Evolutionary Professional Blog

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Development | Transformation | Evolution

There is so much good work being done in the world today. It is astonishing how many people are dedicating their lives more and more to helping others. The human potential movement has spawned organizations and individuals committed to bringing change to the world through changing the individual.

When Ghandi said “be the change you wish to see in the world”, he probably could not have imagined how many people would take up that call and attempt to make the world a better place by making themselves better people through self-reflexive observation and intentional changework.

As a result of the richness in the field that we can now experience, it is useful to distinguish among the many offerings. There are three basic approaches I have noticed, experienced, and participated in directly. They are: 1. Development 2. Transformation 3. Evolution. These are each useful in and of themselves. They are “good”. And yet they have limitations that come along with their benefits. Let us examine this together...

Personal Development is a huge and ranging field. Workshops exist for skill acquisition that are readily available in every major metropolitan area in the Western World, and Asia is quickly cathing on as well. Corporations, having long recognized that their only asset that increases in value over time is their people, send their people to workshops to accelerate that process—to increase their value.

You can attend workshops on money management, communication skills—be it negotiation, sales techniques, relationship models, etc.—health and fitness and well being, and the list goes on and on. What all of these workshops have in common is that they focus on one domain of your life. We could think of it as a vertical line—or multiple vertical lines—of development. When we acquire skills or we “develop” ourselves in this area or that area, we increase the level of that vertical line of development in that domain. Development takes time, investment, and persistence if we are to become developed in any particular area—in other words, to become competent in some area. Skill acquisition is necessary to be successful in this world.

We all want to be more effective at something, and most of us recognize the value, benefits, and at times...need...to acquire more skills. And yet, mere skill acquisition will not solve all that troubles us. We can have all the skill in the world and have those around us not like us, be miserable or demanding, and generally unhappy and unfulfilled. Development may be necessary, but it is only a partial view of what we need as humans. Why is that? Development is a one-dimensional experience—the increase of one vertical developmental line. Increased “heights”, if you will. Yet, human beings are multi-dimensional. Skill alone will never suffice. Out of this limitation arises “transformational technologies”.

A level that is deeper and more complex than mere development. Transformation is unpredictable and at times, instant. It does not deal with any one particular domain, yet it can apply to all domains at any given moment. How is this done? By bringing a different way of being to a situation, something completely new and wonderful can arise out of a "breakdown"—that is a situation where there is an outcome that has been blocked by some circumstance or another.

Frankly, transformation is very appealing in today’s marketplace. It promises instant results in any given moment and gives people tremendous choice, empowerment, and responsibility...leading to more choice, empowerment...responsibility, and this loop feeds on itself with often wonderful results. But not always... Transformation is often reliant on breakdown and breakthrough patterns. In other words, we have some breakdown...and through that, we get to experience transformation of the situation or the circumstances or the dynamics or in ourselves...or a “breakthrough”. This often orients us towards breakdowns. Being humans that we are, we can become attached to experiencing that cycle—or worse...identified with it.

I have actually heard seminar leaders who deal in the world of transformation say that “you will begin to look forward to, and at times even create, your breakdowns”. While it is useful to see “breakdowns” as an opportunity so we can be more resourceful around them, rather than submerged in a “crisis”...building in a mechanism that has people seek out breakdowns has obvious limitations and can be problematic--not to mention hard on the core of the being. At times even causing internal dissonance rather than resolving it.

And while transformation is certainly useful...it is only a two-dimensional phenomenon. Height and breadth, if you will, being that transformation can be applied in multiple domains. But again, this will not fully suffice, as human beings are multi-dimensional beings.

Out of this limitation arises Personal Evolution. Evolution is not very sexy. It is an infinite and life-time game. There is no goal to reach and no "journey" to complete. It requires a life-time commitment. Regardless of which stage you have reached or how much depth has unfolded, there is always another stage and a deeper level. However, evolution is also the most fulfilling, and most complete of the three. It trickles out to all domains, making transformation possible and accessible as well as the development of skills even easier. It serves the whole being. Evolution is about the ever-widening of identity. It is about ever-deepening, ever more complex, and increasingly expansive levels of order.

How does evolution occur? Evolution occurs when the current stage a person is at become inadequate to deal with their life circumstances. We may experience chaos, confusion, or at times, even disaster or tragedy. When this happens, there are two choices or “directions”: evolution or regression. If we evolve, what actually occurs is that our very Self—the core of our being—moves to a new level of order. There is a widening of Identity [capital I]. The Self becomes more expansive, deep, complex, and at times and certainly eventually, more open and more flowing. I stress, this happens in stages. It is slow. It is creeping. it is a process in the largest sense of the word.

However, it is something that affects all domains in your life. Relationships, money, sex, career, family, politics, health, value spheres, world views—all of it. When the very core of who you thought you were and who you truly are evolves, then your experience and the way you relate to everything around you also evolves. It can be no other way. And we all interpret the events in our lives through our current stage of development...it can be no other way. Personal Evolution is truly multi-dimensional. It has height, breadth, and provides--and at times demands--increasing depth. It is an organic unfolding of the core of the being. Exposing ever deeper levels. And in the process, the being experiencing this evolution...this unfolding...comes ever closer to who they truly are. They become closer to Spirit itself until that stage where all separation and what they used to call “God” dissolves and they become Spirit itself.

They become the divine.

If we pause there and we look back on this very piece of writing, we can see the process of evolution represented right her on this page. The evolution of the human potential movement. Out of wanting better results, we created personal development rising to a new level of order. Then we realized, consciously or unconsciously, that development itself was inadequate to address the demands of being human. Out of that confusion and chaos we rose to a new level of order and transformational technologies came into being. This was useful for some time for some outcomes and addressed more of the being...yet we bumped up against the limitations of this level of order soon enough. Out of the realization of those limitations, a new level or order emerged—personal evolution itself. Evolution of the person and the personal.

The organic unfolding of manifest divinity and our personal and internal manifest destiny. Evolution is there. Unfolding is there. Divinity is there. Will you participate in it...or regress?

We are faced with that choice literally every day of our lives. We all choose one at times and the other at times. The key is in choosing consciously...even now.

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Form and Evolution—The Myth of Post-Conventional Development Mapping to Form in Relating

[This article requires a general understanding of developmental stages in egoic, emotional, or moral developmental models, distinguished by researchers such as GravesGraves, KohlbergKohlberg, Gilligan, etc.]

