What I'm paying particular attention to is the tendency of a person to react to a situation - specifically how a reaction manifests considering different gravitational centers for complexes in the psyche. One thing that must be considered is the fact that Spiral Dynamics is limited in that it is a system for values only. Further consideration to that fact is addressed in the continuation of the work through Ken Wilber and others involved with what has come to be known as the Integral Institute, but I haven't studied this yet. I'm going simply from the groundwork that I've laid out here that Spiral Dynamics is values only and limited in application as a result.
Let me break this down a little bit. When we talk about a person who has a Tier 2 mindset, what exactly are we saying? When we say that this person is Blue, or that person is Green, what are we talking about? The answer to that question is provided in the definition and framework of the system. The stages of development as given are valuing memes. The issue that can potentially turn into a pitfall, is using language created to discuss values when looking at something other than the value center of a person without proper consideration given to the matter here at hand. It will probably prove useful to those of us using Spiral Dynamics as a tool to be mindful of our language and realize that any statement or interaction given by a person is not indication that the person is (pick a color.) To expound on this...
Let's say that I meet a person who clearly is able to see the streams and systems in our collective experience with a wide enough periphery of scope that they are able to understand how the systems work together. Initial inclinations would tell us that this person must be Tier 2 and likely has their center at Yellow. The issue here, is that what we have actually been given in this scenario, via interaction between us and this potentially Yellow individual, does not necessarily reflect the totality of the person in front of us. We can, from here, say that the thing at Yellow is the intellect. Our saying so does not necessarily mean that the person isn't actually fully centered at Yellow. It means simply that considering what we have so far experienced in our interaction, we can only conclude with certainty that this person's intellectual capacity has reached Yellow. Does this, itself, indicate full centralization at the Yellow vMeme? No.
To give another example in the opposite direction... Let's take the same Yellow person from above and put them in a situation where the intellect is less than the most effective complex to engage in order to solve a problem. What happens?
At first, given the established pattern of the intellect's extreme efficiency in solving problems, the complex that represents the intellect is going to be engaged. This usually is of no concern since until now, this complex has had the ability to swiftly and deftly deal with whatever problem is at hand, but let's say in this case that the existential problem being worked on is coming from a place in the psyche where a different mode of operation is required. In this place, passion rules reason. No level of intellectual thought can deal with the feeling aspect of this particular situation. The intellect cannot and will never be able to solve this problem of its own accord. We may see at this point one of two things. The person may realize the futility of trying to reason oneself through the problem and put the intellect as a tool down on the tool bench and attempt to find a better tool for the job, or, psychological (and potentially physiological) pathology is born of the situation.
We know from Wilber's work on his Integral System that movement through the spiral requires us to transcend and include the various attributes of the preceding stages. We can see in the example given that the situation could be met with grace, and a different complex than the intellect be engaged in order to deal with whatever existential problem is being faced, or, the sword of the intellect can be used like a baseball bat, trying in earnest to break down a solid rock wall. The effect of this is a dull sword and a wall that stands strong in the face of ineffective adversity. This type of situation breeds pathology. This pathology, when manifested psychologically, can be identified by a person's predisposition to react to any given stimuli that touches near to and at the center from whence the pathology is born.
The purpose of the reaction is similar to that of a malware protection program. The reaction can be thought of as a red flag indicating a potential threat to the security of the system. A threat to the security of the system can be anything that causes the individual to have to move away from and/or redefine their center. This indicates on some level, difficulty with or the inability/refusal to deal with a system that is designed to change. Here we see the clearly the difference between man and machine. Where a machine has to have its internal hardware replaced (if not the entire machine) when it is incapable of running the most advanced OS currently on the market, the human analog doesn't have the same issue. The hardware that we have is designed to adjust to more and more advanced operating code. The issue now to consider is that of psychological identification.
Identification with reaction:
Identification can be seen in action in a few different ways. A person may identify with their current center. To be fair, this statement is true to form for all of us. We identify ourselves according to our current center. The issue here is when we are incapable of stepping outside of ourselves and seeing this center for what it is, a transient location of habitation where development is concerned. Indication as to the severity of our identification with our center can be seen in the level of and amount of defense that is employed in order to protect that center. Here again, we are talking about the point in an interaction with a person that a "red button" has been pushed or to stick with our computer symbolism, a red flag is raised and defense mechanisms kick in.
