The Balance In Letting Go

During a recent email exchange with a good friend I declared I believed all of life is a balancing act and then suggested this might be based on my ‘Type 6’ personality in the wisdom of the Enneagram and being a Libra in terms of astrology which has a balance as its symbol.  While I am an ardent follower of the wisdom surrounding the Enneagram I never had much faith in astrology; it has far too many glaring inconsistencies.  This conversation started me thinking much more about the concept of balance in one’s existence.  At some point I realized I had the foundation for another blog piece.

I cannot deny I feel and function best when my life is in balance but just what does this concept involve?  It can be very difficult to define yet most of us would recognize this state of being and almost certainly understand what it feels like to be ‘out of balance’.  Many eastern philosophies speak of being ‘centered’; I believe this is synonymous with being ‘in balance’.  Both imply a state of being in which our existence ‘feels’ equalized within all the surrounding forces both external and internal.  In another sense our internal energies are in balance with all external energies providing a ‘sum zero’ existence.  Imagine a bubble floating in the air, moving neither up nor down, right or left.  Its internal pressure is equally balanced against the external pressure allowing it to maintain its iridescent sphere of film.  I conjure this image when meditating or performing other efforts to regain my center.  Without question I feel better when my life is balanced even though such states of being are very difficult to attain let alone maintain.

Of late I’ve begun to wonder if the whole ‘in balance’ thing is just a philosophical construct.  While setting one’s sights on such a goal may not be a bad thing, to cling to such a drive on this plane is probably a snipe hunt.  The more I dwell on this concept the more I believe it is probably best to keep all things in ‘moderation’ – at least where ever possible – and just go with the flow.  Part of me believes this is my attempt to resign myself to the fact I will most likely never achieve a real state of ‘balance’, at least for any period of time, and hence have lowered the bar.  But I do believe if I could moderate all my beliefs, my passions, my emotions and similar I would probably be a much more balanced person.  And I honestly do embrace the concept of just ‘going with the flow’; as I’ve written in previous postings some of the best things that have occurred in my existence have come from truly letting go and just allowing the Universe to flow through and direct me.  However, as with the concept of balance, I find it very difficult to honestly let go.  This is reflected in my ‘Type 6’ personality as one of the major attributes is being ‘security oriented’.  One of the toughest things for a Type 6 person to really embrace is the concept that almost all their ‘securities’ are illusion.  I understand and do embrace the idea of really letting go but I have a very difficult time doing so because I remain so afraid that letting go will compromise my security.

For me, letting go is hand in hand with the concept of ‘pushing one’s own comfort zone’ which is another way of saying reaching for goals well outside of one’s daily existence.  Like so many people, I am not really comfortable doing this yet I have a long history which proves to me that great things happen when I am willing to do so.  One example is my volunteering at KTNA doing live radio; as a young child I struggled intensely with stuttering for which I went to therapy but had little success.  Because of this I was terrified of speaking live in front of people.  Over the decades I slowly learned to manage the issue but I always knew it remained within me.  I was given the opportunity to become a ‘trainer’ for field sites when the company I worked for was rolling out new operating systems and applications; I spent many sleepless nights wondering if I should accept.  Finally, in a fit of desperation, I truly ‘let go’ and agreed.  The upshot was I became one of two top rated instructors – based on feedback by the students – and was even offered a posting as the trainer for a large plant in Georgia.  Despite this success when I was encouraged to volunteer at KTNA and do live radio I was once again shy and afraid.  But I needed a way to become more familiar with the immediate area as well as get my name out – I moved to the Talkeetna area knowing no local folks – so I finally agreed.  I’ve now been doing live radio as either newscasts or music shows for almost four years and I cannot imagine not doing so.  None of this would’ve happened had I not ‘let go’ and just went with the flow.

