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Dirty Blond

Somehow, on the fringes of mainstream forevermore, I have been very close but never quite precisely blond. Dirty blond is where I roll. Not quite part of that coveted but dubious blond club. And that’s how it’s been for as long as I have been paying attention to physicality. Hair color: dirty blond. Always the answer to the proverbial question of physical attributes. My almost, but not quite blondness. Me, hovering on the edge of classification. It figures. Who invented that nomenclature anyway? The dirty part. And that non-exacting field on driver’s licenses.

The child of two decidedly almost black-haired folks, mine stood out and was kind of a puzzle to me when I was young. My eyes made sense. They are the same hard to define hazel like my mom’s only usually filled with too much dark pupil to even discern in many lights.

Why blonds? Why today?

Craving some lightness (pun intended) as respite makes total sense.

We’re up against several handfuls of the most disturbing and challenging issues we can possibly grapple with in recent times. Not least of the fingers and palms of those challenging handfuls is something not at all amusing. The gathering storm of the truth; the outpouring that is finally gaining strengthening momentum from women about what it’s really like to inhabit a female body, to be female in this world of ours. In families, on the street and in alleys, at the park, stores, parking garages, elevators, libraries, in school, in places of worship, in the workplace. Everywhere. Anywhere.

We have to hope that we can make change. That words and stories told with sincere heart and mind have the power to make change.

If we can somehow find our humor in the darkness and the ugliness, the pure insanity, we’re saved just even a little bit even if only for a moment or two. Like the black humor I encountered working at Hospice all those years ago, it helps us let off steam, provides some pressure relieved.

Leading into the fun and fanciful dive into the curious world of blond-dom, +David Amerland begins in his Sunday Read today with, “We live in a funny world right now". No truer words spoken. It’s funny alright. In a terrifying, impossible, unimaginable sort of way.

During the Vietnam protest era, my father, Ivan, wrote a song called “Funny World”. It was 1968, I believe.

The lyrics, go like this minus one line that neither my brother or I on an early morning singing together Sunday phone call can fully or accurately recall:

Funny world we all reside in.
Tiny bodies we all hide in.
Faces like masks. Noses like flasks.
Ears like vegetables. Cheeks like beets.
Watermelon seats
and voices like parakeets

Billows of smoke
(…missing line…maybe something with the word “choke”…)
Like some terrible joke on the moon.
Bullets and sabers don’t create good neighbors
and yet

Funny world we all reside in.
Let’s wise up and not get fried in
General’s fists
Molecule mists
Brand new projectile
latest style.
Blow us all a mile.
In single file.
In single file.

”There is a wider point to all this. Cultural anthropology stems from our collective behavior that is partly fueled by our belief in stereotypes and traditions. Things arise out of seemingly nothing and then they sort of mean something. Vague right? Yeah. And ephemeral. Subject to change. But that’s the beauty of our human world where even the slightest thing about us has roots that go deeper than we think and a far greater impact that we’re consciously unaware of. Until we come to think about it all, that is.” +David Amerland

Postscript: Meanwhile, in an acceptance speech upon receiving the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, writer Annie Proulx nails it: https://goo.gl/ZKE9Ff

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Heavy ;)

We live in a funny world right now. A lot of the fun and lightness seems to have gone out of social media with Russia (and other state actors) weaponizing it (https://goo.gl/LwVmav). In the entertainment media the Weinstein scandal has opened the floodgates (https://goo.gl/mLJTtv) revealing that beneath the glitz and the partying there is an “ugliness” (https://goo.gl/YN4RD2) that is affecting much of what we feel.

Despite the fact that we are have near instantaneous electronic communication, rockets that could take us to Mars (https://goo.gl/iim1vi), electric cars (https://goo.gl/z2l9N6) and autonomous vehicles (https://goo.gl/rBMY8z) we seem destined to relive scandals (https://goo.gl/PUva3N) that rock our world, fueled by the age old motivation of greed, lust and envy, seasoned with a judicious sprinkling of a need for power, of course.

So, with that spirit-drenching beginning I thought I’d dive deep and explore the world of blondes. (https://goo.gl/1xeCbV). In case you think this is too frivolous a subject for a Sunday Read I should draw to your attention that blondes were the subject of study for no less a person of some gravita than Aristotle (https://goo.gl/Lxa74y) whose views on female sexuality and blondes were amazingly contemporary: https://goo.gl/fhveCc.

When it comes to blonde (as a hair color) we have all been subjected to some serious cultural programming (https://goo.gl/4f26A6) which may not really stand up to reality (https://goo.gl/nCFxF1). Hollywood, of course, has always been supportive of blondes (https://goo.gl/42Bhsl). Psychology has a different view (https://goo.gl/sGRQfK) and the studies done around hair color and attraction throw up a picture that is, well, a little more serious (https://goo.gl/UMKnHR).

Even more confusingly when it comes to hair color the correlation doesn’t hold up if we reverse the gender and ask women to date blonde men: https://goo.gl/8pNToi. The question of hair color and sexual attraction has come up frequently on newspaper letters send in by readers (anonymously, of course) - https://goo.gl/AtnArF.

Because of the myths and cultural stereotypes surrounding their hair color blondes have attracted more than their fair share of studies: https://goo.gl/J49chf. Unsurprisingly there is some science behind to why blonde hair evolved: https://goo.gl/BqpjQ7.

When it comes to blonde, of course, the primary cultural icon is Marilyn Monroe and the reasons why we love her are something, yours truly has covered before (https://goo.gl/SwHtPC) and Marilyn has even attracted the attention of Joyce Carol Oates (https://goo.gl/vXXm8W) who’s written a lengthy book about her: (https://goo.gl/yv16E) that explores how we feel about her at some length: https://goo.gl/ffMqkc.

We can’t of course talk about iconic blondes (https://goo.gl/oCddDA) without mentioning Pamela Anderson (https://goo.gl/ieXHg7) whose name also came up when it came to dealing with Hollywood sexual harassment (https://goo.gl/8cCzKY).

There is a wider point to all this. Cultural anthropology (https://goo.gl/nCtOlQ) stems from our collective behavior that is partly fueled by our belief in stereotypes and traditions. Things arise out of seemingly nothing and then they sort of mean something. Vague right? Yeah. And ephemeral. Subject to change. But that’s the beauty of our human world where even the slightest thing about us has roots that go deeper than we think and a far greater impact that we’re consciously unaware of. Until we come to think about it all, that is.

On that note I hope you’ve all had the nous to provide yourselves with tons of coffee and mountains of the sugary treats: donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake without which even a deep dive into something light is harder than it needs to be. Have one awesome Sunday wherever you are.
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Nature As Medicine: Awe
The Murkiness Of Avoidance & The Aliveness Of Feeling

It’s kind of magical. There’s an alchemical wand built of awe that sits ready, simply waiting to be noticed and waved to produce something new. Discoveries and sensations that lead to change, delight and purpose. Minute or grand. It doesn’t matter. Even just a kernel will do.

I cannot tell you how many times a simple practice of getting myself outdoors has soothed or at the least helped me to shift away from the inner maelstrom, the crowded, overloaded, brimming-over of thoughts and discomfort that strong feelings can sometimes produce towards something I like better and can gravitate to instead - increased intelligence, productively informed thoughts and reduced negative feelings. Whether it's an unexplainable, just being out of sorts or having been high-jacked by some strong and uncomfortable emotion taking myself outside away from the trappings of four walls is curative.

Merely by putting my feet on dirt and then stepping one foot after another until I am firmly planted to the earth, connected to the ground and some solid part of it then leads me to traveling with its natural rhythms and I find myself taking a walk. This will change how I feel. If I choose it to. It doesn’t even need to be a walk. Sitting in a spot that calls to me will do.

It’s not endorphins. It’s something else that the natural setting and the objects I encounter along the way wrapped in fresh air positively effects how I feel.

What happens when I’m out there and I allow it, is a sense of awe.

