Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dharma Quotes

So Clint Eastwood (you’ve got to love him) goes and says: “I just want to do the stories I want to do. If they have an audience, fine. I love the audience. But I’m not going to worry about the audience. If they don’t enjoy it, that’s their prerogative.” Which is about the coolest, most true statement about the soul of creativity and not needing external validation that I’ve ever heard.

Deepak says it like this:

If you could start children right from the beginning with this thought, you'd see the effect it has on their lives. In fact, I did this with my own children. Again and again, I told them there was a reason why they were here, and they had to find out what that reason was for themselves. From the age of four years, they *heard* this. I also taught them to meditate when they were about the same age, and I told them, 'I never ever want you to worry about making a living. If you're unable to make a living when you grow up, I'll provide for you, so don't worry about that. I don't want you to focus on doing well in school. I don't want you to focus on getting the best grades or going to the best colleges. What I really want you to focus on is asking yourself how you can serve humanity, and asking yourself what your unique talents are. Because you have a unique talent that no one else has, and you have a special way of expressing that talent, and no one else has it.' They ended up going to the best schools, getting the best grades, and even in college, they are unique in that they are financially self-sufficient, because they are focused on what they are here to give. This then, is the Law of Dharma.

It is the doing of the thing(s) that you HAVE to do. It isn’t making a show, or being told ‘oh you are so right (or talented or cool)’. It isn’t being comfortable OR tortured. It isn’t sitting on you’re a** dreaming, thinking someday, or looking back thinking if only. As Tom Robbins says, it is never too late to have a happy childhood. No excuse to not do what you want to do. Today.

It is, however, the constant alignment of your actions with your values. When your actions and your values are not in alignment, it creates cognitive dissonance which is I think the handiest psychobabble word that there is. When they are in alignment, when what you want to do and what you are doing is one and the same, that is self-actualization.

And the need for external validation is what poisons the dharma, paralyses it inside us and keeps it from manifesting itself.

In case I need to say it, the title alludes to a book by Jack Kerouac, Dharma Bums. My favorite (probably paraphrased by now) quote from it: You can't fall off a mountain.


Phoenixdoula said...

Just linked here through Brooke's blog ( I so needed to read this (and read it, and read it) both for myself, and for what I am passing on to my children. I'm such an approval whore that I'm ALWAYS looking for external validation that I'm doing a "good job" - I know I need to learn to look within instead of outside myself. Looking forward to reading more.


laura said...

why do i always feel like you're talking to me??

because that is what i do. i see the message for me in everything.

i do this same thing for my kids, always encouraging what they love and doing what they love. and it wasn't until i started painting that i started to see them doing more of what they love. model model model, never preach preach preach. we're all on a creative boom right now and it feels good. not that there aren't other sides to them, just that these are the things we share. the other things they do, i can only admire and encourage.

the Contrary Goddess said...

na la, I'm talkin' to me. But I channeled you for using all the quotes! Did you notice?! I think it is important that we model not only creativity but responsibility, and oh, it gets complicated because today, for example, I'm going to smack someone down because as Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you and I'm not going to allow myself to be treated like that. And it isn't pleasant and I don't really want to do it . . . but I need to do it just the same.

Anyways, nice to meet you pd -- I'll check out those blogs! Thanks!

Joe Tornatore said...

if we listen quietly we can all here the question Who am I and why are we here? it's the answers that are tough. i was just thinking of all this today then I clicked on your blog. ironic.

the Contrary Goddess said...

You are the man of irony Joe!

And guess what folks! No smack downs today! Hooray. Didn't need to, at least not yet.

Ren said...

"As Tom Robbins says, it is never too late to have a happy childhood."

Ah yes.
We CAN give ourselves exactly what we need today. I agree.

And while I see how a NEED for external validation can keep us from being truly the fullest expression of self, I also see that human beings need feedback.

Feedback helps us learn.
Feedback lets us try on and try out and figure out what works and what doesn't.

So where is the line between an honest need for feedback (ie; learning) from people we trust to be both honest and discerning, and that not-so-healthy need for constant external validation?

Hmmmm...that could make a good article.:)

I really believe that schooling, with all it's external rewards and punishments teaches people to NOT trust themselves and their gifts and gives rise to that need for validation outside of oneself.

Interesting topic isn't it?

Ren said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ren said...

"You can't fall off a mountain."

Ok, obviously I need to read the book, because as a former mountain climber I laughed and thought "Oh hells YA you can!!"
My dh almost died falling off of Mt. Hood (or more like falling off the top).....ah, maybe that's the point. You really have to fall down the mountain, not truly OFF off it.

Feels like falling off the world when it happens though!

Anonymous said...

Ren:“Feedback helps us learn“

Perhaps. If we could refine real feedback from among all the dross that passes for feedback. Most of the time when people say feedback, what they really mean is flattery. Feedback means our work is on the table and we stand there with hatchet in hand and are willing to be told, “Seems to me you should chop it right there.”

