Episode 105 of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz features the audio of a talk I did back in 2008 (you can watch the original here) called “The Power of Mind: An Introduction to Emergent Thinking.”
For many of us, the way we envision reality operating and the ways of thinking that result remain mired in Newton’s reductionist and mechanistic model. From this fragmented paradigm, wholeness is ruptured and incoherence results.
I posit that this worldview results in the epidemic of anxiety and depression we’re currently experiencing. In this talk, which features concepts and ideas I further explore in my book The Possibility Principle, I introduce Emergent Thinking, which integrates the lessons of quantum physics and other remarkable discoveries into practical everyday methods for living more purposeful and self-empowered lives.
Are you ready to embrace uncertainty and follow a new game plan for life? Listen! And be sure to leave a comment!
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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #105
Hello everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.
I experienced a very, very profound epiphany, perhaps about 18 years ago. At that time, I was going through a divorce. My children were young and it was a beautiful spring weekend and my boys were with their mother that weekend and I went out for a bike ride, thinking I was going to have a delightful day by myself, nice and relaxed.
A few miles into that ride, I started to feel my heart race, my pulse quicken. I was having an anxiety attack. I’d never had one before, but it became clear to me that that’s what I was having. Every moment felt like an eternity. So I turned the bike around and started to head for home, not having any idea what relief that would give me when I got back home.
I walked into my house and I walked to the study, to the bookcase, and I rather without thought just pulled out a book, which was aptly called The Turning Point. And it was indeed the turning point in my life. The book was written by Fridroff Capra, a quantum physicist. The book was about a paradigm shift. A shift about how we look at reality based upon what the new sciences were telling us. Within a few pages, I became as settled, calm, and balanced as if I had taken a load of anti-anxiety medication except I was completely alert. I couldn’t put down the book. And that started me on a pathway which hasn’t ended till this moment.
I began to wonder as my life began to shift about what this all meant. I looked at these startling, amazing discoveries that science was presenting and I asked a
question. My question was, if this is all true, what does it mean to me in my life? What does it mean to me in my relationships and in my work? And from those moments, I decided to devote myself literally to a new way of seeing reality, but not on an academic or theoretical level. On the level of, how will this assist me? How will this benefit me in my life? And the journey has been amazing.
So since that time, I have immersed myself in that kind of reading and that kind of thinking. And it’s not really very heady stuff that I’m reading. When I come to the math and the formulas, I let it drop. I was not a science student in school. It was amongst my least favorite subjects. But I look at the concepts. And what I’ve done is I’ve looked at those concepts and I’ve integrated them into my life. And I literally feel the earth shifting when I do that. So over time, I began to introduce it into my therapy practice, whenever applicable.
And from time to time, I was getting really startling results. People making shifts, change, and in some cases, transformation rapidly. I then went further in my evolution and I decided to devote myself rather specifically to that kind of work. And I founded a term. I put two words together and those words were emergent thinking. And I founded what were called the emergent thinking groups, which I’ve been facilitating for some years and that’s now evolved into the emergent thinking class. Emergent thinking really simply put is a process by which we impact and access change on deeper, much more fundamental levels so that we’re not dealing with simply changing symptoms in our lives, but really getting underneath it. The groundswell that you feel when you extract change and you access change from deeper levels is remarkable.
But let’s look at the word change. What do we mean by change? Who amongst us hasn’t struggled at some time with creating change in our lives? It’s a human experience. We keep running into the same wall. We keep getting stuck in the same place. Yet change is ever present. In fact, there used to be an expression which was change is the only constant in the universe. But then I came to understand that that’s not quite true because change suggests sometimes there’s an absence of change and science reveals that there is no absence of change. Reality really is about a perpetual inexorable flow, which just keeps moving. We look at the political season and we hear the candidates all trying to take the position of they’re the agent of change, but nobody’s sharing or defining what they mean by change. One candidate’s talking about changing policy in DC. Another candidate is talking about change because their spectrum, the way they look at reality is different.
Change for me in my work is about mindful change. It’s about change of substance. We hear lots of pundits, lots of programs, lots of speakers, movies and books about change. There are expressions like change your thoughts, change your life. And at the core, that has great value and great validity. The problem is they don’t sufficiently teach you how to affect that change. So people get pumped up and excited and they go to the seminars and get very inspired, motivated, thinking they’re going to create change in their lives. And some do. But regrettably, too often it doesn’t happen or it’s not sustained. And the difficulty with that, again, is that nobody is really teaching how to create that change.
