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Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

C is for Chi

Posted in All, Health, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“You guys can do all this awesome Bending stuff … I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” ~ Sokka, Avatar: The Last Airbender

When I was young, around nine-years old, my dad decided to enroll me and my younger siblings in martial arts.  My father was a black belt.  The sensei of the school he enrolled us in studied under the same master as him.  From time to time, my dad would show us techniques well in advance of what most of the other students were learning.  I don’t really consider my father to be the best of teachers.  I feel he lacks the patience to go through things in a step-by-step, kinesthetic, ground-up manner.  When I first learned to drive, he started me on my mom’s SUV, which to this day I still get nervous driving.  However, regardless of how I may feel about him, there’s one thing I owe him my gratitude for and that’s introducing me to the concept of chi.

I don’t remember exactly how I old I was at the time, maybe somewhere around fourteen years of age.  But I remember my father sitting me down in the living room.  He didn’t really go into too much detail; he just explained that there was a sort of energy inside us and that we could learn to use it with practice.  He told me to hold out my hand, which I did.  Then he held his own up around mine without touching it and asked what I felt.  I remember feeling a sort of warm energy when he did this.  That’s chi, he said.

So ended the lesson.  It wasn’t much of anything, really.  All I had to go by was that experience, that feeling, and a vague idea that it had something to do with breathing.  But fortunately, that was enough to get me started.

It’s truly a revelatory experience your first time.  I remember my eyes went wide when I first felt it.  Over the years, I had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and my progress was very slow.  Having someone there to guide you through your exploration of internal energy is a very beneficial thing.  Joining a Tai Chi or Chi Kung or Yoga class, or even just working with a partner who knows something about it, is a lot better than trying to figure it all out all on your own.

“To train the mind, one must first train the body.” ~ Izumi Curtis, Full Metal Alchemist

In my house, we have a lot of old Shaw Brothers kung fu films.  The first one I ever saw was The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.  It’s the story of a young man named San Te who enters Shaolin Temple and learns kung fu.  At first, San Te’s eager to the point of foolishness and wants to start with the highest art, so he’s taken to the 35th Chamber where a bunch of old and senior monks are reciting Buddhist sutras.  The master of the chamber tells the San Te to leave because San Te clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.  When he refuses, the master raises his arms and the man falls back on his ass.

The monk never touched him, but was sitting at least ten feet away.  You can imagine the look on San Te’s face and how afraid and confused he was.  That was his first experience with chi.

While that may have been a movie, the idea of chi has basis in reality.  The other day, I was watching Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which is a documentary series about real life superhuman abilities.  Among the ones I saw in the episode was a Shaolin monk named Shi Yan Ming who used chi in martial arts.  The premise of the show is to try and determine the scientific basis of such superhuman feats.  A collision scientist was brought in with equipment that revealed results unlike anything the woman had ever seen before.  Shi Yan Ming’s punches delivered damage greater than that of a 30 MPH car crash.  That was just one of several feats performed that would appear impossible given his size and muscular build, so clearly chi has an affect here.

Many martial artists have spent years developing their chi power through training of the body and getting a feel for their own energy.  Unfortunately, few of them spend as much time studying the nature of reality, science, healing, philosophy, and metaphysics, so their ability to use chi is limited mostly to its connection with their physical bodies.

“Teacher, what is this?  This isn’t kung fu!”

“That’s the highest form you’ll ever see, the final form.  You don’t understand.” ~ 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

So what exactly is chi?

In its most basic sense, chi is a type of energy that exists within your body.  It originates from your soul and is the essential life force that powers your mind and body like electricity flowing through your computer.

Your body has many different systems of organs, such as the nervous system, the circulatory system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, etc.  There is also an energy system.  You may have seen diagrams of energy meridians which map out the locations of this system for use in acupuncture, reiki, and other healing arts.  If the meridians are the blood vessels, the chi is the blood that flows through them.

Through mental training and practice, you can learn how to use and manipulate your own chi for a variety of purposes.  If you’ve never worked with it before, it’s essential that you experience it for yourself.  I can’t think of a better way to start you off than to say find someone who knows about it and get them to show you, just like how my dad first showed me.  It will jump start your awareness.

The nearest I can describe it in words is that it’s like an electromagnetic effect.  If you were to hold two magnets of the same polarity in your hands and try to bring them together, you’ll feel a well of magnetism between your hands as if there were an invisible ball there.  That’s basically the same effect that you are creating here.

It’s likely that chi is electromagnetic energy, but I us the word “chi” out of tradition and because it just sounds cooler.  Recall that everything in the universe is made of energy, most of which, if not all of which, is electromagnetic in nature.

The human body is indeed capable of generating electrical charge, which creates magnetism.  The effect of putting your hands out acts like two opposing capacitor plates.  Through focus, you can turn the current on or off and control the flow of electromagnetism between your hands.  I’ve heard of people that can actually shoot sparks across their fingertips like a van de graaff generator.  That’s probably what allows the Sith and Firebenders to manipulate lightning, at least in theory.

Over the years, I’ve been able to do a lot of things with my chi.  I can generate it, manipulate it into different shapes, alter its “mass,” and use it for healing purposes.  I haven’t been able to use it for telekinesis yet, bu

Realistically, I’ve found that, for the amount of time and focus you’d need to gather the energy necessary to flip off a light switch from across the room, it’d be a hell of a lot easier to just summon the discipline and energy to get up and turn it off manually.  So that scene with Anakin Skywalker feeding Padme with the Force … not likely to happen.

