How do you see the world? We know what we think, but do we control how we perceive? Do we control what appears in our minds, as right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate—as reality?
This book is about the balance between thinking that is automatic, unconscious, programmed, and how much we have the potential to choose. The design is meant to tilt this balance in favor of more awareness, more flexibility, the compassion that comes from understanding, the peace that does not wait for the world to be different.
The central premise is that a lot of what seems like a person, a race’s, or humanity’s nature appears fixed because of psychological processes we never learn to observe and manage.
Everything we do, every problem we perceive and try to think our way through is a request to reality to get what we want. And, whether we recognize it or not, reality always responds. When we are stuck, when we fall short of what our thoughts and actions were supposed to achieve, this is feedback from reality that our calculations were incomplete.
We can review our tragic cycles as the evidence of human nature, as the gravity of our genes and the constraints they impose on the human experience. And yet, most of us have also experienced the beauty that makes us want more of life, which reminds us that change also leads to the heart, to joy, to peace, to miracles of kindness. If everything is possible, compassion as well as cruelty, how do we improve our chances of finding the world we want?
While we tend to blame luck, God, or other people, when the wrong thing happens, we find far more agency by reflecting on our methods, on whether it is easier for the world, or for us, to adapt. What we experience is not merely reality, but what it tells us about our way of living, how we perceive and try to solve problems, the secret causes behind the effects we experience in each moment.
The book is structured around six major themes: Reality, Society, Sources of Insight, Being Right, Identity, and the Orientation of our awareness. Each of these categories pertains to influences on how we perceive the world, external to our rational process.
Every theme follows an arc.
The Preludes highlight the theme of each section. Whereas the other writings may be more linear and logical, the Preludes are more informal and evocative, like rivers that wind this way and that, but whose ultimate destination is the inner sea.
The In The Background writings expose the layers of thinking in which we usually do not express choices. These are the patterns we default to regardless of how much wisdom, joy, or transcendental experience we have known. We cannot reliably apply our ideals if we do not see how unconscious thought patterns subvert those ideals. These sections will show that our expectations will continue to be unrealistic for as long as reflecting on our thought structure is not culturally supported.
Turning Points focus on ordinary situations and the opportunities within them to change our toxic patterns. The purpose here is to remind that each moment, each experience is a crossroads and that our circumstance does not have to define our experience or response.
Each section culminates in the Adapting category, with how we can apply perspective to flow and grow and adapt to whatever life brings.
Ultimately this book is not a list of facts to remember, of different truths to believe. It describes a relationship between our challenges and the layers of thinking we normally never reflect on. The goal is not truth but flexibility, a deeper sense of how we have stood in our own way.
Whether it is this book or a similar process elsewhere, you will not know how different it could be until you take the journey to see from outside the box, we had believed was the world.