That's virtually impossible to avoid if I am paying attention to the natural world I inhabit. There is always something to capture me.

Whether it’s the buzz of an insect, a bunch of waving grass in the breeze or a trampled feather, a rock, boulder or the beautiful fragrance of fennel. Whether it’s the brittle seed pod or a murder of crows, a hawk, a cloud, crumbly dirt making the downhill slide slippery. It doesn’t matter as long as I’m really there to be with it. It doesn't need to be earth shattering. It can appear small and grow bigger in my heart.

We need this simple thing.

It’s hard to be human with all these feelings traversing our systems day in and day out. It’s hard to be human making attempts to connect with other humans who are also swimming in their own seas of feelings and complexity.

Our emotions can flood us, our thoughts about them can sink the ship.

In a paradoxical manner, allowing the registration of the very emotions that seem to rule our bodies automatically, sometimes against our will, can actually help us cope with them regardless of the painful challenges they sometimes present. Resistance merely enhances and grows the very thing we are trying to avoid. An invitation to allow it to surface healthily instead in order to metabolize it can do the opposite. Truly register the sensations that being alive makes mandatory. And then make a choice.

Acknowledgment provides a certain deep respect for ourselves.

Imagine how destructive denial can be. The opposite can help to create the internal dialectic between our emotions, the thoughts that create feelings and executive functioning. That’s where we develop the ability to choose choice. In my experience resistance and avoidance create irritability and more discomfort while being with whatever arises broadens possibility and optimism. It births the realization that as humans we can affect, in a positive way, the emotions and events that trouble us.

We are more powerful at affecting the outcome of our emotions than we sometimes imagine.

There is just so much useful material to be mined right here in our bodies. Signals and information that lead us to a more well-lived life. Starting with cultivating that sense of awe is a good spot to begin from.

And always remember that feelings (and the thoughts and ideas they are attached to) are contagious. So it's good to think of our fellow travelers.

”Unlike probably any other sentient being on the planet, each of us can reprogram how the brain works through awareness and directed attention. We can also affect the way others feel through our conduct and the sharing of our thoughts and ideas. We, in turn, change the moment we interconnect, engage and actively seek to enrich each other in a real-life, equivalent of the brain’s neural networks.” +David Amerland

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Feelings

Just the other day I shared a panoramic picture of a sunset stitched together by my phone (https://goo.gl/D5Gn7n). The day I took it had been a hectic one. With only four days to go before the official release of my latest book, The Sniper Mind (https://goo.gl/zXX2t4) I’d been swamped with interview requests, articles to write, emails to respond and the usual load of analysis, research, writing and communicating with friends, clients and colleagues.

The last thing I had time for was photographing sunsets. But … the beauty of that sunset, the golden light on the balcony as the sun lit up a sky that was clearing up after some rain, drew me out of myself. I spent a few minutes outside, sampling the air, feeling the freshness of the evening breeze and snapping a dozen shots (thinking that if I got the chance I’d use Photoshop to put together). I then got back to work feeling happier inside. Armed with a re-affirmed sense of purpose that the firmament was not about to end and that my role in it, however small and insignificant, was still important because I had a place. Incredibly enough, I also felt happier.

Being happy is good (https://goo.gl/pfF7oN). Even more significantly even a few minutes spent enjoying nature have the ability to make us feel happier (https://goo.gl/difAig). In the days that followed sharing that picture I got a couple of calls from friends who’d seen it, a lot of people on the Cloudwars community (https://goo.gl/GDGysi) messaged me to just say “thanks” and I found myself discussing it and the moment and the way it felt with some friends on G+ who also remarked how it made them feel better.

A picture I had taken that had been translated into 1s and 0s and broadcast across the world was now being decoded by eyes and brains and translated into feelings and emotions. And that’s just the point. On the day I’d shot the sunset I’d gone back to work feeling that somehow I was more connected to the world than ever before. Nature, it seems, even if we view it in a picture, has a way of making us feel less of who we are and more of what we are in the greater order of things (https://goo.gl/3Qj5Pk).

Which brings us to emotions (https://goo.gl/Qokvd7). The things we feel which make us do other things (https://goo.gl/JWNy6T) have a physiological basis which stems from the fact that our body, in its totality, is a sensory organ physically connected to the world around us. The brain makes feelings from physical sensations (https://goo.gl/dyUPfT) which means that where we live, how we live and how we quantify that physical existence in relation to those around us are key to determining how we feel: https://goo.gl/DF68ZP. How we feel then determines how we act (https://goo.gl/X3N6yf).

There are several points to all this that go beyond the mere reductionist approach to cognition (https://goo.gl/Dal9PY) that links the brain’s structure and neural networks to how we feel and think. (https://goo.gl/LgZknc). Unlike probably any other sentient being on the planet, each of us can reprogram how the brain works through awareness and directed attention. We can also affect the way others feel through our conduct and the sharing of our thoughts and ideas. We, in turn, change the moment we interconnect, engage and actively seek to enrich each other in a real-life, equivalent of the brain’s neural networks (https://goo.gl/ToA1qJ).

In a universe where everything is data, including us, where we end up is a matter of consciousness and choice. Every decision has consequences. Every choice is a decision. Choose wisely.

I hope you have made all the right choices and reached the right decisions and are now tooled-up with coffee, donuts, cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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The Boogeyman In Our Basement
He Was Real

Every time I went near the door in a dim alcove at one end of the kitchen of my childhood home, the Boogeyman’s presence rose up before me and made even touching the doorknob, much less turning it, a risk. Open this door at your peril! It’s how the older kids ensured that my little girl fears were vivid and thriving. It worked.

I was vulnerable to stories.

Those bigger kids were able to capitalize on my uncertainty and powerlessness to convince me of an impossible thing.

And in doing so, they also were, perhaps inadvertently, convincing me of the potential of their protective powers.

They warned me of the danger and somehow, their knowledge of it also gave me a sense that they could keep me safe from that danger.

Of course, I was a child and it was all in good fun, but as I said, it worked. The monster in the basement was terrifying. In my imagination. In my heart and whole body.

I suspect now that it was also in a sense more comfortable to believe that the monster existed than to try to combat the uncertainty that said he might or he might not be real.

There was a hush of sacredness in all of it, a sensation of precious story belonging only to us kids, like a carefully cherished secret.

Truth be told, we did have a very scary basement. It was cavernous, with a maze of hallways and small rooms and a killer boiler room with a boiler that scared the heck out of me. We pondered endlessly over the mysterious “safe” room down there that had a steel door and a lock on the inside. We so wanted it to be for runaway slaves and but historically it had to be some other sort of hideaway related to prohibition and debauchery. The house was built in the 20’s for weekends away from the city by a wealthy Manhattan judge. It also was said to have been a brothel so maybe it was a hiding place away from law enforcement.

I was a gullible child. I would believe just about anything. Somehow, even outrageous things could somehow come to make sense in my young mind.

”Left to our own devices we can each, equally easily, succumb to the trend and believe in impossible things because our brains lose their calibration and our perception becomes flawed.”
+David Amerland

I don’t recall when I finally came to my senses, but to this day, when I think of our basement I also think of the Boogeyman. He was that real to me.

The legend persists.

Once we deeply believe in something it can be a real task to change our minds. It can even feel like a risk. There is that space in which our identity and beliefs, once challenged, become mercurial, ghost-like and no longer dense creating an emptiness that then must be filled. It’s scary there in those moments when we don’t feel the ground under us, don’t know what we can expect or how to control what will happen. We’ve surrendered to change.

That is also an opportunity many seek. Changing our minds to be more firmly in the present without the rattle of the mischievous poltergeist we hide in our psyches can be such a good and thing.

How does this relate to conspiracy theories or the bigger picture of the world we live in today? It’s a slice of the personal microcosm; the spot we come from in each of our exchanges. The reminder to look critically at what we insist upon. To question and ponder what we are clinging to and making damn sure we have good and logical reason. That can be backed up.