There is often talk in developmental, transformational, and alternative communities about how polyamorous and/or “open” relationships are more “evolved”. More evolved than…say the conventional forms of monogamy and marriage.

This is an easy trap to fall into, as poly- relationship forms are certainly post-conventional. There was a time when I agreed with this thinking. I used to think polyamory [distinct from what I often see which is “poly-sexual”] was the more "evolved" as is it beyond traditional structures [trans-rational and post-conventional] and by its very nature requires, and often demands advanced communication skills, a solid sense of self, a lack of attachment and more spontaneous and flexible structures than monogamy.

Plainly put—it is more challenging. But that is if it is played clean, which is all well and good on paper...but how often are poly- relationships played clean and played well? Well, not often. In my experience, they are sometimes a morass of jealousy, fear, anger, heartbreak, etc.

Additionally, the truth is, monogamy requires other sets of skill development which while different, are equally as challenging. AND monogamy requires all the aforementioned sets of skills and development if it is to be done well and stay alive and thrive. That is to say, high self-esteem and a solid sense of self, advanced communication skills, and agreements between the parties that allow for play and spontaneity as well as growth and evolution within the relationship itself. So...my thinking has since shifted.

In my experience, we cannot assess depth and evolution, using any developmental stage conception, based on form and be accurate very often. Just using the simple three-stage model I often employ of pre-rational or pre-conventional, rational or conventional, and trans-rational or post-conventional, we can see very quickly that the idea of form does not map across to any stage or level. Here is the crux of my current thinking.

We can all experience monogamy from a pre-rational, rational, or trans-rational place. And we can all experience poly- from a pre-rational, rational, or trans-rational place. In other words, form does not map across to stage of evolution with any real predictability of accuracy. Simultaneously, we can all be drawn towards one form or another…or another, as the result of our stage of development, but again, it is no guarantee which form we will be drawn to.

The key is in what the individual motivations are for seeking any particular form.

To briefly and quickly flesh this out with some big picture generalizations: we could be drawn to monogamy out of fear and attachment—a need to “stake my claim”, or out of a need to have the illusion of safety and security a monogamous commitment provides [pre-rational], or out of a desire for a practical partnership and solid family structures for children We want to have [rational], or out of a desire to explore my depths with one person as a spiritual practice for the remainder for my life [trans-rational].

On the other end of the form spectrum, We may choose poly- out of a desire to get laid as much as possible with as many people as possible [pre-rational], or out of an acceptance that We feel more aspects of myself when reflected in intimacy with more people and that better suits me [rational,] or as an expression of being Spirit at play--as an outgrowth of my experience as a spiritual being and out of a desire to explore freedom, spontaneity, and love of all sentient beings in a consensual and limitless way [trans-rational].

So we can not claim anything with respect to form of the relating being more or less evolved. Of course I wish it were simpler, but assessing evolution depends on each individual, how they are experiencing the relating and what their motivations are for being drawn to one form or another to actually assess evolution. Having tried all forms, including marriage, I like all forms for different reasons. But that is just me.

The question to ask is not which form is more evolved, but rather--are you choosing the form consciously? Are you clear about your experience of the relating and the motivations for your desires or draw to the form? Are you evolving consciously in the form of your choosing? These questions we can answer. Unfortunately, the question of which form is “more evolved” than another is a slippery slope that can easily fall into a trap of superiority and ego-centric musing.

And no one wants that…consciously.

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Collapsing Behavior and Identity—Mistaken Identity and Spiritual Practice

Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? Do I “know” you? The ultimate spiritual practice is dis-identifying with that which we think is us—objects in our awareness. It may be our possessions. It may be our finances. It may be our looks. It may be our intelligence. It may be our social reputation. It may be our behaviors, our sexual orientation, our beliefs, or ideas. And yet we are none of that. As the Buddhists would say—we are the pure witness. As Mark Michael Lewis would say—“We are not [XYZ], we are that which is experiencing [all of it]”. As Ken Wilber would say—“[You are] the witness, the original face you had before you were born—before the big bang…is not a thing or an object. It is a feeling…an atmosphere”. I would agree with all of that—indeed, the ultimate spiritual practice is dis-identifying with that which you think is you—anything other than pure awareness—pure witness, and add: before we can dis-identify, we must first recognize when we are identified—when we have a case of mistaken identity. Yet even before we can recognize this, we must have developed self-reflexive awareness. Simple, but not easy, as in the moment [any moment] when we are in our experience, we are often IN our experience—That is to say our experience has us, we do not have it. AND, to the degree we have built the muscle of self awareness and self-reflection by being able to take our very self and make it an object in our awareness is the degree to which we have choice. Even further, to the degree that we have “meta-cognition”—that is the ability to think about our thinking—is the degree to which we have choice around our thinking. And as most of you know, how we think about something creates our emotional experience around it. The more we exercise and build the muscle of witnessing, the more we move from misery to emotional choice and finally to emotional freedom. How do we know if we are identified? If you imagine anything being taken away from you and you experience a high degree of fear or anxiety—or if it has been taken away from you and you are in grief or misery—you are identified. You have a case of mistaken identity [or a “confusion of identify location” as I like to phrase it]--and you are identified with something other than who you truly are—pure witness; radical spirit; God. Yet we judge ourselves [and often go into shame] when we do not attain what we think we should with the objects in our awareness. We are judging our degree of success with them as us—as our very Self. All this is sad enough, yet we don’t stop there do we? We go even further and we judge others [and indulge in self-righteousness] with the same case of mistaken identity. We judge them for their dress, their speech, their intelligence, their attractiveness [or lack thereof], their possessions, status, sexual orientation, political affiliations or positions, etc. etc., etc. While it sometimes makes sense to judge behaviors [and even at times to insist they stop or are dealt with from a justice standpoint] we do not judge just the behaviors—we judge the being at their core for a behavior. Something external to who they are truly. This is all too easy to do and too often indulged in to feel superior or reinforce our fears or… The bottom line is that collapsing behaviors [or any other object in our awareness] with identity is a gross confusion of logical levels. To do it to ourselves creates misery in one form or another. To do it to others allows us to feel superior or reinforce our self-indulgent fears—or both. To free yourself from this trap is the ultimate spiritual practice. To do so means taking on five simple steps: 1. Develop self-reflexive awareness 2. Notice how you are thinking about yourself or others [meta-cognition] and whether it serves your ultimate happiness and thrival 3. Recognize when you are identified [fear, anxiety, misery, loss, or grief in specific contexts] 4. Notice that it is not really you—there is the noticer—behind what you are aware of is that which is aware. This is you. 5. Take this on as a daily spiritual practice And as an additional exercise, step into the belief that we are all in evolution and are therefore always deepening and changing and therefore we never really “know” anyone. As a result we must take on the practice of continually updating our internal representations [our interpretations] of others. Continually looking to increase and update our accuracy in who we think they are. But that is another thought to flesh out at another time. May you be happy and free. -- For more on dis-identification, read The Key in the Darkness, which can be found at The Priest and the Punk The Priest and the Punk.
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Past, Present, Future; Our Relationship to Time

