Category Archives: Observer State

You’ll Know You Are in the Flow State

Created September 17, 2021

You’ll know you’re in the Flow state when your mind sees the futility of saying anything to itself, because words can never tell the whole truth about what you are already sensing and need no words to sense.

When it first happened to me, I was merged with the audience, with my father, the band, the stage, everything was me dancing together and doing itself perfectly as I watched and enjoyed the experience mightily.

Interestingly, the moment was captured by a photographer:       

My mother Sandy was watching from the wings. You can see her to my right where the curtain to backstage is slightly open.

Flow state as first named and described by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has of course been around in the human race since as far back as we go, and we see that animals get into it too, such as when we see squirrels playing 50 feet above the ground jumping confidently from branch to branch. The Flow state is one of the things we love to watch during the Olympics or any TV live sports. Incredibly perfect performances account for a goodly percentage of the most watched and shared Youtube videos.

As Mihaly (he had been an advisor to The Human Effectiveness Institute) spelled out, the Flow state happens when one is not emotionally attached to (dependent on) winning, but is simply playing for fun.

Echoing the Buddha’s exhortation to attain nonattachment. This is not just coincidence. Buddha was one of the many saints in history who knew of the higher states of consciousness as real phenomena, and compassionately spent their lives trying to get as many people as possible to take the idea seriously.

We have never needed more for people to go inside and take themselves over. And it has never been less likely that we can accomplish this at the mass level at which sanity is needed quickly.

I link sanity and the higher states of consciousness – Observer state and Flow state – on purpose. All around us today we see high degrees of irrational behavior, in the U.S. higher than ever seen before in my lifetime at least. Psychology as a nascent science has never drawn a bright line where sanity ends and insanity begins. Neurotic behavior is not as extreme as psychotic behavior, and people in public office can apparently stay in office no matter how far from rationality (enlightened self-interest) they stray, as long as we can write them off as neurotics and not psychotics. We forgive neuroticism because we acknowledge to ourselves in moments of clarity that we ourselves and possibly everyone has some degree of neuroticism.

Attachment is certainly one of the driving factors in neuroticism. People become irrationally attached to something while they are young and impressionable and then it becomes so much a part of who they think they are that it can become invisible to themselves, even as it causes obsessive compulsive, paranoic, manic depressive, and even schizophrenic behavior. Belonging is a deep motivation, so is power, so is social acceptance, and any of these and more are among the mechanisms which take away our Flow state and our Observer state and turn us into Devoted Followers.

Attachment is the main blocker of our feeling the innate joy of being alive. Theoretically, like those nearly-flying squirrels, just the fun of all the things we can choose to do each moment by being alive should make us incredibly grateful and happy. It’s all a creative game. It’s the most exciting movie of all: LIFE. Yet count the long faces as one walks down any street.

A part of us inside is purposely blocking joy. It is attachment. It is saying: “No I won’t let you feel joy because I want X and I may not get it!” Please let this 87-second video experience flow into your open mind:

Once you have found the hidden switch of your Will, you will have the determination to not waste time working against your own best interests, such as by wallowing in shame, guilt, fear, anger, blame, hate, or any other alarm system. Those systems, like an alarm clock, have a very valid function, and they call our attention to something that we need to deal with intelligently, and like an alarm clock, it is not intelligent to proceed without turning them off first. We must use these negative feelings exactly like an alarm clock. They have called your attention to a real-world challenge you have. Okay, how are you going to solve it? What is it in your realistic power that you can actually DO to win in the situation? It isn’t by wallowing in the alarm clock.

Be on your own side. Get to the solution stage and don’t get stuck in the problem recognition stage. This is enlightened self-interest. This is sanity. This is rationality.

Help your children learn this trick. Show them the video. Get themselves to take their own side using their intelligence and their courage to face the world’s challenges as creative challenges. Get them to see the potential fun in looking at everything that bugs them, that new way. Constructively. Not pausing to take potshots at others, wallowing in blame or other excuses. Teach them to take responsibility not only for themselves but for the people around them. Make it better, tell them. Like the lyric in the Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” – “Take a sad song and make it better.”

