Liberation In A Suit

Is the suit a symbol of oppression, or a symbol of liberation?

Is the suit a symbol of oppression, or a symbol of liberation?

As filmmaker Guy Ritchie states, there are many businesspeople who go to work in a suit because they have to. The suit doesn’t fit. Something within them rebels against the suit. And so the suit wears them. It becomes a straightjacket. And yet Guy Ritchie loves to wear suits. His suits have become his shining armour. He knows who he is and why he is doing what he is doing. He wears the suit. And makes it his own.

So, is the suit a symbol of oppression, or a symbol of liberation? The answer is that it depends on how you wear it. And so here we arrive at a crucial distinction. What you do for a living is important, but it’s not the most important thing. It is what you bring to that work that is of the essence. You have to own the work, and you have to own the time that you put into it. You have to be present to what you do, and to the people who are there when you do it. So, when you work you are there, and your spirit is with you. And to do that, to be that, you need to know who you are. You need to learn how to say “yes” to your Authentic Self, and “no” to those who do not honour that.

Writer Natalie Goldberg puts it like this: “If you really want to be a runner but you think you should meditate, make running your practice and go deeply into it at all levels.”[i] This is exactly right.

This is a short extract from my upcoming book, Power and Presence.

Marcus


[i] Natalie Goldberg, “Writing Down the Bones.”

Tests of mindfulness: What happens when Daddy makes you eat your beloved pet for dinner?

To learn how to feel deeply is not easy. Many of the more popular or academic practices of presence do not understand this secondary level of healing. This is, of course, due to the limited aims of most of these practices. The purpose of many current mindfulness modalities is to permit calmness, and they are not usually healing practices. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why some mindfulness studies indicate that mindfulness practice results in a small percentage of practitioners becoming more depressed, anxious or even suicidal.[ii] Mindfulness may allow us to relax just enough to leave us poised at the gateway of ancient caverns of the psyche; but ignorant of the cruel goddess. Those practices may not provide us with the proper tools to navigate our way out of that murky domain.


Being present to emotions is not as simple as we might think. That is because emotions do not merely have immediate short-term expressions.

The easiest emotions to master are the feelings that show up physiologically and immediately. You can plot them on an EEG machine, and they can be indirectly detected in the body through such things as respiration, heart rate, blood chemistry and so on. And dealing with these kinds of feelings is not that difficult. If you are angry at your spouse for example, you can take take ten breaths and calm down. If you are scared of using elevators, you can learn to breathe deeply and alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety. If you are sad because your dog died, you can cry. Because these emotions are immediate and conscious, we have all strong awareness of them, and so it is not so difficult to process them.       

But there are some kinds of feelings which are not easily detectable via our modern technologies, because they are not immediate emotional expressions. Here we are talking about the world of the unconscious – or the barely conscious. Trauma that is buried within the psyche is invisible, for example, and is very difficult to detect via neurophysiology. Some wellbeing practitioners may be able to identify such deep emotional baggage through physical symptoms such as chronic tension in the forehead, shoulders and abdomen, or via an examination of posture. Some might see indirect evidence in addiction and other adaptive behaviours; as indirect attempts to control difficult emotions. Yet it has to be acknowledged that these are all indirect indicators.     

The dilemma is, how do we know our unconscious feelings if they defy direct detection and are by definition unconscious?

Please allow me to share a story.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who passed away in 2004, was perhaps the most well-known thanatologist of the modern era. She studied dying. Kubler-Ross learned early in life not to grieve for herself, not to cry and not to feel. Much later in life she realised that traumatic childhood feelings do not simply disappear. In the passage below, she writes of her earliest days in Switzerland, just before World War Two.

During my childhood we always had bunnies around the house, and I loved each and every one of them. The problem was my father was thrifty, and every six months he needed to roast a bunny for our dinner. I would have to bring the beloved bunnies, one by one, to the butcher. But I always made sure that my own special bunny, Blackie, was never chosen. He was mine, the one love object I had that belonged only to me.

Blackie got pretty fat because I kept giving him extra food, and of course the dreaded day came when my father told me it was time for me to bring Blackie to the butcher. I could not allow it. I begged Blackie to run away, but the more I shooed him away, the more he thought I was playing and would run back to me. No matter what I did he kept coming back, and my pain only escalated when I realized that he loved me too.

The inevitable happened soon enough when my father sent me off with Blackie, making me promise to give him to the butcher. I did it, crying the whole time, and in a few minutes out came the butcher with my dead Blackie in a bag.

“Here’s your rabbit,” he said, handing it over. I felt catatonic when I reached out to accept it. I could still feel Blackie’s warmth when the butcher remarked, “By the way, it’s a damn shame you brought this bunny in now. It was a girl and in a day or two it would have had babies.” That night at dinner when my family ate Blackie, in my eyes they were cannibals. But I would not cry for this bunny or anyone else for almost forty years.