"it's okay to lose, so long as you learn from every game you choose..." “If there is no future, and there is no past; if all we’ve got is right now, then…let’s make it last.” "Remember your dreams because your dreams become the life you lead..." --Prince Human beings have a strange relationship to time. We sometimes get stuck in moments and replay them over and over again. We often fail to live in the present—not hearing the person right in front of us. Some of us are so focused on our goals in the future we often fail to enjoy them when we attain them—rather, setting new, bigger, more impressive or more challenging goals without ever pausing to enjoy the view from this new height. Then there is this idea that there is only “the now”-- which is certainly one way to think about it. At the same time, while the past and future may only live in our minds, so do so many other things. Does that mean they do not exist? Memories? Fondness for someone? Plans for our future? They are indeed “real” even if they are strictly intra-subjective experiences. If we declared they were not, we would have to say intentionality, compassion, hope, love, our memories, etc. were not “real”. Aside from the most dogmatic scientific materialists, I know very few who are willing to support that argument. What then is the most appropriate and useful relationship to time that we could cultivate, such that we accelerating our personal evolution? How can we use our internal representation of time for emotional choice and ultimately, emotional freedom? The Past The past, in the context of accelerating our evolution, is really only useful for one thing: learnings. It is a treasure trove of opportunities for learnings and therefore evolutionary advancement. If, while we review past events, we simply ask two questions: 1. How am I responsible? 2. What can I learn? ...then our relationship to the past is a healthy one. That is, it is one that supports increasing our spiritual depth and emotional freedom while building on mistakes in a useful way. The first question builds esteem for the self as all responsibility does, so long as we are taking responsibility responsibly—that is free of shame. If we use it instead as an opportunity to shame ourselves or judge ourselves, then we have been irresponsible in this exercise and defeated the very purpose of it. The questions must be answered with a positive or empowering forward look. In the case of a “failure” or a negative event, or perhaps in exhibiting behaviors that are out of alignment with our values: what can I learn such that this will not happen in the future? Or, What will I do differently in the future? In the case of “successes”: what can I learn such that I can continue to model this behavior? How can I increase my effectiveness even further? The Present People often speak of “staying present” or “being present” or “being in the now” as if we were somehow absent. We are always present—the question is, “what are we present to?” Often when people are not paying attention to what is in front of them, they are paying attention to their internal representations. Their internal thoughts, fantasies, imagery, or internal dialogue. Building the muscle of mastering our minds such that we are present to what is in front of us when we need to be—fully present without atemporal or past-related thoughts—is one of the critical components of the game of Personal Evolution. There are times when we are not even aware of our internal representations. We must bring these into consciousness so they can be managed appropriately and responsibly. Once we become conscious of them, it may be necessary to use certain mental shifts and practices to “shelve” these thoughts to be dealt with later when it is more appropriate for our lives. Sometimes it is a matter of learning to simply quiet the mind through meditation. Or both. The Future Often when I work with clients and they are in despair, I elicit their internal representation of time and find it compressed. They are seeing perhaps only two weeks into the future and the events that are occurring in their present are unpleasant. When we extend their sense of time out to include another 100 years these feelings often turn into convictions about what needs to be done. The truth is that regardless of what is occurring—everything has a nature: it arises and passes away. Nothing lasts forever. This is especially true for human beings. In the greater scheme of things, or in the larger view, or with an expanded sense of time, as we literally zoom out, we become more emotionally free from whatever may be troubling us at that one moment in time. Once the events become objects in our awareness and we are no longer identified with them, we are free form them and can use the events for learnings and make more appropriate choices. This practice is especially useful for fear and anxiety. The structure of fear and anxiety is that we are imagining some future event with a negative result or outcome. However, since we know that the future exists only in our minds [although in our subjective experience it is very real] then we can bring that imagined future into consciousness and change it to a positive one. Given that neither is more “real” or “true” than the other, the evolutionary master of their own mind will change the imagined future to a positive one and “live into” that—thereby aligning their consciousness around it. While a high level of facility is required, we can all build the muscle of a more responsible and useful relationship to time. Just like all exercise, at first It may cause soreness. So we start off light. We increase the frequency of our exercise gradually. Eventually, we are lifting heavy weight indeed and are excited about how are new habit is transforming the way we experience ourselves and how we feel. And it is then, that we are becoming free.
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Insight and Integration

