Tag Archives: personality

Subtler than our desires

In a previous article I mentioned that I am exploring and practising a method of contemplation which helps me to understand and direct my emotions. The key to that method is becoming aware of the needs and/or desires which come before our emotions1.

There is something that is even more subtle than our needs and desires and in yoga psychology they are called samskaras: they are the mental impressions that we have stored in our mind and they are at the root of our personality (and by extension, our actions). Up to a week ago I wasn’t able to use this concept to gain understandings of my personality, but this changed when it suddenly ‘clicked’ after a recent training2.

The most straightforward way in which I can explain this insight is by example. I remember an incident from when I was still in primary school, where I was standing on a bulky book so that I could grab something from a shelf. My teacher told me not do that and when I asked her why I shouldn’t, she said that books should be treated with respect. That answer didn’t make any sense to me, so I asked her why books have to be treated with respect. She told me that when she was young, she was taught by several people that books should be treated with respect because they contain knowledge.

The ‘dialogue’ I had with my teacher started from her

  • demand: don’t stand on that book; which was the result of her
  • belief: books should3 be respected; which was the result of her
  • samskara: she was told in her youth that books should be respected.

That dialogue I had with her is a dialogue we can have with ourselves. When we use the method of contemplation we can become aware of our feelings when we question what motivates our thoughts, and we can become aware of our needs when we question what motivates our feelings. To become aware of our samskaras however, it appears to be easier to question our (subtle) demands instead of directly questioning our needs4. Our demands are the strategies to meet our needs which are very closely related to our beliefs, which are in turn very closely related to the past experiences that we have stored in the mind.

Once we have brought our samskaras to our conscious awareness we can process them and examine their usefulness to us. I imagine that this can significantly increase our self-understanding and ease our self-transformation, but as this insight is new to me I will need to make experiments myself to verify this.


1: Two recent examples of how I used that method on myself: 1, 2.
2: This was a training on leadership and coaching, for which my employer had hired FPnP).
3: We can recognise our demands and beliefs from our musts/mustn’ts and shoulds/shouldn’ts.
4: This is because we all share the same needs. It is unlikely that we will find anything specific to us when we analyse what we all share in common.

中文版本稍後提供。
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The yoga psychology of the Twitter follower count

I read an article a few weeks ago with statistics on fake Twitter followers of Dutch politicians. It was a reminder to me that having followers on social media is generally considered to be an important thing, and served as an extra trigger for me to try and understand the psychology of having Twitter followers a little bit better.

The method that I use to understand such subjects is self-study1 through contemplation. In this case this started for me by observing my reactions to gaining and losing followers on Twitter. I found that whenever I gained a follower I had a sense of happiness, and whenever I lost one I felt a bit sad or annoyed. I also started noticing that thoughts of my Twitter follower were popping up in my mind more regularly during the day. I took this as an indication that underneath this ‘follower count’ there is something that is important to me.

I asked myself why I am having these feelings; more specifically, I asked myself what needs of mine are being fulfilled by gaining followers. The answer that my mind gave me was loud and clear: “Attention, recognition and approval.” This means that I was unconsciously seeking the attention, recognition and approval of others, and that I was interpreting being followed as being given attention to, being recognised and being approved.

I consider spirituality to be the process of making my happiness independent of other people or things outside of me. This is what I consider to be the practice of non-attachment2. I therefore always remind myself of the following: whatever I seek outside of me is something that I am not finding or giving to myself, and that will eventually lead me to misery.

I have noticed that only the realisation that I am seeking something outside of myself is not enough: as long as I have the perception that I am indeed finding what I seek, I am not able to change the behaviour of seeking that something outside of myself. I have already described one method of breaking this habit on this blog, which boils down to coming to the understanding that if somebody likes or dislikes someone/something, it has (almost) everything to do with that person and (almost) nothing with that someone/something. This understanding paves the way to self-fulfilling our needs.

In this specific case of Twitter followers however, it doesn’t even go to ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’. I have observed that quite a large number of people don’t follow others out of interest, but merely as a strategy to be followed back!

This whole idea of having Twitter followers has become almost entirely meaningless to me after this examination. It has left me with amazement at how our mind leads us to nonsensical behaviours when we seek to fulfill ourselves through external means.

1: ‘svadhyaya’ in the Yoga Sutras
2: ‘practice’ and ‘non-attachment’ lead to Self-realisation according to Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras

中文版本稍後提供。
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Identifying feelings 辨別感受

Part 1
Part 2 – This article

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of conducting a workshop for HYMT on the subject of going beyond judgements. To me this means moving out of the head and into the heart, away from certain kinds of thinking and into feeling. Both Elly and I were intrigued by the great difficulty that the participants of the workshop had in identifying feelings. This is a subject that I have also found very difficult and it took me a number of years (!) to find a pathway out of my head and into my heart. It is my hope that through this sharing of some insights that I have had on this topic, you will be able to find a pathway into the heart more easily than I was able to.