My work is now devoted to that process, how to create change. My understanding now of the reality of science coming to us from quantum physics and complexity theory is that the universe, of which we’re a part, somehow we tend to think of the universe as being out there, separate from us. But the universe, which again includes us, is in a pure state of potential. I’m going to in a little while further explain that and describe that to you.
But in this pure state of potential, we can learn to access that potentiality in any moment, in any nanosecond of our lives. That’s what I’ve experienced. And that’s what many people who have worked in this process have experienced.
So this evening, in the talk about the power of mind, what I’m going to be sharing is a new model of mind in which I will be explaining to you what that model is and how we can look at change and transformation on deeper levels. Mind typically means many things to many people. To some people, mind is my brain, my biochemistry. Typically when people are anxious or struggling or suffering with depression or anxiety, they relate it to the biochemistry of their mind. Many years ago, I had a thought, what happens if we continue to replicate ad nauseum, in a very habitual way, the same negative thoughts or the same measuring, judgmental thoughts? Couldn’t that alter our brain chemistry? And indeed, neuroscience is really proving that right now. And the Dalai Lama has been very instrumental in that work too. So in other words, we turn the model of the mind around, whereby our experience in life is not just informed by the biochemistry, but it’s our thoughts which are impacting that biochemistry. So they really form a loop. And in that loop, a way through the struggle, through the obstacles and the walls that we keep running into, is to learn to really become the master of our thoughts, our feelings, our life experience, not in the mechanical way, but in the way that is authentic. And we no longer become enslaved to those thoughts.
Here is the model of the mind that I’m working from. Now, most people work with change based upon the top of the triangle. We’re told to change our thoughts, change our feelings, change our life experience. Sometimes, somebody might inquire as to what are your beliefs which are informing those experiences. But it would be very rare indeed to have somebody ask you, what’s your worldview? What is a worldview? Many years ago, we used the word paradigm, which has now been replaced by the word worldview. A worldview essentially is, how do we see reality? What is that reality informing us? Now my belief is that worldview is at the core of how we experience life. And the worldview filters up and informs our belief system. And our belief system, of course, informs our thoughts, our feelings, and our life experience.
I’ll describe a couple of worldviews so we can get a feel for that for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term. Before the age of reason, logic, and enlightenment, the prevailing worldview was a very magical, mystical worldview, full of superstition, in which everything was connected with everything else and there was a lot of magic. That worldview prevailed and existed for quite some time, until the age of reason, and in particular the work of the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Now Newton gave us a worldview which was rather like a machine. It was called the mechanistic worldview.
Let’s talk about Newton’s worldview, which, although 17th century science still informs most of us today. Newton’s worldview is that the universe is comprised of separate things and objects. It’s a world of things, and they’re separate from one another. And only cause and effect, or force, between them impacts one another. That’s a worldview known as determinism, which is rooted in predictability, and it’s deterministic. It has a great impact in our lives. We live in that worldview of certainty and determinism. People who struggle with control issues, with anxiety, are very much impacted by that worldview. Why?
Well, one, we need to know what’s going to happen in the future. And ironically, when we need to know what’s going to happen in the future, we’re not actually present. We’re not actually here. Determinability is about the relentless, inexorable tendency to fragment, to divide up, to analyze, and to judge, which is rooted in Newton’s worldview, because the more you can analyze in that worldview, the more you can predict future events. The problem with Newton’s worldview is, one, it leaves us as a cog in the machine. No meaning, no purpose. Essentially, that’s what existential struggle and despair is. How good could life be if we’re a cog in the machine? And all the universe is a machine, rooted in predictability and in certainty. Those gears of the machine really get us stuck inside that groove of that machine. Let’s take a look at some of the impacts of certainty.
Let’s look at relationships. Newton’s worldview is antithetical to having successful, joyful relationships, because it’s rooted in certainty and predictability. Look what happens when two people meet and fall in love, or two friends meet and engage one another. There’s a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know what’s going to be happening moment to moment. There’s a lot of discovery and connectivity. But over time, when you can predict what the other’s sentence will finish as, when your habits become so clear and focused and predictable, the joy, the vibrancy, the vitality is taken out of the relationship.
Oscar Wilde said, uncertainty is the essence of romance, which makes perfect sense, because when you first experience romance, there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of discovery. We’re really, really present.
Let’s take a look at some of the other major malaises that this worldview puts us into. By the way, I can’t emphasize strongly enough that Newton’s worldview literally puts a straitjacket on us. It disconnects us and disenchants us from what really is a magical, inseparable, wondrous universe, which I’ll be describing shortly, and we’ll move into the benefits of that new worldview. I believe that most of the malaise and most of the struggle that we engage in our lives is due to that worldview. I believe that emotional and psychological issues are rooted in that worldview, and relationship issues.
