Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Monogamy and Polyamory [or Ethical Non-Monogamy] | Is One More Evolved Than the Other?

non-monogamy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And no one wants that…consciously.

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Past, Present, Future; Our Relationship to Time

"it's okay to lose, so long as you learn from every game you choose..."

“If there is no future, and there is no past; if all we’ve got is right now, then…let’s make it last.”

"Remember your dreams because your dreams become the life you lead..." --Prince Rogers Nelson

Human beings have a strange relationship to time. We sometimes get stuck in moments and replay them over and over again. We often fail to live in the "present"—not hearing the person right in front of us. Some of us are so focused on our goals in the future we often fail to enjoy them when we attain them—rather, setting new, bigger, more impressive or more challenging goals without ever pausing to enjoy the view from this new height.

Then there is this idea that there is only “the now”-- which is certainly one way to think about it. At the same time, while the past and future may only live in our minds, so do so many other things. Does that mean they do not exist? Memories? Fondness for someone? Plans for our future? They are indeed “real” even if they are strictly intra-subjective experiences.

If we declared they were not, we would have to say things like intentionality, compassion, hope, and love, were not “real”. Are you prepared to say compassion is not real? Aside from the most dogmatic of scientific materialists, I know very few who are willing to support that argument.

What then is the most appropriate and useful relationship to time that we could cultivate, such that we accelerating our personal evolution? How can we use our internal representation of time for emotional choice and ultimately, emotional freedom?

The Past

The past, in the context of accelerating our evolution, is really only useful for two things: learning, and the storage of emotional states. It is a treasure trove of opportunities for learnings and therefore evolutionary advancement.

If, while we review past events, we simply ask two questions:

1. How am I responsible?

2. What can I learn? (that is positive or empowering about yourself or about the world)

...then our relationship to the past is a healthy one.

That is, it is one that supports increasing our spiritual depth and emotional freedom while building on "mistakes" (less than optimal choices) in a useful way. The first question builds esteem for the self as all responsibility does, so long as we are taking responsibility responsibly—that is free of shame. If we use it instead as an opportunity to shame ourselves or judge ourselves, then we have been irresponsible in this exercise and defeated the very purpose of it. The questions must be answered with a positive or empowering forward look. In the case of a “failure” or a negative event, or perhaps in exhibiting behaviors that are out of alignment with our values: what can I learn such that this will not happen in the future? Or, What will I do differently in the future?

In the case of “successes”: what can I learn such that I can continue to model this behavior? How can I increase my effectiveness even further? The Present People often speak of “staying present” or “being present” or “being in the now” as if we were somehow absent. We are always present—the question is, “what are we present to?”

Often when people are not paying attention to what is in front of them, they are paying attention to their internal representations. Their internal thoughts, fantasies, imagery, or internal dialogue. Building the muscle of mastering our minds such that we are present to what is in front of us when we need to be—fully present without atemporal or past-related thoughts—is one of the critical components of the game of Personal Evolution. There are times when we are not even aware of our internal representations. We must bring these into consciousness so they can be managed appropriately and responsibly. Once we become conscious of them, it may be necessary to use certain mental shifts and practices to “shelve” these thoughts to be dealt with later when it is more appropriate for our lives. Sometimes it is a matter of learning to simply quiet the mind through meditation. Or both.

The Future

Often when I work with clients and they are in despair, I elicit their internal representation of time and find it compressed. They are seeing perhaps only two weeks into the future and the events that are occurring in their present are unpleasant--and then it just goes black.

When we extend their sense of time out to include another 100 years these feelings often turn into convictions about what needs to be done--or at the very least, increasing ease.

The truth is that regardless of what is occurring—everything has a nature: it arises and passes away. Nothing lasts forever. This is especially true for human beings. In the greater scheme of things, or in the larger view, or with an expanded sense of time, as we literally zoom out, we become more emotionally free from whatever may be troubling us at that one moment in time. Once the events become objects in our awareness and we are no longer identified with them, we are free form them and can use the events for learnings and make more appropriate choices.