It finally happened in a workshop in Hawaii. During the week, the landlord nickeled and dimed me for everything. For the next five days I felt unbelievable rage toward this man, so much so that I wanted to kill him. I struggled to contain the rage so it would not ruin the workshop, and when I arrived back home, my friends confronted me on my anger. After some resistance I talked out my anger and was shocked to suddenly find myself sobbing. The rage gave way to a deep sorrow underneath, and as I cried, I realized this was not only about the landlord. His cheapness had been the trigger that reminded me of my all-too-thrifty father. I was suddenly that little girl crying over Blackie. Over the next few days I cried for him and all the other losses that had gone ungrieved.[i]

Now you can contemplate how traumatizing being served your best friend for dinner must have been for a little girl. We can only imagine being forced to eat our beloved pet cat or a dog.      

Nearly forty years passed before Elizabeth Kubler-Ross processed that trauma. Where was her pain during all those years? How would modern techno-centric medicine possibly have detected that emotional energy? How could anybody have even perceived of the grief and rage which she held towards her father, as well as the terror that must have been etched in her psyche, as a child experiencing how terrible one’s caregivers – and the world – can be.

And this is why learning to be present is not as simple as depicted in some naïve, popular versions of the practice. The art of presence invites us not only to be present with our immediate experiences and feelings, but also to deeper and more subtle emotions, including the  trauma that sits within the psyches of all of us. These feelings can be very strong or even overwhelming, and the stories that accompany them terrible to recall. Developing the right relationship with the psyche can be very challenging.     

This is difficult work for all of us. For some more so than for others, because some of us carry more pain than others. If we are merely present to immediate feelings, then we will not feel at the depth is required to heal.

And here we encounter a common misperception within some meditative and mindfulness philosophies. Silence does not heal. Not by itself. Quieting the mind merely presents to us doorways to healing. As the mind retreats into silence, we may find ourselves sinking into the dark cavern where the cruel goddess resides. Or rather, she appears to be cruel. Yet the frightening visions she shows us can guide us through the dark shadows of the cave and back out into the light of day.

Being merely silent and acknowledging only our immediate feelings and current story to be known, we cannot truly know our deepest needs for healing. We must descend into darker waters, or the greater story within us shall remain hidden, and frosty mountains within the psyche will remain glacier-bound, encrusted with the sleet of our frozen tears.

Here we encounter the paradox of presence. You cannot be truly present till you have developed the right relationship with your feelings; but you cannot develop the right relationship with your darkest emotions till you have invited your deepest pain to be present with you.

Thus, in becoming present an opportunity arises, a choice that you will be asked to make. All emotional wounds seek healing. All unfinished stories seek closure. These are unwritten principles of consciousness that explorers of the psyche well know. We see it in the wisdom of Jung and the teachings of modern mystics like Eckhart Tolle and Leonard Jacobson.

As you relax into presence that principle will seek to make itself known to you.

To learn how to feel deeply is not easy. Many of the more popular or academic practices of presence do not understand this secondary level of healing. This is, of course, due to the limited aims of most of these practices. The purpose of many current mindfulness modalities is to permit calmness, and they are not usually healing practices. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why some mindfulness studies indicate that mindfulness practice results in a small percentage of practitioners becoming more depressed, anxious or even suicidal.[ii] Mindfulness may allow us to relax just enough to leave us poised at the gateway of ancient caverns of the psyche; but ignorant of the cruel goddess. Those practices may not provide us with the proper tools to navigate our way out of that murky domain.

This is an extract from my upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World.


[i] On Grief and Grieving” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler. (2005) Taken from: http://jameslau88.com/my_own_grief_by_elisabeth_kubler_ross.htm

[ii] Wilson, C. (2020). “Mindfulness and meditation can worsen depression and anxiety.” New Scientist, Aug

14, 2020. Retrieved Feb 10, 20121, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2251840-mindfulness[ii]and-meditation-can-worsen-depression-and-anxiety/#ixzz6mX1FZnPR.

The Rise of Computational Warfare

The Consilience Project is a sensemaking platform founded by Daniel Schmactenberger. I’m a “fan” on their Facebook page. TCP is a fairly recent initiative, but one that is vital at this time in human history. Just a day or two ago they published the first of a series of articles on the crisis in sensemaking, entitled “It’s a MAD Information War.” It is lengthy, but I encourage everyone who is passionate about human futures and sensemaking to read it. The article is written articulately, is deeply insightful, and all while being well backed by both research and deeply reflective thinking. Its central argument is that we are all soldiers in an information war, and where the propaganda is so effectively implicit that many of us may be completely unaware of its pervasive presence. Exemplars are more easily identified if we are lie outside the battle zones. As stated early in the article, an American citizen resident in a swing state may be “subject to propaganda on social media from both domestic political parties and foreign militaries—a constant battle, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, all in high-definition in the palm of (their) hand.”

But are any of us that much different?

And consider this:

“Just as the destructive power of nuclear weapons forced humanity to reorient to the idea that mutually assured destruction exists at the extremes of physical violence, so advances in information warfare require us to face the same truth of inevitable self-destruction, and to mutually back away. The challenges before us are technological, psychological, and cultural. But the first step in all of this is knowing that we are caught up in a new kind of war. If we are to survive, we must all understand how this situation came about, and grasp the basic dynamics of the advancing battle fronts.”

I first became interested in sensemaking long before it was called that. In my twenties, and because of personal experience research, I explored what might be described as “anomalous” cognitive experiences. I became involved with deep thinkers and deep-thinking communities which held a very different view of the human mind than that espoused in modern scientific representations. Eventually I came to the conclusion that our civilization has unconsciously permitted a delusion about the nature of the mind to pervade its entire formal sensemaking structures, including universities, its science and social sciences, and our established information media systems.