Tell them about the Flow state. They will like that part. They will make that part of their bucket list. Remind them not to get attached to getting into the Flow state, because that will block it. Just take each moment as an opportunity to make things better and to enjoy the fun of every challenge. Then Flow will come on its own.

My best to all, Bill

The Untalking Self

Created August 31, 2021

Did anyone ever say to you “You’ve changed!” We’ve all had that experience. It’s true, we are all constantly changing, very strongly affected by every single thing that we experience. The me you are today is not exactly the same as yesterday’s.

Some aspects of ourselves change very slowly over the years – those attitudes and behaviors which psychologists classify as values, and those classified as character and personality traits – in some people they can last a lifetime without changing at all.

Just as stars have a standard sequence, human beings do too, and it’s pretty well described in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a six stage model), in texts of Ancient India referring to seven chakras, and my own field research at scale which suggests fifteen stages in an individual’s development from a selfish, self-defensive being to a mensch (a person of integrity and honor).

All three of these theories imply that a certain amount of change is to be expected during a person’s life, and that the development for whatever reason seems to suggest teleological design – individuals tend to become more ethical. This may be due to a conscious creator or to species survival mechanisms.

As we change when growing up, suddenly one day for perhaps the first time, we find ourselves thinking about how we are thinking. We might not take special notice of the fact that our inner vocabulary is very similar to the way we talk to our closest friends, not so much similar to the way we talk to our parents or teachers. We are sure to notice how powerfully it runs on by itself in fact it’s impossible to turn off. We might worry for a second about that but then we’ll notice that we are having ideas tumble out one upon another so it’s hard to pay attention to all of it, you have to pick and choose.

You might, as I did, ask myself – without using words in my mind – which of these selves is me? Am I the babbler that is saying all this stuff, or am I the quiet listener hearing it all? I am both, I answered myself. But then which is more representative of the true me? It would have to be the older one – the original one I was before I learned to talk. The Me That Was Born.

How much you’ve changed, one might say to oneself, waking up to the possibility that you are your Untalking Mind, encountering your talking mind. Yes, most changes are for the better, always, but now that you are able to see the difference, you’ll be able to be far more perspicacious in your metacognition. Best to keep journal handy for the rest of your life now. Your life will be full of revelations about yourself you will want to write down and perhaps date.

In the video, the narrator implies that the Robotical Talking Mind has taken over like some dreaded invader (maybe like a “mental Covid”), perhaps raising excess fears, but fear not, the “Robot” image is intended only as a humorous way of thinking about it.

Prepare your children for a joke so they are not alarmed if you show them that video, and then let them explain what they think the video means.

The human race turned a corner when it got to the third and fourth cycles of inventiveness and that’s when our minds got so taken over by the “Robot”.

The first wave was crude facial, oral and sign language. The second was tools including weapons and fire as well as art. Third was written language which triggered inventions of all kinds including mechanical technology. Fourth was electronic technology including atom bombs and media.

Trouble started in that third wave, where weapons got so much better, but we were never so distracted before as we are today here in the fourth wave.

I believe we kick off a fifth wave by taking metacognition/Observer/Flow inside. It will be the first wave to focus on improving us human beings ourselves beyond body building.

Acceleritis is my word for how we got taken over, it’s inforush paralysis and emergency oversimplification procedure (EOP), caused in the human race by the human race, by our blessed gift of inventiveness. We’ve invented ourselves into a corner existentially and psychologically and you dear reader are now part of the noble comeback. We dig ourselves out first psychologically, then existentially. Thanks for being part of the solution!