This practice is especially useful for fear and anxiety. The structure of fear and anxiety is that we are imagining some future event with a negative result or outcome. However, since we know that the future exists only in our minds [although in our subjective experience it is very real] then we can bring that imagined future into consciousness and change it to a positive one. Given that neither is more “real” or “true” than the other, the evolutionary master of their own mind will change the imagined future to a positive one and “live into” that—thereby aligning their consciousness around it. While a high level of facility is required, we can all build the muscle of a more responsible and useful relationship to time. Just like all exercise, at first It may cause soreness.

So we start off light. We increase the frequency of our exercise gradually. Eventually, we are lifting heavy weight indeed and are excited about how are new habit is transforming the way we experience ourselves and how we feel. And it is then, that we are becoming free.

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What is N.L.P.

What is N.L.P.?

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

So what is it?

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

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

What does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scientific in the broad sense. Not the narrow sense.

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

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

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

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

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Discolored Vision

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

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The Cult of Classification

cult-of-classification

We, as a people, seem to love classifications. As humans, it is what we do best: identification. It separates us from primates. We can identify and classify things into systems, genres, classes, subclasses, and so on.

This is a great skill; a skill that could even save your life someday as you classify “dangerous, not dangerous – deadly, not deadly”. The ability to identify (what is it?) and then extrapolate accurately (what does it mean?) is indeed a critical skill. A skill no less critical even as we get more and more civilized. In fact, it could be argued that the dangers get ever more complex and demanding of this skill the more complex our society becomes, and the more knowledgeable we become.

When this gets interesting is when we apply and over apply this skill to other human beings where physical safety is clearly not a concern. We have all sorts of categorizations and systems of classification. We have ethnicity, sexual preferences, and orientation, political party affiliation, zodiac sign, political orientation or leaning, class separation, high school cliques, enneagram number, etc., etc.

These are all tools we use to classify, to categorize, and to put people into some box or drawer. At first, it may seem like we use these tools to gain a better understanding of who they are, really.

Is that how we typically use them, in actuality? The way I have seen myself and others use them is as I described above. We put them into a box. We now think we “know” them, or at least that portion of them. They are a democrat or a republican and all of a sudden, we now “know them” politically. They are a 3 on the enneagram, and all of a sudden we “know” what to expect of their behaviors; their light and beautiful side and their darker patterns.

We put them into a box and we can then relax, or tense, or whatever, but some part of us relaxes. We know them; we can now relax and move on to putting another part of them into a box. Are they heterosexual or homosexual? Ah, they are bi-sexual. We can now relax (or tense [laugh]) because we now “know” who they are sexually.

But do we? (It is fascinating to see someone feed their ego when they think they have “nailed” someone’s zodiac sign or enneagram number by guessing at it; excited about putting someone in a box.)

Once we put someone into a box, we then stop relating to who they are as a unique and beautiful being -- we begin to relate to the box. We begin to fit all of their behaviors into that box or view their behaviors through the filter of said box.

Sure, we are more comfortable ourselves once we have classified them, but the real relating begins to die a slow (or rapid) death. We now stop relating to who they are in this moment, right now, and begin to relate to what we read about them in a book, or what we see about their “type” on TV, Etc. Then what began as a tool for greater understanding and deeper relating has ended up as a wall or a barrier to greater and truer understanding – a barrier to more intimate relating; a wall around the heart. A wall and a filter we are often not even aware of.

And what are human Beings anyway? They are manifestations of the divine.

Can we really classify that?

Human Beings at their best and most inspirational are creative, spontaneous, dances of improvisation, which is completely unpredictable, and if we get too caught up in who we think they are, we may miss a glimpse of God as it dances right before us, right within our grasp. While these tools for classification are useful to a certain point, they are only useful to a certain point, where if we want true relating, true intimacy, they must then be cast aside. If we truly desire peace on this planet, it will take something like this, from all sides, from all perspectives, from all lands.

From the heart, guided by the head, enveloped in Spirit.

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