Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Secular (not mystical) Journey

During the weekend, I woke early to read Erhard’s articles and write a blog entry about it. I also watched some video clips from YouTube where he is the speaker though I also watched another video with a trainer from the Landmark Forum – the current reincarnation of Erhard’s est seminars. My weekend was relatively busy with my kids preparing for college. We went to mass on Saturday evening and had dinner in a nearby Thai restaurant as we won’t have the opportunity to eat together as a family for some time as the kids are away in college.  On Sunday afternoon, we brought my eldest son to his university, where he had transferred from technical college and will complete two more years to achieve a four-year degree.  My youngest son’s return to university after Christmas break is this coming weekend. I also managed to watch several DVDs from the library about Iraq, mystical religions and two excellent Hollywood movies: ‘Source Code’ and David Mamet’s ‘The Spanish Prisoner’. But I also particularly liked the Iraq documentaries ‘Iraq in Fragments’ and ‘My Country’.

I still have several DVDs to watch: Joseph Campbell’s ‘Mythos’ and a film on Sufism. I had purposely borrowed these films to augment my studies on self-transformation. Last night I also watched a video clip about meditation by Eckhart Tolle. It is ironic to supplement my reading on Werner Erhard with mystical films (often about the Middle East or Eastern religions) because he explicitly was against any linkage to religious mysticism, focusing his est training as a secular ‘technology’ for self-development. In fact, his teaching lean more towards psychotherapy, logic and philosophy, particularly on concepts of ‘self’ and ‘being’; a subject I had been reading in the graphic novel ‘Logicomix’ about the life of Bertrand Russell who was seeking to merge the disciplines of philosophy, logic and mathematics. Self-transformation is not a mystical journey but a conscious effort to improve oneself following certain techniques. These techniques are what I would like to master following the principles of Toastmaster as an example – a self-help proactive endeavor like going to a gym.

Hence, I liked the steps enumerated by the Landmark forum trainer who outlined the steps needed to create ‘a life you love’. The steps are:

1.    Distinguish fact from fiction

2.    Know yourself – get clear about commitments

3.    Discover unrealized potential – put it in a calendar

This is a simplification of the process that had started with est. My understanding of these steps relate to a need to know oneself better before undertaking a process of transformation – to put in a simple context. For instance, one must understand what is true and factual and need techniques like cognitive therapy to correct any false perceptions, correlation or attribution errors due to erroneous thinking. Hence, this is the process alluded by thinkers like Edward De Bono or Eckhart Tolle or any significant Buddhist teacher or person who talks about transcendental meditation or mindfulness with the intent not only to perceive true reality but discipline the mind; particularly to separate mind and thinking from ‘being’ or ‘true self’. Once the mind is disciplined plus the realization that thinking is not ‘self’ just a reflection of a certain thought process that can be shut down or improved (like any other skill such as playing golf) can one proceed to the next level.

After improving one’s cognitive skills, the next step is to understand yourself – your abilities and what you can do. This may involve seeking additional training like attending Toastmaster to improve one’s speaking skills or attend writing classes to learn about the writing craft. Generally it’s an honest assessment of one’s ability and commitments. For instance, one may have the skills and temperament and cognitive ability but one may not have the time. It also means the discernment of one’s errors such as procrastination, reading too much or allowing one to be distracted and tempted towards other useless activities. This is where I am - I spend too much time in other activities, neglecting to allocate time to my true goal of writing. Instead I waste energy playing golf, watching movies, surfing the internet and reading too many books - all with the deluded intent to make myself a better writer by increasing one’s knowledge and experience. This is where Erhard’s teachings come in – where one does not need lots of training or experience (if one has had enough already) and proceed to transformation – just be what you want to be.

Making the jump is the missing link for the final transformation. I was already aware of cognitive therapy; meditation and mind control techniques; participated in Toastmaster where one undergoes actual experiential training (where speaking is a close cousin to writing). I also determined my skills so I undertook writing courses and practiced by blogging. But I deluded myself by remaining in this stage; seeking more data or empirical proof of growth. For instance I recorded reading about 500 books in Shelfari.com, completed about 35 speeches, wrote 500 blog entries in Blogger.com in the past 6 years plus attended roughly 4 writing classes and workshops in the past 3 years. The third step is completing the jump to self- transformation; planning for actual work by putting tasks in a calendar, to undertake concrete commitments to work on. This is where I am at today; with my recent attempt to survey work saving techniques and tools like dictation, cloud computing and speech-to-text software to improve productivity. Discovering Werner Erhard maybe the last step I need to move forward and complete my goal. My kids in college plus my new home gives me the ‘space’ I need to succeed.

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