Natural Giving

Years ago I described two feelings or perceptions of self or me-ness. The first is a physical proprioceptive-self. That is, the feeling of this body separate from and moving in the larger environment. And, there is an autobiographical-self, the accumulation of associative past experiences, pleasers and pain, fears and joys, the latent memory of which stimulate or trigger, the re-membered past in the present. And, of course, the abstract intellect then creating personal images of self, that is me, from these collected ghost images. Though discrete these two ebb and flow moment by moment, forming what we call our social ego.

Themes: 
self image
nurturing

Who Are We Really?

If there is a common cause for our individual, social- cultural and global pathologies it is simply that we are not who we think we are. A wise Tibetan close to the Dalai Lama noted: ‘egos exploiting egos is the source of all our problems.’

We hear a lot about egos and egotism but I challenge anyone to actually identify and find his or her ego. You can’t. It is not an entity independent from our imagination. What we think of as our ego exists only as our personal virtual reality and yet it is the source of all our problems; very strange, indeed.

Themes: 
self image

The Embodied Self

The Embodied Self
Frank Wilson

It is a common knowledge that there is something called a flow state that happens to people. Well, that has to do with the body. It is a kind of hypnosis, but we associate hypnosis, almost, with an artificial state of contraction of awareness in which you can be induced to pay attention to or to believe something about yourself that really isn’t true. But, there is another kind of altered state that comes about through a fully conscious exercise of some skill in which you experience a new state.

What you’re saying was another one of these minor epiphanies for me. There is a term that dermatologists and plastic surgeons use when they are sort of warned off by a patient who comes to them who is terribly concerned about a specific wrinkle. There is an article in today’s New York Times about a woman who had her nose operated on five times, until they got it right. The medical term for that is body dismorphic disorder. There are various expressions of it. It means that there is something wrong with my body, and bulimics, people who have eating disorders fall into this class of body dismorphic disorder. I don’t like my body; it’s not me; I don’t feel . . . But, that all pretty much stops at the skin, or it stops at the profile.

What I’m saying is, and what I am noticing is that people who really spend time with themselves physically and they come to enjoy and kind of fluency of movement, and they recognize an expressivity in how they actually move can come to believe that their body isn’t really behaving the way it should and they become alienated from it. As a neurologist, there was another place where I discovered this, and this was with patients that I was seeing at Stanford, with Parkinson’s disease. There are people who suddenly discover that their body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. They have a hand that shakes and they don’t want to go outside, anymore, because people will thing they are old. A woman who was a patient of mine was a third-grade teacher, who would not go in front of a class anymore because she could sense that people looked at her differently, that it wasn’t her. This happens very, very quickly. I’m now—it’s not that I’m missing an arm or a leg or a hand or an ear, or I, you know, have some ugly cancerous lesion on my nose, it’s just that I don’t look graceful, anymore. As far as I know, in medical literature, there is absolutely no attention paid to this, at all.

Those things go together. I don’t think you need to artificially separate them. In some people it really is just that it doesn’t sound like me; it doesn’t feel like me. That’s very, very difficult to deal with. But, I don’t think we need to dig too deep here into this whole issue, but the point is that we really are given a body, and it’s a biomechanical wonder. It’s a sensory wonder. You know, you go outside and people use words like “delicious.” The way I was running today, I was moving in a way that was really delicious to me; I got completely lost in that experience. Or, tennis players who will talk about a game that they played, or a musician will play in a certain way, and they’ll say, “I don’t know; something happened, and I’ve listened to the recording. It can’t be me; I don’t play that well.”

So, we’ve used the word, and it is a common knowledge that there is something called a flow state that happens to people. Well, that has to do with the body. It is a kind of hypnosis, but we associate hypnosis, almost, with an artificial state of contraction of awareness in which you can be induced to pay attention to or to believe something about yourself that really isn’t true. But, there is another kind of altered state that comes about through a fully conscious exercise of some skill in which you experience a new state. I remember a music teacher who told me that many of his students would become very anxious about playing; they would have stage fright, so they would become inhibited as soon as they thought somebody was watching. He would teach them a technique to become sort of enraptured with the experience. Then he would explain to them, he said, “This is not a trick so that you can play better; this is so that you understand that the playing of the music is a gift to you as a way to enter into the state of higher consciousness.” And, I believe that that is really one of the potentials that exists. Whenever you see an artist—I’ve had many opportunities to watch artists work, not just musicians, and you can’t interrupt them. They get into a state in which, as the saying goes, the house could fall down around them, or it could burn down around them, and they are not interested. They don’t pay attention to that because they have become so engaged with whatever it is that they are doing. It is a fusion of the physical and the emotional and the cognitive in which all of those things are going together in a way that you can’t artificially induce. It is completely self-induced, and you can’t tell when it’s going to happen. But, people who have the experience can and do work toward that experience in which they forget the technicalities and they simply say, “I know when I feel like this, I’m doing it the right way because nothing else makes me feel this way.”

