Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More on "Telling the Good Stories" in Response to Dylan Ratigan

This was what Dylan Ratigan had to post today: "Peeking Behind the Curtain" where he shares the latest on his work with J.R. Lewis in presenting the "Thousands of Stories of Hope..."

In my previous blog, I expanded on some of the ideas Dylan shared in his talk to TZM San Diego especially with regards to his idea that our life stories become the myths for those around us, maybe even for people we do not even know.  With the technology we now have available to communicate our stories, the telling of these stories can affect the broader population "asymmetrically" in a much more powerful way than we might be able to bring about change "linearly"; i.e. by "going door to door".

This is what I have to add to the consideration at this point.

First of all, I appreciate the fact that our brains naturally pay closer attention to negative and threatening information or stimulus, especially when it might relate to our physical harm. This is why the news broadcasters almost always focus on the Bad News - who shot whom, etc., etc.  They show it because that is what they are also trained to pay attention to and it is the same kind of information that keeps us paying attention to them and all of the commercials in between these (mostly) negative stories.  This is something that Paul K. Chappell and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman have pointed out in their work as well.

Just recently, I was listening to an NPR broadcast including an interview with neuroscientist Dr. Mark Waldman. In my follow-up research I came across this TEDxConejo talk he presented in March 2010. In this talk, Dr. Waldman also points to how the brain responds much more strongly to threats and even the simple word "No", for instance, as compared to the word "Yes." It's simple: Our brains naturally respond more strongly to any information that pertains to survival.  Furthermore, as Dr. Waldman explains, and what many spiritual masters before him have also communicated: We Become What We Meditate On. The very neurons of various parts of the brain will restructure themselves according to the thoughts and feelings we focus our attention on most often. And since our natural tendency is to focus on Negative input and Negative emotions and Negative thoughts, then we have to work extra hard to give our attention to positive input, positive emotions, and positive thoughts if we are going to be able to counter those natural tendencies.

Consequently, as Dr. Waldman explains, if you have a relatively positive concept of "God", no matter what any of your other religious beliefs might be, and if you "meditate on" that idea of "God" consistently, then it will have the same positive effect on your brain as it will on anyone else's who meditates in much the same way that you do, but on their relatively positive concept of "God".  Apparently, the "big idea" of "God" has a very particular effect on the brain, just as other "big ideas" or concepts like "Love" and "Truth" might have on the brain.

Nevertheless, the main point is you have to work extra hard at focusing on the positive in order to counter the natural tendency to focus on the negative. In fact, according to what I heard from Dr. Waldman in his NPR interview, there needs to be at least a ratio of 3 to 1 of positive to negative, and better yet 5 or 7 to 1 in order to reverse the effects of negative focus.

I know that for some people this is all "old news", and the idea of "thinking positively" has become cliche'. But from what I'm seeing of Dr. Waldman's work, there's a lot more science to back-up the "hearsay" these days, and more specifics on exactly how it works and how to make it work most effectively.  Furthermore, I can certainly speak to my own life experiences, having grown up with the ever present fearful concerns of my paranoid schizophrenic mother, only to do a 180 degree turn away from that by the time I was 20 and she went into the mental hospital, and then taking on an even more deliberate contemplational/meditational practice in my early 30's. Although I do not meditate as intentionally now, I know my overall state of being, maybe as a result of the "restructuring of my brain" from my meditational practice, is, on the whole, pretty positive, and focused on the positive, most of the time. And, most people who are around me for very long pick up on that as well.

You may be wondering at this point: How does all of this tie-in with the work that Dylan Ratigan is now doing?

I've been thinking, for all of the negative stories that each of us might be exposed to through the media each day, we might make progress restructuring our "cultural brain" by making sure we've got at least Five to Seven Positive Stories to counter and eventually reverse the effects of each of the negative ones.  And it seems Dylan's mailbox is full to overflowing with those positive stories.  Furthermore, once other well-intentioned communicators like him start to catch on to this basic strategy for asymmetrically changing the way people think and behave in the world, we could see the media filling with positive stories A LOT MORE positive stories to the point where the negative one's are no longer the one's that are shaping our concepts of ourselves or the possibilities for humanity and this world that we inhabit.

The more I think about it, the more I am also seeing that there are organizations who have already been doing that - TED is definitely one of those. Nevertheless, there is also a very personal and individual responsibility that each of us has to more consciously and intentionally decide on where we choose to focus our attention, even with respect to the thoughts and feelings that are constantly playing in our minds and hearts.

As Dr. Waldman shows in his talk, each of us needs to tap into the "Big Idea" of our own lives and learn to spend more time meditating on that and letting our brains be shaped by that "Big Idea" whatever it may be.

So...what's your "Big Idea"? What's Your Story? What is the Myth that You living out for those around you and for the world? And, finally, what can you do to make it the Very Best Story it can possibly be?

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