Let’s take a look at depression. Literally, as a culture, we’re experiencing an epidemic of anxiety and depression. Everybody’s really busy running around treating the epidemic of anxiety and depression. I don’t hear anyone asking, why? Why are we having this epidemic? If you put anxiety and depression together, it’s likely that perhaps 50% of the American population at some time in their lives will experience anxiety and or depression. 50%. So in other words, what we’re calling a dysfunction is actually normal. So we are becoming the victims and we’re victimizing ourselves. It would make sense to step back and say, well, wait a minute. If one out of two of us are experiencing this, what’s going on here?
What’s going on here is we’re stuck in the gears of Newton’s world. Now, Newton’s world again suggests that we are all separate from one another. One of the core experiences and flavors of depression is a feeling of being separate. It’s what the despair comes from. Now, anxiety and depression can very well be informed from personal trauma from childhood and other times in your lives. And I’m not excluding or precluding that. But the prevailing worldview of Newton, which then becomes rooted in overconsumption, because without meaning and purpose, what do we do? We consume more, which doesn’t give us meaning and it doesn’t give us purpose. But ultimately what it does do is it tends to lead us toward anxiety and depression.
Let’s go back and consider anxiety for a moment. In Newton’s worldview, analyzing and measuring is of enormous value. It’s a major tenant. It’s how we train students in school. That’s how we look at reality. What happens for many people is they get lost in the measuring and in the judging. People who struggle with anxiety become the measurement. They become the analysis. They can’t let go of it. Again, rooted in Newton’s worldview. After all, all measurement is made up. It isn’t real. But we create measurement to order our lives. And in so doing, we lose our souls. We lose our humanity. And we lose our connection to one another.
I don’t mean to suggest that some good things didn’t come out of Newton’s work. He was not a preeminent genius. He certainly was. The universe, or our picture of the universe, began to change remarkably. Around 1920, Heisenberg discovered that when he went into the realm of the very small, microphysics, quantum physics, he discovered that amazingly you could not know the location and the momentum of a particle. At the same time. Because you had intruded into its world, you could only capture one aspect. Now this was revolutionary, startling, remarkable. Because we had believed in certainty and predictability. And yet when we moved into the micro-world, the very small world, we found out that you can’t. Heisenberg’s work gave us what was known as the uncertainty principle. That in fact, reality was mostly uncertain. And yet for us, in our culture, in our cog in the machine, we cling to certainty. We want to know for sure.
Picture sitting by the bank of a river. And imagine that that river is the flow of life. And I’m by the bank of the river with you, urging you, coaxing you, come on, let’s go into the river together. Let’s get into this flow of life.
And you reluctantly say, okay. And you move into the river, but there’s a big boulder in the middle. And you grab a hold of that boulder and you say, you know, I’m staying here. I’m saying, no, let’s go, let’s go. Let’s get into that flow. Let’s see where it takes us. And you look up ahead and there’s a bend around the river. And you say, but you know, I can’t see where it’s going around the bend. And I said, well, it’s uncertain. And that’s what we need to do, engage the uncertainty. No, no, no, I’m going to stay here. I need to know. That’s Newton’s mindset. And that’s Newton’s world.
So what happens when we’re in that mindset? We’re stuck in control, in predictability, and certainty. So one of the most important features of the revolution of quantum physics, one, is uncertainty. The second is probably the most astounding scientific exploration and conclusion ever done, and yet most of us know nothing about it. It was a great debate that was waged between Einstein on one hand and Niels Bohr on the other hand. The debate went like this, and I’m going to put this forward very simply. Particles of light are called photons, and photons come as pairs, as twins. The debate was, if we take the twins and we separate them by a great distance, let’s call that distance half a universe. If we change the spin or the rotation of one, what will happen to its partner? Both men agreed if you change the rotation of one, it will change the rotation of the other, because that’s the way the science works. But how long would it take? Einstein said, well, nothing travels faster than the speed of light, so it will send a signal to its twin. Niels Bohr said, no, no signal is necessary. None will be sent. The universe is inseparable. It will be instantaneous. Einstein literally flipped out around this. He made comments which are often quoted, like, God doesn’t play dice with the universe, or if this were true, I’d rather be a cobbler than a physicist. The debate goes on for decades, and the world of quantum physics is really divided into two separate camps. In 1962, a physicist named John Bell develops Bell’s theorem, intending to prove Einstein
right. In the early 1980s, the technology came forth to determine who was right. Einstein lost.