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Plots

The 5th November is, in the United Kingdom, Guy Fawkes Night (https://goo.gl/U5V6Ss) when a nation celebrates the contradictions inherently found in the foiling of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The theme of plots, conspiracies and the dynamic that drives them is explored in some detail in the semantically dense, multi-layered and conceptually brave film, V for Vendetta (https://goo.gl/mlUyq) whose trailer gives you a flavor of what it’s about: https://goo.gl/z1Hw6.

In the face of Guy Fawkes (https://goo.gl/ik8QmI) we have a relative ‘everyman’ making a stand, living by his convictions and refusing to refute his principles almost to the end. In the 21st century, the face of a relatively low-key member of what was an outlawed and illegal organization has been immortalized in the mask of ‘the resistance’ - https://goo.gl/HybJb9.

Fawkes, however, also stands for something else, a little more nerdy (maybe) and a lot less practical, which is the belief in conspiracy theories (https://goo.gl/dhrCuF). Conspiracy theories, by definition, are high-effort, energy-intensive affairs which require the collusion, suppression, cooperation, agreement, support, silence and overall approval of countless people, in order to happen. If that sounds like something William of Ockham (https://goo.gl/UXCNBu) would have scoffed at, you’re right, it is: https://goo.gl/qK9dv2. That, however, doesn’t make them any less likely to be spawned or be believed in which means that, like religion, they fulfill a psychological function that is almost like a mental safety valve: https://goo.gl/T0NUoi.

In an entertaining (and revealing) TED Talk Michael Shermer shows how easy it is for us to be duped because we are willing ourselves to be duped: https://goo.gl/n6ehtn. Ramsey Theory (https://goo.gl/3NEL55) shows that, from a certain perspective, we are hardwired to lie to ourselves (https://goo.gl/cJYVWi) – our neurobiology, coupled with a safety valve mechanism in our psychological make-up, combine to produce conditions where we convince ourselves on the validity of impossible things (https://goo.gl/yUBEod) to the point that even relatively ordinary people, become suspects: https://goo.gl/Cws8xu.

The internet, obviously, has contributed to the increase of conspiracy theories (https://goo.gl/gYPo3i) and certain political beliefs can create a pre-disposition when it comes to belief in them: https://goo.gl/jJpT6Y.

But that is not the whole story: https://goo.gl/yExFSN. Left to our own devices we can each, equally easily, succumb to the trend and believe in impossible things because our brains lose their calibration and our perception becomes flawed. Add to it the fact that we all need to somehow feel special: https://goo.gl/y6utVb and before you know it you find yourself walking down the same path as Richard: http://disq.us/p/1nhdryk whose comment to my article on how we think and why, warrants some reflection.

Our complex brains, it would appear, can easily trip us up: https://goo.gl/U8yGgA and they can also go wrong, very wrong, very quickly: https://goo.gl/sX3cm9. The only way to try and counterbalance this tendency is to socialize them: https://goo.gl/fKLhQY, frequently. Often.

As a matter of fact the connections we make that allow us to share thoughts and ideas, determine values and discover points of view different to our own are the very things that help keep us mentally and psychologically on an even keel.

For sure, these are highly uncertain times we live in. They create moments of intense mental and psychological pressure. How we learn to deal with that pressure will determine not just the people we become but also the kind of life we will lead.

I hope you’ve caved in to tradition and my traditional entreaties and are now surrounded by sugary treats, croissants and eclairs, cookies and donuts, chocolate cake and ice cream. And have plenty of coffee at hand. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.
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Our Perceptions, Our Realities: There Is Never Just One
Being Human

It’s pretty weird to be human. It’s a tricky business being inside these bodies of ours that seem to run on their own with minds that are so malleable that we barely notice their inventiveness and crafty natures. Instead of “sleight of hand” we could call it “sleight of mind”. It’s all so very complicated.

We are both more and less creative than we think we are.

And we are more and less able to shape our reality than we think we are. But it may turn out that the reality we are trying to shape so meticulously is not what we thought it would be.

We spend so much time trying to bend and form our experience to our liking while at the same time doubting ourselves in so many of our moments that we fail ourselves over and over countless times every day. Pretty paradoxical.

To make matters more complex we are always trying to do things in a way that will make us feel comfortable, make ourselves happy and thinking that we can. We think that if only things go this way or that, we will finally have what we want and feel the happiness we seek. We think, “This will be it.”.

There’s some truth to the dream of being able to make ourselves happy but it’s not how we typically think of it.

In the same way we are both more and less creative than we think we are also both more and less able to make ourselves happy. Nothing much is ever as it seems. Everything is malleable just like our minds.

And so often I find that perceiving things from a sideways or upside-down view is my most interesting, most creative, most beneficial option. What if things are simply not what I expected them to be? What if the thing that I imagine to be the worst thing is actually not so bad? What if encouraging myself to move towards rather than away from the things that most frighten me, that make me the most uncomfortable, will help me to be able to feel how interesting they actually are? What if new opportunities arise from the least expected places?

What if being creative or happy isn’t what I always thought?

The Zen master Dogen said that in order to perceive reality we must “drop mind and body”.

Here’s something I’d like to add to +David Amerland's Sunday Read today that he has entitled, Perception, Reality. It’s from my teacher, John Tarrant, Roshi, and his book about the transformation of consciousness and Zen Koans called Bring Me The Rhinoceros.

A koan:

One day, Yanguan called to his assistant, “Bring me the rhinoceros fan.”
The assistant said, “It is broken.”
Yanguan said, “In that case, bring me the rhinoceros.”

”We sometimes think of consciousness as a lamp, making a golden cone of light on the surface of a desk. Outside the yellow circle everything is dark and unknown. The usual way of approaching things is to try to extend the yellow circle into the darkness. Or perhaps to drag objects in from the dark. That is working out of what you can conceive of, the bright area of what you already know. This koan takes things the other way. Here you depend on what is unknown and inconceivable to sustain you. Most of life is inconceivable; even your left hand can’t be fully conceived of though it can be very useful. And if you try hard to conceive of what your hand does, it won’t play the piano very well. The inconceivable is the source of all that comes into being. This koan is not about making what is unknown, known. Instead it is an exercise in relying on and making friends with the inconceivable, using a casual event to start an exploration into the unlit realms.”
John Tarrant, Bring Me The Rhinoceros

”In one state I know what I do, understand the concreteness of the reality I live in and live life as if there is all there is to it. But in the other state I use my body and mind as instruments to chip away at it. I physically train past the point of exhaustion because I know in that state I can do things that I couldn’t before and that performance is based upon increased levels of perceptual awareness. I work long hours on barely any sleep because the concentration makes the world around me, the ‘concreteness’ crumble away and then I ‘see’ patterns and capture ideas that change everything for me.”

And that is my constant game.
+David Amerland

Why add more here than that?

Questions don't always have answers and most times they have more than one.

Our perception is our reality and isn't it just grand to acknowledge how much we are able to influence both?

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Reality

All my life I have been bugged by the sense that what I see of the world is not what is. While I know what I see, hear, feel, touch and taste; every time I close my eyes and let my brain probe at things I see a swirl of possibilities, indistinct patterns coalescing that make sense just beyond my own capabilities to capture it and articulate it. As a result I have, for pretty much all my life, lived in a binary state of existence.

In one state I know what I do, understand the concreteness of the reality I live in and live life as if there is all there is to it. But in the other state I use my body and mind as instruments to chip away at it. I physically train past the point of exhaustion because I know in that state I can do things that I couldn’t before and that performance is based upon increased levels of perceptual awareness. I work long hours on barely any sleep because the concentration makes the world around me, the ‘concreteness’, crumble away and then I ‘see’ patterns and capture ideas that change everything for me.

And that is my constant game.

It appears I am not alone. Donald Hoffman, in his TED talk, manages to make much the same point: https://goo.gl/K8Cnaz. In clear echoes of eastern mysticism (https://goo.gl/8R8CJC) there is the belief that the mind may indeed hallucinate reality: https://goo.gl/JiD5mP.