It has now been almost two years ago that I was in a very negative state of mind, full of frustration and depression. I was in this state when Wolfgang called me to come talk to him in Germany. In another article I will write more about this specific meeting with him, because the conversation we had was one of the highlights in my training so far. What is important for this article is that he often asked me how I was feeling, to go into my heart and to stop talking from my head because he had no interest in listening to that. Almost every time that I thought I was expressing my feelings, he was letting me know that I was stuck in my head. I was so confused and frustrated by my inability to understand what this heart-business was that I ended up just staring at him, not knowing what to say. I realised that I was clueless on this subject.

To come back to that workshop I mentioned, I asked the participants to answer the following question:

You have just done the dishes and somebody in your household tells you: “For God’s sake, you really don’t know how to do the dishes!” What do you suspect that that person is feeling?

Here are some examples of the answers I got:

  • That person feels that his way of doing dishes is different from mine.
  • That person feels that I didn’t do a good job.
  • That person feels that I am not paying attention to some small details, and that I could have paid attention to those details.
  • That person feels that I am not helping her.

I began to see in the participants signs of the same dumbstruckness that had come over me in my conversation with Wolfgang when I said of each and every answer that it is not a feeling. It can be seen from the expression that we use, whether we are talking from the head or from the heart.

Marshall Rosenberg actually gives a simple rule of thumb, which works extremely well in certain languages (like English and Dutch, but not necessarily in Mandarin Chinese), that you can use to determine this: whenever somebody says “I feel that …”, everything after that is either rational analysis, judgement, speculation or something else coming from that person’s head. What the person is probably meaning to say is something along the lines of “I think that …”, “I believe that …” or “I suspect or guess that …”

Feelings are expressed with simple words. Here are a few of many examples:

  • Happiness; I feel happy.
  • Joyfulness; I feel joyful.
  • Satisfaction; I feel satisfied.
  • Confidence; I feel confident.
  • Confusion; I feel confused.
  • Anger; I feel angry.
  • Frustration; I feel frustrated.
  • Sadness; I feel sad.
  • Insecurity; I feel insecure.
  • Discomfort; I feel uncomfortable
  • Fear; I feel afraid

The above list does not mean that something like “I feel watched” or “I feel judged” is an expression of a feeling. When you analyse the words watched and judged, you will find that it describes some action of somebody else. It is another way of saying “I feel that somebody is watching or judging me”.

I would suggest to use the explanations aboven in the following way. When you want to know your feeling about something, see whether what you are saying to yourself (or others) from the heart by checking it against the examples of feeling-expressions and the examples of thought-expressions above. If that is a thought-expression, try to formulate a feeling-expression. If you cannot name a feeling or emotion, simply try to see what word fits best. Is it sadness, happiness, joy, fear, etc. You will feel it when you come across the right one.

Part 1
Part 2 – 本文

我很高興上個星期天在台灣喜瑪拉雅瑜珈協會的每月講座上,分享如何超越批評。對我而言,超越批評意指離開理性,接受感性,遠離某種思考模式,進入感受。有件事讓我和Elly感到很好奇,那就是在場參加講座的人似乎都難以辨別他們的「感覺」。我自己也覺得這是個困難的議題,而我花了好幾年時間才找到遠離我的大腦理性,進入內心的感性世界的途徑。我希望透過分享個人觀察,你可以比我更容易找到前往內心感受的道路。

兩年多前,我處在一個相當負面的狀態下,充滿沮喪和憂鬱,就在這個時候沃夫岡撥了通電話給我,要我到德國和他談談。這段對話是我的訓練歷程中的最重要的一部分,在接下來的文章裡,我會分享有關這次會面的心得。重要的是,當時他經常問我,我的感覺如何,他要我進入內心,停止和大腦對話,因為他對於大腦的話一點興趣也沒有。每次我都以為自己表達的是感覺,但他告訴我,我在大腦中停滯不前。我對自己無法理解他所謂的「進入內心」感到既困惑又挫折,結果只好瞪著沃夫岡,不知道該說什麼才好。那個時候我才意識到,我對內心感受一點也不了解。

再回到每月講座,我請在場的聽眾試著回答以下問題:

你剛洗完碗,而你的某個家人對你說:「天啊,你真的不知道怎麼洗碗!」你猜想說這句話的人可能有什麼感覺?