So, I was more skeptical (in the broadest meaning) of our sensemaking apparatus long before the current discourse in this area began to emerge. Yet things are now more urgent. To quote the article again:

“But it was not until the emergence of digital technologies that humanity collectively faced the reality of information weapons of mass destruction. In the context of informational warfare, mutually assured destruction is the total collapse of the epistemic commons, and the exhaustion of language as a means of cooperation for all parties on all sides of the conflict. (italics added).”

It is within this context that I am researching and writing a book: Power and Presence. Embodied presence (the ability to bring the mind into a state of quiet rest at will) is one simple means via which we can remain grounded enough to limit the power of external manipulation upon our minds. Having a well-developed capacity for embodied presence is not the end of the battle, perhaps merely a beginning. But it is a foundation via which we can begin to venture forth into the worlds (physical and virtual) and remain sufficiently grounded such that our capacity for sensemaking is not systematically attacked and retarded. As the Consilience Project article states, the potential cost of this sensemaking crisis is rising every day. Like astronauts who have crash landed on an alien planet, we need to learn, to understand and to master our very strange subject matter. And we need to do so very quickly.

One way to learn is through “the wisdom of trauma,” as Gabor Mate calls it in his film of the same name. But it would be far better (and wiser) to learn from foresight and intelligent sensemaking, before violence and bloodshed become our teachers. For then it may be too late.

I present you the Consilience Project article, here. Do feel free to comment.

Marcus

https://consilienceproject.org/its-a-mad-information-war/

Power and Responsibility

– Higher levels of cognitive responsibility are positively correlated with expanded stages of consciousness evolution.
– The degree of our victim consciousness is inversely proportional to our level of cognitive responsibility.
– Our need for drama is directly related to our unwillingness to assume responsibility for our lives and especially our emotional experience.
– Our sense of personal empowerment (agency) is positively related to cognitive responsibility, and inversely related to our need for drama and identification as a victim.
– A key barrier to assuming higher levels of cognitive responsibility is the often unconscious fear of the emotional pain that we will (possibly) need to feel if we do so.

The need for personal responsibility is an idea you will see me writing throughout this book (Power and Presence). In particular, I like to talk about cognitive responsibility, the capacity to assume the right relationship to the thoughts and feelings that arise within the mind-body dynamic. This includes our reactions to what we experience in the world.

              I came to this awareness of the need for cognitive responsibility many years ago when I worked with some very advanced spiritual teachers in a far-flung corner of the world. They not only had very highly developed intuitive capacities, they were also very strict, thanks to the woman who founded the group. This was a small organisation with the prime purpose of helping people to heal from their emotional and psychological suffering. The leader, whom I shall call Jessica (not her real name) had experienced a very traumatic childhood, which included ritual sexual abuse. But when she reached maturity, she did not allow that to dominate her life and her identity. Instead, she set about finding the best way she could to heal from her psychological trauma. Jessica absolutely refused to take on any victim consciousness. This was years before some current social justice movements assumed institutionalized victimhood; and long before critics of those movements began to re-emphasize the need for more personal responsibility.

              I recall Jessica one day lamenting before a small gathering that, “The hardest thing to do is to get people to damn well take responsibility!” That was about 25 years ago. The human tendency to want to avoid responsibility for our lives and our pain has been around a lot longer than current social justice movements. It is rooted in our psychology, and I would say is a reflection of typical levels of human psychological and spiritual maturity, as expressed in human civilisation over the entirety our history. In other words, there is an interplay of shorter social and political factors, as well as longer historical factors which impinge upon commonly expressed levels of human spiritual maturity. Within that dynamic, individuals and groups may also shift into typically higher or lower levels of cognitive responsibility, according to more localized or personal situations.

              To help people to acknowledge their tendency to give away their power by avoiding personal responsibility, Jessica developed the idea of “levels of responsibility,” as well as an intuitive way to assess how much responsibility a person was taking for their life. It wasn’t an infallible process, but I felt it had much merit, and it helped me and others who worked with Jessica to reflect upon how much cognitive responsibility we were taking for our life experience.

              Having said this, there is nonetheless an issue many people have with taking on too much responsibility in certain situations, and blaming themselves for life experiences which they have had little or no control over. Yet this is irresponsible responsibility, rooted not in a desire to develop the right relationship with life, but in a need to reject and diminish oneself. This is a self-destructive narrative and belief structure that we can unconsciously carry, and it is typically picked up in early childhood, because the child may have no way to properly appreciate why painful things are occurring to them, or why others are abusing them.

              There were several key insights that I drew from working for several years with Jessica’s process; both with her and the group personally, and during the years after I departed that group and country.