How the hand defines the ‘self”

How the hand defines the ‘self”
Frank Wilson

It looks like evolution expected us to be active pursuers of information, not to simply be sitting there quietly and having stuff stuffed into us. That’s overstating the case a little bit, but in general it seems to me that, based on my clinical experience, that it is not a stretch at all to say if the hand is really important to intelligence and to this sense of accomplishment that adult life is supposed to bring, then you ought to some evidence of a respect for that fact in what we offer to children as part of their education.

The second thing, and this is really derivative; the second thing is that it seems to me that the hand is really important as an object to think about in the developmental process, generally. And when I began to look at that question through let’s say the eyes and the experience and the research of people like Benjamin Bloom and the Montessorians and the Waldorf people and the Fribble kindergarten people, and on, and on, and on. It seemed to me that what they were saying was, what their experience was telling me was that this is really truth, that educators—people who are interested in the development of children, who pay attention to what kids to with their hands and who afford them opportunities to use their hands—get the kind of results that I would expect if it is really true that the hand and the brain are a system, and that they develop through life in a way that somehow or other yields this product of an autonomous, sentient, conscious thing that we call the “self.”

Now, if you think like that, or if you make inferences like that, you can’t look at this “crashed-and-burned” institution that we call education and not think well, maybe part of the problem is that the people who are the theorists in education have, like the cognitive psychologists that I just met, looked at the hand as if it were sort of an incidental [player] and not, in fact, a central player. The truth is that there is no way for you to actually address the brain directly. You can do it if you drill a hole in the head and drive an electrode in, but as a matter of practicality, despite what lots of people say is talking directly to the brain by doing the following thing. You’re not talking directly to the brain. The brain is part of a responsive organism that receives information in a certain way. It may do it actively; it may do it passively. It looks like evolution expected us to be active pursuers of information, not to simply be sitting there quietly and having stuff stuffed into us. That’s overstating the case a little bit, but in general it seems to me that, based on my clinical experience, that it is not a stretch at all to say if the hand is really important to intelligence and to this sense of accomplishment that adult life is supposed to bring, then you ought to some evidence of a respect for that fact in what we offer to children as part of their education.

When I met this guy, Nate Jones, after the book had been published, what is said was that he had begun to wonder what was wrong with the kids that were coming to him just to learn how to fix cars in a car shop. There is nothing fancy about that. This is just—this is Norman Rockwell Americana. Well, if it’s Americana, how come the kids coming to a guy like Nate are in-educable? Why does he say, “I can’t teach them how to do anything.” And, he asks himself, you know, is it in the water? Is there something? Or is it watching television? What is it? And he spoke with his wife and his daughter, both of whom are primary school teachers, and they offered the possible suggestion or explanation that maybe it was because kids don’t do anything with their hands in school. They are literally—they are just dissociated completely with the kind of stuff that I’ve been talking about. So, he took that and said well, you know, kids really need to be . . . I mean, I can see that. I did that when I was a kid. Incidentally, I’ve asked the same question at a meeting of computer scientists and engineers, who looked at me blankly when I said kids need this in the schools. They said, “No, they need courses in calculous.” Then I said, “Well, tell me a little bit about what you did when you were a kid.” One hundred percent of them were doing all the things that Nate is talking about. They grew up handling stiff, taking things apart, and they simply just do not credit that experience at all because they don’t look back. They forget what it was like to be there and to go through this long developmental process. We’re saying, wake up! You know, that wasn’t simply trivial. Woodshop, metal shop, drawing, none of that stuff was unimportant. In fact, that’s how you got to where you had to go.