Every time this experiment has been replicated, Einstein loses, which means, as incomprehensible as it sounds, the universe is literally inseparable. But we don’t experience it that way. Why is that? We don’t experience it that way because our thought divides things up. It creates separations where separations didn’t exist. Then having created those separations, we come to think of the separations as real. For example, during the Millennium Celebration, I remember watching CNN and watching our planet as it turned on its axis, celebrating the birth of a new millennium. My thought was, hmm, for this 24 hours, we’re one planet. But when the celebration’s over, we go back into separate nations. Nations are a product of thought. Thought created nations. Thought creates all divisions.
Now, having created nations, nations are, of course, real, but it’s important to remember we made it up. Thought makes it up. So a lot of my work is devoted toward helping people understand how thought tricks us, how thought gets stuck in a groove. That would represent how thought gets stuck, literally, in a groove or in a rut. It’s suggested that 99% of our thought is old thought. It isn’t new. And the moment we have an old thought and attach to that old thought, the thought summons up old feelings. But they’re past feelings, so we might call them felts because they’re not new. So old thought brings up old felt. Now, if that’s what we’re experiencing 99% of the time, doesn’t that suggest that we’re not really here? We’re like the cog in the machine, going round and round and round, or we’re stuck in the groove.
Now, I’ve approached and developed a lot of ways that I think are successful in coming out of the groove, in coming out of that habituation. And quantum physics and complexity theory seem to pave the way. And I’m going to share a few of them this evening, hopefully just to provoke some new thoughts and new thinking about this. So thus far in the world of quantum physics, we have two great discoveries. One, the universe is uncertain, and I’m suggesting that’s good news. Because if it’s uncertain, we don’t need to be stuck in that groove. But if we believe in predictability and certainty, then we’re stuck right inside of that groove. There’s something in quantum physics known as the wave collapse, which sounds complex and it sounds counterintuitive, but I’m going to share a bit of it, and then we’re going to talk a bit about how we can utilize the wave collapse in our lives.
Light apparently has a dual capacity. Light exists either as a wave or as a particle. It has the potential to be both. When you’re not looking at it, it’s a wave. And the wave represents in quantum physics pure potentiality. It’s a pure state of potential, perhaps as we were at some point in our lives, or maybe even before we were born, before the imprint of life impacted us. But the moment, the very moment that you observe the wave, the wave literally collapses and it becomes a particle, particulate, fixed, a thing, an entity. That’s called wave collapse.
So I began to think about that, and I thought, we experience wave collapses in our lives. But again, prior to birth, or at early moments of birth, in mother’s womb, that our experience is closer to the state of potentiality. Our state of potential literally collapses because of certain experiences, some of them traumatic, some of them large and impactful, and some of them slight and nuanced. But for any particular reason, they become wave collapses. And when I’m working with people and we’re talking about identity issues, or a place where we struggle to make change, let alone transformation in our lives, people keep coming back to these primary experiences. And I ask, what can we call them? We can call them wave collapse.
They become self-fulfilling prophecies. What do we do about that? What’s the cure? How is this approach different than traditional psychoanalysis, which is looking at these issues? I introduce a new concept and a new term. And that term is superposition. Fancy term, but it’s very easy to deal with. Superposition is a pure state of potential. In the instant before you observe that wave, all that exists is potential. So I began to consider, in the nanosecond before I have my next thought, before I attach to my next thought, before I become my next thought, I too am in a pure state of potential. Now that potential keeps collapsing into the same reality if I keep having the same thoughts, and the same felts, and the same experience.
What happens if I can awaken? If I can really begin to envision that the universe, my life, my relationships, all of it, a pure potential, if the canvas in front of me is blank and it is my life and I’ve been handed the paintbrush and I can keep painting it as often as I want, there’s no limitation. It’s a pure state of potentiality. And in that potentiality, we can learn to see the thought and to literally choose whether we want to become the thought, because thought tricks us. It tricks us that it’s reporting in on the truth out there.
Again, coming out of Newton’s world, that world of objectivity. Understanding how our worldview impacts our beliefs is very, very important. Let’s look at a belief like it’s hard to change. I hear that literally once a week, several times a week. Come on, everyone knows it’s hard to change. What do you think informs that belief? Which worldview informs the belief it’s hard to change? Newton’s worldview or the worldview of a flowing, unfolding, emerging, participatory, inseparable universe?
You see, in Newton’s worldview, where the universe is comprised of things and we are things and those things only move or are impacted by force, by cause and effect, it is indeed hard to change. In the new worldview that I am introducing, it’s easy to change. All we have to do is change the picture, change the mindset, shift the worldview, and engage these states of superposition. Now in this new worldview, it doesn’t suggest that rational, logical thinking doesn’t have importance. It does. It just doesn’t rule as a deity. It doesn’t become a god which impoverishes our life experiences because being a cog in the machine indeed does just that.