Best to all,

Bill

The Whole Human Race Has PTSD

Created June 4, 2021

Post Traumatic Shock Disorder (PTSD) is usually associated with combat veterans, but civilians have also had it after being in violent or dangerous situations. To millions of whites in this country having Obama elected president was a traumatic shock, and to half of Americans the Trump years were a prolonged traumatic shock. On top of these conditions came the pandemic, having to teach your own children what they were supposed to be learning at school, having your home turned into a submarine of compression togetherness, the insurrection, and the escalating publicity about police and domestic violence, the collapsing environment, overstretched national debt levels, threatening signs from other nations, and the ongoing sense of unreconcilable differences tearing us apart.

More than enough to account for the mass PTSD, leading with help from certain media to a degree of mass hysteria.

Maybe we should call it OTSS: Ongoing Traumatic Shock Syndrome.

The first step is to admit the possibility that you have a degree of PTSD. You may feel unmoored lately, unsure of your place in the world, unsure of where the future may be going for you, troubled by frictions within the family that had never existed before, challenged to keep the same level of income coming in. You may not be as certain what you believe in as you always had been. Letting yourself acknowledge such feelings is essential to begin to process those feelings into constructive thought and action.

My theory is that the human race has been in a degree of PTSD for a very long time. In MIND MAGIC I refer to the somewhat milder PTSD condition as EOP: Emergency Oversimplification Procedure. I believe we began to develop pandemic EOP about 5000 years ago when we started to see written language, which did something to our minds that has never been equaled.

The spread of EOP accelerated as written language led us to invent tools, weapons, machinery, media, governments, technology, science, and innumerable other things.

EOP results when we do not feel we have the attentional capacity to deal with the many questions in our minds, and so we decide to short-cut our thinking.

This increases the tendency toward:

  • dichotomania, the predisposition to perceive that everything fits neatly into one of two boxes which are polar opposites of one another;
  • subscribing to and becoming fanatically loyal to pre-packaged notions such as religions and ideologies;
  • increasing power to confirmation bias;
  • avoiding consideration of the largest questions in life;
  • replaying the same tapes over and over in one’s mind and in one’s speech;
  • actually hallucinating that one is seeing exactly what one expected to see and to hear exactly what one expected to hear, although that is not what really happened;
  • hasty closure, making up one’s mind too fast;
  • not thinking for oneself, although one may see oneself as a paragon of individualism and independence;
  • over-generalization: one person of that ‘type’ does X so all of that type do X
  • and a horde of other self-hypnotic, robotical microbehaviors, all of which underestimate the desirability of more objective self-observation, therefore keeping us out of the Observer state, and significantly reducing our chances of getting into the Flow state.

I started to write about EOP nearly half a century ago, and expected that in my readings I would eventually discover that someone thought of this a long time ago. Strangely, despite my wide-ranging reading over the years, I never came across the notion of EOP by any other name.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I was reading about the work of a fellow marketing/media researcher, Professor Karen Nelson-Field, whom I’ve met a number of times. What never came up in our brief conversations at conferences is that she has observed EOP and describes it using other language:

KNF: I’d like to give the attention economy a bit of background, if I may because it’s quite a buzzword now. Many people don’t really understand the context and its background. We all know that we live in this age of extreme distraction and our capacity to process is very small. What happens is that humans make decision shortcuts, and give little thought to what it is to avoid information overload. They give little thought to researching every single thing that comes past the desk.

The attention economy comes from the concept that taking decision shortcuts when you’re an air traffic controller or when you’re driving a car is not ideal. I think the study of information overload started during the World War II era. What impact does that have on our economic and social systems?

By its nature, the attention economy is a study of inattention and its economic or social impact.

Essentially, we want to understand not only the cause of inattention, the consequences of inattention but also some ethical solutions to correct it. MORE

I applaud Karen’s thinking and am grateful to now know of another scientist giving credence to what I call EOP.

Brief takeaways for countering EOP and thus returning to the more natural Observer state, doorway to the Flow state:

  • Stop moving, breathe deeply, observe your mind as if from afar.
  • Hold off on agreeing with the thoughts and feelings that arise in you, reconsider them from the other side with a fully open mind, reset the basic assumptions to zero just for this interlude.
  • Feel, look and listen for small “voices” (could be feelings or images) that are hunches about something you hadn’t been considering, trying to break through to your attention.