以下是幾個聽眾所提供的回答:

  • 那個人覺得他洗碗的方法和我的不一樣.
  • 那個人覺得我做得不好
  • 那個人覺得我忽略了我應該注意到的小細節
  • 那個人覺得我沒有幫上忙

當我告訴他們,這些都不是感覺時,我開始在聽眾臉上看到和我在與沃夫岡的對話中浮現的茫然。光是從我們所用的言語表達,就可以知道我們是所說的話,是從大腦或從內心而來。

事實上,Marshall Rosenberg提供了一個很簡單的原則。這個原則在某些語言裡很有用,如英文和荷蘭文,但不見得對中文有用。你可以用這個原則來判斷:當一個人說:「我感覺…」在「我感覺」之後出現的話,常是理性的分析、論斷、猜測或某些來自大腦理性的敍述。這個人可能真正要語的是:「我想…」、「我相信…」、「我猜…」 。

感覺可以用簡單的字眼來表達,以下是幾個例子:

  • 快樂:我感到快樂
  • 愉悅:我感到愉快
  • 滿足:我感到滿足.
  • 自信:我感到自信
  • 困惑:我感到困惑
  • 生氣:我感到生氣
  • 傷心:我感到傷心
  • 不安全感:我感到不安
  • 不舒適:我感到不適
  • 恐懼:我感到害怕

以上的例子並不包含如「我感到被監視」或者「我感到被批評」等表達方式。當你分析如「被監視」和「被批評」這些字眼,你會發現,它們描述的是他人的行為,那是另一種表達「我感覺某個人正在監視或批評我」的方式。

我建議大家可以如此運用上述的解釋。當你想了解自己對於某件事情的感受時,你可以對照前面所提到的「感覺表達語」和「思維表達語」,以檢視自己(或他人)所說的話是否出自內心。如果那是個「思維表達語」,那麼請你試著說出你的「感覺表達語」。如果你說不出你的感受或情緒,試著找找看最接近的感受是什麼,是傷心、快樂、喜悅或恐懼?一旦你找到最貼切的感受時,你將可以感覺到它。

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Understanding your personality 了解你的人格特質

Part 1 – This article
Part 2

In the last couple of days I have been confronted with a number of situations that have stirred up some powerful emotions in me. It is interesting that this is happening at a time that I have started to understand a practical and useful approach to dealing with emotions and have silently resolved within myself to practice that approach. Some words of wisdom of my father will help explain this apparent coincidence: He says

When you resolve to obtain a driver’s license, you will be faced with the driving test.”

The peculiar part is that approach that I have started to realise is mentioned in one way or the other in both of the materials that I am studying at the moment, namely Marshall Rosenberg‘s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and a compilation of some of Swami Rama’s commentary on chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras into a book called Sadhana: the Path to Enlightenment.

I would express my understanding of the ‘aim’ of the approach as a method that helps you to at the one hand gain an insight into a basic level of your being that lies beneath your emotions and on the other hand to gain the ability to direct your emotions, thoughts and actions when confronted with strong emotions. To quote from Swami Rama’s compiled commentary:

“Even though you may be a highly cultured and intelligent person, one emotion can come and make you behave irrationally. For instance, you may lose your temper and behave in a totally unexpected manner (…)

The level of desire is deeper and more powerful than the emotional level. If you study your desires it is easy to understand your life and the different aspects of your personality.”

The important insight that underlies the approach is that underneath the realm of actions lies the realm of thoughts; and underneath the realm of thoughts lies the realm of emotions (feelings). When we go even deeper than the realm of emotions, we encounter the realm of needs and desires. Swami Rama mentions another layer which lies even deeper than desires, which is the layer of subtle impressions (samskaras) in the memory bank of the mind; I have not yet recognised an experience from that layer for myself, so I will not discuss that layer here.

Now the approach itself is quite simple. Start from the layer that you are aware of at a certain moment, observe what you are experiencing at that level without judgements, and then try to look at or ask yourself what activity is present at the layer underneath the level where you just were. Then continue from that level. In essence, this is a practice of self-dialogue or contemplation.

I want to illustrate this method through an experience I had over a year ago. Once on a quiet Saturday morning I was walking home, coming back from doing groceries. I was waiting at the final traffic light before my house, where an elderly gentlemen and his wife were also waiting to cross the road. While we were waiting there an ambulance came racing by with its sirens on. There seemed to be a big emergency because the ambulance made a sudden right turn and crossed a sidewalk to end up in the street where it needed to be. The gentlemen standing next to me was suddenly getting angry and he started saying to his wife, “What kind of dangerous and reckless driving is this?! This should be made illegal!” and so on.