It’s really important to ask ourselves what informs our beliefs. Giving a talk one evening, a man in the audience felt rather antagonistically inclined to something I was sharing. He got up and he asked a question. I can’t recall what it was. In that moment, I felt my ego rise up and react. I was about to take him on and show him he was wrong. I saw that thought and that reaction arising, so I paused. In the space came something that had never come before. I asked him, what informs your belief? Can you imagine how different our dialogues, our experiences with one another would be? Instead of banging back and forth and competing with our thoughts, we asked one another, what informs your belief? It’s so valuable.
Not just to ask one another, but to ask ourselves, what informs that belief? So the belief is hard to change. I would propose it is informed by Newton’s worldview. When we start to integrate and work with the new emerging worldview, it’s easy to change. We just have to learn to get out of our own way. Another facet of this new emerging worldview is that the universe is perpetually, constantly evolving. It doesn’t stop evolving. The good news again is we’re part of that universe. When we speak of the universe, there’s a problem with duality. We speak of the universe as being out there and we’re here, but we’re an inseparable part of that universe.
There was an article in the science section of The Times some months ago, which was about what is called the theory of everything and the laws of the universe, which really made me bristle. So I wrote a letter to the editor, which they did publish, and my comments were as follows. When we speak of laws of the universe, that’s anthropomorphizing. To anthropomorphize is to take human experience and project it onto the universe. Laws are human made. People make laws. Isn’t it presumptuous of us to think that the universe has laws? And then they spoke of the theory of everything, which science has been struggling to grab a hold of for quite some time, particularly physics. But you see, the theory of everything suggests that the universe doesn’t keep changing and shifting and evolving. So I would propose that there isn’t a theory of everything because we need to be able to come into the shift, into the evolving. When we begin to view our lives in a fully participatory way, in which we are the creators of our life experience, we are fully participating with that life experience, our experience
of life shifts. The state of superposition, the state of potential that I’m speaking to you about is the transformative quality that is so key in the model of mind.
I’d love to show you my appreciation for your subscribing to and rating this podcast by offering you a gift to one of the following, The Power of Mind, a live talk that I gave, or one of my digital eBooks, Creating Authentic Self-Esteem, Overcoming Anxiety, or Raising Resilient Children, and lastly, Cultivating Resilient Relationships. Once you have subscribed, please send an email to mel at melschwartz.com and just let me know which gift you’d prefer. Thanks.
So again, the model of mind for transformation that I’m sharing with you this evening is that we need to look at what our operating world views are. How do we think this works? How do we think it operates? Whatever our struggles may be, I would propose that they are likely informed by our worldview. So rather than just going in and trying to shift your thinking and shift your feeling and shifting your life experience, we need to look at the worldview. One of the dilemmas we have is we all experience what I would call a comfort zone, which in fact may not be all that comfortable, but it’s familiar. Picture that comfort zone as a circle. Stepping outside of the circle into the unfamiliar typically creates disquiet, discomfort, anxiety, stress. That usually becomes the justification for why we don’t go there, why we don’t engage in this uncomfortable or it makes me anxious. But the irony is, unless we learn to change our relationship with the stress, with the anxiety, we don’t get to emerge, we don’t get that quality of an evolving life experience. So the stress, the discomfort, the disquiet isn’t the problem. The problem is our relationship with it. What we need to do is alter our relationship and begin to embrace it. So when I’m working with people and they’re saying, you know, it really makes me uncomfortable, I’ll say, well, that’s good. It makes me anxious. I’m happy to hear it. Change your relationship with the anxiety, embrace it.
You see, what we typically do is we try to stay away from it and that gives it a force that it smacks up against and it becomes formidable. It becomes powerful. We become rooted in this relationship whereby the anxiety, the stress, the disquiet rules us. It becomes our master. We become enslaved with it. But if we paradoxically learn to shift our relationship with it, the whole thing begins to shift. Now, when we come out of the comfort zone, we need to continue to make progress, move further and further out because if we don’t, there’s almost a gravitational pull. An orbit field where we stay rooted in that orbit. This becomes very similar to what I was discussing earlier in terms of getting stuck in the groove. So the model for coming out of the familiar zone or the comfort zone is to change our relationship with disquiet.
All organisms evolve when they come out of certainty, when they come out of predictability. Chaos theory and complexity theory teach us that the only time organisms, by the way of which we are one, the human organism, the only way organisms evolve and grow is to come out of predictability. How do we come out of predictability if we’re rooted in Newton’s world of predictability, of those gears in that machine? We’re stuck in predictability. As a culture, we create this credo, if not myth, that we need to avoid chaos at all costs. We need to avoid uncertainty.