“...how can you tell your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself don't see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the log from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother's eye.”—Luke 6:42 There is always a gap. A gap worth turning our attention to in every moment if we are to live with integrity, as examples, and to be most effective in contributing to others. It is a gap worth shrinking. It is the gap between our insights and our integration. It is the gap between our vision and our ability to demonstrate our ownership of our understandings. It is the gap between our intellect and our application of the principles we know to be universal truths. We have all read a book, been to a workshop, listened to a spiritual teacher, or received advice from a friend that we considered to be sound advice. If the goal is to be in this process of the upwardly spiraling and ever-expanding and ever-greater embracing path, then the primary focus needs to be bringing our lofty insights, our visionary experiences down into our bodies—to em-body them. The focus of constant and intentional behavioral integration of our insights will serve us in all aspects of our lives. Rebecca had a friend who was “going through a rough spot” in her marriage. Her friend needed support; needed a shoulder to cry on and needed advice from someone who had her best interests at heart. Without thinking it through, her friend came to Rebecca with tears in her eyes, uncertainty in her voice, and pain in her heart. Rebecca was compassionate, loving, and did indeed have her friend’s best interests at heart. Rebecca offered her wonderful advice. Sound advice. However, as a result of her lack of integration, the unfortunate truth was, Rebecca’s relationships did not demonstrate the soundness of this advice. Because of this, her friend went away uncertain and untrusting. Her friend’s best interests were not served as a result of what some would call Rebecca’s hypocrisy. Jeff had just finished a great book on relationships. He had begun to incorporate some of the distinctions and models for communicating included in the book into his daily life and had experienced a renaissance in his relationship with his girlfriend. They continued to deepen their intimacy and understanding of one another. It still required a great deal of awareness, conscious partnership, and grace from them both, but their integration of the insights offered in the book was obviously increasing. Having noticed this, Jeff’s friend Rick came to him much like Rebecca’s friend did, frustrated and hopeless about his own romantic relationship. Aware of his need to even further increase his integration, Jeff offered advice to Rick while acknowledging he was in no way a master of these insights, but told Rick that when he did apply them, it had a dramatically positive impact on the outcome of his conversations in his intimate relationship. This created an opening for Rick that had him not only buy the book, but created incredible breakthroughs for him in his own life in other contexts. Jenny sat before her spiritual teacher. What had drawn her towards him was not that he taught love and compassion, and contemplative techniques for transcending unnecessary misery to achieve happiness. What drew her towards him was that, without fail, he demonstrated love and compassion for all beings and seemed to be always happy and had perspectives that effortlessly maintained all of this. The gap between his insight and his integration was so slight that only he could perceive it within the subtleties of his own experience; his own self-reflexive and self-reflective thoughts. As a result, he was able to not only live an emotionally liberated life, but was able to positively impact all of those who chose to be around him. Integrating new distinctions is often like building a muscle. When we first make the movement with the weight, it is perhaps awkward. Sometimes we get sore as a result of our efforts. However, sooner or later it becomes second nature, we increase our weight load and begin to take on ever more complex moves. If you decided to go to the gym tomorrow for the first time in your life [or for the first time in a long time] you would not expect to be able to lift as much weight as if you’d been there for a year diligently working away. You would also not walk away from it tomorrow in despair if you were unable to do so. It is the same with insight and integration. Integration is not an event. Integration is a process. A process worth every sore muscle encountered along the way, as the pay-off is not only fuller liberation, but the ability to contribute to others as an example of a life worth modeling. There is always a gap. It is the gap between our insights and our integration. It is the gap between our vision and our ability to demonstrate our ownership of our understandings. It is the gap between our intellect and our application of the principles we know to be universal truths. A gap worth turning our attention to in every moment if we are to live with integrity, as examples, and to be most effective in contributing to others. It is a gap well worth shrinking. Join me in the effort...
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What is N.L.P.

What is N.L.P.?

NLP--the set of tools titled Neuro-Linguistic Programming--is misunderstood far more often that it is understood. There is nothing new in NLP. There is no magic. It will not revolutionize your life whole-sum in one fowl swoop, contrary to the marketing of some. However, it can produce amazing rapid results in a specific context ...

So what is it?

The co-founder of NLP, John Grinder, says that it is simply a learning tool. Nothing more than a set if filters and tools to give you access to more of your neurology for the purpose of accelerated learning.

Gregory Bateson, the world famous behavioral scientist, said that NLP is the only class 3 learning tool on the planet.

What does that mean?

With NLP you learn how to learn. So then, why is NLP used the way it is used in the world most often—for brief and result-oriented therapy? This is a good question and certainly worth addressing. In the beginning, in the early 70s, there were therapists producing amazing results. They were Virginia Satir, the founder and pioneer of Family Therapy; Fritz Pearls, the pioneer and founder of Gestalt Therapy; Milton Erickson, the grandfather of medical hypnotherapy.

Additionally, there was the genius of Gregory Bateson--the world-renowned behavioral scientist. Given the results they were producing, the founders of this class of tools called NLP wanted to find out what patterns these geniuses were employing (at the meta level) that could be modeled, distilled, and reproduced.

So, with their permission, they were studied by the co-founders of NLP along with the supporting staff. Who were these people that modeled the original patterns of these therapeutic geniuses? John Grinder and Richard Bandler assisted by Robert Dilts, Judith Delozier, Todd Epstein, and Leslie Cameron-Bandler. If you’ve a scientific or skeptical mind, read anything by Robert Dilts on NLP. He will make you a believer. It could be argued that this original modeling is just one possible application of NLP.

That argument would be stunningly accurate. NLP is simply a class of tools. It allows you to distill out the structure, process, and context of any given experience. Because of this, I call NLP “the study of the structure of human subjective experience”.

Given that emotions are seemingly the biggest challenge facing human beings, then it could also be argued that investing so much time in studying the patterns of genius that have therapists get results was one of the most generous applications possible for this new-found tool. I would agree with that argument.

That was 30 years ago. Since then, NLP has come a long way thanks to the practitioners of this tool. They have modeled out many processes that the human being goes through naturally for the purpose of accelerated movement through said process.

For example—how does someone naturally resolve a traumatic experience and come out of it with an outlook of positivity and even gratitude? This has been modeled. How does someone align themselves on multiple, holarchical levels of their experience—environment, behaviors, capabilities, beliefs/values, identity, and Spirit? This has been modeled. How does a human being take a part of themselves that they previously disliked and through greater understanding and negotiation, use it as a gateway to core states of being and connectedness? This has been modeled. How does a human being take some parental experience that was traumatic for them and move to a place of resource, gratitude, and compassion? This has been modeled. What is intuition, the most useful of all trans-rational experiences? This has been modeled.

The world owes NLP a debt of gratitude. This may not even be acknowledged for another generation and that is just fine... NLP, as a field, does not care for dissertations or academia. This is largely why it is not accepted in the academic world. NLP, as a field, does not focus on whether or not something is true. “Truth” in this context has no meaning. What matters is whether or not something is useful. In that sense, NLP, as a field, is highly scientific.

However, scientific in the broad sense, not the narrow sense. By scientific in the broad sense, I mean this: experiment, get some result, and offer up your findings to a group of your peers for rigorous testing. In this sense, NLP is deeply and rigorously scientific.

Scientific in the broad sense. Not the narrow sense.

What is NLP? A set of tools to distill out models of excellence. Human models of excellence. Nothing more, but assuredly nothing less.