Best to all,

Bill

A Way to Decide How to Live Your Life

Created March 5, 2021

Painful periods in history have always made us stronger. Other than the venom of our disagreements, we now show great promise as a race. We are now advanced enough to come up in less than a year with vaccines that work against novel deadly viruses, and several nations are visiting Mars right now. Think of all the great new tech we are making and using together. If robots put us all out of jobs, governments and businesses will have to sponsor us so they still have someone to sell things to.

On the other hand, everyone is so roiled up by the last few years of callous misuse of media for political and financial gain, including several nations that had taken years to calm down, it could all blow up before we get to ultimate technotopia.

It would sure be a shame to let that happen.

Because if we can keep a steady hand on the tiller, it’s in everyone’s self-interest to not blow it all up, but for national leaders to create win/win trade deals keeping the whole machine going and making it work better year after year.

As nations and as individuals, we’ve all gotta feel for the other “guy” because either we’re one big happy family or we’re one big dysfunctional war hole.

The biggest disagreement that is driving us apart reflects two very different worldviews. One view assumes that the universe is benevolent or neutral, and that everyone is trying to do the right thing. The other view is that the universe is a dangerous place filled with both good and evil beings. Those of the latter view naturally are more likely to exhibit hate and be prone to violence.

Millions or billions of us need to really rethink about how to live the rest of our lives. It might be a whole different worldview than we have lived by until now.

The way I go about thinking about how to live my life starts from looking over what I think the world is.

I find it implausible that the universe is an accident.

The one thing that I am certain exists, is my consciousness. If my consciousness can exist, a God-sized consciousness could also exist. That consciousness might regard itself in some other way than as God per se. That consciousness could be as scientific as a far more advanced version of our science. It could have a sense of self the way we do. It could know itself better than we each know ourselves. It could realize that it is a vast biocomputer, that it processes information the way our minds do.

It could have such immense processing power that it can pay attention to an infinite number of different things at once. In that way, it could be playing a three-dimensional “videogame” through us, its avatars.

If that were the case, our consciousness could live forever, once our current body stops working.

None of this is unscientific. Great scientists differ in their hunches as to ideas like this; one of the greatest physicists of all time, John Wheeler, had an open mind about such subjects. He postulated that consciousness is an essential causal factor in making the reality we experience, exist. (The link brings you to a ten-minute video explaining this in more detail for those interested.)

All religions could be essentially true, including the miracles. Who among us has not experienced miracles such as suddenly knowing something is going to happen, what someone else is thinking, or receiving an incredibly good idea out of the blue? Some of us have experienced more inexplicable things than others. I’ve shared my own strange experiences in my book You Are The Universe.

Paranormal experiences have brought out the spiritual feelings I had as a small child. People who have not had those experiences are highly likely to be skeptical about God.

I was highly skeptical of the things I was told about religion. As life confirmed the predictions inherent in all truly religious ethical statements, I became somewhat more open-minded. I identified in myself a cultural bias which dichotomized my thinking into pro-science/anti-religion vs. pro-religion/anti-science.

I concluded that one must allow for the probability of some sort of God. That had not been ruled out by science. That was when I began to think about how they might both be true.

I see the universe as a single consciousness. The original Experiencer is living through each of us, not just humans but everything. That is my take on what is going on. I invite you to start again to consider what the universe may be, and how your bet in reality is going to guide you to right action, in your future reimagined free of lockdowns your mind may have firmly decided in the past.

Even though we have learned millions of amazing things since we began, we still know very little about the largest questions, who are we, why are we here, and therefore we must bet our lives on some basic assumptions that are relevant to decision making day to day.

My baseline is that everything that has not been ruled out by science is possible. And so, my actions should be optimized for both an accidental material-only world versus a God World in which each of us is God, temporarily self-hypnotized for the zest of the game.