  • Higher levels of cognitive responsibility are positively correlated with expanded stages of consciousness evolution.
  • The degree of our victim consciousness is inversely proportional to our level of cognitive responsibility.
  • Our need for drama is directly related to our unwillingness to assume responsibility for our lives and especially our emotional experience.
  • Our sense of personal empowerment (agency) is positively related to cognitive responsibility, and inversely related to our need for drama and identification as a victim.
  • A key barrier to assuming higher levels of cognitive responsibility is the often unconscious fear of the emotional pain that we will (possibly) need to feel if we do so.
  • Addiction to an identity of victimhood (“Poor me!” “Please feel sorry for me!” “You owe me!”) is a key barrier to assuming higher levels of cognitive responsibility.
  • Counter-intuitively, the rescuer complex is often rooted in victim consciousness, or the fear of one’s personal pain. The rescue may be a “drama” designed to ensure that one’s personal pain does not need to be addressed (while we focus upon another’s pain).
  • The persecutor complex may also be inversely proportional to the willingness to assume cognitive responsibility. The rescuer avoids pain by being the good guy; the persecutor avoids his/her deepest pain by playing the “bad boy/bad girl”. Conversely, the victim identity avoids pain by refusing to accept responsibility for it, and/or leveraging pain for attention and power.

All these insights are generalisations. For any given person, self-reflection is needed to develop an awareness of these habits of mind which may have become resident within their own psyche.

              Sometimes, just the “aha!” moment of seeing the pattern is enough to change a person’s life story and behaviour. But typically, it takes some time and diligent focus upon the problem before the behaviour shifts. Typically, that shift occurs in degrees. Recurrences of the drama and its underlying story and beliefs will tend to occur over time. 

              In my own life the victim mindset was once quite deep, but I have largely transcended it. This deep mental habit was offset to some degree by another of my sub-personalities: the warrior archetype. We all have competing sub-personalities within us, but at any given time (or situation), one or more will tend to be dominant, others latent or undeveloped.

 I was very shy and quite emotionally damaged as a child. But the warrior was also there, peeking out from behind the curtain. That was the part of me looking at myself and saying, ”Hey! You don’t need to be so scared all the time!”

At age 17 I decided to play rugby league, which is a fierce game requiring lots of physical strength and courage. I had not developed much of either of those things at the time, but somewhere within me I felt a need to “come out.” My first few games of league were frightening, and my playing ability painfully inadequate. But I persisted for years. Eventually I became a reasonably good amateur player. But it took a decade or so of persistence and blind faith to get there. Playing rugby was a very important part of my spiritual development. I didn’t become a great ball player, nor was I necessarily the bravest on the team. But the experience permitted the warrior energy to be integrated within my psyche.

              In my early  thirties, just after I had stopped playing rugby, I threw myself into self-healing work in much the same way I had thrown myself onto the ruby field while being grossly unprepared. I stumbled upon inner child work with Jessica’s healing group. The process was unfeasibly difficult. Even though I was expressing great emotional vulnerability before others – deep grief, shame, fear and seething anger – it required true courage to allow myself to trust others enough to share my deepest feelings with them.

My personal pain was incredibly deep, I soon discovered. One night, not long after I had joined the group, I had a dream that I was sitting around in a circle with other members of the healing group. Someone called my name and said it was my turn. I stepped out into the centre of circle feeling frightened and vulnerable, and sat down. Suddenly a great wall of flames engulfed me, and I begam to scream in terror as scorching pain filled my being. I abruptly awoke and sat up, literally sweating with fear. I was relieved to realise that the experience was only a dream, but as I relaxed into my bed I began to sob. For at that moment that I realised just how deep my pain really was.

As my intuitive awareness and embodied experience developed, I came to see that my suffering was rooted not only in my personal biography, but in much deeper ancestral and karmic consciousness structures. None of us walks through the world alone. We inhabit a dark forest entangled via vine-like threads with both our human ancestors and contemporaries. Many of those threads represent entangled suffering.

Our belief in separation is a persistent illusion.

              As the years passed, I refined the process I was shown by Jessica’s group to help heal my emotional body. Today, whenever I experience turbulent feelings, I still employ this emotional alignment method (my sharing those understandings is a big part of what this book is all about). Simply put, I deepen into embodied presence and allow any emotional disturbances that show up in my life or in my dream/meditative states to have a healthy expression. I simply permit emotional and intuitive feelings to be expressed and to pass through me, without resistance.

              The key point I want to make is that such “disturbances” still emerge from time to time in my life. But I now have the skills to be able to align with them. I rarely experience these emotions as “suffering,” no matter how “painful” they may be. By reducing judgment of them, relaxing with them and allowing them their place in the light of awareness, I have developed a healthy relationship with them. I am rarely afraid of them.

I write “rarely” because sometimes big issues do emerge, and a fear of looking within can arise. Yet I am now quite familiar with that resistance, and am proficient at working with it. Some adjustment of self-concept may be required. For example, I may have to reset my self-description from a delusional “healed,” to “work in progress.” This is a process in letting go.

Cognitive responsibility does not come without a price. We often have to release some agenda of mind (at least for a time),  parts of the ego which are insisting upon an external outcome. Instead, we may have refocus upon the body and the present moment, and allow ourselves to experience what is arising spontaneously within us – including psychological and emotional disturbances. When our personal agenda and that of spirit are out of alignment, we have a choice about whether to gently acknowledge that, and return to the body – or ignore it. Yet what I learned as that such ignoring also has its price, and one that I came to see as being much greater.