What is N.L.P.? a summary by Mark Michael Lewis NLP is sourced in the realization that that all human emotion is a function of how a person re-presents (represents, thinks about) any aspect of their experience. If you shift/change/alter how someone re-presents any aspect of their experience, you will shift/change/alter how they understand that aspect, what they feel about it, how they relate to it, and who they *be* around it. In more technical terms, a "top 10" might be:

1. The map is not the territory, the menu is not the meal - human beings make maps of their experience, they re-present their experience to themselves in the five senses/modalities.

2. How we understand, feel about, relate to, and BE around any aspect of our experience is determined by the map we make about that experience (our "occurring" world), not the experience itself.

3. You can change/alter/manipulate the maps (representations, how the world occurs) directly, by altering one or more of the five senses in the “map”.

4. When you change the map, you will change how people understand, feel about, relate to, and BE around that aspect of their experience

5. People work perfectly, they are not broken. They are getting exactly the results that they are getting. They can learn to get different results.

6. People already have all the resources they need and anything one human being can do/be/have/know/relate another human being can learn to do/be/have/know/relate.

7. People always make the best choice they experience as available to them.

8. Every human behavior is driven/caused/sourced by a positive intention, every aspect of human experience is to be respected/honored/integrated .

9. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly AT FIRST.

10. Choice is better than no choice, the element in any system which has the most flexibility will control that system - NLP is about adding choices, not subtracting them. In plain language, NLP provides tools with which to resolve virtually any human emotional issue.

NLP is 1) a set of filters through which to process our experience such that we have more power to achieve our values, and 2) a collection of hundreds of patterns/techniques/”interior rituals” that are specially designed to powerfully and permanently alter how someone represents (feels/BEs about) virtually every/any aspect of their life.

Since human behavior (how we do/be/have/know/relate to our “world) is driven by our emotions 99 percent of the time, the more choice we have around how we “feel,” the more powerfully and elegantly we can create and move through our lives. It is the most powerful form of fix/change/improve technology I have ever encountered. If transformation is all about shifting who we are/BE/relate to our world, NLP is all about shifting how that world automatically occurs for us through time. It is designed to alter not the "fact" of our Already Always Listening (AAL), but the standards by which our AAL automatically judges and assesses our experience.

It is a tool for resolving our past (rather than getting off of it) and tapping into the juice/value of any/every experience we have. If transformation gives us the freedom to "be with" our occurring world, NLP gives us tools to shift the unconscious processes by which that world “occurs.”

But really, what NLP is, is the study of the structure of subjective experience, and by extension, the study of human excellence.

Nothing more. And assuredly nothing less.

Jason D McClain © 2003

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Taking Responsibility; Offering Grace

Often, when we think of “being responsible”, many of us think of paying our bills, attending family gatherings, being on time, going to work, paying our taxes, etc. While that is accurate, there is a deeper level to peer into. One that affects each of us every moment of every interaction we have with others. And the question is, what does responsible communication look like? What does it mean to take responsibility in our interactions? A woman was out eating at one of her favorite restaurants. She ordered a dish and made a request for a modification—she wanted feta cheese instead of cheddar. Seemingly, a simple change. When the dish came, the modification did not. She immediately blamed the waiter saying, “I told you feta”, quite indignantly. The waiter became defensive and clumsily blamed it on the kitchen, apologized, taking the dish back and soon brought out a new one with the feta cheese. The rest of the service cycle remained tense and curt. Perhaps the waiter was in error. Perhaps it was the kitchen. Perhaps she did not speak loudly enough when she made the request. What is certain is that she chose to blame rather than take responsibility. If communication is about attaining some outcome, we could say that on the surface, she was successful; she got what she wanted. Or did she? Every moment, we are faced with a choice to increase consciousness or decrease it. Something happens and we can either become more aware—rising to the occasion, or we can blank out. There is a more subtle aspect to this choice—we can either blame or we can take responsibility. Both choices have consequences: the underlying ability to build or undercut self-esteem. At the same time, both choices have underlying dynamics: blame causes people to contract and defend. It can cause them to regress; to withdraw to more stable ground. And it supports pre-rational ego while undercutting the development of true self-esteem—for both parties, actually. While taking responsibility increases true self-esteem while necessitating the transcendence of pre-rational ego. It requires expansion, and gives both parties room to grow and evolve; to transcend. Blame=causes regression=contraction Responsibility=requires self-transcendence=expansion Imagine the same woman eating in the same restaurant making the same request. The waiter brings the dish, having made the same mistake, and this time, the woman makes a different choice. She notices and, taking responsibility for the effectiveness of her communication asks, “Did I forget to mention that I wanted feta?” The waiter, feeling the space to take responsibility says, “You did. I am terribly sorry, let me fix that for you straight away.” The waiter brings it back with feta and informs her that dessert will be on the house. Instead of tension, there is a sense of openness and rightness and equitability in the sequence of events. Each and ever day we engage in communication cycles with other people. Each and every day we consciously or unconsciously experience the dynamics of those interpersonal interactions. They impact us and impact others. The example in the restaurant is a mundane example. But you can begin to notice even now, having turned your awareness to this aspect of your experience, how often you can make this choice in very meaningful contexts. How often have you blamed [explicitly or implicitly, subtly or obviously] your lover, friend, husband, wife, mom or dad, when something did not go the way you wanted it to? How much has your intimacy with them suffered as a result? How many times have you not achieved some outcome because you were righteously indignant with a service representative, rather than gracious? The truth is that most of us are not even aware of the costs of our behavioral choices in intimacy and frustrated outcomes. The added stress and tension. The inflated ego and undermined self-esteem. Given that self-esteem has been called the immune system for life, it is worth caring for. Strengthening. Supporting. Every moment we each have a choice: increase our awareness or decrease it. And once there we have another choice: take responsibility or blame. To regress or transcend. What will you choose?
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Discolored Vision