In my most recent book, The Sniper Mind I make the contention that if you train your brain to behave differently you essentially teach it to take in what is ‘out there’ and deliver different outcomes to what someone else who is not trained, can achieve: https://goo.gl/ECJx5W.

A recent quantum physics experiment (https://goo.gl/Jgxnqa) appears to bear out Wheeler’s participatory universe theory (https://goo.gl/S7xfPC) with the further suggestion that perhaps, really the universe may not be there at all when we are not there to look at it: https://goo.gl/g37zg.

Hoffman’s argument against reality is based on perception: https://goo.gl/kt7gPU. And since perception guides our understanding of what it we see because it is the filter through which interpret facts, it is reasonable to suggest that what our perception reports is relative: https://goo.gl/DoLGEw. Our survival as a species depends upon our ability to react correctly to the stimulus presented to us via the reporting pathways of our bodies and the interpretative activities of our minds, so it also stands to reason that our ability to see a sort of reality has a largely beneficial effect: https://goo.gl/XwPQ5K.

That can be said about most of the ancient subroutines that drive our minds and most chemical processes that power our bodies. But not all. When we are, in a very real sense, the architects of our reality (https://goo.gl/lMZ2xQ) it is left upon us to make the kind of choices that guide us along paths less likely to destroy ourselves and harm those around us.

The today we find ourselves in, now is made up of the realization that the world we want to see is within our grasp. It doesn’t rely on a single moment or a single choice. But it can be created out of the consistent, sustained and sustainable action of considered choices that overcome our ancient biology and neurological predispositions and guide us along the path that will make us better versions of ourselves and, maybe even, take us to the stars.

I hope you’ve made the right choices today and are currently looking at a reality comprised of rivers of coffee and mountains of donuts and cookies and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.
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Intimacy Will Occur In Unexpected Places
Maybe We Can Learn To Be Less Afraid

I don’t know about you, but I seem to be plagued (or graced, depending on the day) with a compelling drive to connect and I have a sort of semi-constant awareness of the presence of others on the planet each going about their business on their own trajectory. It’s a kind of radar registering warmth, chances for varying levels of exchange, intimacy, sensing the existence of beings with whom I might succeed in touching into that curiosity I have.

They are presenting opportunity simply because they are also alive. Like me. It’s nothing heavy, I don't mean to scare you off; it is not akin to being obnoxiously needy or anything. I love and crave my solitude yet I also just do possess a deep affection for being inside life with my fellow life-travelers. I will go looking for it. There is so much. So much to learn from each other, so much to notice together.

It seems pretty obvious that the best of the best, the times we seem most joined with others are those deep, heartfelt times that typically occur with people during a moment or two of conversation, face-to-face interaction or side-by-side activity. Breathing air together. Something involving touch. Wordless, a glance, a giggle, a shrug.

But that’s not all there is. Intimacy is available in varied degrees, countless, surprising forms and we’re fortunate to be alive in an era that offers more choices for connection than ever before. I’ve proven for myself that I can be deeply connected and intimate with people I’ve yet to meet in person and feel the congruency and the truth of the relationship being just what I’d hoped and more when finally, we do meet and share air.

And in the natural order of things, as with any kind of intimacy in-person or online, we will also at some point encounter our own vulnerability, disappointment, over-exposure, dangers of being hurt in some way.

This is why we are bound to a pressing need to have a running dialogue, a continuing awareness of our individuality. Our autonomy. Knowing what and where and how and why we are seeking. Like everything, there is an optimal balance and it will differ for each of us. Sometimes, I find I am over-saturated, stressed with the overload of stimuli and I need to step away and take a breath. Create quiet. Clean out the closet of my mind that is in overdrive collecting tidbits and pieces of things that may not be handy for thriving, for my own survival.

But I will always come back for more as soon as I’m able.

Again today, +David Amerland's Sunday Read gifted me a number of delicious moments of intake. Reading and watching the offering of links opened my heart in the way I like best.

Not only that, but Hedy Schleifer, in her TED talk, made tears stream down my face because of the depth and truth of her words and sentiment. Her talk was filled with stirring moments and I highly recommend that you watch it. To top it off, she included the essential part of one of my favorite Rumi poems:

“There Is A Field”

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass.
The world is too full to talk about.
Rumi

“…In the digital realm, of all places, where everything is intentional, it is perhaps time to put in the effort to understand our own intentions first and then, as we connect with others, benefit from alignment; as it occurs.” +David Amerland

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead

Connections

In his 2011 book, The Information (https://goo.gl/OJRcBb), James Gleick (https://goo.gl/a596Jg) makes the point that the brain’s smarts are not a function of knowledge but the result of its ability to interconnect and contextualize knowledge. In the connections that the brain can forge amongst its different centers, we see the emergence of intelligence.

There is a universal application to this. Whether we look at a single neuron in the brain, an individual in a city, a city in a country or a country on a planet (and we can pretty much keep on expanding our point of view) we still end up with a single point, a node, and have to wonder what its value is in relation to other nodes.

Connectivity and the network effect is something I have been thinking about for a very long time (https://goo.gl/hHkECM). The connection between two points, always, subtly, changes both: https://goo.gl/Ey7nfK and when it comes to ourselves, looking inwards may not be a bad place to start with as far as connections are concerned: https://goo.gl/MD3bXf.

Because social networking is an activity as old as the hills it should come as no surprise that influence relies on connection too: https://goo.gl/qZY3hR. It should be no surprise either that connections don’t just help us become smarter, they also keep our brain healthier: https://goo.gl/S9Uoxu. The power of connection is something psychologist Hedy Schleifer talks about in her powerful TED Talk: https://goo.gl/Ty24tO.

There are two facets to this argument. As people we are hardwired to connect and we crave meaning in our connections: https://goo.gl/pag5lM. But, sometimes, in true people fashion, as we blindly rely on our tech to fill the gap that we should be filling with our very human attention and consciously directed effort, we fall short: https://goo.gl/vmk1rb.

Despite that, we are all still affected: https://goo.gl/b16VTR and, as you might have guessed, social media is the root cause. The digital realm is now part of the environment we all live in and, as such, it exerts its own inescapable pressures: https://goo.gl/I0iU7r. Because the brain doesn’t have different emotional pathways for new media channels the feelings we feel are the feelings we have always felt, reported by the brain in the same way: https://goo.gl/eyZVEe.

The more we understand about how our connection with others affects us: https://goo.gl/q364Gn the more likely, I suppose, we are to try and manipulate it for commercial gain: https://goo.gl/kIz4Pr. But that, one might argue, is life itself. Nothing happens without a reason and we need a good reason to do everything. In the digital realm, of all places, where everything is intentional, it is perhaps time to put in the effort to understand our own intentions first and then, as we connect with others, benefit from alignment; as it occurs.

Make no mistake. This is a new age. Those of us who aren’t seventeen are straddling both worlds and are trying to become comfortable in both. This is what we are seeing: The past served us badly. It compartmentalized us, forced us to rely on gatekeepers who have proved unworthy and strove to keep us “in our place”. The future is uncertain. We face too many variables and too many challenges to confidently predict anything. Plus. While we’re trying to prepare for what we guess lies ahead, we’re struggling with the remnants of the past, relics who are doing everything they can to turn back the clock.

The present is our battleground. Nothing is easy. Everything appears fraught with risk. Yet here we are. We connect each day, meet people we haven’t physically met and share knowledge, ideas, suggestions and trust in a global network of minds and hearts unlike anything the world has seen before. Heady stuff, certainly. Scary. You bet! Where we go next will depend on how we decide to live our lives and lead our minds, now.