But beyond actions, one also has feelings, and feelings inside of us should also be optimized. If we merely go through life deferring the question of what the whole universe is, we are avoiding one of the most important aspects of being alive, and merely closeting the wonder and awe we were born with.

Aesthetically, I am betting on the God Universe. Pragmatically that also allows me to experience hunches and inspirations and spiritual feelings for all things and beings, which I find to be all very positive feeling experiences.

Since we cannot know definitively, the game is set up that way, we can either bet one way or another or can optimize for all worldviews simultaneously. But we cannot walk around the question of what we feel the universe is. It’s a key part of the journey. From that will come the wellspring of inspiration that will show you your new high road in life.

All my best, Bill

PS – Chapter 12 of MIND MAGIC provides more specific recommendations on how to reopen your mind to the expanded worldview possibilities of consciousness itself, which John Wheeler and other eminent quantum physicists have validated as consistent with quantum theory.

Don’t Fight Yourself

You may not realize it but sometimes you fight yourself. You are desirous of one type of outcome but your actions force you to the opposite outcome.

This is caused by mental-emotional processes that are built in.

How do you know when you are doing this to yourself?

One sure sign is negativity.

Negative emotions are a dead giveaway that you are fighting yourself. You want something very badly and your actions are going to work towards denying you that outcome.

The negativity is impossible to fully hide even if you are a great actor. And when the other person senses your negativity, they are less likely to be persuaded by whatever you say.

Negativity lowers your effectiveness. You are picturing yourself failing and that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is one sense in which negative emotions are a useful tool. Like an alarm clock, they wake you up to a problem needing to be addressed. Just like an alarm clock, to be at your best and most effective, you turn off the alarm before doing anything else.

However, most people find it is virtually impossible to turn off their negative emotions.

Chapter 11 of MIND MAGIC (free links during the pandemic) provides a battery of tools which can enable you to turn off negative emotions, while getting down to creative solution thinking, that will aid you in whatever your outcome quest happens to be at the time.

The first thing to do is to understand where and why you are experiencing negative emotions.

The easiest case is fear. It will be fairly easy to figure out what you are afraid of.

Anger is another type of negative emotion that is a little more difficult to diagnose in terms of the cause. But the secret is to ask yourself what you are afraid of losing or not getting that is making you mad. Anger is always the result of fear of loss of something you have or are trying to get.

Depression or disheartenment are the most difficult types of negative emotions to figure out the cause of. If you feel a dull vague sense of negative emotion it could take a while to determine the cause.

Your feelings might be hurt. You could be frustrated at how long some things are taking. It could simply be the aftereffects of a bad dream.

When it takes more than a couple of minutes to see the cause of your negative emotions, the best approach is to stop trying to figure it out, and to take a break from work, get into an alone space (outdoors in nature is the best), and just goof off. Yoga or meditation would be ideal if you do those things. Otherwise goofing off is a perfectly acceptable proxy. Goofing off is very close to meditation. The main point when you don’t know why you are sulking, is to stop trying to get through your TO-DO LIST. Goofing off is a wonderful cure, because it allows the subconscious mind to send you messages. Ones which would almost never get through while you are enmeshed in your TO-DO LIST.

Once you find out the cause, then a useful tool is drawing schematics of action options, circles with captions indicating what they represent, and arrows indicating what you are feeling the cause and effect relationships would be if you took those actions. Keep going until you feel that you have a plan and a sense of inner clarity.

There is much more useful technique in the chapter at the link above. Here’s a sample:

Transform worries into tasks

 

by distinguishing

the variables you can control

from the variables you cannot control;

 

then set out to control the former variables

and essentially ignore the latter variables.

 

Worrying is negative input

once you have identified the controllable variables

and have set yourself to controlling them.

 

Worrying under such conditions

implies that you should concern yourself

with phenomena beyond your control;

such concern is misplaced,

since you will always have quite enough to think about

as regards phenomena that are under your control.

 

That which is beyond your control

is not your responsibility;

 

whatever happens that is beyond your control

can only be accepted as necessary.

