Not with a bang, but with a yawn.

This post is a lightly-edited transcript of part of the recording of the Monday evening gathering of culture-nudgers. I’m sharing it because a lot of people are curious about the workings of the intentional community that I’m involved with, and I think this exploration of my own thought patterns provides an excellent window into our context. I also think that it can stand on its own as a powerful example of mental control… being able to step back and look at my thoughts as they arise. In some ways, this is Mindfulness Field Training 3. Read one and two.

Things you may need/want to know, for context:

  • There were about 7 of us at this meeting and we’d been there for 2 hours at this point.
  • A few of the others had just been talking about noticing how they’re relating to the garden, since the person who has often tended it is moving out soon.
  • We don’t have any rules that say anyone has to do the dishes, ever. In fact, we encourage people to only do dishes when they feel attracted to doing so.
  • I’m serious about the previous point. It’s not passive aggressive, and while the system isn’t totally perfect, it’s more functional than any other system I’ve ever seen (and I’ve lived in a lot of houses). And, it’s more complex than this.

The transcript

Malcolm, with a grin: I’m noticing a lot of shit come up around this.

Jean: Cool! As you would say—cool!

Heather: I like…that you can smile about that.

Jean: Ohhh, he’s been practicing!

Malcolm, still smiling: So, it was a little bit there with the dishes.

I mean I have recently realized I’m using many fewer dishes in my current state of things than I sometimes have been, and what’s my ultimate impact on the system? still not sure there is some defensiveness there, and the defensiveness clings to the rationalization—”Malcolm you didn’t really use any dishes; you had Boost for breakfast, you had Boost for supper, you just put peanut butter on a banana and you keep a separate peanut butter knife; you really contribute very few—don’t worry about it!”

So sure, there’s a level on which that’s accurate… and I don’t want to be thinking about it like that, or at least not with that defensiveness that’s there.

Then, similarly there’s this quality of thinking about the garden out front and watching this pattern show up; it’s got a bunch of different little phrases but it’s always just the same pattern: “you don’t have to care about this Malcolm you don’t – Malcolm – front garden – no no – ” and I was noticing in listening to those patterns come up, that I wasn’t feeling able to really move past them but I was able to at least just sort of like dismiss them. I mean “dismiss” in the sense of like a king dismissing his subjects like this pattern comes up it’s like “but sire!” and the king responds “you’re dismissed”.

So as I was saying, I’m not at this point—err, to be even excessively growth-mindsetty about it—five minutes ago I wasn’t able to move past those patterns into a place where I could really consider how I might relate to the garden. Like I was able to sort of like glimpse at it, but the patterns wouldn’t leave me alone for long enough to have a train of thought about it. But I was able to at least consciously do that—to consciously try, and get derailed, and come back and get derailed, and then sort of recognize that big picture and share it with a smile.

And you know… the pattern is still there: if I think about the garden the pattern is like “yeah fuck that!” Okay yup, thank you pattern. Eventually you will be quiet and then I will be able to actually think about the garden. And, at that point I retain the option of choosing to do nothing but while it’s just coming from a pattern I’m not really choosing at all—I’m just flinching.

That last part is really important because I think there’s this fear that’s been there…

…that if I silence the patterns I won’t be able to defend my own resources.

Jean: Mhmm! Yeah, yeah!

Malcolm: That I’ll be forced, even not necessarily coercively forced, but just that there will be a draw on my resources that I’m unable to stem, that I’m unable to manage. I think what’s really powerful—what I’ve been unconsciously realizing gradually, and what I’m just articulating and consciously realizing now—is that that is a totally unfounded assumption or indefensible assumption perhaps; it’s founded in lots of reasonable historical things, but I don’t need to cling to it anymore.

Heather: …that you won’t have enough resources…

Malcolm: …that I won’t be able to manage my resources without the defenses.

Jean: That is the core of what makes the difference; and trying to look at the dishes, or the garden, or anything without dismantling that will just repeat the past.

Malcolm: And part of it was recognizing that pattern wasn’t getting me anywhere, that it was leading to like kind of useless trains of thought. At the same time, seeing that pattern’s ability to protect my time is immense—

Jean: —it’s been necessary!

Malcolm: Yeah it’s been necessary and invaluable, and… I don’t hold that against it, I think. It’s a pattern that’s served its purpose and that’s okay… I saw a quotation recently to the effect of:

when you were young at one point you needed to do something to survive, and you did it again and again because it helped you survive and you needed it to survive. Now, you don’t need it, yet it persists as a pattern anyway. … but that pattern that was necessary for your survival will not be what’s able to set you free.

Jean: What got you here won’t get you there.

End transcript

You can’t not-think-of-a-white-bear. The thought patterns that you want to ditch won’t be vanquished by violent resistance—neurons don’t work that way. They will be vanquished by disinterest. In my experience, the most powerful way to relax the tension that makes it hard to let go of the patterns is by sharing it with someone else who won’t judge you for whatever it is. Then your brain learns that it’s not a big deal.

This is the way that old mindsets end. Not with a bang, but with a yawn.

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About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Complice, a system for achieving your important goals.

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