If you’re feeling some chaos, if you’re feeling some unpredictability, typically the first thing somebody’s going to tell you to do is take some medication. Therapists typically try to teach you not to engage in chaos. Some hopefully are more enlightened and treated differently. Chaos isn’t bad. Uncertainty isn’t bad. A free fall full of despair is bad. I’m not proposing that. But only by engaging uncertainty and a little bit of chaos can we come out of the predictability to grow. So by predictability, I don’t mean lack of movement.
Think of predictability as the swing of a pendulum. And if it weren’t for friction, we could predict with certainty the to and fro of the pendulum. We’d be able to know with certainty where it is. But we need to come out of that certainty of predictability. Another term for that is equilibrium, which is predictability. So when organisms, when people come out of predictability is when growth occurs. But we have a problem. We’re trying to avoid that. It all costs. Everybody’s trying to get us back to normal, back to predictable, back to being the cog in the machine, which defies our human quality. When I ask the question and explore and research and the question is, do you experience growth? Have you anyone experienced growth without fear, pain, loss, struggle, disquiet? I’m hard pressed to recall anyone ever saying yes.
So if those uncertainties, if those disquiets and discomforts can be seen as our allies, then we will be coming out of the comfort zone and we will be shifting into what temporarily feels like a discomfort zone. But you see, then that new discomfort zone expands and our comfort zone is larger and larger and it opens up for us into new life experiences. Now everything I’m sharing with you has a profound impact, again, on our relationships. Relationships come into states of predictability. As I started to reference earlier, it becomes completely predictable. Your night out becomes predictable, your sexual patterns and habits become predictable. A relationship can grow and most often does grow when there’s a little chaos brought in. Chaos is not the same as abuse. Chaos is not the same as disrespect. That’s no way what I’m suggesting.
But chaos is upsetting the predictability, the state of equilibrium in the relationship whereby it may still feel safe, but there’s new information going on. There’s a new spiraling of evolution occurring. Another way of looking at this paradigm shift I’m speaking about is to think about shifting from states of being into states of becoming. We are human beings, which sounds like fixed states. But if our experience shifts from one of being, from one of thingness, into states of becoming, because the universe is in a perpetual state of evolving and becoming. And when we can engage our lives in terms of our states of becoming, then it’s alive, it’s vibrant.
We don’t know what’s coming in the next moment. But we’re not hapless victims of what’s coming in the next moment. We’re fully participating in what’s coming in the next moment. I’m not suggesting that our thoughts create reality. What I am suggesting is that our thoughts fully participate in creating that reality. It’s not either or. That there is a wonderful, magical universe full of synchronicity, of which we become an inseparable part when we shift our worldview.
Now, one of the great benefits of this new worldview that I’m sharing with you is it’s full of meaning and purpose. We brought the meaning and purpose back into our lives because we’ve engaged in the fully participatory universe, and we’re not left out. We’re not a cog in the machine that dysfunctions. Look at some of the terms in our culture. He or she is dysfunctional. What a terrible expression. Machines dysfunction. Human beings do not dysfunction. We’re humans. We can just look at the language and the vocabulary and the words and the methods of our culture to see that we are machines in that cog. Yet we can see change afoot in so many areas. If you look at the bestselling list in the New York Times, you find so many books proposing and espousing views which are not dissimilar to what I am speaking about this evening.
In Newton’s worldview, we’re concerned with notions of mistakes. What is a mistake? A mistake is a snapshot. It’s a temporary moment when we look at the snapshot and we look at the outcome, and we call that a mistake. Yet in the new model of a flowing, moving, participatory universe, there isn’t any such thing as a mistake because the snapshot we take in that moment becomes altered to change by the next moment. I’m not proposing this in the extreme, but the things that we labor over in terms of our lives, in terms of mistake, are rooted in cause and effect and predictability. They burden us. What I’m proposing this evening is that when we shift our worldview, when we begin to understand and appreciate how the universe is operating, and we begin to ask, what does that mean to me, how can that benefit me in my life, how can it enliven my relationships, how can it help me overcome emotional, psychological, self-esteem issues, what is it like to be part of an inseparable universe, what does this inseparability mean?