So why do I continue to resist and even fear letting go?  I have a bad habit of trying to make my life as comfortable (i.e. ‘secure’) as possible yet in my 63 years I’ve yet to learn that to really exceed at such an effort virtually guarantees I will become ‘comfortably numb’.  As soon as this settles in I become bored, lazy and begin to lose sight of that big picture.  And this causes a loss of moderation and focus as well as a feeling of being out of balance.  Ultimately, this will lead to depression and a loss of interest regarding life in general; I know because I’ve walked this path far too many times.  So once again, given I know all this why do I so resist letting go?  I suspect it all comes back to that ‘devil in the details’ involved in knowing something intellectually but not really embracing it spiritually.  My memories prove to me that letting go produces some wonderful results and is rarely negative; this forces me to accept the premise on an intellectual basis.  But my fear of releasing my ‘security’ – illusionary as it is – and really allowing myself to just go with the flow still frightens me and causes me to ultimately accept comfortable numbness over the unknown.  While age has exacerbated this issue I cannot place all the blame in that area as I have demonstrated real ‘neophobe’ tendencies for decades.  No, I do fear dropping my guard to allow myself to really let go and I also am lazy and I know doing so will require a lot of energy.  But long term refusal to at least try to just go with the flow will lead to a negative situation which I know all too well.

Quite obviously I am a human being with some definite imbalances and one of the worst is the aforementioned inability to resolve my perceived need for security versus my acknowledgement of the benefits of just letting go and allowing the Universe to offer up ideas and paths for me to walk.  In a way by identifying this imbalance I’ve taken the first step towards working the issue and, hopefully, resolving it.  A simple axiom from long ago comes to mind as I reflect upon this situation; ‘none are so blind as those who will not see’.  Perhaps it is time for me to finally face the delusion of my ‘security’ and come to ‘see’, at the deepest levels, its myth..?

A Different View of the Human-Earth Relationship

Only watch this when you have the ten minutes it requires; I guarantee you will not think the time wasted (!  This is not your ‘typical’ collage of spectacular landscapes and breath-taking scenery.  Believe me, there’s more than enough of both but I was even more enamored of the idea that human beings were shown positively interacting with the world around them!  I’m sick to death of the core belief held by so many uber-liberal factions that humans are innately ‘out of step’ with this world and at their core are evil and bent on destroying everything around them whether by ignorance or animus.  Sure, we make more than our share of stupid moves and only recently have we really started to consider the consequences of some initiatives before we make our decisions (Life is all about making choices which always require decisions which have consequences) but then this is also how we learn.  Just within the past few decades have we obtained the technology which forces us to really begin to think about the human race as ‘one’ species beholden to this awesome planet; now we need to catch up in terms of our philosophies and belief systems.  I think some of this lagging social and spiritual development is behind the wildly radical viewpoints and ‘solutions’ to Earth’s issues we’ve seen of late; it’s a classic case of our technology outpacing our morals and ethics.  But instead of denigrating the entire species as evil solipsistic destroyers of ‘nature’ how about we spend that same energy in coming together around existing issues when we can?  It’ll be a slow start but once we see positive results I’d wager we, the human race, will do so more and more.

My only complaint is the video resolution was just 480p; I’d bet those spectacular images would be even more breath-taking in 720p let al0ne 1080p.  My favorites were the parrot sequence, the dog rescue and the lion-human reunion; in addition I believe I saw Dr. Jane Goodall as well.  Enjoy; this one is a keeper!

Judging – All Too Human

A response to a recent posting of mine caused me to once again reflect upon the whole concept of judging and being judgmental.  This is something I’ve spent much time considering and testing various ideas and perspectives with regards to the term and its meaning.  There are a number of definitions in the dictionary but when people speak of being judgmental or of judging another person I believe the following definition is the one in play: to form a judgment or opinion of; decide upon critically.  I often hear people speak negatively about those who judge others and initially this would seem to make sense.  From a philosophical standpoint no human is really in a position to critically judge another person simply because we are all human and hence struggle with the same frailties and subjective perspectives as those we might judge.  Okay, on the surface this seems to make sense.