Marcus

This article is an edited extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World

The Moment of Agency: Your Key to Empowerment

The moment of agency and its emotional and intuitive expression is key to the development of your Authentic Self. In order to express your authenticity, you must honour the strong and subtle feelings and information that arise from within.

The following is an extract from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World. One of the reasons I am writing this book is my sense is that much of today’s social and political activism is missing a key ingredient: self-awareness, including psychological and spiritual development. Unless we first develop the “power” within ourselves, I suspect that all the power we wield society and its institutions will ultimately bare little fruit. Indeed, we are likely to cause a great deal of damage to ourselves and others if our actions in the world are not grounded in wisdom and self-awareness. And without a strong sense of personal agency, we are likely to be recruited as agents for someone else’s less-than-conscious agenda.

***************************************************

Much of your potential “power” is derived at the precise mental moment when you become aware of ideas, feelings and perceptions as they arise within you. At the instant such cognition unfolds, you have the potential to witness the thought and decide whether to act upon it or not. This is what I call “the moment of agency.” In spiritually mature human beings there is a strong sense of personal agency, and their locus of control is predominantly internal.

Within the moment of agency there may also arise intuitions; knowings which are typically (but not always) subtle. The more present we are, the more we are free of the past and its pain, the more aware we will tend to become aware of such intuitions. Intuitive information usually expresses itself as a feeling, although it may arise in other modalities: such as inner images, voices, songs or physical sensations.

The moment of agency and its emotional and intuitive expression is key to the development of your Authentic Self. In order to express your authenticity, you must honour the strong and subtle feelings and information that arise from within.

This all sounds simple enough, and in a sense it is. But the prime difficulty is that most of us are not sufficiently grounded in the moment to be able to simply observe thoughts and feelings, and to then shift our relationship with them. That lack of groundedness, in turn, typically stems from several undergirding factors.

Like virtually all people, you have the power to develop the right relationship with mental events and intuitions, even as they arise, and then act according to the genuine needs of your Authentic Self. Yet without the ability to manage your cognitions well, even as they unfold a thousand times a day, you cannot be said to be a truly empowered being. Instead, you will be like a leaky ship tossed wildly upon a stormy ocean. You will have a greatly reduced sense of personal agency.

In order to actualise the potential inherent within moments of agency, we have to be sufficiently healed of past trauma. Our unresolved biographical pain can easily be triggered by current life events, pulling us back into disempowering and delusional dramas. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history may indeed be doomed to repeat it.

In turn, in order to heal our pasts, we have to learn how to be present with the sometimes strong and difficult emotions that arise within any given moment. And being present with such feelings means being able to allow them healthy expression. Such inner work is rarely easy. If you have suffered greatly in the past, or even if your relatives and ancestors have suffered, you are likely carrying vestiges of trauma and self-limiting belief structures within your psyche. We all suffer the sins of the fathers (and mothers) to some degree. The consciousness structures of the ancestors linger, even when their bodies have long turned to dust. A significant portion of this book (Power and Presence) is about how to heal those personal and ancestral pasts.

Therefore, accessing the “power” inherent within the moment of agency is not simply a matter of being silently present. There is almost certainly background work to be done in order for that moment to be clear of distortion by the past and its pain. Past experiences may imprint self-limiting narratives and beliefs within your psyche that can distort the moment of agency. And to know what those stories and beliefs are, we have to do the inner work. We have to come to know ourselves deeply.

This grounding is the foundation of the Authentic Self, where we get to sing our true song, a song that is not distorted by the past, by the stories and beliefs about ourselves and the world with which we have become identified. Yet we must be aware enough to notice when we are living someone else’s story.

Let’s be clear. We all have these stories, even when we live from the Authentic Self. It’s hard to imagine any life that does not have some kind of narrative attached to it. Yet when we embody the Authentic Self, we develop the capacity to see clearly our story-tellers, and to master our stories – even as they try to master us. We must learn to become the agents within a new story of our own choosing, one more aligned with our Authentic Self.

If we do not develop this capacity for being present, for accessing the moment of agency, then we are all too easily manipulated by others and their agendas for power and control.

This self-mastery follows only after the agendas within our mind, our psyche, have been aired and witnessed.

Finally, there is a third source of distortion which threatens our access to the moment of agency. That is, the consciousness fields within which all our minds are embedded. This is a realm little understood in our modern societies. We have tended to equate the notion of the extended mind with the superstition of bygone eras. Yet the truth remains that our minds are not self-contained, that the boundaries of mind are more permeable than commonly recognised by today’s mainstream science.

These consciousness fields are replete with their own messages and agendas, and they can potentially impact and distort our intuitions. Yet for my purposes here, this realm of knowledge is not so important. Such fields of intention lose their power over us once we have healed our own pain, and owned the agendas within our mind.

Mastering the moment of agency is key to self-empowerment. Without such mastery no amount of assertiveness training or social activism is going to heal “the people” and restore our true power.  You cannot fire a cannon out of a canoe.

First, heal thyself.

Marcus

Trumper Thumper: How You Give Your Power Away to Politicians

Regardless of the huge differences in style and substance between Obama and Trump, what unites their stories as presidents is the way that so many gave their power away to them.

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The following is adapted from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weoponised World.

Don’t give your power away to politicians and other leaders.

