Self-Consciousness and Consciousness of Self are Two Different States of Being

1367 Relax and Succeed - We make more sense than we think

From my perspective, what allows me to help people is all based on the years of meditation I did following my accident. That was very fortunately incited by a young doctor who was just wondering along with me, where people go when they are dead and then brought back to life.

That soon lead to all sorts of very Buddhist-like meditations regarding identity, the nature of ‘I,’ consciousness, and the nature of reality. And those constant meditations all proved fantastically fruitful –from my perspective.

From the student’s perspective, what often feels most different is they generally feel that I have an unusually keen insight into their psyches. They see that ability –and the one above– as being the same thing. While they certainly are connected, I think there is value in teasing these two ideas apart.

The idea of thoughts as reality, or the nature of consciousness, represent very deep and philosophical –even spiritual– ideas. But most people don’t start deep and go shallow, they start shallow and later go deep.

This means, for most students, they see the training as less about their spirit and much more about their psychology. They want help with daily life, that’s why they see more value in my ability to perceive hidden aspects of their psyche. Plus learning about ourselves is fun.

How I do this is difficult to describe. I’ve written before about how Daniel Tammet can ‘see’ mathematical forms. He doesn’t really do any calculations, he vaguely describes perceiving something more like shapes and colours. From there he can determine things like an extremely high prime number. I can relate to that a bit, because what I ‘see’ feels very precise as well.

Below is a video featuring another acquired savant (the ‘acquired’ part being a person who developed a savant ability following an injury or illness). In situations involving accidents or illnesses, most people are left worse off. But it goes differently for a lucky few.

Savants end up with some deficits as well, but we get to trade those for benefits. Some suddenly become great artists, others can calculate remarkable things or have fantastic memories. In the case used as the focus for the video, a man was beaten, had a head injury, and as a result he ended up becoming a sophisticated mathematician regarding any subject relating to pi.

This man’s story was comforting for me was because I could relate to his strange sense of both beauty and isolation. What happened to this fellow with pi happened to me with the logic of the psyche. As he looks around he sees math, and I can really relate to that because when I listen to people what I ‘see’ feels very close to math.

I see people’s psyche’s as having plenty of room for flexibility but, like math, the very nature of having a psyche means that it is structured and often predictable. That’s why we each experience the same kinds of challenges, we have repetitive arguments, or date the same kinds of people.

Any psyche is nothing more than a set of unconscious tests that we filter reality through, and clues about our filters lay hidden in our language and in how and where and when we use it. This is where my unusual ability shows up.

As people speak, word by word, pause by pause, juxtaposition by juxtaposition, I ‘see’ their personality form like a sculpture of their inner life. The context, timing, word choices, grammar, pacing, cadence, and body language etc. etc. all come at me like unfolding, logical data points. I can still have misinterpretations, but they are often corrected by more data/listening.

Having done this since I was five years old, conversations now appear to me much like a detailed and precise flow of building blocks that combine and recombine with the Tetris-like predictability of atoms or chemical formulas.

Over time, my model for a person becomes increasingly accurate, which is what allows me to help. This ability allows me to, in effect, ‘see’ the world through the student’s eyes to some degree. Once the model is specific enough, I can ‘see’ which realities people are inclined to block out and which they would be likely to invite in.

By showing people their hidden assumptions and how they likely arrived at them, people can appreciate the logic in their mistakes. In turn, they quickly recognize their ‘problems’ as meaningless thought-based barriers to their success, which in turn gives them increased feelings of freedom and strength. 

In truth, people are rarely stopped by the world, but we  are often crippled by our comprehension of it. That’s why making ourselves more conscious is so valuable. Unlike psychology, this training is less about what we perceive and more about how we how and why we perceive what we do. Once people can see that, they blossom.

If you think you make no sense, you can rest assured you are mistaken. Even people doing what appear to be the ‘craziest’ things are making a form of sense. And once they can appreciate the sense in what they are doing, they all tend to quite naturally move past their old boundaries. They become someone new by simply making different choices that are all based on their new and clearer vision.

I help people gain that vision, but the strength and clarity they feel in their lives is not generated by the training, it was always within them. The training is just what allows people to get out of their own way so that they can realize more of their potential. So never mistake your thoughts for your potential. Our potential is always magnificent, but our thoughts can be small enough to make us feel tiny.

peace. s

You Are Better Than You Think

1366 Relax and Succeed - You are not as bad as you think

Due to my sensitivity to patterns I’ve been noting one over the last year that I have been researching in various ways. It can involve physical, emotional or intellectual issues, but in many fields there is an increasing ratio of people who will plan to go through forms of training or treatment, but then quit before even starting.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to the people that have always needed to cancel with a doctor or personal trainer or counselor. Very reasonable reasons include; them having resolved their issue before sessions began, their job or financial situation changed, their schedule changed, or some unfortunate cases they take seriously ill. But this new rise in cases does not appear to be coming from those sources.

