere. This usually leads to being easily offended! Until we lean into and learn from discomfort, it’s a wise teacher.

Now when we intentionally make a move towards finding out what is true or false, not what is right or wrong, good or bad/evil – this will often prove more helpful for human relationships and civilizations to make and maintain progress. 

I’m finding that approaching the bible not as a “moral rules” book is very satisfying to me. It’s a storybook. There are many ancient characters and themes that I find are still relevant and have profound implications for wisdom in daily living.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on what I believe about the Jesus story.  Some believe this is a legendary story birthed out of conspiracy, some believe that this is a historical story based in people giving honest, human (fallible), accounts.  I’m leaning more towards believing the latter, yet that’s why I trust it – its too imperfect to be conspiratorial and because of this I find it provocative and yes, even offensive at times. In some uncanny way this inspires me and touches me, in an ineffable way.

Now I suppose that any of these views on the Jesus story have their own implications. Personally, I believe he was a historical figure that died by means of Roman crucifixion and that the accounts of him being resurrected are honest (imperfect but not conspiratorial) accounts, and that the implications and meaning of this man’s life and death, and his teachings, are still being wrestled with inside myself and many others. I find this Jesus to be akin to how I find the bible; provocative, mysterious, and illuminating. I don’t see much space for retreating in the bunkers of neutrality while engaging with this stuff. So, on one hand, I guess I can understand why people are avoidant or hesitant to engage this fine piece of ancient literature called the bible. Studying the accounts of Jesus and his teachings isn’t “playing it safe”. This ancient literature is compelling to me (and others across time and culture) and forces me to think and reflect deeply about my life and the essence of life itself.

While there are many emotions I feel towards both the bible and Jesus (of which some seem to contradict each other) – indifference is not one of them. This is an area I am not complacent in, and at times I need a break because of that.

Who was Jesus?  Who do others say that he was?  Who do I say that he was?  What are the implications of how I answer these, in the here and now?  These are worth deeply and honestly contemplating for myself and with others who will not either moralize or patronize me, either way.

The Drama of Wisdom

Intruder
Sound the alarm
An uncomfortable thought broke in
Another unpleasant memory with an unpleasant feeling

Back off, you invader
Leave me alone
I will resist you
I will cut you off
You’re an unwelcome

No.

Excuse me?

I said “No”

Who is this “I”?

I am the “I”
You are also the “I”
You’ve forgotten who you are
Just because it hurts doesn’t mean you’re going to die

I can be trusted with your thoughts, memories, and feelings

Yes, push back
Push back the smothering walls in this suffocating house
You can contain more – not less
Make room for what arises

These are not enemies
These are honored guests
Unpleasant at first yet the more you resist, the more they persist

They come from within, not from afar
Where else will they go?
They belong to you

You kick them out
And they’ll return

This isn’t a threat
It’s dharma
, it’s reality

Treat them as allies, not as foes

The choices is yours
This house is laid brick by brick
This life is made, choice by choice
This one life is yours
All yours

Post Navigation