For many, this is an attack of the bleeding obvious. Yet we may not be aware of just how often we do this. The problem is not as straightforward as we might think.

When I write about giving your power away to leaders, you might first think of extreme cases, such as those who sided with Hitler and Stalin last century; or perhaps those who supplicated before cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones. These are clear examples of giving power away, and we can readily identify such cases. Firstly, the outcomes of these unequal relationships are both disastrous and well-known; and secondly the narrative we are given in our history books supports this idea of how foolish it was of supporters to submit to these sociopathic leaders.

Yet there are other ways that we commonly give our power away to leaders, at all levels. We tend not to notice when we are so deeply embedded within the dynamic that we cannot see what is happening; or wh don’t get it when the process is subtle.

We give our power away to our bosses when we project positively towards them without sufficient criticality. What is less appreciated is how we give our power away to leaders when we regularly project against them.

Information streams often feature an approved relationship with specific leaders. There are often pre-approved saints and sinners whom we can channel our emotional energy towards, or against.

The image of Hitler in World War Two was convenient, because he was such an obvious embodiment of evil that it permitted the Allied powers to establish a sense of moral superiority in respect to their opponents. Yet war is a very dirty business, and no side gets out with clean hands. The image of Hitler made the firebombing of Dresden a whole lot simpler. Likewise, dropping the bomb on Japan was largely accepted because of images of Japanese atrocities during the war. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal entrenched that moral hierarchy, and since the Allies controlled the narrative, they wrote the history. Well, most of it.

Churchill was the good guy, Hitler the bad guy. Simple.

By the way, I’m not arguing for moral relativism. I’m sure glad the Allies won the war, and despite the many evils committed by both sides, I do believe that the lesser evil (by a long way) won. My point here is to suggest how image and narrative helps to motivate populations to project for and against leaders and their ideas.

Time has passed since Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, but human nature has changed little. We still reside in bodies consisting of about 30 000 genes, which produce on average of just three proteins. Our essential neurophysiology has not shifted in the 76 years since WW2 ended.

Something else that remains is that we are still being manipulated to generate positive and negative projections towards leaders, as a normal feature of public discourse. Who is the demon? Who is the saint? This is often decided by those in power: in government, politics, media – and increasingly it seems, by the algorithms.

In 2008 many were ecstatic when Obama was elected the president of the United States. I was one of them. A new dawn had begun, according to the popular sentiment. But of course, Obama as President was just as human as every other man who has ever been elected to that position, with all the limitations that the title entails. By the time he left office eight years later, the US was even more fractured than when he had arrived.

When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the narrative was completely the reverse. A lot of people followed the script. They clicked. And clicked. And clicked. They just couldn’t stop clicking.

You have probably seen the videos of people howling like dogs in the street, in disheveled despair at the coming of the Orange Demon. The end was nigh, or so they seemed to believe. They have been disappointed. Trump’s term has come to an end, and despite much chaos, the world is stil

When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the narrative was the completely the reverse. An Orange Demon had ascended from the sewers of Manhattan to invade the Whitehouse. A lot of people followed the script. Then they clicked. And clicked. And clicked. They just couldn’t stop the clicks.

You have probably seen the videos of people howling like dogs in the street, in disheveled despair at the coming of the Tangarine Tyrant. The end was nigh, or so they seemed to believe. They have been disappointed. Trump’s term has come to an end, and despite much chaos, the world is still here.

Part of the reason why leaders rarely live up (or down) to the expectations (positive and negative) of their followers, is that regardless of who holds office, the greater systemic structures generally remain. I know a lot of people like to run with the popular narrative that Donald Trump was a fascist, but I don’t think that is either a helpful or an accurate description. I see him as a rogue element who embodied the extreme levels of distrust in the system. Many of those who voted for him had simply lost faith in the system and its dominant narratives.

Many (but certainly not all) of those people gave their power away to Trump, and elevated him into a kind of cult-like status. It was as if Trump himself was going to save them.

Regardless of the huge differences in style and substance between Obama and Trump, what unites their stories as presidents is the way that so many gave their power away to them. When Trump’s limitations as leader became apparent, most notably toward the end of his term, many of his supporters were still unable to acknowledge those issues. They continued to give their power away. And to this day many supporters of Obama simply cannot bring themselves to see where he and his party have gone wrong.

Most everyone is doubling down. Now Biden-Harris are the new saviours, harbingers of a glorious dawn. How long will the illusion persist? I suspect not long.

Negative projection towards leaders is disempowering, but in a different way. When we spend large amounts of our mental energy rejecting leaders and systems, we surrender our potential to establish a more positive frame. Your life is effectively the relationship that you establish with the world around you, and with your experience. If that relationship is founded upon rejection and projected rage at what you perceive to be wrong with the world or any of its people, you have given your power away. You have failed to master your mind, and failed to master the system: two of the 12 pillars of self-mastery that I outlined in Champion of the Soul.