We were just getting around to talking about Nate Jones. The realization that came to me was that if it was really true that hands and life go together, and that the experience of someone like Nate Jones, who is asking the question well, how come kids just simply can’t master these relatively simple skills? He then asks the question of himself maybe the fact that they haven’t had hand experience might have something to do with the fact that they simply can’t figure out how to take on these tasks. If you then look at the education system and you look at what’s happened over the last, I suppose, 15 years—people are always arguing about what’s wrong with the education system. That’s been going on for a very long time. Nevertheless, it’s clear that there is, with the exception of quite specific programs like Montessori and Waldorf and other kinds of sort of low-tech, if you will, low-tech educational strategies for kids, that we’re after something very different in terms of the yield of a formally organized education system. It is, apparently, the ability to pass tests.

Now we’ve got lots of people riled up because they are seeing that kids are disaffected from the educational system. Lots of kids drop out. There are criticisms of all kinds. More recently, there is a very, very interesting counter trend, which a guy like me is really very vulnerable to saying, “Ah-hah! I told you so,” without really knowing the details. That is that many of the admissions specialists in the so called “elite” colleges and universities in this country are taking very, very seriously the very different set of experiences that kids who’ve been home schooled and who have been brought up in alternative programs, the skills and potential that they seem to be bringing to college education. There is a paradox in this. It is that for the last ten years or so, people like Jane Healy and people like the Alliance for Childhood Health have been trying to wrestle with this case that is made that there is a digital divide: That kids who are deprived of the opportunity to learn with computers from an early age fall behind and never catch up in the education system.

Well, this sort or sudden perverse view of this problem that you get from talking to people who are admitting kids to college is that the digital divide actually works the opposite way, that the parents with lots of money, who are determined to get their kids into Harvard are spending money to keep them away from computers and to get them into home school programs, get them into—even if they are not particularly religious-minded, into Christian schools, where they have these other activities that are being given to them as an alternative to the wickedness of getting on the internet. For whatever reason, it seems that there is some validation coming very quickly that this wholesale investment in communications and electronic technology as a surrogate for real experience was a mistake. I am not unwilling to say that I think the educational world was sold a bill of goods when the suggestion was made that kids really need to be wired up to the internet at the earliest possible age.

Hands really are our lives in a fundamental way

Hands really are our lives in a fundamental way
Frank Wilson

If I was involved with people’s hands, I was going to be involved with their lives. That’s just the simplest, most economical way to say it. For at least the group of people that I was dealing with, their hands weren’t just involved in their lives, their hands really were their life in a fundamental way.

My perspective on this material comes out of twenty years of working with people with hand problems. It was really over that period of time the accumulated both diversity and kind of central tendency of all of these stories that—out of all of this I was beginning to see that there was some kind of fundamental principle that had to be true for all of these stories to hang together as they did. So, that truth, to me as a clinician, was that if I was involved with people’s hands, I was going to be involved with their lives. That’s just the simplest, most economical way to say it. For at least the group of people that I was dealing with, their hands weren’t just involved in their lives, their hands really were their life in a fundamental way.

I think I began the book talking about the fact that when I showed videos of people with hand problems, I was astonished that somebody in the audience would faint, that they could be so emotionally connected with that truth, that it would really just completely knock them flat when they saw somebody who couldn’t do . . . And, these were not bloody, broken hands; these were hands that just weren’t functioning.

So, the first thing that seems to me to respond to this question of why do you think this is so important, this hand/brain stuff? It’s not so much hand/brain stuff. I’m a neurologist, so that’s kind of the platform from which I view things. You know, not in a limited way, I hope, not in a way that says this wonderful aphorism: “If the only thing you have is a hammer, then everything you see is going to look like a nail.” If you’re a neurologist, you can’t look at people without thinking about, well, what’s the brain got to do with this? In a certain way, I’m kind of a contrarian in that sense because I am not nearly as much interested in the brain as I am in the body. I see the brain as being very important to the operation of the body, but when you stand back and you talk about developmental issues and you talk about human behavior and intelligence, you’re really talking about the construction of a life that really draws on everything that the body offers. It draws on what people make of their own experiences, and that’s . . . So, to try to distill that point; it is that it doesn’t surprise me at all, as an neurologist who has dealt with people whose lives depend on their hands, that the hand is really fundamentally important in human development and how people develop, whether they happen to be ending up as people who really can’t get along without their hands in life.

Proprioception

Proprioception
Frank Wilson

Even at a very early age, all children have a repertoire of that have been called exploratory procedures. They will apply the hand to an object and they will detect the temperature, if the tips of the fingers are on the surface of it, they begin to recognize, sort of crudely, something is very cold or something is hot, and gradually that gets to be more refined. We learn to detect the texture of surfaces by moving the hand over them, and there are very particular receptors in the hand that are very good at picking up small differences, picking up ridges, picking up resilience, and so forth. Over a long period of time and with lots of experience, we become very, very good at that.