I hope you’ve done what’s needed and seeing how due to an incredibly aggressive bug I was out for the count last Sunday, you must have a surplus of coffee at least (a good thing!) and now are looking at mountains of donuts, cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Put One Foot In Front Of The Other
Take A Step And Then Take Another

Distractions and obstacles accrue. They reproduce and multiply like little bunnies in a sunny farmscape. There will usually be something to pull us out of focus and disturb the potential of our beautiful calm, our homeostasis. These days, it’s not hard to do.

Being human, when given the chance, we will feel hindered. Things will naturally get in our way if only simply because there is so much of everything. There will always be excuses available and weeds gathering force in our human minds. There is plenty of stimulation available to being drawn off-track.

When faced with danger or the unfamiliar, moments of uncertainty we will feel some measure of fear. Life is hard much of the time. There are limitations, disappointments, hurdles, hardships, things to grieve.

It’s kind of amazing how powerful the word, “no” can be. Or the word, “can’t”. I feel an edge of emotion rise up just typing those words because spoken they are like giving in to the passivity of hypothermia and wanting to just close my eyes and be asleep. At first, they seem small and surmountable, no big deal, as if they belong to someone else. But they’re big all right and they belong to anyone. Admitting their presence and maybe even constructing some allowance for what they represent is a good step.

Maybe that’s what it takes to crumble them like cookie crumbs in our hands after a sugary feast. After all, what we resist persists. So yeah, I’ll confess. I’ve heard myself say those words to things I needn’t have said them to.

I started noticing some years ago how much strength those little words have. They can shut doors to experience, expansion and joy and I began to listen to myself. Now, after years of practice, I must be sure, absolutely sure before I’ll say them with any volume or conviction. Just changing a simple seemingly small word can change my world.

It’s easy to get distracted and pulled off the path of desires and ambition. It’s easy to become distracted from getting through a day in one piece. To give in to all the difficulties, and fallout of legitimate challenges. They seduce. They can pull us under.

The cool thing is that they also present a tempting opportunity to figure out how to re-adjust thinking and actions in response to those limiting signals when they appear. To fight against them, to learn new ways to think, discover fresh alternatives, to invent get-arounds, prepare for the guises of “no” and “can’t”. Find other ways. Where there’s a will, there is usually a way.

My self-created program began in the pool during interval training and thinking my lungs would burst but still making the time and then, later on my yoga mat. So many long, drawn out breaths in a single posture asking myself to go deeper, sometimes a posture of utter discomfort or vague impossibility. Learning how to manage by cozying up to sensation when it seems so much easier to just get out of the situation, bail. That’s really all it is. Sensation.

Emotional sway and volatility can be dangerous things. Maybe it’s easier said than done but it’s just so much better to have some strength and calm at the ready to use as pause when we can sense our own reactivity rising up. That’s when it’s helpful to resort to one step, one moment, one breath in front of another. One step at a time.

A thing I’ve learned is how intrinsic trust is to everything I do. Trusting that I will be okay. Trusting that I have the perseverance, grit and fortitude to get through whatever I am faced with. And the curiosity to want to.

”In The Tribe That Discovered Trust (https://goo.gl/kp1dh3) my foray into how trust works and how we manage it, the research I looked at showed two distinct things that help us take that first step: First, an innate curiosity about the world and how it works and Second, a sense of trust that the world is mostly good and that things will turn out to be OK.” +David Amerland

(written in the back seat of a car traveling from California through southern Oregon)
The Chemistry of Calm

In If (https://goo.gl/4rSYkD) Rudyard Kipling (https://goo.gl/aKSl6A) manages the nearly impossible, painting with words a picture of perfection that is in itself far from perfect (https://goo.gl/2dEjdw) but which serves to deliver a positive outcome.

In it he outlines the formula for what we now call “The Chemistry of Calm” - https://goo.gl/NLUaE1, not really so much a chemistry as a set of practices designed to engender and then sustain the mental fortitude necessary to face the struggle of life. There are many things to consider here, not least why should life be a struggle, so we shall try and tackle them one at a time.

Looked at from a conceptual point of view, each day we wake into takes us into a territory filled mostly with unknowns. A sensible person looking at the world understands that it is a chaotic place filled with seething energy where anything can happen. When compared to our own sense of fragility and weakness the most sensible thing to do is stockpile enough food and water and wait out the end of our time from under a warm blanket.

Luckily for us this is not what we do. I say luckily because the “sensible” option here would doom us to a life that would be mentally truncated, psychologically flawed and physically cut short. Our bodies and minds need striving to survive and require effort to change and adapt. That however doesn’t perhaps adequately explain how we manage to not be paralyzed by the sense of who we are when compared to the world around us.

In The Tribe That Discovered Trust (https://goo.gl/kp1dh3) my foray into how trust works and how we manage it, the research I looked at showed two distinct things that help us take that first step: First, an innate curiosity about the world and how it works and Second, a sense of trust that the world is mostly good and that things will turn out to be OK. The fact that this is exactly what happens in most cases shows how the behavior generated by the second, feeds into and justifies the first. Trust without curiosity would not have been enough to get us out of the caves or make us step outside our door in the morning. Curiosity without trust (https://goo.gl/YCnBch) would have turned us into short-lived, neurotic messes scared by our own shadow and too afraid to do anything beyond lash out at everything we encountered.

We are not like that because we have found ways to overcome our own neurobiology and channel our anxieties into creative, constructive ways of dealing with the world. Remarkable as that may be, it gets even better. As it transpired from the hundreds of interviews I had with former and serving snipers when writing The Sniper Mind (https://goo.gl/jW731R) there are things that we can do at a practical level that helps us develop a mindset which then leads us to behave differently: https://goo.gl/irzSBi.

It’s worth noting here the steps that take us ‘there’: practical things done in the physical world, change the neural pathways in the brain, create a different mindset and impact both the way we do things in the real world and the outcomes we achieve afterwards. Grit, the mental toughness we need to “get the job done” is something +Errol Doebler has talked about in his podcast: https://goo.gl/S3teBE. Mental toughness and focus is what Dr Sean Richardson has talked about in his TED Talk: https://goo.gl/oQIfQJ and Amy Morin also discusses in her TED Talk: https://goo.gl/qVqvxe.

What comes home loud and clear from all this is that things like fearlessness (https://goo.gl/u2ce8f) and stress-control (https://goo.gl/jpKe7i) require a small measure of self-awareness, the willingness to do something about it and a series of small, practical steps that almost anyone can do.

What is becoming apparent from the work that neuroscience, psychology and neurobiology are stitching together is that the way to a better internal mental world is the same as that to Carnegie Hall (https://goo.gl/8khkM7).

This is the 21st century. Technology may be changing faster than we can cope with change (https://goo.gl/JJpJnh). Complexity is only increasing (https://goo.gl/pn8dK3) and our power to deal with everything is only as good as our ability to remain calm and composed in the face of adversity. Keeping our heads, as Rudyard wants us to, is now required more than ever before.

Now, I hope you kept your cool when confronted with choice in your shopping and now have a fountain of coffee flowing nearby, accompanied by mountains of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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I Find Myself Relying On Deep & Abiding Trust
Leaving Certain Things To The Really Smart People

It’s as if every single possible detail, every iteration of anything that there is or ever has been has been placed into a massive container that’s big, very very big. Much bigger than anything my mind can imagine.

And then I climb up on an almost endless and precarious ladder to peer down into this cavern of things; every kind of thing that has ever existed, inanimate objects, living beings, knowledge, wisdom, concepts, plans, words, representations of every thought ever thought, every memory, every atom. Every vision. Every sound. Every spiritual belief. Every science experiment ever conducted. Time travel.

The next part is even more impossible. It’s me asking myself to comprehend even a miniscule of a percentage of what I behold.

This is how I feel today.

I willingly opened the storehouse of treasures in +David Amerland's Sunday Read and found myself tumbling through ideas at a rate I find I cannot keep up with. I enthusiastically transitioned from reading in the living room to hanging out with my laptop at the car wash sitting outside watching TED talks while I waited. I love the parts. The details, taken a few at a time are comprehensible to me. And delicious.