During the Obama presidency there was, over time, a rising antipathy towards him in some circles, perhaps most famously seen in the claim that Obama was born in Kenya (thus making him an illegitimate president). That level of negative projection was far exceeded during the Trump presidency, where most of the media and “educated” classes assumed a position of chronic projection and rage against the former businessman. Regardless of Trump’s failures, this represented a mass surrender of power on their behalf. They were effectively permanently camped in Trump’s frame, fixated by his every word and deed. Trump was a master manipulator, regularly making comments and blasting out provocative Tweets which were probable attempts to stir up that segment of the population, and to make them look foolish (to Trump’s support base). He succeeded a lot of the time.

Four years is far too long to spend in a state of chronic projection, staring over your cornflakes at the image of an elderly man in fake tan. Those one and a half thousand days are ones that such people will never get back, and they cannot blame Donald Trump for that denouement. The so called “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” whereby masses of people defined their daily existence by thumping on their keyboards and denouncing whatever was being written or spoken about Trump (and occasionally by what he actually said), is the most extreme case of mass negative projection in recent memory.

There are numerous negative effects and precious little good that have occurred because of this instance of mass insanity, but I am just going to skip all that and stick to my main point.

When we come to identify our own story with that of political tribes and their leaders, we have almost certainly surrendered our power to them. When we become emotionally entangled with political, ideological and philosophical narratives and images, it is very, very difficult to unweave those webs.

It is entirely possible to observe the limitations and merits of even the very best and very worst leaders, without giving your power away to them. Criticality and evaluation can be carried out in engaged presence, as can any words or actions which follow. The ideal relationship with leaders is to establish a frame for yourself which is aligned with your Authentic Self, with the highest expression of your values. And those will always embody psychological and spiritual maturity. The best way to establish that, to my knowledge, is to ground yourself in the body in the present moment. At the very least, we need to be able to know who we are beyond the world of mental  machinations, and to be able to return to embodied presence at will, especially when we notice our minds getting caught up in politics and in the mental contestations which saturate so many virtual spaces.

Part of the issue here is that in the age of social media, we all have our own little soap box, and enormous numbers of people have effectively become social activists. Yet the e-tubule effect means that many of us (perhaps most) are ideologically possessed. We are typically exposed to opinion and editorials far more than to “news,” and so effectively become a channel for someone else’s agenda, or a particular tribe’s agenda.

Ideally, when we are witnessing media or social media commentary, we should be addressing each idea and each fact with detached criticality. At the very least, we need to assume cognitive responsibility for the thoughts and especially the emotions which arise within us as we surf the information universe.

Don’t give your power away to politicians.

Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weoponised World.

The Ghost Watcher

The Ghost Watcher is a self-awareness (or awakening) mental exercise which can help free you, by bringing your mind under greater control. We live in an era of the politicization and weaponization of everything. Everyone wants a piece of your mind, while almost anyone gets to mouth off their opinion (even if nobody wants to hear it). In this context, being able to quieten your mind and pull out of the battlefield of monkey-minds has become crucial to living an empowered life.

The Ghost Watcher is a self-awareness (or awakening) mental exercise which can help free you, by bringing your mind under greater control. We live in an era of the politicization and weaponization of everything. Everyone wants a piece of your mind, while almost anyone gets to mouth off their opinion (even if nobody wants to hear it). In this context, being able to quieten your mind and pull out of the battlefield of monkey-minds has become crucial to living an empowered life.

In many meditative traditions, the monkey-mind refers to the voice in our heads that tends to engage in endless chattering, like an egomaniac sports commentator who is out of control and just won’t shut up. The game is over, but he’s still on the mic delivering his take on it all. On anything and everything. There’s nothing that he doesn’t have an opinion about. And he/she has a captive audience. You.

Perhaps the most problematic part of the monkey-mind is that we tend to believe whatever it is that the monkey is chattering on about, regardless of how lucid or inane that comment may be.

If I may mix even more metaphors, there’s another analogy I prefer to use to describe the part for our minds that tends to endlessly prattle on, seemingly with a will of its own. I call it “The Ghost.” Philosophers sometimes talk about “the ghost in the machine,” when they discuss the puzzling question of why a biological organism (you), which is supposed to be mechanical in nature, has consciousness.

But that debate is a little too deep for my purposes here. I use the term “The Ghost” in a somewhat similar way, because it sometimes seems that our consciousness is possessed by a chattering mind that we can observe, but often have little control over.

Philosophers and mystics of bygone eras bemoaned the inability of the mind to shut up. They didn’t know how good they had it. For in the twenty-first century The Ghost has found the perfect soapbox upon which to stand and to haunt its host (and any other unfortunate minds that happen to be in earshot).

The internet.

When Tim Berners-Lee proposed the world wide web way back in the late 1980s, I doubt he envisaged the mental battlegrounds that are today’s Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and clickbait news sites. He might well have pulled the plug on the whole thing if he could see the mess we are in now.

The presence of the internet means that we are increasingly entangled in other organisations’ and people’s opinions and projections.

My preferred way to deal with clickbait media, social media and the troll wars is to teach people how to pull out of online dramas by assuming cognitive responsibility.

This path won’t be for everyone. And there will be a requirement for a culture shift for it to have a global impact. Yet at a personal level, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. It’s all up to you.

If you want to develop what the meditative traditions call “the right relationship with the mind,” you need to be able to assume control of The Ghost. The Ghost Watcher tool mirrors the witnessing process common to many meditative traditions, with some added visualization to make it more effective.