Where identification with our center is concerned, a few things need to be considered. One of these is the orientation that we as individuals have towards ourselves and the collective of which we are all a part. I'm going to refer now to the book I'm currently interacting with in order to lay out a some more of the foundation that I'm working with here.
If we imagine our internal world as a landscape, and taking the descriptions given above about the nature of seeds in our mind-field, we can imagine that any place that we might find ourselves at in that landscape will determine the nature of our surroundings there in the landscape. Obvious enough, right? Let's expound on this. If you are walking through a savanna, you might notice an abundance of seeds that have produced more grasses than trees. This area may be easy to navigate because you can easily take stock of your environment. Now let's say that you're in a dense forest surrounded by giant trees. We all know the saying, that it's difficult to see the forest for the trees, but we can imagine a couple of different scenarios to alleviate this issue. One would be to leave the forest and look back at it. Another scenario might see you climbing one of the trees into the canopy in order to get an idea of your location and orientation to all of the different trees that you're currently surrounded by.Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind pg.23-30 wrote: Part I
According the the teachings of Manifestation Only Buddhism, our mind has eight aspects or, we can say, eight "consciousnesses." The first five are based in the physical senses. They are the consciousnesses that arise when our eyes see form, our ears hear sounds, our nose smells an odor, our tongue tastes something, or our skin touches an object. The sixth, mind consciousness (manavijñana), arises when our mind contacts an object of perception. The seventh, manas, is the part of consciousness that gives rise to and is the support of mind consciousness. The eighth, store consciousness (alayavaijñana), is the ground, or base, of the other seven consciousnesses. Verses One through Fifteen are about store consciousness. Store consciousness has three functions. The first is to store and preserve all the "seeds" (bija) of our experiences. The seeds buried in our store consciousness represent everything we have ever done, experienced, or perceived. The seeds planted by these actions, experiences, and perceptions are the "subject" of consciousness. The store consciousness draws together all these seeds just as a magnet attracts particles of iron.
The second aspect of store consciousness is the seeds themselves. A museum is more than the building, it is also the works of art that are displayed there. In the same way, store consciousness is not just the "storehouse" of the seeds but also the seeds themselves. The seeds can be distinguished from the store consciousness, but they can be found only in the storehouse. When you have a basket of apples, the apples can be distinguished from the basket. If the basket were empty, you would not call it a basket of apples. Store consciousness is, at the same time, both the storehouse and the content that is stored. The seeds are thus also the "object" of consciousness. So when we say "consciousness," we are referring to both the subject and the object of consciousness at the same time.
The third function of store consciousness is a "store for the attachment to a self." This is because of the subtle and complex relationship between manas, the seventh consciousness, and the store consciousness. Manas arises from store consciousness, turns around and takes hold of a portion of the store consciousness, and regards this grasped part as separate, discrete entity, a "self." Much of our suffering results from this wrong perception on the part of manas, and it is the subject of our in-depth study in Part II of this book.
The Mind Is a Field
Mind is a field
in which every kind of seed is sown.
This mind-field can also be called
"all the seeds."
The primary function of store consciousness is to store and preserve all the seeds. One name for store consciousness is sarvabijaka, the totality of the seeds. Another is adana, which means to maintain, to hold, not to lose. Maintaining all the seeds, keeping them alive so that they are available to manifest, is the most basic function of store consciousness.
Seeds (bija) give phenomena the ability to perpetuate themselves. If you plant a seed in springtime, by autumn a plant will mature and bear flowers. From those flowers, new seeds will fall to the earth, where they will be stored until they sprout and produce new flowers. Our mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown--seeds of compassion, joy, and hope, seeds of sorrow, fear, and difficulties. Every day our thoughts, words, and deeds plant new seeds in the field of our consciousness, and what these seeds generate becomes the substance of our life.
There are both wholesome and unwholesome seeds in our mind-field, sown by ourselves and our parents, schooling, ancestors, and society. If you plant wheat, wheat will grow. If you act in a wholesome way, you will be happy. If you act in an unwholesome way, you will water seeds of craving, anger, and violence in yourself and in others. The practice of mindfulness helps us identify all the seeds in our consciousness and with that knowledge we can choose to water only the ones that are the most beneficial. As we cultivate the seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering in ourselves, understanding, love, and compassion will flower.
