This is CHAPTER ONE of all of the Simple Reality Trilogy books. It is is a synopsis of the fundamental principles that when understood and applied are transformational. Everything needed to begin the process that we could call a paradigm shift is contained in this chapter, including the blueprint on how to build a new lifestyle and the tools with which to do it. Subsequent chapters will deepen your understanding of the principles of Simple Reality, fleshing out the details that will support your new worldview, identity and behavior.
This information can be characterized in three ways. First, as a prescription for a suffering humanity, secondly, as a synthesis of wisdom available since the beginning of time—that is to say human intuition as it has expressed itself over several millennia—or, third, it can simply be taken as a description of two realities. The common reality (life as usual), is the choice most of us have made. I label it paradigm B or P-B. It forms the basis of the global culture as we know it today. The other option is Simple Reality, which I have labeled paradigm A or P-A. It is known only to a relatively small number of people. Yes I did say “option” because every moment of every day all of us choose which reality we want to create and then we experience the consequences of that choice. Our experience tells us that it is possible for an individual or a group of people in an organization or even a nation to choose self-destructive behavior. In fact, it is today the dominant human behavior by far. But if the alternative is unknown to most people, it is easier to understand why most of humanity has chosen to create an unsustainable future instead of a sustainable one.
Once again, how effectively human communities or individuals function depends upon how well they understand reality. Given that the way humanity as a whole is living today is unsustainable, we must not have a very deep understanding of what reality is. This is very sad because the principles underlying P-A are not difficult to understand. What humanity needs is a more pragmatic approach to problem solving and less self-destructive behavior patterns. What humanity needs is a grasp of Simple Reality.
In a culture that values complexity, how do I expect anyone to believe that reality can be simple? Fortunately, we have a lot of support going back thousands of years that will help paint a vivid and compelling picture of a reality that is simple to create. Ironically, the major obstacles to our consideration of an alternative reality will include what we think we know and our ingrained conditioned behavior or “old habits” of both thinking and behaving. Simplicity itself has become a casualty of the human condition.
Much of what we think we know about reality is contained in our institutions and intellectual disciplines such as government, education, science, philosophy, psychology, and religion. Since most of us can agree that we have developed an unsustainable global village culture, we must admit that our institutions and knowledge have failed us. They have failed to give a profound response to what I call the Three Great Questions: Where am I? Who am I? and Why am I here? Human cultures were created out of a common human desire to give meaning to life, to answer the universal human questions. We will see why that didn’t happen in this book.
A second major obstacle to understanding and creating Simple Reality has been language itself. As you will see in Simple Reality, we will not use the complex, metaphorical and ambiguous language often found in each of the aforementioned institutions and disciplines in order to understand, articulate, and practice Simple Reality. We will use a secular (not religious) language which is inclusive. We will use a simple psychological (not Freudian) language that is commonly understood. We will not use the technical and esoteric language of science because we are working at a more profound level beyond the scope of that discipline. And we will ignore the language of philosophy which, although intellectually challenging and enjoyable for many of us, has little relevance for Simple Reality. Simple Reality is profound, not complex.
Philosophers love to discuss how many angels can occupy the head of a pin? None! There are no angels. If you are unwilling to be your own angel—you are out of luck.
In the process of evolution, humanity has garnered a lot of knowledge and now it is time to become discriminating as to how to use that knowledge. We must learn to distinguish between what is useful in creating a sustainable future and what is not, between what works and what does not work. We may be amazed how little knowledge is actually needed to improve the human condition on planet earth.
And finally (if your teeth have not yet been rattled, this will do it), we must learn to rely on our intuition, not our intellect. The intellect is very useful but it must be subordinated to our own inner wisdom. We have been navigating using our intellectual charts for some time now, but we have hit an iceberg and we are sinking. It is time to change vessels to one that is seaworthy—to one that provides peace, freedom, joy, compassion and happiness to all human adventurers seeking profound answers to the Three Great Questions. It is time that we all shifted to the transcendent Good Ship Simple Reality. But of course, you may choose to stay on the Not So Good Ship Global Titanic—that’s up to you.