On my way home from the car wash as I was driving the heavy machine of a car and listening to news from Spain it hit me that I simply have to have an abiding trust as we move ahead into the future of humanity. There are people who are passionate about AI and working hard to make the best of our potential as a species to not only advance and solve the most enormous questions of survival but to keep us safe and cooperative. To keep living filled with wonder and mystery.

Back home, I try to make sense of it all as a bundle and my mind begins to wander.

Why is that crow cawing? I hear the rhythm of my dog’s snore, I perceive the light in the room, the tickle of air in my nostril, my neighbor speaking outside my window, the melody of deep harmonic chimes bumping up against each other with slight breeze on the deck, the way my foot feels on the ottoman. How do I fit in the universe? Who am I? Is there life out there? How will I be living in ten years? What will happen when I die?

About that storehouse of treasures I have entered- the phrase comes from a Zen koan I have always loved. “The storehouse of treasure opens by itself, you can take them and use them any way you wish.” Will we pass along that ability to machines someday making them sentient? Can mystery and spirituality be dampened or stolen from us? Or will we accomplish what Maurice Conti predicts- that we will shape things to come into a new partnership between technology, nature and humanity?

Like the majority of human beings, I get pretty heavily invested in trying to control all the parts of my life, my body, circumstances, relationships. I have the illusion that it is somehow possible. I am repeatedly deluded about what reality is for other people, their perceptions, their values, morality.

And then I’m lassoed back to a sense of acceptance that I can really only influence my own experience, control my own actions and how I use my own mind's capability, how I think. I can trust myself. I can shape my “me”, but the rest requires that deep abiding trust that somehow all the parts of everything else will resonate in concert.

I see the relationship. It’s almost as if the momentum of human advancement into AI requires a parallel trust. Sprinkled throughout with excitement and anticipation.

”We are locked into going forever forward, seeking, understanding, controlling not because “we cannot leave things alone” but because we are programmed by our very existence to try and safeguard it by being able to see what’s coming towards out of the darkness of possibilities that lie in the future.” +David Amerland

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead

Awaken!

When the Mechanical Turk made its debut in 1770 at Schönbrunn Palace (https://goo.gl/LiXhYj) it was the brilliant (if somewhat misguided) epitome of engineering that man has always hoped would allow for the transcendence between realms.

The idea that a statue could come to life if it were made to be real enough is an old one. We see it in Ovid’s poem, Pygmalion (https://goo.gl/8po4bQ) but it has its origins even further back to the world of Daedalus (https://goo.gl/5qUGsA) and Hephaestus (https://goo.gl/hcBrM6) before that. The subtext here is nothing less than the search for the secret of consciousness. The ancient hoped that if they faithfully copied what they could see they could somehow have their creation make the leap separating the inanimate and animate worlds.

We’re not that far removed from that even now. We seek to understand what it is that makes us tick (https://goo.gl/XvMtYS) because we’re bent on creating smart machines in the expectation that we will, also, become smarter: https://goo.gl/eU28ZU. In the process we need to better understand who we are: https://goo.gl/UHNRA6, what makes us tick (https://goo.gl/F5Fpgc) and, in a modern retelling of the Golem tale (https://goo.gl/Ekvmd9) how to best control them: https://goo.gl/tK1qX8.

The idea of stealing fire from the gods (https://goo.gl/dM5Hs) has always appealed to us even though we have also, always known that there is a price to be paid. Daredevil’s powers (https://goo.gl/TgVzpM) draw attention to the fact that the brain uses more than just what we think it does (https://goo.gl/H9bvDV) even when performing the most ‘simple’ of tasks like “seeing” (https://goo.gl/LY76uV).

Brain analytics (https://goo.gl/72R8Lz) is not just allowing us to see how our brains process data and derive meaning from the signal but also how to get more out of us by externalizing some inner tasks (https://goo.gl/KpSDAw).

At the heart of all our research and all our innovations and all our inventions, ever, lies the quest to understand how we understand (https://goo.gl/W2G5HZ) and within it is the suspicion that what we consider to be real may be less substantial than we imagine (https://goo.gl/JiD5mP).

If consciousness, we suppose, creates reality (https://goo.gl/i2VCIj) then there must be a reality we can create where we absolutely control everything (https://goo.gl/zF0iy8). Fanciful as this may sound it is also the ultimate aim behind every attempt to understand. Understanding brings with it the ability to exercise control and control provides a semblance of security by allowing a measure of predictability to be projected into what is, essentially, a mass of unknown variables.

And so there it is. We are locked into going forever forward, seeking, understanding, controlling not because “we cannot leave things alone” but because we are programmed by our very existence to try and safeguard it by being able to see what’s coming towards out of the darkness of possibilities that lie in the future.

Simple, right? In a way it is. The details of our lives have a way of complicating things, particularly when you take into account the complexity of the universe. But ultimately, yeah, we act like slightly more intelligent amoebas (https://goo.gl/cjUuze). It is a sobering thought that ought to inject a measure of humility into our every endeavor.

Now, I hope you’ve inched towards the right decision and this weekend you have lakes of coffee, piles of donuts, jars of chocolate cookies and at least a mountain or two of chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Am I My Memories?
The Deep Deep Intrigue of The World of What We Remember

“Tree“, “highway“, “desert“, “Saturn“, “electrode“. Nope. “Desert” is wrong. It was “mirror”. These are the five words the audience is asked to recall during a TED talk from Peter Doolittle linked to in today’s Sunday Read from +David Amerland. I remembered the first two and the last two, but changed the one in the middle.

I find it curious that I turned “mirror” into “desert”. I wonder why, but think it may have something to do with the fact that I used visualization to remember the other words.

Maybe the image of that highway took me traveling to my favorite desert and overwrote my capacity to recall the word, “mirror” replacing it with my own internal logic.

Maybe it was an example of how we can unintentionally, unconsciously interfere with our own memory.

I have always remembered this.

My earliest memory is of sitting on my mother’s lap with a giant and quite heavy book of wallpaper samples within easy range, close enough to touch. I have always recalled the moment when I put my hand out to feel the beautiful yellow paper densely decorated with colorful vines and flowers intertwined, winding their way around each other. I was entranced. I had picked.

That wallpaper graced the walls of my bedroom from when I was under a year old to when I was around nine or so when wanting to conform to some misguided idea I had about what a young girl’s bedroom should look like, I requested that it be re-painted pink. What a devastating mistake.

I have always missed the yellow flowered wallpaper. It was my loyal friend, unrelentingly there for me and its magical presence is part of me, has lived deep within my heart for as long as I can remember. I spent countless hours of soothing and curious fascination tracing the paths of vines both in my mind and with my fingers imagining myself in their world, peering inside the flower petals, touching their velvety surfaces, building alliance with each inch. So much wonder. I can easily remember the texture of the paper itself. It was ever so slightly bumpy, not smooth. Its physicality a declaration of its fancy, its mirage, but that didn’t matter to me. As far as I was concerned, it was as real as anything.

I so regretted that defiant independence-declaring decision to wipe out my early childhood yet there was no turning back. No way to reverse the motions of hideously pink paint covering my fantasy land. It was done. There is a part of me that has been searching for that old paper design ever since.

We’ve learned that memory is not necessarily reliable. But it is capable of packing a punch. It’s got the power of impact that can quite literally shape a life.

It can be morphed or invented and it can be lost partially or entirely. Anyone with siblings will have experienced those examples of how we remember events differently according to our own relationship to the event.

Yet we do tend to construct our identity with a close tie to the memories we possess. They guide us, instruct us, create the picture we have of who we are. The intrinsic parts to our experience and knitted together, they create the tone of our existence. Positive memory, less than positive memory. The stories we have told ourselves about the meanings they embody. They all matter.

It’s what we do with our memories that matters the most. How we later interact with them, incorporate them into our perceptions of our identity, our choice-making, including how we allow them to steer our ship.

”We are, truly, dealing with the makings of who we are and tinkering with them as we function.”