Have you ever noticed how some people’s perception of the world seems more accurate than others? How some people’s perception of you seems more accurate than others? Have you ever stepped out and noticed the degree of accuracy of your own perceptions? Have you ever had the experience of badly misjudging someone’s motives, being, intentions, behaviors, or character—thereby noticing your own inaccuracy? How did you account for this discrepancy? Have you ever noticed that you are more accurate about some people than others and how some people or some people’s behaviors trigger you and other’s do not? What would your life be like if you were freed from disproportionate emotional responses and you could see the pure and innocent core of others? It is commonly known in the world of platform skills training that most feedback tells you far more about the giver of the feedback than the recipient. In other words, if I do something in the world, like give a talk, or write something such as this piece you are reading, or even simply tell a joke in a public a small percentage of the feedback I receive will be solid, objective feedback. A larger percentage will be a demonstration of the person’s level of development, prejudices, beliefs, and—at worst—unresolved emotional events form their past and their issues of esteem for themselves. Why? The Buddhists speak of using Vipassana meditation to “clear away the clouds so you can see the sun”. The sun is always there—as it is. But in your perception, it is grayed. It is blocked. It is obscured. The word “vipassana” actually means to clear things away to see them “as they are”. Not as you would have them be, believe them to be, or think they are—but as they are. There is this I.D.E.A. of cleansing your vision. Giving your Self clarity of vision. How is this possible? We are lead to believe in our world of post-modern philosophy that this is not possible. There is only our skewed subjective experience. Yet simultaneously, many of us seek out coaches, gurus, leaders, and friends who have this very clarity. They “see” things—accurately and clearly. And these people are widely respected, valued, and many acquire great wealth in the process. Be it wealth of spirit or community or material wealth—or all of the above. How is this accomplished? How can we clear our vision such that we see things more accurately and can relate with others in a space of clarity and presence? To answer that we need to back up a bit… The first step is noticing. Do I have a preconceived notion about the person/organization/community? Am I dealing with and relating to them right now? Or am I dealing with my internal representations of them? Have I verified my interpretations of them/it? Do I have “disproportionate” emotional responses? Do I experience anger, guilt, shame, blame, fear to a degree that stops me from being fully self expressed in the natural disposition that the spiritual warriors of Shambhala teach, which is the natural disposition of pride, joy, and a general upright posture and attitude? Do the “little things” in life bother me? Do I judge others as bad and wrong rather than experiencing compassion and wisdom for them and if so, to what degree? Disproportionate emotional responses typically have two sources: unresolved past experiences that we have coded as “negative” in our subjective experience. These may come in the form of parental “imprints” or they may come in the form of a “gestalt” of negative emotions rooted in our childhood when we did not have the wisdom to see the positive learning or meaning in the pain. Meaningless pain leads to misery and agony and creates a deep gouge in our emotional consciousness. This can be resolved with any number of technologies and turned into a gift. Self-esteem is the other primary source of a disproportionate emotional response. Using the definition that self-esteem is the knowledge that you are competent to handle life’s challenges and the belief that you deserve to be happy [self efficacy and self-regard] then what happens when one has insufficient self-esteem in any given context? One responds with fear, uncertainty, and this can often appear as anger or some other disproportionate response. A person with high self-esteem can respond with graciousness, clarity, and ease. The higher degree of self-esteem one has, the more gracious one will be. Unresolved events and disproportionate emotional responses can actually “color” or skew our vision—and actually alter our internal representations. We have all heard of the “green monster” of jealousy and “seeing red” when one is angry. An excellent example of this was a client I worked with had their visual sub-modalities colored as red in memories where anger was present beginning at an impact experience when they were 4 years old. In other words, when they visualized the events, there was a red tint to the image. Once we worked with the events using Time Line Therapy™, all of the events had lost the red tint and they were now seen in black and white. Of course, even to get to a place where one would choose to clear their vision requires self-reflexive awareness and a certain degree of personal responsibility; it requires the ability to notice and assess one’s own behavior and an acceptance of the truth that we are all responsible for our own emotional life and a desire to evolve one’s self. This in and of itself is a monumental breakthrough for most who experience it. The next step is to take the necessary action to clear one’s past and begin to build a strong sense of self, a large component of which is healthy self-esteem, and then to begin to generate a new compelling future—one of your own design that will inspire, uplift, and draw one to new heights unburdened of the past habit patterns. From this place of freedom and generative creativity nothing is impossible. It is your natural born right to live a joyous and free life full of love and happiness. All that stands in your way is a choice. The choice of course belongs to you. What will you choose?
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E[go]volution