“Oh, you are so good and creative!” is not feedback and it thwarts learning.

Ren:”So where is the line between an honest need for feedback (ie; learning) from people we trust to be both honest and discerning, and that not-so-healthy need for constant external validation?”

Quite easy to find, I’d say. 99.9% of all feedback is unspoken. If we are doing anything real at all, the feedback is right there in plain sight at all times. If you are stitching a quilt and it comes apart at the seams, do you really need someone to point that out to you? If you cook food and no one ever eats it, do they have to say anything? And if they did, it’d probably be “No, dear, it’s fine, I’m just not hungry.” There’s a chant that goes:

Wandering far in the deep of the night
A thousand birds take flight.
Our dreams are born on the wings of change
We are weaving the world tonight.”

That is, almost all real creativity comes about in that utterly alone and apart state of being, not with a cheerleading squad at our elbow. The feedback is abundant in the 'deep of the night'.

But what, one might ask, of those things that have no feedback rising naturally out of the real world, say, expressing yourself by tattooing a cockroach on your forehead? The fact that there IS no feedback other than from our flatterers (or distracters, which is only the reverse of the same coin) is itself a thunderingly loud feedback that should drown out what anyone might have to say.

I mused about this on one of my own blog a while back.

the Contrary Goddess said...

That was a beautiful post Eleu. I was especially moved by these words: "In time the eye adjusts and one sees the deep and abiding beauty in the necessary things." Oh yeah.

I was also thinking that most people are so tuned in to the radio station of somebody else's opinion (WSEO), they can't hear their own kernal of truth even when they listen for it. Because they never even think to tune in to the WKOT.

And Ren, I think you'd have to read Kerouac, maybe study many of his works over time even, before you could begin to get his point.

Ren said...

"“Oh, you are so good and creative!” is not feedback and it thwarts learning."

Nope, that's just hollow praise and I do believe praise is actually detrimental to the learning process.

As human beings, we DO need feedback (real information) in order to learn about our world, how social structures work etc...if no input from other humans was given, there would be no point in parents....hell, we'd all be feral.

I think both praise and punishment harm the process of creative development and learning. That's not what I mean by feedback. Feedback is real and useful information that is given without strings attached, without judgement and is useful in the moment.

Feedback helps me learn new methods and grow as an artist and writer. Recent feedback on a book I'm writing is helping me hone it and make it better. I found it useful to have the person editing tell me specifically what they liked/what worked and what needed polishing.

That's feedback to me. Real and useful information that I can choose to use or not.

Anonymous said...

Ren:"if no input from other humans was given, there would be no point in parents"

I suppose that there's not much chance in avoiding talking at cross purposes about "feedback", but my take on input from parents is much like the wonderful Invictus Plastics game Master Mind where one player tries to guess the hidden code from clues, feedback if you will, from the other player.

I have often used Master Mind as a paradigm of the larger reality. There is a strategy the player can use whereby it is impossible to fail to "guess" the hidden code. The role of the parent in giving input or feedback to a child is the same as revealing this stategy to the Master Mind player. That is, how to make best use of the feedback that appears on the playing board in the form of the black and white clue pegs.

The problem arises, says I, when the parent imagines that they themselves are the one posting the clue pegs in their child's life. They most certainly are not. Reality does that.

Ren said...

"They most certainly are not. Reality does that."

In best case scenarios, yes. Unfortunately the parents that think they can place the pegs do a lot of damage.
I belive parents are the reflecting pool a child first sees themselves in. If the pools is calm and still, it reflects the truth of who they are (ie; proper feedback) if the parents don't take responsibility for unresolved issues, then the pool can be muddied and does not reflect the truth of the wholeness of that child.

I guess feedback in my world, is a chance to gain information from a more experienced source. It's information. Not manipulation, not control...just information that IF they learner can use it, becomes feedback/guidance/learning.

I do believe that the power is with the learner. I don't believe that positive feedback equals a reliance on external validation.

Validation is a useful tool. I validate my children's art when I hang it on the wall. I validate their sense of wholeness when I listen intently to their ideas and dreams. I validate them as creative, powerful entities when I honor their desires and intentions.

I don't believe that causes a reliance on external validationl. I have the power to create lasting harm by NOT validating them and their unique gifts. Hollow praise has the power to create lasting harm too, but I don't see that as true validation.

Validation has more to do with listening deeply, respecting my child's way of seeing things, honoring that which is within them. I DO have the power to validate or invalidate by my very facial expressions and reactions. I choose to validate them, so they can trust that which is within them.

the Contrary Goddess said...

so, which one is going to give up first and let the other have the last word?

Nothing that is not useful needs validation. Nothing that is useful needs validation. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder and not an inherent quality that even can be validated.