Every Kind of Seed
In us are infinite varieties of seeds--
seeds of samsara, nirvana, delusion, and enlightenment,
seeds of suffering and happiness,
seeds of perceptions, names, and words.
Our store consciousness contains every kind of seed. Some seeds are weak, some strong, some large, some small, but all are there--the seeds of both samsara and nirvana, of suffering and happiness. If a seed of delusion is watered in us, our ignorance will grow. If we water the seed of enlightenment, it will grow and our wisdom will flourish.
Samsara is the cycle of suffering, our dwelling place when we live in ignorance. It is difficult to remove ourselves from this cycle. Our parents suffered and they transmitted the negative seeds of this suffering to us. If we don't recognize and transform the unwholesome seeds in our consciousness, we will surely in turn pass them on to our children. This constant transmission of fear and suffering drives the cycle of samsara. At the same time, our parents also transmitted seeds of happiness to us. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can recognize the wholesome seeds within ourselves and in others and water them every day.
Nirvana means stability, freedom, and the cessation of the cycle of suffering. Enlightenment does not come from outside; it is not something we are given, even by a Buddha. The seed of enlightenment is already within our consciousness. This is our Buddha nature--the inherent quality of enlightened mind that we all possess, and which needs only to be nurtured.
In order to transform samsara into nirvana, we need to learn to look deeply and see clearly that both are manifestations of our own consciousness. The seeds of samsara, suffering, happiness, and nirvana are already in our store consciousness. We need only to water the seeds of happiness, and avoid watering the seeds of suffering. When we love someone, we try to recognize the positive seeds within them and water those wholesome seeds with our kind words and deeds. The seeds of happiness grow stronger when they are watered, while the seeds of suffering diminish in strength because we are not watering them with unkind words and deeds.
Our store consciousness also contains seeds generated from our perceptions. We perceive many things, and the objects of these perceptions are then stored in our store consciousness. When we perceive an object, we see its "sign" (lakshana). The Sanskrit word "lakshana" also means "mark," "designation," or "appearance." The sign of a thing is the image that is created by our perception (samjña) of it. Suppose we see a wooden platform supported by four legs. That image becomes a seed within our consciousness. The name we assign to this image, "table,"is another seed. "Table" is the object of our perception. We, the perceiver, are the subject. The two are linked every time we perceive the object we have named as a "table," or even when we simply hear the word "table," our image of a table manifests in our mind consciousness.
Buddhism identifies three pairs of signs of phenomena. The first pair is the universal and the particular sign of something. When we look at a house, the sign, or image, "house" is initially universal. The universal sign "house" is like its generic label. Now, you can buy generic food in some supermarkets. Instead of color images and brand names, the label on a can of corn, for example, displays simply the word "corn" in black type on a plain white wrapping. The universal sign of an object is like that.
Using our discriminative mind, however, we soon perceive thousands of details about each house--the brick, wood, nails, and so on, that are specific to it. These specifics are the particular sign of a house. The house can be seen as a whole--its universal sign--or as a combination of its parts, its particular sign. Everything has both a universal sign of an object and a particular nature.
Connected to this, the second pair of signs is unity and diversity. Our notion of house is an idea of unity. All houses are part of the designation "house;" there is no difference between one house and another. But the universal notion of "house" does not show us any individual house, which is unique in its particulars. There are countless variations of houses, and that is the nature of diversity. When we look at any phenomenon (dharma), we should be able to see unity in the diversity, and diversity in the unity. While the first sign distinguishes between a universal house and a particular house, the second sign is about how we distinguish between different particular houses.
The third pair of signs is formation and disintegration. A house my be in the process of being built, but at the same time, it is also in the process of disintegrating. Even though the wood is new and the house is not yet completely built, already the moisture or dryness of the air is beginning to weather it. Looking at something that is beginning to take form, we should already be able to see that it is also in the process of disintegrating as well.