Ego is the source of most of the ills in our society. It is the thing to dissolve as you become more spiritual. It is something to be noticed, sought out, fought, and destroyed. Ego is bad. Or is it? Ego is largely misunderstood in our cult-ure. As Eastern Spiritual traditions are imported into the west with greater and greater rapidity, it is misunderstood even further. Rather than looking at it and understanding it for what it is, it is further collapsed, fused, and maligned into one mass of experience generally labeled “it-is-bad”. Those who judge it as “bad” are missing the point of transcending attachment through craving and desire, which they pre-suppose is generated by ego, as they are creating aversion, the darker sibling of craving and attachment. They are engaging in the same dynamic. Ignorance and fear are largely at play here. All of this is due to a lack of understanding and poverty of distinctions with respect to the nature of this phenomenon we are labeling “ego”. And all of this is also due to a lack of wisdom about the nature of evolution and this game that we, as conscious beings, find ourselves in, which I am terming Personal Evolution. To find more clarity, we need to turn to integrative thinking. Ego is not a static “thing”. It is not fixed. Like all manifestations of consciousness it is dynamic. It is fluid. And, contrary to popular belief and common misconception, it is ever evolving—as consciousness can do nothing else. Let us look at one model of the evolution of ego so that we can better and more fully understand its nature, its complexities, and from what position it is most misunderstood and from what level of development it is most oft misperceived. As a preface to the model that is about to be presented here, think as these “levels” less as “steps” and more like waves or spirals. In other words, they are not discreet (in the mathematical sense) levels. They are more flexible and fluid than that. And, unfortunately, due to the current linguistic limitations, we are working with “levels”. Pre-rational This is the most fundamental of all levels of the ego. At this level, one often engages in moral pronouncements of or about the Self. There is also a larger percentage of self-to-other comparisons “I did X and I am therefore a good person. In fact I am better than you”, or on the opposite end of the egotistical phenomenon: “I failed at Y so I am therefore a bad person, and in fact, compared to you (who succeeded at Y) I am worthless.” Whatever the case, with pre-rational ego present, there is judgment in the pejorative sense, that amounts to something being “good” or “bad” bringing with it a disproportionate (from a rational and certainly from a trans-rational perceptual standpoint) amount of emotional “charge”. At this level of development, there is self-congratulation in the extreme—hubris and arrogance. There is also self-flagellation—self-hate, self-doubt, and in the simplest terms—“beating one’s Self up”. Rational Rational is the “middle ground” or “half way” point in this model. At this level in the development—or evolution—of the ego, one begins to be focused on competence and results. For instance, “I am more competent than you at X, therefore I can produce better results than you”, or “I am less competent at Y than you and therefore you can produce better results than I.” Moral pronouncements begin to drop away in the higher realms of rational ego. One may feel positive or elated about one’s accomplishments; one may also feel deflated or negative about one’s failures, but there is no “I am therefore a “good” or “bad” person as a resultant meaning or extrapolation about the Self. One other benefit provided by this level of development is that one begins to engage in self-to-self comparisons through time, rather than static, two dimensional self-to-other comparisons, which are inherently a slippery slope. Why are they a slippery slope? No matter what the context, no matter what your level of skill or development, there can (and arguably IS) someone more developed or skilled, or less developed and less skilled. Ergo, these comparisons are foolhardy and easily deconstructed. Given that this level is the Rational level, one can easily see the inappropriateness of these comparisons with ease. The ability to self reflect and self examine becomes easier and achievement becomes important Trans-rational This level is where the juice is. Where the verve is, in the artistic sense. This is where the artistry of the Self (and in fact often art, poetry, and the highest expressions of the Self begin to emerge. This is also where the ego begins to “dissolve”. I put “dissolve” in quotes in this context because it only appears to be the dissolution of ego. It is the expansion of ego. It is the expansive Self. At the highest levels of trans-rational states and development, one becomes god by becoming one with all. One with everything and nothing. This is already and always happening, but it is only at a trans-rational level of development and awareness that one becomes cognizant of this reality. At this level of development, one becomes fully-self reflexive in that one is able to fully self examine. One’s own mental processes (meta-cognition) becomes paramount as the evolution of Self come into full awareness. One begins to develop the qualities of the Buddha and the Christ mind—love, compassion, wisdom, radical and accurate awareness of self, of the world around you, and of Other, although the desire to “change” or “blame” other is not present. The desire to assist others in evolving is. The desire to serve others and be a resource for others is. While some posit that further distinguishing and putting more and more linguistic “separation” into our experience creates separation and rails against the very I.D.E.A. of attaining non-dual levels of reality, again, while the Buddha mind points at the moon they are focused on his finger, which is doing the pointing, but not the reality and the experience of what he is pointing to. They are, in our popular vernacular, missing the forest for the trees. Why? Because non-duality contains duality. Everythingness and Nothingness contains all. How could it be otherwise? Part of understanding developmental models is understanding that a being can only truly appreciate a level they have already developed through, beyond, and transcended. A child can not understand the wisdom of their parents until they are old enough to see the truth and positive intention in the direction given by the parents. Someone driven by and mired in their pre-rational emotions can not understand (and will often state it is impossible) having emotional mastery at the trans-rational level. Someone who still feels violence or the law of the jungle is the best way to handle disputes cannot see the value in a codified rule of law, where disputes are handled by an objective party. And the list goes on. At the same time, once someone transcends a certain level of development, they can see and understand both the benefits and limitations of each level. They can begin to think in integrative terms: differentiate, distinguish, transcend, and include. Now, imagine how someone who has a pre-rational understanding of ego or is stuck at the pre-rational level of ego development experiences a rational ego. They will think this person is arrogant when they are not. Why? Because given the givens, and the same scenario of achievement, the pre=rational ego minded individual would be arrogant. They cannot see how someone else could not, not understanding more developed levels. And often, they will judge the rational person as bad to safeguard their own fragile sense of self. And so on. I could give many more examples (and I imagine I will in the future) and for the sake of brevity, I will not. Every day we are faced with the choice to live and make choices one of two ways—consciously or unconsciously. The choice is entirely yours, mine, ours, humanity’s. What will you choose?
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All One; All Different [Addressing Spiritual Reductionism]

“We’re one, but we are not the same.”—Bono, U2 Once I was in a train station waiting for a train with a friend. He pointed to a steel and cement column and said, “at the sub-atomic level, this column is mostly air. So are you. So am I…”. And he went on to state we were the same as the column—no difference—and no different from one another. He went on to imply that there was, therefore, no meaning to anything. I stretched my arm out, made a fist, and pushed my fist at the column until it stopped with a thud. I looked at him and I said, “that may be so, AND at the same time, the world we move through is not the sub-atomic world”. Often we are addressed with reminders, assertions, and at times even pleas, that we are “all one”. We are all human. We are all the same at some level. We all bleed red. At the sub-atomic level, we are all made up of the same stuff. In fact, at the sub-atomic level, at least at our current level of knowledge [see String Theory for an interesting hypothesis about how we may be very different from one another indeed], not only are we all “the same” as beings, we are the same as a rock, dirt, plant life, our dog, the wall, etc. Eastern Spiritual traditions remind us that at the ultimate level, it is all vibrations, all wavelets. "Validated" by science, at the “ultimate” level, we are all the same—“just” sub-atomic particles. And yet, anyone with eyes, ears, a tactile sense, and a mind can tell we are all very, very different. I challenge anyone who says that the ultimate level is the only important level (“we are all one”) to Zen his or her way through me the next time we meet. The problem with this is that most people cannot seem to contain both I.D.E.A.s intellectually, experientially, or spiritually, so then end up ignoring one or the other, or collapsing the informational and the practical. Does our having the same sub-atomic structures mean we are all the same? Are you “the same” as a murderer? A rapist? A child molester? A terrorist? A priest? A politician? A man? A woman? A tribal leader? A shaman? A grocery clerk? A Fortune 500 CEO? Are you and I “the same” as Mozart, Bill Gates, Socrates, Thomas Jefferson, or Ayn Rand? Of course not. And, yes. We have differing sets of skills, intelligence, symmetry, size, shape, and color. And yet...to paraphrase Ken Wilber, “while we are all perfect manifestations of the divine—of Spirit—yet how we demonstrate that is bound by our current level of development; we are limited to our current depth”. Spiritual reductionism [we are all one and we are all perfect and we are all love] is usually accompanied by moral relativism. No act is inherently better than any other act. No world-view is more true than any other—and they are arbitrary. I disagree. Setting aside the performative contradiction (if no world-views are any more true than the other, then neither is that world-view—and thus it is false), compassion is better than anger because it possesses greater depth. Love is better than hate for the same reason. Grace is better than vengeance for the same reason—it requires an awareness of greater depth to exercise those choices, therefore, it is better. Liberty is better than tyranny. Free Enterprise is better that centrally planned economies. In both cases they produce better results. Measurably better. Different beings possess different levels of awareness; different depths that that can reflect back by the development of their own depth. In this, we are very different indeed. Is there utility in thinking we are all one—all the same? Perhaps. It can assist us in bridging potentially explosive differences in a world where differences in ideology can kill and maim. At the same time, in a world where ideologies can kill and maim, we had better keep the differences in mind as well. In all things, be discerning, but not judgmental. Keep your mind open—but keep it working. Never allow someone to demand you turn off your common sense for their imagined utopia.
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Cult of Classification