This has impacted everyone from personal trainers in physical health to psychologists to people like me. Despite care or fitness being more socially acceptable than ever, I have learned that people are often now prevented from attending not because of stigma –but rather due to a fear that the process might confirm their darkest fears.

This is unfortunate, because in almost every case, the result would be the exact opposite of that –the process of getting healthy shines a positive light on what we perceive are our ‘darkest corners.’

My concern surrounds the fact that many appear to back out out of a fear of facing the reality of their situations. This appears most prominent for those who dealing with the stresses relating to their transition from life as a student to the workforce, or from shifting from an early job, to a full career and more full-on ‘adulting,’ with all of its attendant complications. At that stage some people feel that looking closely at themselves will only make a bad story worse.

That is a tragedy of the spirit.

Too often, people start care for themselves or their relationships with the idea that they arrive ‘wrong’ or ‘broken.’ They weigh too much, exercise too little, have bad diets, or they self-hate their personalities every time they can’t offer just the right combination of human skills required for every single situation. But none of that is really failing, that is merely life itself.

1366 Relax and Succeed - I think the reward for conformity

We gain wisdom by facing hardship, yes. But we also gain it by insight. At the gym there is no getting around lifting the weights. Yes, they are obviously heavy. But as we grow stronger and feel better about ourselves, it shifts from feeling less like us lifting weight and more like an affirmation of our self-respect. What hurt can then feel good. The same should apply for psychological care or training.

Learning to be happier is rarely the sad and depressing experience that many people recall from old-fashioned psychological care. That was entirely focused on people’s problems as though they were real and needed to be overcome, rather than on discussing that they were impressions that could be reshaped with greater understanding. Even today a lot of psychology talks the wisdom talk without really walking the wisdom walk.

No matter what sort of care or training you require, be it medical, physical, mental or spiritual, these are not signs of failing any more than going to university to be a nurse means we need to learn how to care.

No training ever adds anything to anyone, it merely exposes, nurtures and strengthens our sense of our actual Selves in the world, whether that self is young and pondering a marriage proposal or older and facing cancer. There are healthy ways for every person to approach every thing. An approach obviously can’t guarantee external success, but a healthy one can ensure that even in failure, we leave the test with a sense of self-respect.

If you’re looking at doing any form of physical or psychological work with me or anyone else who would earnestly care about your outcome, that should not be seen a visit to some corrective force in your life. You are not broken or failed, you are just temporarily lost or confused. There is a massive difference.

Caring for ourselves through seeking care or guidance should feel like an embrace. We should feel safe and confident that no matter which versions of our Selves we are manifesting at any given moment, we will still always seen as being the strong and capable people we all truly are when we are not debilitated by weak and unconstructive thinking.

Wherever you are and however you get it, do not deny yourself the value and meaning of being around those who nurture your soul, be they friends or professionals. For there is no better sign of our overall health than when we can care about ourselves. And when we can’t, reaching out and asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s wisdom.

peace. s

The Caregiver’s Test

1365 Relax and Succeed - The Caregiver's Test 2

As many of you know, for close to 10 years now I have been increasingly shifted into a full time role as the sole caregiver to my elderly parents, who are both old enough to have both served in WWII.

Much to the disappointment of those in need, the vast majority of people will never even consider taking on care-giving. Then again, rarely did our parents offer to care for their parents either.

Even in large families the duties almost always fall to either the spouse, a single sibling or one child. That singularity means the social, financial and emotional prices are all paid by the patients and those solo caregivers.

What is unknown to many is that even in the system here in Canada, which is one of the better ones around the world, there are still nowhere near enough long term care beds for the number of people who need them. There are also many seniors who have zero interest in living in them for very good reason.

(Sit with enough seniors long enough and they start confiding senior secrets about the weird challenges that go with institutional living. But I’ll leave that for another post.)

Unless a person is able to pay a large amount to get into what is essentially a ‘medical condo,’ in many cases the wait lists for public facilities can last many years. If the people did not previously know to plan ahead and get on a list prior to them needing the placement, the parent may only be given space weeks before death is imminent.

This inevitably means that someone in the community will have to step up or the person can end up homeless –as we can all see if we look at the ages of some of the people on the street.

For those lucky enough to avoid that, they survive thanks to caregivers providing 24 billion dollars worth of unpaid care every year. Caregivers pay this price by lowering the amount they work and earn in order to create the ever-increasing amount of care time.