Meditation training is designed to help us learn to see both aspects of each pair of signs. We see the whole when we are looking at the parts, and each part when we are looking at the whole. When a carpenter looks at a tree, he can already envision a house, because he has been trained in constructing a house from the material of the tree. He is seeing both the universal and particular aspects of the tree. Through mindfulness we train ourselves to see all six signs--universal and particular, unity and diversity, formation and disintegration--whenever we perceive a single sign, a specific object. This is the teaching of interbeing.
We assign names and words, or "appellations," to the objects of our perception, such as "mountain," "river," "Buddha," "God," "father," "mother." Every name we've assigned to a phenomenon, every word we've learned, is stored as a seed within our consciousness. The seeds give rise to other seeds in us, called "images." When we hear the name of something, an image arises in our consciousness, and we then take that image to be reality. As soon as we hear someone say the words "New York," for example, we immediately touch the seeds of the image of New York we have in our store consciousness. We picture the Manhattan skyline or the faces of people we know there. These images may differ from the current reality of New York, however. They may be entirely creations of our imagination, but we cannot see the boundary between reality and our erroneous perceptions.
We use words to point to something--an object or a concept-- but they may or may not correspond to the "truth" of that thing, which can only be known through a direct perception of its reality. In our daily life we rarely have a direct perception. We invent, imagine, and create perceptions based on the seeds of the images that we have in our store consciousness. When we fall in love, the image of our beloved that we hold in our minds may be quite different from the actual person herself.
Erroneous perceptions bring about much suffering. We feel certain that our perceptions are correct and complete, yet often they are not. I know of a man who suspected that his son was not his own but was the child of a neighbor who had visited his wife often. The father was too proud and shamed to tell his wife or anyone else about his suspicion. Then one day a visiting friend remarked how much the boy looked like his father. At that moment, the man realized that the boy was indeed his own son. Because he had held onto this wrong perception, the family endured much pain for many years. Not only these three people but everyone around them also suffered because of this wrong perception.
It is very easy to confuse our mental image, our sign of something, with its reality. The process of mistaking our perceptions for reality is so subtle that it is very difficult to know that it is going on, but we must try not to do this. The way to avoid this is mindfulness. We practice meditation to train the mind in direct perception, in correct perception. When we meditate, we look deeply into our perceptions in order to find out their nature and to discover the elements that are correct and the elements that are incorrect.
If you are not mindful, you will believe that your perceptions, which are based on prejudices that have developed from the seeds of past experiences in your store consciousness, are correct. When we have a wrong perception and continue to maintain it, we hurt ourselves and others. In fact, people kill one another over their different perceptions of the same reality.
We live in a universe filled with false images and delusions, yet we believe that we are truly in touch with the world. We may have a deep respect for the Buddha and believe that if we were to meet him in person, we would bow before him and attend all of his teachings. But, in reality, we may have already met the Buddha in our own town and not had the slightest wish to even go near him, because he didn't conform to our image of what a Buddha is supposed to look like. We are certain that a Buddha appears with a halo, wearing beautiful robes. So when we meet a Buddha in ordinary clothes, we do not recognize him or her. How could a Buddha wear a sport shirt? How could a Buddha be without a halo?
There are so many seeds of wrong perception in our consciousness. Yet we are quite sure that our perception of reality is correct. "That person hates me. He will not look at me. He wants to harm me." This may be nothing more than a creation of our mind. Believing that our perceptions are reality, we may then act out on that belief. This is very dangerous. A wrong perception can create countless problems. In fact, all our suffering arises from our failure to recognize things as they are. We should always ask ourselves, humbly, "Am I sure?" and then allow space and time for our perceptions to grow deeper, clearer, and more stable. In medical practice these days, physicians and caregivers are reminded by each other to not be too sure of anything. "Even if you think you are certain, check it again," they urge each other.