By the way, the story I shared with you about the two photons separated by half the universe and when one changes, the other changes, this isn’t science fiction. Look at what happens with identical twins. One twin is living in San Francisco and the other one’s living in Paris. With the one in San Francisco falls down and breaks her leg, the one in Paris feels the pain. We’ve all heard those stories. You see, as humans, we share that same state of inseparability, those experiences that you have of thinking of someone you haven’t spoken to in 10 years and the phone rings and it’s them. That’s synchronicity. Synchronicity is alive and well and gives us meaning and purpose in this new worldview. It’s absent notions of cause and effect. A cause and effect have certain parameters and certain experiences that are valid, but we missed the larger picture because we have learned not to think in wholeness. Our thoughts, again, divide up the wholeness. Our thoughts create separations and we follow those thoughts and we become those thoughts and that’s what limits our lives, that’s what limits our change, that’s what limits our transformative experience.
So my theme this evening that I want you to really think about and go away with is about the state of potential. Potentiality exists in your life in any nanosecond you choose, but in that nanosecond, what is essential is that you choose to contemplate, to perceive, to conceive, to picture reality in a way that is different than you have when you’ve been stuck in the groove, that habitual groove which, remember, came from those wave collapses early in life. And we continue to replicate thoughts of those wave collapses, we get stuck in the groove.
That’s exactly why we struggle with change. But we don’t need to struggle with change once we begin to see differently. So shifting your worldview is like walking into a room, suppose you had always walked into a room with dark sunglasses on, and that was the filter through which you saw. What I’m proposing this evening is that the worldview has to shift. Now you walk into that room, perhaps with no sunglasses on, and you’re seeing things differently. So how do you do this? How do you access this? I’m a staunch believer that there’s never one way. Opening up to it, for me, it was that book, The Turning Point. And since then, I have probably written thousands of pages, countless articles, and spent hundreds of, if not thousands of hours, facilitating and processing and working in groups and classes with this.
But choose your own method. Choose your own way of challenging yourself, asking yourself again, what informs my belief? And what would happen if I chose to look at this differently? If I questioned my personal reality, or if I questioned the universal reality? You see, when science presents something that doesn’t fit into our mainstream belief, that’s called an anomaly. It doesn’t fit in. And regrettably, science tends to discard the anomaly. It pushes it away. It says, well, that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t fit in. But that’s bad science. Whenever something doesn’t fit in, we need to step back and say, well, that means our operating theory isn’t correct. Since I’ve been engaging in this work and doing the emergent thinking process, I’ve had the great pleasure and honor of meeting, speaking with, and collaborating with really some of the great scientists and frontiers in these new fields. And it has such a vitality. It is so exciting as we collaborate with one another and see how it’s transdisciplinary.
It moves across all fields. And there are educators now out there approaching this work, too, because we still continue to educate and teach our children science that’s completely out of date. For a fun one evening, we took out Webster’s Third Dictionary. Imagine that’s for fun. And taking out the dictionary, we looked up the word gravity. And first I asked everybody, what do you think the definition of gravity is? And we got answers, as you might expect. It’s the force and the pull and the attraction of a larger object to a smaller object. And in fact, that’s what Webster’s Third said. And in all probability, that’s exactly what we teach our children in school. It’s certainly what we were taught. Here’s the problem. It’s wrong. It’s completely dead wrong. It’s been wrong since Einstein’s theory of relativity was proven in 1919. Gravity is the curvature of space-time. Now, without getting lost in what that means, the question is, why haven’t we revised the dictionary?
Why haven’t we changed our encyclopedias? I believe that we haven’t because we are so embedded and so rooted in Newton’s mechanistic universe. And in that universe, besides the issues that we experience psychologically, emotionally, relationship-wise, I believe that moreover, it becomes the source of prejudice, racism, hatred, greed, warfare. Because if the new science were taught, in which there is indeed inseparability, harm that I do to another is harm that I am doing to myself. It would be as though my left hand and my right hand thought they were separate in this illusion, and they started to do battle with one another, not realizing they’re part of the same body. So the shift of mind provokes startling, amazing, incredible changes full of awe and wonder. And when we take that awe and wonder and we couple it with our rightful, rational, logical abilities and we integrate the two, we have a wonderful model that is completely transformative, which change is not only no longer the exception, it’s the rule.
We have some time for questions and answers.
The question was in regard to the pharmaceutical industry and the tendency to medicate anxiety and depression. I was asked to share my point of view. Firstly, my point of view is not absolute. There are circumstances in which I think medication is helpful. My issue is that most practitioners are trained to simply offer the medication. In other words, to alter or shift the biochemistry. There is a tendency to create terms and words and then think of the words as real. For instance, I’m walking down the hallway outside of my office and you’ll hear a couple of therapists in conversation and somebody will say, Jane has ADD. And being my provocative self, I can’t help myself, I’ll go up and I’ll say, what do you mean? Well, Jane has ADD. And I’ll say, what is ADD? Oh, come on, you know what ADD is, they say. I’ll say, no, what you mean is that Jane exhibits behaviors which are consistent with what we call ADD. See, ADD isn’t a thing. Depression isn’t a thing. These are words. They symbolize and represent real human struggles. But when we look at these things as being objects unto themselves, we become powerless to shift them.