Let us return to the importance of language again because we will be learning some critical words with very specific meanings as we look at both P-B and P-A. It is important that you use the connotation I assign regardless of what you previously understood the word to mean. I give words a very specific meaning within the context of P-B or P-A and those definitions will become increasingly clear as we use them. For example, what does paradigm mean? I use paradigm, worldview, story, narrative and context as synonyms which mean an individual’s or a collective’s feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and values. In other words your worldview would be your response to the question: Where am I? or an alternative form of that question such as: What is the nature of reality?
The Story of Self-Destruction (Paradigm B)
As “modern” human beings, we pride ourselves on being able to solve problems when in reality we cannot even distinguish problems from symptoms. Because of this we waste our energy chasing our tails—creating policies that only make matters worse—and which obscure the very reality that would illuminate a sustainable future.
For example, the so-called “war on drugs” in the United States assumes that the producers, transporters or distributors of drugs are the problem. The solutions then would seem to be eradication, interdiction and criminalization. We often support totalitarian governments and pay them to seek out and destroy the relevant crops and sometimes the farmers and villagers as well. We chase speedboats and airplanes and try to detect balloons full of cocaine in the stomachs of human “mules”. We impose prison sentences on both distributors and users sometimes with overtones of racial or socio-economic prejudice.
Since the “supply” side is only a symptom of the real problem, none of the aforementioned solutions work. We have failed to see reality. The “demand” on the part of Americans is the place to start looking for the real problem. A good question to ask would be: Why do so many Americans want to engage in self-destructive behavior? The answer to this question would help us understand what the real problem is and to begin formulating effective policies for the “war on drugs.” Until then we will continue to go in circles wondering why we are so frustrated and confused and why our policies are so absurdly ineffective.
Simple Reality will answer the question above and all others that must be realistically addressed if we are to avoid the deepening insanity that has become “life as usual” for the people of the global village.
We have the choice to create for ourselves a radically different future than the one we have chosen. If we don’t change our behavior we are faced with a modern version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. We all have our own description of the perfect storm building on the horizon. We fear global warming, over-population, pandemics, environmental degradation, nuclear winter, domestic violence, terrorists, organized crime, economic collapse and on and on. Again, all of these events, if they occur, will be merely symptomatic of unconscious choices made by each of us in our everyday lives. Let’s see what those choices have been in more detail.
First, as individuals, we are all born into an ongoing story. As we pull back for a moment to look at ourselves in the bigger picture, we can see that our story (our answer to the question: Where am I?) has determined our identity (Who am I?) and that our identity has driven our behavior (What should I do, now that I know where and who I am?). Each human being is actively engaged (mostly unconsciously) in answering The Three Great Questions as they live out their lives.
We can see how critically important it is to choose a profound paradigm because all of human experience flows from that choice. Remember, our story determines our identity which drives our behavior. A fundamental goal in shifting to P-A is to change our behavior. If we fail in that, we have merely been engaged in an intellectual exercise and we have already begun to understand what a waste of time that is. I am going to be repetitive throughout this book because we must internalize the fundamental principles of Simple Reality by repeating them until they replace those mistaken assumptions that we have grown used to. These principles are profound and critical to our process.
The Three Great Questions—chew these up and digest them:
- Where am I? (What is the nature of reality?)
- Who am I? (What is my identity?)
- Why am I here? (What is the meaning of life and how am I to behave?)
THE STORY THAT DOESN’T WORK (PARADIGM B)
Where am I?
In the P-B narrative we are taught to believe that we are distinct and separate from other human beings, and from the forms and “forces” of nature (our physical environment) and from God (if we are religious). This belief in separation causes us to fear other people, nature and God. We live in a constant state of existential anxiety. We do not feel safe in P-B and the only way out is to die, but alas we also fear death. In P-B we tend to live our lives in the past, experiencing shame and guilt for our past actions or in longing for an experience that is irretrievably gone. Or we live in the future, craving status, wealth or other illusory attainments, most of which won’t come to pass, and if they do, they don’t bring the satisfaction we had anticipated.
Fear of other people enables us to rationalize hatred and violence, fear of nature causes environmental destruction, and fear of God supports self-hatred and both physical and psychological self-destruction. We live in a shattered and fear-driven story and there is no way to make it work. We must find another one.
Who am I?