In the meantime I was getting very annoyed and angry myself, because I couldn’t really understand why the man would feel the need to complain about something that seemed so obvious to me. I soon became aware of how tense I had made my body. Experiencing that tension with curiosity, I quickly became aware of my thoughts. I was thinking things like “Oh my God! What an idiot! How can he be so dumb not to understand this?!” I was not judging these thoughts, I simply saw the thoughts passing through me. I then saw through them and realised they were thoughts coming from anger. My anger was leading me to mental complaints. When I stopped going with the anger and simply started feeling and observing it, I asked myself, “Wait a minute. Why am I getting angry? What am I trying to achieve?” I got one of the most shocking answers of my life. I answered myself with, “I want to feel better than that person. When I complain about him, I feel better about myself.”

After receiving that answer, the whole chain stopped by itself. No more feelings of anger, no more angry thoughts and no more tension in the body. Since that day I do not complain as much anymore, because I gained a simple insight into that part of myself from which those thoughts are coming and that there is another way to nurture that part.

Part 1 – 本文
Part 2

過去幾天裡,我碰上一些使我產生強烈情緒反應的狀況。有趣的是,就在我開始對於處理情緒的實際有效的方法有所理解,也在心裡暗自下定決心要好好練習這個方法的時候,這些狀況就出現了。我父親曾說過一段很富含智慧的話,可以用來解釋這樣的巧合,他說:

「當你下定決心要拿到駕駛執照時,你就會面臨駕照考試。」

有趣的是,在我目前所學習的Marshall Rosenberg的非暴力溝通課程以及一本集結拉瑪大師針對《瑜珈經》第二章的講解《修行:開悟之路》當中,都提到這個我開始有所認識的方法。。

我對這個方法的「目標」的理解是,它一方面幫助你深入觀察那隱藏在情緒之下的個人存在的基本層面,另一方面幫助你在面臨強烈情緒反應時,能夠導引自己的情緒、思考和行動。拉瑪大師在《修行:開悟之路》中說:

「即使你是一個非常有教養、非常聰明的人,有時候情緒一來,它能使你表現得毫無理性。例如,你可能大發脾氣,做出意料之外的行為…」

「慾望的層次要比情緒層次來得更深、更強大。如果你能夠深入探討自己的慾望,那麼你將更容易了解自己的人生和人格特質的不同層面。」

這個方法的重點在於,在行動之下,隱藏著思想;在思想之下,隱藏著情緒(感覺)。當我們更深入探討情緒時,我們會發現需求和渴望。拉瑪大師提到一個比慾望更深的層次,那就是心智的記憶儲存庫中,那些細微的印記(samskara)。我還沒有碰過來自那個層次的經驗,所以在這裡我就不討論它。

我所說的這個方法其實很簡單。從你在某一刻所覺知的層次開始,不帶論斷地觀察在那個層次所經歷的一切,然後試著觀看或問問自己,你之前所在的那個層次之下,有什麼樣的活動正進行著,接著再從這一層次繼續觀察。基本上,這是一個自我對話或沈思的練習。

讓我舉個例子來說明。有一個安靜的星期六早晨,我剛買完東西,走在回家的路上。在我家附近的路口,我等著紅綠燈,此時有一位老先生和他的妻子也一起等著。就在我們等待的時候,有一輛救護車警笛大響地急駛而過。我想狀況可能十分緊急,只見救護車突然往右轉,開上人行道去。這位站在我旁邊的老先生突然變得很生氣,對他的妻子說:「怎麼有人開車這麼危險,這麼不小心!這應該是違法的!

聽到這段話,我自己也感到很生氣,因為我不了解,這位老先生為什麼無法理解在我眼中很明顯的事情。我很快地意識到我的身體突然變得緊繃。我好奇地觀察這份緊繃感,很快地察覺到我的思緒。我正想著:「天啊!真是個笨蛋!怎麼能這麼笨,連這都不懂?」我並沒有針對這些思緒做任何評斷。我看著它們,了解到這些思緒是來自於憤怒。我的憤怒引發內心的抱怨。當我停止隨著憤怒起舞,轉而經歷、觀察這份情緒時,我問自己:「等等,我為什麼要生氣呢?我到底想做什麼呢?」此時我得到人生中最叫人震驚的答案之一。我回答自己道:「我想要感到比這個人優越。當我抱怨這個人的時候,我覺得自己比他優越。」

在獲得這個答案後,這整個事件停止了。我不再感到生氣,不再有憤怒的情緒,身體不再緊繃。從那天起,我不再那麼常抱怨,因為我觀察到內心情緒的起源,並了解到我可以運用另一種方式培養它。

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