IOW, validation is for parking tickets, not children.

the Contrary Goddess said...

oooh, back up to comment to PheonixDoula/Jeanette -- I linked to Brooke's blog but I can't see yours as I'm not on blogsome and can't stand even one more account! But, I'd love to visit if I could!

laura said...

>>Validation is a useful tool. I validate my children's art when I hang it on the wall.<<

i don't agree with this entirely. the part of about validating your childrens' art by hanging it on the wall. it is a lot like when my kids bring a picture to me to look at and i have that inner dialogue about what is the "right" response. i never think the right response is to say "i like it, it is good." i think hanging art on the wall says that and i wonder what message that sends. is it like having a trophy shelf? i think it does set an environment of praise that is not spoken. it is a reward system. so then i wonder, what would they do later when you don't put up their picture. i think maybe it would be better to let them decide if they want their art on the wall. i have seen this in other homes, kids art framed and put up. i used to think, "gee why haven't i ever done that, that's sort of cool." but then i wonder at it from the perspective i mentioned above.

i put my art on the wall. i have one painting that samuel did when he was three that i recently stuck on the wall because i found it in the closet. it was so old that it had no direct connection to him, no praise, he had no idea it was his.

my daughter put some of her drawings on the wall in her room about a month or so ago that she had made using fashion plates. recently she rearranged her room so she had an "art area" as she called it and she moved all the drawings to that area. this was her choice, her own inner praise.

sometimes the kids will show my husband a picture and he will say, "that's really good" and i cringe. i talk to him about it later and how i feel about it. he's getting the idea.

the Contrary Goddess said...

sh*t, I wrote a long comment and it seems lost. So what I think I was saying was . . . the thing about art is that eventually it has to NOT be about what someone else thinks about it. At least that's what it has to not be about to the "artist".

But I happened to think that G's pumpkin was great, excellent execution in a strange medium of a unique and creative idea. I'm not going to NOT tell him that. Just like I'm not going to not tell L that while the dress is great, the seams need some work.

Also, I think having a strong ego, even to the point of an egotistical ego, is important. But that is (ironically?) because it takes a strong ego to get itself totally out of the endeavor, to not be looking for that external validation, to be ok with the effort (egotistical in it, even).

Madcap said...

I can certainly see how trite flattery is useless or worse than useless. However, I can't agree that praise is, in itself, harmful. It shouldn't be the backbone of anything, but it can be good medicine. I've got a lot of ideas about it now after reading your post and comments, so I think I'll just write my own post sometime.

the Contrary Goddess said...

May I suggest you read The Punishment of Rewards by Alfie Kohn? He's got a website that links some articles too (esp. "5 reasons to stop saying good job").

Madcap said...

Yeah, I've read him. But he and I part ways somewhat here, and I take what he says with a big grain of salt - his daughter's in public school. Or was last year when he was on the lecture circuit up here, anyway. My bias. My voices say something different.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Yes, not unlike John Holt until his very last years (when he finally gave up), Alfie is a government school reformist, and where he is, he is wrong. (it is from whence he makes his money, and we all know people who find it impossible to see anything wrong really with the way they make their exploitive living) But his arguments against competition and praise are right on.

laura said...

i wouldn't say i NEVER praise my children...the occasional "that's great" does happen. i think what i make an effort to do is not ALWAYS praise. i try for a more useful "this looks like you really worked hard on it." or "this is interesting, tell me more about it" (this is especially useful if you don't know what "it" opposed to saying "what is it?"). i think these sorts of comments are conversation starters...whereas "i like it" is a dead end statement and doesn't give the child room to think or talk about what it is they've done/created, it simply allows them to stand there and smile and be "proud" (not that there's anything wrong with that...too much seinfeld...because pride is powerful/useful but it can't come soley from outside praise).

the Contrary Goddess said...

exactly la. And this -- "what do YOU think of it?" Because us liking something, approving of something, takes away THEIR ownership of it -- and gets them hooked on that external validation thing. Somebody else has to say it is ok for it to be ok. Which sucks. The whole evaluation trap. Is this better or that better? Sometimes, a whole darn lot of times, "better" is just not applicable. Do A to get A's results, B to get B's results.

But the whole point of the whole post is that who we really are is who we are when no one is looking. What we have to do is what we have to do whether anyone sees it or likes it or not.

laura said...

i got that whole point of the post part...i think i strive so hard for that "who we really are is who we are when no one is looking" i really really do. and i want my kids to not have to work so hard to just be who they are. i want it to be a ridiculous notion to them that anyone would even have to "try" to do that.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I would like that. I don't think I've achieved it though. And maybe that's because of the ego thing I brought up earlier in the comments? I don't know but I'm having fun thinking about it.

laura said...

this thread inspired me to write a little about my own childhood experiences with praise and validation. and as i told CG, i am a totally validated ticket.
madcap said she might do a post on this too. so i'd be interested in seeing that.