We, as a people, seem to love classifications. As humans, it is what we do best: identification. It separates us from primates. We can identify and classify things into systems, genres, classes, subclasses, and so on. This is a great skill; a skill that could even save your life some day as you classify “dangerous, not dangerous – deadly, not deadly”. The ability to identify (what is it?) and then extrapolate accurately (what does it mean?) is indeed a critical skill. A skill no less critical even as we get more and more civilized. In fact, it could be argued that the dangers get ever more complex and demanding of this skill the more complex our society becomes and the more knowledgeable we become. When this gets interesting is when we apply and over apply this skill to other human beings where physical safety is clearly not a concern. We have all sorts of categorizations and systems of classification. We have race, sexual preferences and orientation, political party affiliation, zodiac sign, political orientation or leaning, class separation, high school cliques, enneagram number, etc., etc. These are all tools we use to classify, to categorize, and to put people into some box or drawer. At first, it may seem like we use these tools to gain a better understanding of who they are, really. Is that how we typically use them, in actuality? The way I have seen myself and others use them is as I described above. We put them into a box. We now think we “know” them, or at least that portion of them. They are a democrat or a republican and all of a sudden, we now “know them” politically. They are a 3 on the enneagram, and all of a sudden we “know” what to expect of their behaviors; their light and beautiful side and their darker patterns. We put them into a box and we can then relax, or tense, or whatever, but some part of us relaxes. We know them; we can now relax and move on to putting another part of them into a box. Are they heterosexual or homosexual? Ah, they are bi-sexual. We can now relax (or tense [laugh]) because we now “know” who they are sexually. But do we? (It is fascinating to see someone feed their ego when they think they have “nailed” someone’s zodiac sign or enneagram number by guessing at it; excited about putting someone in a box.) Once we put someone into a box, we then stop relating to who they are as a unique and beautiful being -- we begin to relate to the box. We begin to fit all of their behaviors into that box or view their behaviors through the filter of said box. Sure, we are more comfortable ourselves once we have classified them, but the real relating begins to die a slow (or rapid) death. We now stop relating to who they are in this moment, right now, and begin to relate to what we read about them in a book, or what we see about their “type” on TV, Etc. Then what began as a tool for greater understanding and deeper relating has ended up as a wall or a barrier to greater and truer understanding – a barrier to more intimate relating; a wall around the heart. A wall and a filter we are often not even aware of. And what are human Beings anyway? They are manifestations of the divine. Can we really classify that? Human Beings at their best and most inspirational are creative, spontaneous, dances of improvisation, which is completely unpredictable, and if we get too caught up in who we think they are, we may miss a glimpse of god as it dances right before us, right within our grasp. While these tools for classification are useful to a certain point, they are only useful to a certain point, where if we want true relating, true intimacy, they must then be cast aside. If we truly desire peace on this planet, it will take something like this, from all sides, from all perspectives, from all lands. From the heart, guided by the head, enveloped in Spirit,
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Evolutionary Love

Someone once asked me: "Do we ever really fall in love with another person, or are we falling in love with the idea we have of that person. In essence, are we then not just narcissistically falling in love with ourselves?" Some Baghwan or another said, "it is more accurate to say, ‘I experience love when I am with you’, than to say, ‘I love you’”. What they both bring up is interesting, and I think it is accurate. Accurate, but partial. It presupposes love is always rooted in the pre-rational level of development in s/he who is seeking or finding love. For it is in the pre-rational that narcissism is rooted and fixed. The need to have ourselves reflected back--approval from external sources given—is narcissistic. A need to be admired. Liked by Other. At all costs. There is also a great deal of evidence in developmental psychology today that "love at first sight" is often the result of similar childhoods--parental histories specifically--somehow recognized at the unconscious level. Recognized and drawn to. A frightening thought as we look at most romantic archetypes and culturally trained patterns. How many times have you seen people shape their behaviors so they can be loved [validated] by another? How many times have you done it? How many times have you subtly or not so subtly engaged in a dynamic intended to have them alter their behavior to fit your notion of how the love “should” look. Unfortunately, as a culture, be it in our poetry, in the love stories, in romantic film, or in pop music, it is only the “I would die for you, I cannot live without you, I am nothing without you” [all pre-rational] that gets all the play, limelight, airtime, etc. True (rational And beyond) esteem for the self is rooted in the rational. Self-esteem defined as the knowledge that we are fundamentally competent to handle whatever life throws at us and that we are appropriate to life, or that we deserve to be happy. There is a very real sense in which the depth of love you can give to another is limited [only] by the love you have for your Self. At the rational level love often follows from finding people who embody your ideals. They may embody them more than you even. Is this narcissistic—which is loving your own reflection back with moral valence of "I am therefore good/bad; right/wrong"? I do not think so. I think this is gravitating toward that which you feel is worth emulating; that which you have determined produces worthwhile results in the world. Truly rational. And the trans-rational and transcendent, where compassion, love of all sentient beings, and unconditional love begin to emerge. This does not mean the love of all behaviors of those sentient beings, but the ability to look beyond behaviors--to not confuse identity and behaviors, as they are different logical levels--and to love the being still. Love the being in the face of uninspiring--and perhaps even heinous--behaviors. Of course, the challenge for us all is that as we develop through this spiraling ascent (or deepening of the Self, if you prefer) we can only understand the level of development we are at and below. At best, we can understand that which we have experienced. We may have experienced it for but a moment, giving us some inkling of the next level, or deepening. But that peak experience is required, in the least, to perceive it. Perception often, truly is projection. We can only reflect the depth we have achieved and we can only reflect back the depth to which we can see. It is in this knowledge that we must look on others with fresh eyes, peering into their depths, knowing we may not be able to see all that they are…yet.
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