Going the Extra Mile

Posted in All, Economics, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?”  ~ Eminem, Lose Yourself

It’s funny how the universe seems to provide you with exactly what you need in your darkest moments once your mindset becomes corrected.  Here I was, sitting up at three o’clock in the morning wondering what the hell I’m gonna write about today when, lo and behold, the universe showed me the way.  I didn’t ask for it, but I got it all the same because I knew now that I needed to right what I felt was a particular outstanding wrong.

I never considered myself to have come from a very privileged family, and yet I know there’s a great many things that I have to be thankful for.  After my last post, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would look at what I wrote and think, “Oh, that’s some wishful thinking, but what do you know about me and my problems?  Have you ever lived in a trailer park working two jobs to feed your three kids?  How am I supposed to focus on things like love and vacation?  You don’t know shit about what I’m going through.  You’re just another spoiled person talking crap.”

The truth is, I don’t know what it’s like to live that life, so I’m sorry if you read that and felt insulted by my nonchalant attitude.  I can really only speak from my own experiences and those I’ve shared with others.  But that doesn’t mean my words don’t still hold some truth to them.  I know, in many ways, I do act like a spoiled little rich kid at times.  And it’s true, that I could probably never understand the lives of people who’ve had it a lot worse off than me.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

“The road to heaven goes through hell.” ~ Unknown, allusion to Dante’s Divine Comedy

So I was sitting in the living room watching TV when the movie 8 Mile came on.  I had never seen it, but I’d always wanted too, since I enjoy a lot of Eminem’s work (I didn’t as a kid, but I do now as an adult).  I think his music has some very inspiring messages that come from the heart.

For those of you who’ve seen it, I think the movie is a perfect example of what I said in my last post and how those that have it a lot worse off than me can still take it to heart and apply it to their own situations.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Eminem plays this guy Rabbit who lives with his mom in a trailer park in Detroit.  His car doesn’t work, he’s about to lose his job, his mom is about to be evicted, his girlfriend tells him she got knocked up, and the man his mom is seeing is a real asshole to the family.  If that wasn’t bad enough, things get even worse for him as the movie goes on.  His new girlfriend is cheating on him with his friend, he has a reputation for being a chicken at the local clubs, his mom throws him out of the house with his daughter in tow, and he gets beaten up by a gang of local thugs.

That probably sounds a lot more like what some of you are probably used to seeing and dealing with.  I’m sure a lot more people can relate to that lifestyle if you couldn’t relate to my last post.

But it’s not all bad news.  Just when he’s at his lowest and about ready to give up, he pushes past it all and things begin to turn around for Rabbit.  The abusive guy leaves, his mom wins enough money at bingo for them to keep the trailer, Rabbit and his daughter move back in, his boss offers him some extra shifts, his girlfriend comes back to him, his friends come back to support him, and he begins to develop more courage and street credit with his rhymes.

He may not have been rich or outrageously successful, but Rabbit was at least able to pull himself out of the hell hole he was in and give himself and his daughter a better life.  He was able to do this because he stayed focused on his dream and the things that really mattered to him; and as a result, he drew strength and motivation from it that allowed him to do the work needed to see him to the end.  If he can do it, so can we all, I think.

“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.  True humility is the only antidote to shame.” ~ General Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender

At the beginning of 8 Mile, Rabbit found himself engaged in a rap battle in which he couldn’t handle the pressure and wound up choking on stage.  He lost the battle and his reputation with it, even though all his friends built him up as being a great improv rapper.  The shame he felt made his dream of becoming a rap star seem impossible and so he began to lose passion.  This plunged him into a downward spiral until he found himself, literally, at rock bottom.

Once you’ve hit rock bottom, though, there’s no where to go from there but up.  So with nothing to lose, Rabbit took a chance and reinvested himself in the things that he loved most in the world and he was subsequently amazed at how quickly his luck began to turn around.  By the end of the movie, he found himself in another series of rap battles, but he embraced his reality for what it was and wound up winning.  He took every negative thing about his life and turned it on his opponent, robbing him of the chance to use it against him.  He had overcome his shame with true humility and became more powerful for it.

In my own life, I’ve been put in many situations for which I, too, am ashamed.  For one thing, you may recall me saying how my mom, at one point, supported our whole family.  Well, during that time, she had to pay both the mortgage and a Parent PLUS Loan she’d taken out for me to go to college.  One thing for which I felt immensely ashamed was that I was the one who helped put our family in such a negative financial position.  Day in and day out, I watched our family struggle to make ends meet.  Worse still, there were no jobs available to me or my dad, so I had to work for small change at my neighbor’s catering company.  Worst of all, for about the last year I was in college, I had lost passion for what I was studying and didn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore, so it was all a complete waste of money.  And it was all on me.

I still finished my degree of course, and it wasn’t a total waste of time either, since I had many great and unique experiences while there that made me who I am today; but that all paled in comparison to what I put my family through and the shame I felt about not being able to use my degree.

For a year after college, I carried that around with me, wondering how I would ever pay her back and still live a life of anything but working to pay my debts.  And who would want to even associate with someone in such a bad position as me, who could love someone that did that to their family?  But I remained true to the things that I was passionate about at the time; and soon, slowly but surely, a way out began to reveal itself and I followed it through.  I had hit the bottom and used it to push myself back up and began crawling my way towards the surface of the water once more.

So while I may not be the worst off person in the world, I hope that, for those of you less fortunate than I, you were able to take something out of this post of mine.  And I hope that you’re able to pick yourself up from the ground, dust yourself off, and go on to do what you love doing and be abundantly rewarded for it.

Peace.