 

Wishing you alignment with yourself and the much-admired capability to keep on smiling through whatever life throws at you.

All my best,

Bill

Improving Personal Timing Is the Lowest Hanging Fruit

Created February 11, 2021

Sometime between 600 BC and 400 BC, Lao Tzu advised “In action, watch the timing”.

Sometime between age 4 and age 6, a showbiz celebrity advised me after seeing my act “Timing is everything”. During my teen years operating the spotlight for shows at Hotel Brickman I carefully observed how the greatest acts used timing. It was almost imperceptible. Later I read that science refers to micromomentary gestures as part of how we subliminally communicate with each other. Those little gestures are all wrapped up in timing too.

Jack Carter hit the mic twice with his ring before each punchline. Except when he went into Flow (he called it “being on”) which was most of the time he was on stage. I asked about the ring thing and he said it used to be his way of managing his timing and now it was just an old friend.

As a society, the left and right political classification scheme reflects different attitudes toward how quickly to move from good things we have already created, into new things that impassion their creators and could be even better things than the ones we have now. That is a timing issue.

Most of us wish the vaccines could move faster to our arms. Another kind of timing issue.

I’m actually referring to each of us as individuals and the way we use timing in our lives. Sometimes we move too fast – and then make mistakes and everything we were trying to speed up just got slowed down. Sometimes we move too slowly – such as after recognizing our own mistake – but every moment is different and there are only a small set of minimalist rules to help you regulate the speed you are attempting to go at, at the moment. These clues comprise Chapter 8 of MIND MAGIC – free during the pandemic.

The chapter starts with an exercise the reader performs in the moment while interacting with that page. The exercise brings on a different state of consciousness which most readers who write say they find intriguing and different from their normal introspective experiences.

“Act only when you decide

That the loss in value associated with delay

Is probably greater

Than the gain in value associated with thinking further

About the motives, possible consequences,

And alternatives to such action.

 

Start now.

Do not move any part of your body

From the position it is now in.

Regard any such movement

As an action to be evaluated prior to action.”

 

The chapter spends some time diagnosing why you may be rushing. Fear is usually involved but one is not conscious of the fear, but rather projects it as righteous duty and keeping agreements and not letting down the team or the CEO.

In all cases it pays to stop the clock and block out all distractions and focus on the stuff that’s got to get done, what the real priorities are, and reschedule a lot of it, then focus on the one lowest hanging most pressing fruit that will do the most good at the moment.

The chapter suggests that the voices and feelings which take us over and get us to rush out of subliminal fear, are actually AI remnants of the conditioning we received as we were growing up. “AI” is a metaphor of course, we are natural creatures, not artificial in that sense. But the robotical part of the mind which I associate with Ego as defined by Freud acts just like all those “helpful” popup suggestions on our screens and keeps us out of the Flow state.

You will only get into the Flow state if you can immerse yourself in one task at a time and do it for the enjoyment of doing it well. If you don’t get into the Flow state the work you will be giving your client or employer will not be at the genius level. Why do it then?

The same with what you give your loved ones and friends and people you meet. If you are going to be driven like a stampeding animal by remnant feelings and voices in your head, without becoming self-aware and the master of your self, the potential joy you could bring to those people will be sharply reduced.

If you happen to be in government, please stay there, we need you! Of all people you should know how to help yourself get into the zone.

I’m saying it’s possible for each of us to be geniuses. Artists. Philosophers, Renaissance People. We each have that potential within us and it isn’t miles away. It starts with a few simple rules and then you start to get your own inspirations.

It’s not only possible, it’s necessary. The human race is being severely challenged. It’s a special time. We must rise to the occasion, like WWII but more so. Back then you had to have a liberty garden and do the right thing to pitch in and win the war. Now you have to train yourself to be able to give your best 24/7.

Take the course. It’s free during the pandemic. If you don’t like it, you wasted 5 minutes. But I suspect you’ll spend more time with it and thank me.

We all need this. Let’s do it.

Best to all,

Bill