You can apply this mental exercise at any time during the day when you find your mind being drawn into combative arguments or dramas with others, either online or in the real world. Or just in your imagination.

A common mental drama involves our Ghost arguing a mental point with another person. Here I am talking about an imagined scenario that plays out in your head. Much of the time the other party will not be directly involved. It often involves our arguing with an imagined other who isn’t even there.

Crazy, huh?

Not quite. More like, “human.”

Some of those imagined dramas may be ongoing and habitual, such as arguing with a political, philosophical or religious opponent; a classmate, work colleague, the boss, a teacher, a family member and so on. If you find yourself replaying the same argument over and over again inside your head with the same individual(s), this is a perfect situation for The Ghost Watcher.

These kinds of internal dramas have existed well before the age of the internet. I can remember engaging in internal squabbles long before I had ever seen a computer, let alone a mobile phone. Yet online forums of communication appear to have made the situation worse; or at the very least, more obvious.

Please ensure that you do not engage in this activity while you are doing something that requires careful attention, such as driving a vehicle or working in public on something important.

The Ghost Watcher

When you find yourself engaging in mental role playing (“the drama”), or even just ruminating over a problem, stop and bring yourself into the present moment by feeling your feet on the floor or focusing upon an object in the room (or place) you find yourself. Alternatively, take a breath or two and focus upon that.

Close your eyes (if the situation grants that possibility) and imagine that you (as “the witness”) are sitting in front of a big screen, say in a movie theatre. Make sure “you-as-witness” are close to the screen in this imagined situation, so you can really get the experience.

Now, imagine yourself and your mental adversary appearing on the screen. Visualise yourself sitting close to the “camera” (the foreground), with the other person (or people) sitting a little further away, towards the background, facing you. Alternatively, you might imagine both “you” and the other party sitting facing each other on the screen, from side on.

Begin by replaying, word for word, what you have just been imagining in “the drama,” on the big screen before you. As witness, see “yourself” from the third person perspective saying to the other person the precise words that have just been rummaging through your head. Hear the words clearly, and make sure you get the correct tone. So, if there has been anger and frustration, make sure that is the way you imagine yourself on the screen speaking to the other person. You can observe this situation for a minute or so.

After you have witnessed yourself upon the big screen saying whatever you have been internally voicing, let the “camera” then switch to being behind your opponent. Now, see him/her looking at “you” (The Ghost). Imagine yourself as he/she/they, as they watch and listen to your “Ghost.” Listen to them saying whatever you imagined them saying in the original drama. If they suddenly start saying something different, its OK. Just go with it.

Again, keep that witnessing position for at least a minute.

Is there anything that you (as witness) can see differently from the opponent’s perspective?

You should be able to see the drama in a new light. You might like to consider the following.

How does the drama look to you from a distance?

Are you comfortable with what you have just witnessed? Why or why not?

Is the drama really necessary in any way?

What would you like to change?

Is the perspective of your Ghost really your own? Or does it mirror that of a media, social media, political or tribal group?

Do different perspectives better embody your Authentic Self? Does the drama reflect you highest values? How can you better align your mental space with your Authentic Self (which reflects those values)?

Are there alternative mental spaces that you would prefer to inhabit, other than the internal drama you have just been witnessing? How might you better establish those mental spaces?

Much of the value of The Ghost Watcher lies in the interruption of the Ghost’s dialogue. In choosing to observe the Ghost, you are developing the capacity to witness the mind without being controlled by it, becoming possessed by its ideas and opinions (which in turn may be somebody else’s).

The ideal relationship with the Ghost is that of a gentle but firm parent. It is tempting to be very critical or ashamed of ourselves for the shadowy parts of the mind. But in the end, we are all human. We don’t need to get rid of the mind. That is perhaps impossible, and probably undesirable for most of us. The key is to develop the right relationship with it, and shape it as best we can.

While The Ghost Watcher tool might appear to occupy some length of time in the description above, in practice the whole process may take just a moment or two, once you have become familiar with it. The essence is to stop for a moment and observe your thinking mind, permitting you to pull out of any mental drama or narrative, and to become more present.

You can then return to whatever productive or mental activity you would like to be doing.

If the internal dialogue (drama) starts up again, you now have the tool to bring the mind into alignment: The Ghost Watcher.

The Ghost Watcher has the potential to pull our minds out of the collective mindscapes of the internet. Many of us today are caught up in political tribalism. The Ghost in our heads may actually be quite angry, viewing other tribes with contempt or even destructive outrage. This is unsurprising, because many news and social media channels paint their political opponents in the worst possible light, editing clips and magnifying the least attractive aspects of their opponents, while obfuscating their better qualities. Quite often, they fail to contextualize statements and actions, and too many deliberately misrepresent what has been said or done. Almost everybody in the public spotlight has had this happen to them.

The lack of civility in online discourse is seen everywhere, driven by pathological profit models centered upon the promulgation of fear and loathing, the dehumanisation of a despised other. Our Ghosts end up parroting the voices echoing across whatever mediascapes we have come to inhabit (even as their invisible algorithms stalk us, and shape our minds).

Too many of us are being programmed to be players in someone else’s computer game, fighting other Ghosts in a game that we never consciously agreed to participate in.

Its time to pull our ghosts out of the machine.