But rather than just accept this concept and move on I was troubled because the more I thought about the act of judging the less I could see how this could be so negative.  Indeed, after considerable reflection and pondering I’ve come to believe that to be human is to judge and that it is virtually impossible to live one’s life without almost continually making judgments.  This definitely seems to fly in the face of the concept that we humans shouldn’t judge. Let’s start with some simple examples involving judgment, in this case of what most would deem are inanimate objects.  This weekend I was relaxing in my living room enjoying the sunshine and middle sixty degree air temps and listening to music. I’ve been an audiophile from my college ‘daze’ and have always tried to own as good a stereo system as I could afford.  A few years back I was finally able to add a pair of Klipsch Reference Series RF-88 II tower speakers to my stereo system and they are undoubtedly one of the finest audio speakers available eclipsed only by those floor standing tower RF-7’s and, of course, the incredible towers in Klipsch’s ‘Palladium’ series.  If only I could afford the $20,000 to own a pair of those monsters!  Anyway, I was truly enjoying some Rush played at a fairly substantial volume when it occurred to me that I ‘judged’ these speakers to be far superior to say, a cheap pair of Realistic speakers from Radio Shack.  I could base this ‘judgment’ upon a whole list of facts like lower distortion, better power handling, more accurate sound and similar but that’s not the point.  Rather, I ‘judged’ these speakers superior to smaller, less expensive models.  Was this wrong?  Should I not judge these speakers at all and hence be happy with any type regardless of whether they sounded better or worse?  I immediately decided that to judge the performance of speakers was a good thing as my ears wouldn’t have enjoyed the sound from cheap speakers pushed to their breaking point by my sound system.

Upon realizing this I was suddenly flooded with the myriad of judgments I had made in my life and continue to make.  I prefer cool weather to hot because I am uncomfortable in air temps above 75 F; therefore I judge cooler temps to be better for me.  Although I am an animal lover in general I prefer to share my life with canines as I judge them to be more compatible with my lifestyle.  And as to canines; I do enjoy virtually all breeds but I prefer Germans Shepherd Dogs because I judge their traits (intelligence, size, loyalty, protective nature, etc.) to be better than say a Dachshund.  With this said I readily accept others may prefer different breeds over my choice and that’s fine as well as their right.  I could’ve retired in many different places but I chose Alaska because I judged it to be a ‘better’ choice given my preferences for weather, population density and environment.  I even chose to live rural even though I’d never done so in my previous 60 years simply because I judged the lifestyle would be more in-line with my current desires; thankfully I was correct!  I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. To be human is to make judgments and said judgments are generally particular to the person making them although they might overlap with others and even be in agreement with some people.  Is doing this somehow bad or negative?  I don’t think the aforementioned judgments have any moral or ethical value attached to them; they are simply choices I’ve made based upon my own reasons.  I do believe it’s important to be open to re-examining one’s judgments from time to time; if I hadn’t been willing to do this then I most likely would’ve retired someplace urban in the lower 48.  So for me making judgments is almost a daily occurrence and I believe this is the same for most other human beings.  How does one ‘square’ this observation with the expectations that one shouldn’t judge?

Perhaps to be more accurate is the concept one shouldn’t judge other people as versed with just judging things or ideas..?  Again, on the surface this seems to make sense but then I began to reflect upon situations in my past and suddenly the ‘wisdom’ in trying not to judge other people was less clear.  I thought back to my rather turbulent teenage years when I made some very questionable choices; to be honest I made a plethora of really stupid decisions.  I remember hanging out briefly with a group of my peers in my early teen years that were into things like destruction of property, petty theft and drinking.  In some convoluted thought process only a teen could conjure up let alone understand I thought I was being ‘cool’.  Yet as I heard about some of this group’s ‘accomplishments’ I began to realize I was uncomfortable with what they were doing in the name of ‘being cool’.  I can thank my wonderful upbringing from my parents for allowing me to finally realize this not only wasn’t cool but it was causing harm and grief to others; as such I didn’t want to be a part of this crowd!  At this time I judged these people as being destructive and causing harm to others and hence I didn’t want to associate with them.  Was I wrong in judging these peers?  I don’t think so.  Last I’d heard a couple had actually ended up being arrested; had my judging these people and deciding I didn’t want to be like them been something that was inherently bad?  Hardly; the way they were living their lives was what was inherently bad – another judgment from me – and I judged I didn’t want to live that way.  So here I’d judged my fellow humans, found them to not be up to the standards I was raised with and hence shunned associating with them.  Was this a case of judging my fellow-man and hence undertaking something which was not good..?  While I don’t believe anyone could make a case for my continuing to run with that questionable crowd my decision to not so required I judge them by their actions.