Because we have a fragmented narrative in P-B we also have a segmented identity. We identify with our physical body, our emotions and even the flow of thoughts in our mind as well as the forms in our physical world, including other people. We patch together a pseudo-identity. Let’s take a look beneath the surface of this dysfunctional human identity and see what makes it tick.
We are all born with three fundamental needs which we can label as security, sensation and power. Our very survival, beginning at birth, depends on how well these basic needs are provided for, therefore, each of us must create what is often called a survival strategy. The energy that drives most of our behavior flows from these three “energy centers” and they form the basis of our identity in P-B.
Interestingly enough, three American cities provide an analogy for each of these drives and will make it easier for us to remember the behavioral characteristics of each.
The Security Center—New York City and Wall Street
The basic belief behind the security energy center is that we can guarantee our security (which begins most fundamentally with obtaining food, clothing and shelter) and assuage our existential anxiety, by accumulating material things. This drive can never be satisfied no matter how big a pile of “stuff” we manage to collect. This part of our identity, combined with the context of P-B, has us believing that we must be very competitive to get our share of a limited amount of material wealth. Hence, we see other people or other nations as a threat and we project on them our deepest fears relating to our survival.
The Sensation Center—Las Vegas
This energy center is very complex since we are always seeking sensations, including esteem and affection, and “love” in its many forms. All human behaviors related to the problem of addiction are contained in the sensation energy center. Addictions fall into two categories—substance addictions and process addictions. Examples of each are alcoholism and gambling. The best we can do most of the time is escape from our suffering into our many addictive behaviors or into the illusion of love. Now I want to go watch a soap opera!
The Power Center—Washington D.C.
The behavior that is driven by this energy center involves trying to control people or situations, promoting our status in society, enhancing our self-image, increasing our influence, working to add to our list of accomplishments, approval seeking, and promoting others’ dependence on us. Of course, all three of the false-self energy centers are driven by fear. These fear reactions have been with us since before we climbed down from the trees and we continue to fear what we cannot control. And in truth we cannot control anything “out there” so we better give up the identity that needs to try to do that.
Why am I here?
In P-B no one has offered a profound or truly logical answer as to why we are here on this planet. The striving for security, sensations and power is ultimately unsatisfying and meaningless. We also seem to be outgrowing our religion-based myths and identities. Do we have to finish the story we started (P-B) even though the ending is too horrible to contemplate, or do we have another choice?
THE STORY THAT WORKS (PARADIGM A)
Where am I?
I want to repeat a question that we have already considered in the context of P-B. Is the paradigm that humanity has chosen sustainable? At this point we probably have almost universal agreement because most of us are coming to realize, however reluctant we are to think about it, that we cannot continue to behave as we are without creating greater and greater human suffering. Perhaps the reason that we don’t want to think about our unfolding collective reality is that we feel impotent when faced with the enormity of the problems. We are not. We are making one big mistake, however, and that is creating a reality with problems that will grow increasingly beyond our ability to solve. We are continuing to perpetuate a narrative that is literally suicidal. Is there any good news concerning our situation? Yes, indeed. We had the power to create this story and we have the power change it. May I offer P-A – a healthy, sustainable alternative to P-B. Please notice how simple P-A is compared to P-B.
The fundamental reality of P-A is Oneness. All of creation is inter-related and inter-dependent. All of those persons and events that seem to offend me are me. The “other” is an illusion found only in P-B, which is also an illusion. The natural environment that nourishes me and provides me with air to breathe and water to drink, and that nourishes my body, mind and soul—I am THAT. I am not only one with all creation, I am all of creation – I am THAT. In P-A, I no longer choose to live in the illusion of being separate from nature and other people, alienated from my true self.
Who Am I?
What is our true identity? We were all born with an interior wisdom, often referred to as the “still, small voice”, which will guide us, if we can hear it. We can hear our intuitive, inner wisdom only when we are in the present moment. The likelihood increases that we will be in the present moment when we practice these behaviors:
We can also refer to this interior self as the “true self.” It is what is referred to in the statement, “I am THAT.” Our true self is beyond the ego, the false self or any sense of a separate “I” or “me.” In the present moment, the true self is detached from craving and aversion and has no desire to have, know or do anything. It is profoundly free. Our true identity has no history, and no process of becoming, it simply is. Therefore, it can only be “felt” when all false-self pursuits cease. When we become present, we automatically have attained our true identity as we shall see in the next section.