I was working with a woman some years ago who had come to me after doing six or seven years work with a therapist and she struggled with anxiety. And I asked her what she had gained from her work. And she said to me, her therapist said to her the best she can do is work to manage her anxiety. I paused and I took a deep breath, calmed myself and suggested to her that my belief was entirely different. You can do better than manage anxiety if you learn to shift your life experience to come into wholeness, if you learn to not continue to measure and analyze and control and predict, you can come out of anxiety. Similarly with depression.
By the way, in that circle, which is fortunately still back up there, what we experience when we try to come out of the comfort zone is anxiety. It creates anxiety to come out. But if we give up and don’t try to come out, we’re left feeling depressed. So we could look at anxiety and depression through the model of that circle, engage your anxiety, shift your relationship with it, push out there and grow and emerge, or stay inside the circle, which looks like depression. So my point of view about the tendency to medicate too quickly without proper questioning is an issue.
When I was an intern in graduate school, I was working with a young man who was about to be put on medication for hyperactivity. And I asked him some questions which apparently no one had ever asked him. And I don’t know where the questions came from. They were intuitive. So I asked him what he had for dinner, and it didn’t sound like anything unusual in there. And then I asked him what did he eat or drink between dinner and bedtime. And he said he had about seven Coca-Colas, but he couldn’t sleep. So he was going to be medicated rather than be told to get off the caffeine.
So my point of view about medication is it has its place, but that should be it. It should have its place rather than become a monolithic approach. And again, we are the victims of a worldview that has no meaning and no purpose, which were cogs in the machine, suffering. And out of that suffering, we’re then told we have this and we have that and take a pill.
Very interesting question. I’m going to try to paraphrase that. When we struggle with change and we try to do things differently, how do we know if the things we’re doing differently are the right things or the wrong things?
And sometimes when we do them differently, it doesn’t work. So what I would propose is that there aren’t wrong things. Because you see, to set up that question about wrong things means we’re judging ourself. We’re focusing on mistakes and outcomes and judging ourselves. Think about the word failure. Terrible word, failure. So often this comes up in my work, someone says, I failed. Picture a toddler learning to walk. That toddler is learning to walk and they fall down. Would we say the baby failed? No, they haven’t yet learned to walk. So it’s important to really watch our language because our language has a relationship with our thoughts. So mistakes, wrong things, that language is coming from the old groove of the old judgmental thought. Learning to get out of our own way is the key. That’s the method we want to do. We want to experience.
When I’m doing immersion thinking classes in groups, we spend a good deal of time learning how do we get out of our own way. For the Hopi Indians, in their language, there’s no word for future. The closest they come to future is what we would call letting come. Beautiful term. Letting come suggests that they’re letting the future unfold and they’re learning to get out of their own way so it unfolds. What gets in our way is the thinking, again rooted in Newton’s world, in which there’s right and there’s wrong and there’s mistakes. That’s blocking our intuitive processes, blocking our emergence. So letting go of that so that we’re no longer judging ourselves and analyzing ourselves is really pivotal. It helps open that doorway. The question is, is it possible that Newton’s worldview served us, Western world, for several centuries and now it’s time for something new in our evolving?
Well, certainly. I think that would be inarguable in that it gave us the Industrial Revolution. It gave us an increase in agricultural technology. It did very much for us. The difficulty is we seem to have gotten stuck in it.
That worldview in the myth of separation leads to the ecological disasters we have today.
Many years ago, there were certain nuclear reactors that were deemed unsafe in this country and the manufacturers shipped some of the technology to China. The belief there being if there’s a nuclear disaster in China, it doesn’t affect us here. See, that’s rooted in the belief of separation. The FDA took a certain pesticide many years ago and said, you can’t use this pesticide in this country. Too toxic. But it’s okay to export it to Latin America and Mexico. So they will spray their produce and export it back into our supermarkets. You see, that is an absence of what Gregory Bateson called ecology of mind. That’s a mind rooted in separation. And the mind rooted in separation is what puts this very planet in peril. It’s certainly what has our lives struggle and not thrive. I believe that all the change that we need out there can come to us with an ecology of mind. A learning to see in wholeness, in flow, in participation, instead of seeing in separate parts.
When we see just in separate parts, we’re missing the big picture. And that’s what contributes to the struggle that we’re having.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at melschwartz.com. If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show, and it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again, and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.