As I’ve matured I’ve been involved in judging my fellow humans on a regular basis yet I would mostly say these acts were not bad or untoward.  During my working years I often had to fill positions at my place of employment; as such I had to interview potential candidates and using predetermined criteria judge their ‘fit’ for the position.  Without question this was judging other human beings yet was it wrong?  I never thought so at the time nor do I believe so now; I was asked to fill job openings and the only way to effect this in an acceptable manner was to review candidate’s skills, backgrounds and experience and the make a selection.  So once again I was doing what at some time seemed wrong; I was judging other human beings.  If one was to truly take to heart the concept that one shouldn’t judge another human being how could one select a candidate for an open position?  The more I pondered these concepts the more examples I found in my own life and those of my fellow humans which required judging.  When seeking a relationship with other people one must look at said people with some degree of judgment.  If seeking a partner one must evaluate a possible partner in terms of their lifestyle, likes, dislikes, morals and a myriad of other characteristics.  This evaluation by nature involves making judgments; I see no other way it can be accomplished.  But there’s that rub once again; one is judging another human being.  So now what seemed so right on the surface has, with deeper consideration and reflection, proved to be something that we humans can almost not avoid doing and, indeed, is often required of us in our culture and society.

Okay, then maybe what those who espoused being non-judgmental were really trying to say was that we shouldn’t judge our fellow human beings in terms of morals or ethics..?  Once again on the surface this would seem to be a good thing but when one really digs into the issue it’s not so clear-cut.  Philosophies abound within human civilization and many are not mutually agreeable and some are downright at odds. We’ve all heard of ‘the ends justify the means’ and for the most part this is not something that is acceptable nowadays for some very solid reasons.  Yet more than just a few people can see situations when this concept is valid.  How do those of us who feel this can never be an acceptable approach to life deal with people who do accept the concept to varying degrees?  We can choose to argue this viewpoint or not to associate with these people but in so doing we’ve judged them on their beliefs.  A large tenant of Islam is that it is the only ‘true’ religion and as such should be practiced by all.  What of the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or Wiccans out there; are they all non-believers?  If so has the religion of Islam – and hence those who do practice it – not judged all people who do not practice that religion?  Quite suddenly the concept of not judging other humans based on their moral, ethical or philosophical beliefs doesn’t seem to make much sense.

As I’ve reflected and considered the whole idea of being non-judgmental I’ve come to the conclusion it’s probably a ‘nice’ idea in theory and if the world were a perfect place perhaps none of us would judge others in any way although I cannot see how this would be possible.  I go back to something I was taught by my wonderful parents: life is all about making choices and with these choices will come consequences so as you make choices there is an unspoken deal that you will accept the consequences.  Often to make choices requires using one’s judgment; there’s just no way around this fact.  Rather than to feel guilt at making judgments perhaps it’s better to strive to make the very best judgments one can and then be willing to live with the consequences.  I also believe that trying to foster being non-judgmental (something I have pretty much shown to be impossible) in others often acts as a barrier to open, honest and clear communication.  I firmly believe that the Nazi party was evil and I base this judgment on historical facts yet if someone was to chide me for being judgmental – and in this case I truly am being just that – it fails to take into account the reasoning behind my judgment.  If there’s one thing this country desperately needs its open, honest and clear communication in all facets of life.  And, yes, this is a judgment of my own!  And now I’ll make yet another judgment: I believe the whole concept of pushing people to try to be non-judgmental is often just another form of trying to control speech and ultimately thought.  In my previous meanderings I think I’ve pretty much shown that we humans cannot be non-judgmental (Ooooops, I made yet another judgment!) yet function in today’s world.  Trying to completely do away with making judgments would largely mean we humans would basically exist as lumps of protoplasm doing little except respiring; even trying to feed ourselves requires making judgments.  So I fall back to the observation I made much earlier on – to be human is to be judgmental. That’s just how it is and I’m not going to feel ‘bad’ about my judgmental nature or guilty that I make many judgments each day; that would entail feeling bad or guilty because I’m human.  But I can try to remain on guard against judging others without knowing or understanding all the facts.  I think this might be about the best I can hope for…