Why Am I Here?
How does one move from P-B to P-A, what is the discipline, what is the “practice”? To answer these questions, let’s use an example of a common grievance among automobile drivers in the U.S.—being “cut off” in traffic. Notice how the context influences the interpretation of reality that I as the aggrieved person experience.
In P-B the offender may be unaware of what was done or may have intentionally, in anger, anxiety or frustration, moved abruptly in front of me. I, the “innocent victim,” at this point have been triggered and begin to react with an afflictive emotion, usually anger or fear. That emotion can then be prolonged and reinforced by a physical or verbal “reaction” or by beginning a story in my mind. At the point of reaction I have indeed become a victim, not of the offending driver but of my own choice, consciously or unconsciously choosing to remain in the conditioned environment of P-B.
What is important to understand is that the offending driver in the scenario above, regardless of his/her motivation, has nothing to do with my reaction and is totally powerless to affect the story I’m creating in my mind. By reacting, I have defaulted to the habitual realm of suffering, the self-created story of self-inflicted pain and self-destruction, which could last anywhere from a few minutes to years or even decades. Madness would not be too strong a term to characterize this behavior.
In 2006 on C-470, the southwest portion of the beltway encircling Denver, near where I live, a man in an act of road-rage “cut-off” two men that he felt had disrespected him and then braked in front of them. Swerving to avoid contact, the second driver rolled his car and he and his passenger were both killed. The unrepentant “victim” was given a long prison sentence. Such are the all-too common fruits of imagined insults and the resulting reactions in the world of P-B.
Now let’s take the same scenario used in the example above and substitute “response” for “reaction” at what I call “the point of power.” That moment is a point in time where I can breathe and choose not to react or unconsciously give in to the conditioning of my false-self survival strategy.
In my life, I can always choose to have control (power) over my reactions. The power and responsibility is all mine and “the point of power”—that moment where I claim my power or give it away—is where I choose to react or respond. Beginning where I have been triggered and have the awareness of what is happening, I choose to relax, breathe and not react. In other words I claim the power of choice and do not physically, emotionally or mentally perpetuate a reaction (an afflictive emotion). With practice, and I have ample opportunity to practice this every day, the afflictive energy will subside. Once the afflictive energy melts away, I feel compassion for all involved, including myself, and I also “feel” the freedom and joy of the present moment.
Just as we made a distinction between “reaction” and “response,” we can use the two words “emotion” and “feeling” to distinguish the sensations experienced in P-B and P-A. It’s important to realize that the experiences of P-B and P-A are mutually exclusive. When I am behaving unconsciously in P-B, I will experience the “afflictive emotions” resulting from my “reactions.” In P-A, I will experience the “feeling” of the present moment resulting from my ability to breathe, relax and “respond.”
When we fall prey to the illusion of P-B, we find ourselves in continuous resistance to what is happening. Nothing works or gives satisfaction or happiness in this paradigm. The underlying source of energy in P-B is fear. In our complex behavioral strategies to deny reality, we behave as sleepwalkers in a nightmare. Obviously the goal is to wake up—choosing to not react at the “point of power” over and over again, day in and day out—staying present to reality no matter what that reality is. This is the process of “shifting” from the doomed Global Titanic to the Good Ship Simple Reality. This is the practice of waking up and living in the present moment which is the only “time and place” that life occurs.
Living in Simple Reality (being present) effectively prevents any form of self-destructive behavior among people or towards the environment. In other words, P-A is a sustainable paradigm. We have been led to believe that entering the present moment is complex and difficult and takes time, when indeed it is simple and relatively easy and involves no time and no process beyond The Point of Power Practice.
Do we have the courage and desire to wake up, to surrender to the freedom, joy, happiness, compassion and serenity of the perfect Now?
Which reality makes sense to you: P-B or P-A?
It’s your choice. Climb into the lifeboat. You may not be able to see it clearly but through the fog only a short distance away is the Good Ship Simple Reality. I know because I’ve been there and so have you.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality Trilogy
by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I? Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here? Behavior – The Third Great Question