+David Amerland
#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Identity

Seven years from now much of our physical self will have been replaced (https://goo.gl/miTHA). Arguably, some of us, might even have some of our brains restructured due to trauma or heightened intake of incapacitating substances. We will all be older. More experienced. Different. Yet there will be a part of us that will still be recognizably us and that part is governed by our memories. (https://goo.gl/WrNW2H).

How memory is stored in the brain (https://goo.gl/5CqvHQ) is the subject of intense scrutiny at the moment. By understanding it we hope to not only understand ourselves better (in terms of how we become who we eventually become) but also understand the neural pathways through which the world at large impacts upon our brains to guide our ability to function: https://goo.gl/9szV5m.

The stability of memory is a subject of intense debate and immense importance: https://goo.gl/WBhtZK. In The Social Media Mind (https://goo.gl/5aEZAJ) I wrote about how our hardwiring to be social and conform subverts our brain’s judgement and introduces memories that are completely false in what is now known as False Memory Syndrome (https://goo.gl/bOVUw5). The brain’s complex structure can undoubtedly be hacked (https://goo.gl/dPx1ty) to help us achieve specific outcomes. But while the way the brain works is malleable there are perhaps moments in its memory formation that are stable enough to become identity-defining: https://goo.gl/RVPvpf.

The question of whether our memories (https://goo.gl/oiomqA) define our identity is an important one (https://goo.gl/dRWR7r) not least because at its very heart lies the unstated question of whether we are ever able to override the past and be better than circumstances, chance and the will of others would like to make of us.

The 1990 masterpiece of a film Total Recall (https://goo.gl/aazehN) based on a Philip K. Dick story (https://goo.gl/zyRBtX) raised questions of identity and (even) morality (https://goo.gl/s4rBCK) in what was essentially a seminal sci-fi action-fest. This takes us back to Hume’s ruminations on identity, memories and the self (https://goo.gl/1m61Ug) with some schools of thought believing that we are our memories and are solely (and completely) defined by them: https://goo.gl/PHpjRn.

Others see identity as being rooted in choices and action instead of memories (https://goo.gl/jSG2ha) and argue that while memories may be erased who we are at core, remains essentially unchanged. Actions define us (https://goo.gl/fr97cD) better than words or even memories, because they require executive decision making which takes into account our perception of reality, our sense of morality, the critical choices we have to make and our understanding of the impact of our actions (https://goo.gl/dX6NNr). This is a central tenet in The Sniper Mind where I detail not only how actions, identity and a sense of self in the world come together but also how we can purposefully and actively change specific aspects of who we are and how we approach things: https://goo.gl/ECJx5W

The importance of actions over words (https://goo.gl/Cafges) is what has made social media (with its need for consistency) such a minefield for brands https://goo.gl/wSvRgx as well as individuals (https://goo.gl/V4WL6U). By presenting us with yet another, multi-layered platform of interaction it has managed to draw direct links between our core values and sense of self and what we do: https://goo.gl/kCFmSk.

None of this is easy to contemplate. We are, truly, dealing with the makings of who we are and tinkering with them as we function. As problematic a thing in itself than anything we might consider doing. Yet, this is the stage we are at now. It is vitally important to us as a species to understand what makes us tick. Our success in that endeavor will determine the length of our timeline.
I hope you’ve remembered what it is you do on Sundays: coffee (lots of it), donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Living Inside The Effort of Our Choices
Really Living

There are times when things aren’t what we thought they’d be. They don’t match our innate sense of being or the assumptions we’ve constructed in advance about the future moments of our lives.

We had a picture that is now morphing into a new vision and it forces a pivot -of awareness, thinking, direction, attitude, decisions or even, ultimately, of purpose.

In the way of things, I’m pretty convinced that this is a phenomenon that occurs often and quite naturally. And that it happens to many of us. It’s as if simply breathing (being alive) creates circumstances in which we are forced to take notice. Examination and perhaps a brand-new way of breathing is the only way “out” or “in” as the case may be.

Sometimes it calls for a kind of surrender and other times it pushes us into a new shape of action. A new sense of being. A new way of regarding our reason for being.

It could be that this is the moment when we realize we’ve been on auto-pilot. That instead of truly, deeply really living it’s been a sort of coasting along old roads all based on expectation and a belief that we could somehow manage to control outcomes. And that things would remain stable. Steady and sure along our planned path. Because that’s what they say wins the race.

Certainly, there are likely to have been the typical highs and lows and times in-between but we haven’t quite yet felt the challenge of questioning really deeply just what the point is. Why are we continuing on? Why are we here? What’s the point and is it worth it?

And then it’s time to truly look inward.

It’s that inward gaze that has the potential to unfold into something new. We might learn who we really are, what we’re made of, what our most precious purpose might actually be. Not the one we contrived but the one that is most naturally ours and most true to our spirit. None of this is always fun. And there is usually some amount of effort. But in my estimation, it is always worthwhile.

The motivation and the effort will inevitably lead us somewhere. We may not think it’s where we want to be, but it will always offer something to learn. New choices to make. Reasons to see the worth of living. Even if it’s only curiosity to what will happen next. And then next.

"At some point, each of us, will experience the conscious awareness of the effort it takes to be who we are. Just staying alive, choosing life over an early, self-administered death, requires a multitude of choices and decisions and the acceptance of the responsibility that comes with being alive..."
+David Amerland

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Effort

At some point, each of us, will experience the conscious awareness of the effort it takes to be who we are. Just staying alive, choosing life over an early, self-administered death, requires a multitude of choices and decisions and the acceptance of the responsibility that comes with being alive. We shall be aware of the difficulty of thinking, of the effort it maintains to keep our mental and physical sharpness. We shall feel every ache and pain and discomfort we experience disproportionately, as each piles up.

Because we did not choose to be born, never consciously chose to be alive, now, at this time, in this age, it is a logical assumption to make that a critical examination of why we are here has to come with a greater sense of justification than the answer “because I was born”.

The psychology of effort (https://goo.gl/kzTboF) is an important aspect of being alive because it creates the implication that living as well as life have a value that goes beyond the one of simply being alive because there is no other viable alternative to consider. (https://goo.gl/uWsyZw).

The value of the “unexamined life” (https://goo.gl/zpkbmn) has been, made infamous by Socrates who, boxed in by his own pious belief system, saw no other way out from his predicament than to accept death. While it is true that loneliness, a sense of disconnect and a lack of purpose can make any of us feel worthless and unloved (https://goo.gl/LGQ8ex) it is also true that relatively few of us choose to act upon those feelings the way Socrates did (https://goo.gl/phtHzz).

Which brings us back to effort. It is fascinating to listen to Coach John Wooden’s perception of effort and what it really means: https://goo.gl/th99UZ. The latest neurobiological research on effort (and exercise, in this case) gives us a definition that’s all-encompassing: effort is the “…cognitive feeling of work associated with voluntary actions.” - https://goo.gl/73w4rD. The sense, in other words, that even the production of these words on a machine whose keys I am striking involves the investment of time and energy and the requirement of mental and psychological commitment.

The reason we focus so much on understanding why we are, is because by understanding our reasons for being we can truly focus on what’s important to us. And focus changes everything. Consider, for a moment, the impossibility of recovering from a fatal mistake in the indoor 600m race that Heather Dorniden immortalized: https://goo.gl/cdCUaL. Or the neurophysical changes that take place when you focus on your own existence: https://goo.gl/cHqnTu. Or how focus changes the way we allocate our attention and that, in itself, changes everything else: https://goo.gl/GZvTj4.

The triumvirate of value>focus>effort (or importance>attention>work) can be life-changing when we understand it and realize how to apply it. Experience-dependent neuroplasticity (a.k.a. the ability of the brain to remake itself to help us achieve what we really want to achieve) - https://goo.gl/XnEfHn, is something that can only begin to come about after we have acknowledged the effort involved in being truly alive.