First of all, proprioception is a big word and it’s a relatively dry concept. It just means a detection of what is next; Proprius is the Latin word for “next.” And, it doesn’t mean next in time; it means next in space. So, it’s a system that is in the body that is meant to, if you will, control the body in movement in space.

My reason for bringing this up was because thinking about proprioception in sensory physiology is really thinking about information that comes to the body through physical contact with the environment and movement through the environment. Proprioception also includes, for example, joint position sense, and this is information that we need in order to walk, to stand, to balance ourselves. You’ve got to have decent proprioception to be on a skateboard or a bicycle or rollerblades or skis, any of these devices. But, I think what’s happening and what you’re referring to, and what I think is really important, is that we really don’t have a sense of the objective, physical world in which we are absent, because we acquire that sense by presence and by contact with the world, and we do it through our feet by walking around and climbing and jumping and running and standing. We do it by lifting, by balancing, by touching. We may have an immediate sense that a glass is going to be slippery because it also happens to be cold. We can actually learn to tell that we have to increase the force that we apply to an object because it is slippery.

Even at a very early age, all children have a repertoire of that have been called exploratory procedures. They will apply the hand to an object and they will detect the temperature, if the tips of the fingers are on the surface of it, they begin to recognize, sort of crudely, something is very cold or something is hot, and gradually that gets to be more refined. We learn to detect the texture of surfaces by moving the hand over them, and there are very particular receptors in the hand that are very good at picking up small differences, picking up ridges, picking up resilience, and so forth. Over a long period of time and with lots of experience, we become very, very good at that.

We can put our hand in our pocket and we can sort out a nickel from a dime. We can sort out one set of keys or a particular key from another key. All of that comes about because we have simply gained experience over and over, again, and we’ve had a chance to cross check. I take this thing out of my pocket and I look at it. Oh, I thought that was a nickel and it’s a dime.” The more you do that, the better you get at that. In fact, those are neurological tests actually asking people to identify objects by touch. And there are very specific neurologic disorders that produce a breakdown. That’s part of the neurologists diagnostic kit, is to be able to sort of tease those apart and say, well if you can do this but you can’t do that, then the problem must be there. That’s kind of the game that we play.

We can't solve a problem at the level of the problem

Forgive me for restating the obvious. It is really very simple. Rape, domestic violence, child abuse, depression, addictions, chronic anxiety, fear, rage, most chronic diseases; diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, many hormonal cancers; breast, testicular, heart disease, ALS, attention disorders, bullying, gangs, male-female inequity, poverty, the failure of education, corporate exploitation of human beings and the environment, you get the point, are expressions of failed or impaired capacity to relate nonviolently with other human beings, society, culture and with nature. All are attachment disorders, attachment being attuned, empathic, respectful, caring relationships.

Themes: 
culture
parenting
self image

What a wonderful morning to die

Walking to the studio at dawn on this the first day of my sixty-fifth spin, I mused; ‘what a wonderful morning to die.’ No, this is not some morbid depress-wish. It is complete amazement at the wonder, the beauty and constant newness each breath brings.

Themes: 
parenting
play
self image

Reacing For A New World - Carly and Me - 3.5 Months New

Carly, born Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Today is Friday, November 14, 2014, 108 days, almost three and a half months new depending on how we calculate the equinox. There is a distilling of awareness and attention, a distinct and growing capacity to balance, to see, to be startled by a sharp sound or emotion and reaching to grasp. Carly’s attention, how stimulation moves from her eyes into her brain creating intention, extending down her arm, past the elbow and wrist to the outreached hand, tiny fingers grasping is today’s lesson.

Themes: 
brain
imagination
intelligence
pleasure
self image

Essential Joseph Chilton Pearce 34

Self as Image
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Neuroscientist speak of a primary self, and then the emergence of an autobiographical self. Autobiographical implies separate from, distinct which comes about during the toddler period and language development. The toddler rushing out to explore with wonder hitting negativity over and over and forming an semantic image that conform or mirrors that negativity. And that image is called the autobiographical self. The autobiographical self is always negative. In the original open state there is no need for an image of self of any kind. Through this negative image the child feels it can maintaining contact with the source, parents and family, projecting this negativity. Praise therefore is a counterfeit form of negativity.

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