Those financial costs are very real, and many of the fears around care-giving are valid. But many are also myths. For example, in cases of dementia, the public tends to overestimate how bad the process is for the patient and underestimate how challenging it is for the caregiver, because the patient’s decline is eventually obvious, whereas the prices paid by the caregivers go almost completely unseen.

In dementia, a lot of the time people that have the disease can function quite well and enjoy life for even a couple decades if it’s progressing slowly, and as long as they have someone around to protect them from mental mistakes or physical danger. It’s only the final stage that is the part most of the public imagines as ‘being dementia.’ This is very good news if you’re worried about memory loss.

Dad with parrot at Fulton Eldercare
My father is my hero. He goes to a seniors group for 10 hours each week. He still loves to play games, and he still loves music, and dancing, and he especially loves it when the playschool down the hall visits, or when there are animals brought down from the zoo for the day. Since parrots repeat things too, they are often the perfect conversationalist for people with dementia.

Meanwhile, the caregiver’s prices are difficult to describe. As one might guess, this role is largely taken on by women. And by being in countless waiting rooms with female caregivers, I know one of their biggest care-giving challenges relates to love.

If we think of the ages of the seniors, it means the caregivers are often nearing the end of what is considered the most romantic parts of their lives. Generally, it’s only after they start care-giving do they usually realize that if they are married, it will in most cases strain their marriage –even to the breaking point. That is like two huge weights on them at the same time. Who should be the priority in that case, the parent or spouse? It’s like a form of ‘Sophie’s Choice.‘

If the caregiver is single, the care can virtually end their romantic life at a time when they feel like time is already running out. As nice as dating can be when we’re older, dating at 30 or 40 is not like dating at 50 or 60, and there is no recovering that ‘romantic youthfulness’ for most people, and they mourn that deeply.

I felt these quiet but painful prices were best expressed by a woman who confided in me that the reason she was suddenly brought to tears in a waiting room was due to a comment from a dear friend, earlier that day.

The friend came by for a rare visit that afternoon at the home shared by the caregiver and parent. “She hated the ‘smell of old people.’ After half a cup of tea she told me to call her to make plans and we could go out for tea instead. I felt like a judge giving me a life sentence.”

If that doesn’t seem that bad, add this: the caregiver knows there is zero chance of that happening because in many cases it simply isn’t an option to find someone to take responsibility for someone with a medically complex case on for a few hours so the caregiver can go out for tea. And her mother’s bowel control did not allow her to take her out in public, so in essence the friend was saying that she wouldn’t see her at all.

“I was living inside that smell every day of my life for the last four years. If my best friend wouldn’t stay I knew right then that my romantic life was over.”

It is unlikely that the departing friend saw her words as the death knell for her friend’s sense of femininity, but when a conversation like that is one of the caregiver’s few interactions with the outside world, and it’s coming from a close friend, it sounds like a door slamming on life itself.

1365 Relax and Succeed - It is not a test of our ability

The question is, why do caregivers pay these enormous prices? The answer is the same for any question involving any price paid by any human for any thing. We believe the value we get back exceeds what we are paying. Both capitalism and love exist on this reward-based framework. If we don’t think something’s worth it, we won’t invest ourselves in it.

That being the case, it is difficult to describe the feeling one gets from intimate moments in care-giving. It can be a lot of prodding and arguing and cajoling, but can also be a lot of laughing and trust and understanding. And there are few better feelings as when your parent expresses, in a rare weak moment, that they are not afraid of dying –but of losing their sense of security in the world– and that you are the rock they are clinging to.

When you realize that they’re telling you they wouldn’t feel safe without you –and these are cute, frail, weak little old people– it breaks your heart open and you just want to do everything to help them feel safe the same way we would with babies, who are equally helpless.

Care-giving is the hardest thing I have ever done and I would very strongly urge anyone considering it to do as I did. Prior to doing it, sit down and frankly listen to people who have done it. Do not take their warnings lightly. Listen to podcasts and radio shows about it. Watch documentaries and read books and blogs from people who have done it, and in doing so you can learn more about both the rewards and the prices that go with care-giving.

If it feels right for you, do it. If it feels too big –too hard or too big a sacrifice– then you are not the person to provide the care and it is fine to accept that. This is not for the faint of heart. This is entirely about the most generous and unconditional form of love.

The role is taxing in emotional ways that one simply has no hope of even imagining without being there for hours on end, every day, year after year, watching the patterns change, enduring some abuse, and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning.

The grace in it all is contained in the fact that, in the end, it is the contrast created by paying all of those social, emotional and financial prices, that make the tender moments so incredibly powerful. They can get you through literally years of struggle.

Having a parent be frightened, and then come to us for the comfort they once hopefully were able to give to us –has given my life more profound meaning than any other thing I have ever done.

peace. s