Plato, supposed that humans have a mission and they have a purpose and all that gives them value. Right now, there is a deeper context to this conversation. In understanding what it is that makes us human and what drives us to overcome our limitations we are standing at the crossroads where two questions meet: “Are you human or are you animal?” And “are you human or are you machine?” - https://goo.gl/8hjrD8.

This is the demarcation point. The time where the decisions we will make and the answers we will give will define the nature of the past we came from and the shape of the future we head towards. It is a massive responsibility to bear. But hard as it may be, shirking it is not going to make things any easier. (https://goo.gl/6uZTDr) We may not have chosen to be born, but all of us have chosen to live and in making that choice we now face the fact that life is a race against time where we need to discover the reason why were born before we, inevitably, die.

Despite the somewhat somber subject of today’s post I hope you’ve done the smart thing: coffee has been brewed for the day, donuts, cookies, croissant, ice-cream and chocolate cake have been purchased and you are now doing to all this justice. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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I Love That Poetry Doesn’t Need To Be Fancy

When I was thirteen, I thought I might like to be a poet. In my thirteen-ish way, I gave it a spin. Like many both naïve and sophisticated children at that age, I felt I had something important to say and that I would have a special way of saying it. But I was wrong and didn’t try for all that long. My fondness for haiku didn’t fade but my focus waned, my discipline non-existent, and as it turned out my thoughts and the words I used to describe them were pretty ordinary.

There have always been poems that have squeezed themselves into my consciousness one way or another. How could they not? After all, I was an artist and have always had an appreciation for any kind of personal expression. Even still they often had a (reputation for) loftiness that could be forbidding, overly formal. But it wasn’t until about six years ago that poetry took more of a firm hold and I realized that it doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated.

Poems are here for anyone.

They are ours for the taking, for the absorption of spirit and for osmosing the experience of another.

I’m glad, because I truly love when something fills me up with emotion, inspires tears, makes me see and see something differently, makes me laugh. Makes me realize that people around me are living deeply just like I am. More so.

What happened six years ago is that our Zen koan sangha formed. And lucky for us, our friend, then founder, then sensei, then roshi (all the same person at various points of her history) is an avid reader of poetry as is the founder of our lineage.

Poetry came bounding into my sphere with a powerful impact.

Each time we meet, it feels like we’ve entered a childhood story time during our final meditation. We sit as we were and listen with our whole bodies as a poem or two or three are read aloud to us.

The poems fill the room with a sort of magical presence and push the meaning of our koan, the very personal and often intimate things people have said, our group conversation, our camaraderie and the alchemy that simply never fails into a livened place.

Passengers ~ by Billy Collins

At the gate, I sit in a row of blue seats_
with the possible company of my death,
this sprawling miscellany of people—
carry-on bags and paperbacks—
that could be gathered in a flash
into a band of pilgrims on the last open road.
Not that I think
if our plane crumpled into a mountain
we would all ascend together,
holding hands like a ring of skydivers,
into a sudden gasp of brightness,
or that there would be some common place
for us to reunite to jubilize the moment,
some spaceless, pillarless Greece
where we could, at the count of three,
toss our ashes into the sunny air.
It's just that the way that man has his briefcase
so carefully arranged,
the way that girl is cooling her tea,
and the flow of the comb that woman
passes through her daughter's hair ...
and when you consider the altitude,
the secret parts of the engines,
and all the hard water and the deep canyons below ...
well, I just think it would be good if one of us
maybe stood up and said a few words,
or, so as not to involve the police,
at least quietly wrote something down.

~ ~ ~
"Poetry is, by design and definition, distilled semantic meaning layered upon context, driven by intent and enriched by association of each of its layers."
+David Amerland

#DavidAmerlandSundayRead
Code

Long before rock and roll was considered the “work of the devil” (https://goo.gl/XMy2dr) subverting the morals of proper-raised youth and destroying the fabric of civilized society (https://goo.gl/t38znQ) we had poetry (https://goo.gl/2dY9QU) and a clutch of poets whose rebellious attitude towards society, morals and art (https://goo.gl/oxUpPM) reshaped the world of letters.

The Pre-Raphaelites featured amongst them gender breakaways like Christina Rossetti (https://goo.gl/DSt7No) whose Goblin Market (https://goo.gl/6A8oLc) has cast a haunting allure upon me ever since I first read it, and were responsible for the backdrop through which Lord Byron (https://goo.gl/d2yjui) would rise to notoriety as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” (https://goo.gl/rgxWMr), living his short life to the fullest.

Poetry is, by design and definition, distilled semantic meaning layered upon context, driven by intent and enriched by association of each of its layers. Its similarity to code hasn’t gone unnoticed (https://goo.gl/1Ciknw). Nor has its impact diminished with time (https://goo.gl/uBEFh). And even though it has to compete with a myriad other forms of entertainment and self-improvement it, its close connection with the psyche (https://goo.gl/NzjgZb) makes it a vehicle unlike any other when it comes finding a means of self-expression (https://goo.gl/BvzaYD) as well as self-discovery (https://goo.gl/n1apjs).

Wilfred Owen’s 1914 (https://goo.gl/NyqPgg) for instance or Futility (https://goo.gl/FKS97Z0 weave a spell about life, war and death that’s impossible to avoid. W. B. Yeats’ (https://goo.gl/qkkDih) An Irish Airman Foresees His Death (https://goo.gl/XxoOvx) asks us to consider how to balance our passage with our passing (and why). His Second Coming (https://goo.gl/m1hA43) has virtually become the anthem of our days.

Dover Beach (https://goo.gl/DLYdXX) written by Matthew Arnold (https://goo.gl/AChdQ2) has prompted much analysis and discussion (https://goo.gl/5Z0aHZ) for its haunting, timeless imagery. Poems do more, of course than just use their words to evoke pictures that pry open our minds. They challenge beliefs (https://goo.gl/SWVGUz) become the basis of books (https://goo.gl/pGZtnN) and act as representative agents of a particular time (https://goo.gl/R6oVXo).

But poetry, like music, does way more than that. While it may be representative of its age, it mines and feeds upon the strands that go into the make-up of the human condition. As such, with few exceptions, poetry remains current, vibrant and relevant. In The Sniper Mind (for instance) I referenced Rudyard Kipling’s (https://goo.gl/qgUoRu) work: If (https://goo.gl/4rSYkD) with its deceptively simply meter (https://goo.gl/7zW0pp) that goes on to unfurl, almost like a recipe for bravery and cool-headedness with each reading.

In Shakespeare’s poetry we hear the ebb and flow of human emotion (https://goo.gl/i7zvZN) indistinguishable from the far more contemporary W.H. Auden (https://goo.gl/ZgwIao) whose Law Like Love (https://goo.gl/NT122e) explores the paradox of our need for guidelines we are seldom prepared to always keep (https://goo.gl/Tyn8pZ) or Dylan Thomas’ (https://goo.gl/BVpqV6) Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (https://goo.gl/mi2KHF) that challenges our acceptance of death.

All of this reflects a peculiarity, perhaps. For all its power and timelessness, poetry is undergoing some challenging times where it’s losing audiences and failing to produce fresh firebrands to take on the tradition (https://goo.gl/5dE8yv). Where are the new Poes (https://goo.gl/E1w1PF) to cry out their love and loss (https://goo.gl/mv2uFY) or even the new Tennessee Williamses (https://goo.gl/e3JpVR) to hurry us on and tell us to be mindful? (https://goo.gl/B7t2Mn).
Arguably it is a temporary dip as we marshal out ills and sufferings and hopes and longings in a new century (https://goo.gl/XuihZM) before we spring forth with fresh talent and new vision. Maybe. But in the meantime we can still enjoy those of the past (https://goo.gl/1rgJmY) even if they were founded on a mistake (https://goo.gl/Bf8t8J).

I hope you have had the kind of foresight and wisdom that ensures you are now enriched with coffee and fueled with donuts, croissants, cookies, ice cream and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.
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