Now let's supplant the image of trees in the internal landscape with various seeds as described above. Instead of grasses and trees, we might now realize that we are surrounded by a vast quantity of fully developed seeds of suffering, but we don't know how we got there (or rather don't want to think about it) and we don't know how the seeds themselves made their way into our landscape. Ideally, once realization occurs that the centralized location of conscious interaction is occurring from a place of samsara, we would begin to look for a new place to go, so that we can tend different seeds than the ones thriving here that hold within them so much pain--for they are seeds of pain, themselves. It becomes quite dangerous, however, when we find a person who has identified with the samsara forest. "This is me," - and given our disposition to think highly of ourselves, we might give erroneous perception to the nature of this samsara forest as being good simply because it's where we currently find ourselves. This error in judgement leads to deeper and deeper delusion about our own nature and our relationship to the actual reality of the situation we find ourselves in. I'm going to jump back into the book now for a moment. I'll give Verse 4 but not go into it, as it is fairly self explanatory, and Verse 5 as it is the crux of the point I'm attempting to make.
Some seeds are innate,
handed down by our ancestors.
Some were sown while we were still in the womb,
others were sown when we were children.
Considering what is laid out here about the nature of the collective and the individual, let's take a look at a type of pathology that may manifest from watering a seed of delusion where the nature of this relationship between the collective and the individual is concerned. I've noticed a pattern among folks who are at the leading edge of evolution in our species (myself included at one point) to look at the rest of our collective woefully or angrily for one reason or another. My focus will be on anger since I've noticed more anger than woe in these situations.5
Individual and Collective Seeds
Whether transmitted by family, friends,
society, or education,
all our seeds are, by nature,
both individual and collective.
Our society, country, and the whole universe are also manifestations of seeds in our collective consciousness. Plum Village, the monastery and practice center where I live in France, is a manifestation of consciousness. Those of us who live there have a collective manifestation of Plum Village that we hold in common, but each of us also has a personal manifestation of Plum Village in our own mind. The Plum Village of Sister Doan Nghiem is not the same as the Plum Village of Brother Phap Dang. Plum Village has its individual and collective faces.
We compare, struggle, and wonder how to let go of our personal, subjective view and arrive at an objective recognition of things. We want to be directly in touch with the reality of the world. Yet the objective reality we think exists independently of our sense perceptions is itself a creation of collective consciousness. Our ideas of happiness and suffering, beauty and ugliness are reflections of the ideas of many people. Collective consciousness is not just the consciousness of three or four people but of hundreds or thousands of people. Some things start out as creations of individual consciousness and then become part of collective consciousness.
Our store consciousness includes both individual and collective consciousness. You believe that you have your own notion of beauty, but if you look deeply you will see that it has been formed from the notions of many other people. When you shop for a necktie, you think it is you who chooses the tie. But the moment you see a tie that aligns with the seeds in your store consciousness, the necktie chooses you. You think you have exercised your freedom of choice, but the choice was already made a long time ago.
Each seed in our store consciousness is both individual and collective at the same time. Nothing is completely collective or completely individual. The individual can be seen in the collective, and the collective in the individual. The collective is made of the individual, and the individual is made of the collective. This is the nature of interbeing.
The individual always has an effect on the collective, and the collective always has an effect on the individual. All seeds in our store consciousness have this dual nature, individual and collective. It is important to remember this when we are practicing to cultivate our wholesome seeds and not to water our unwholesome seeds.
Remember our analogy about reactions being like red flags that are thrown up by the malware software of our minds in order to help us maintain our current center? Now what, might I ask, is anger if not a reaction to something? Anger can easily be seen as one of the indicators that something in our direct experience has the potential to change us from who we are right this second into someone whose center and orientation to self and others is potentially more harmonious than is experienced at present. I see a lot of anger at the collective for choosing to maintain its center rather than to progress in a similar fashion as any of the individuals in question who might be feeling the anger. This indicates an improper relationship, not just to the collective but to the individual self as well since we know that the individual and collective are integrally related. Rather than watering the seeds of anger and lashing out, it might be of benefit to water the seeds of compassion and acceptance. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is part of the potential new center that is being balked at. Compassion towards the collective requires the individual to remove the separation between the individual self and collective self.
This idea is met with resistance as follows, "Why should I be compassionate for these (insert adjectives) people when they are everything that's wrong in the world... in MY world? Their willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance makes it so that this aspect of the world is this way, or that aspect of the world is that way, and all of those aspects contribute to my inability to flourish as an individual in the collective."
Can you see the logical fallacy here? While there is truth to the fact that our environmental factors are literally outside of our influence, what occurs in the interior is the exact same issue being railed against in the external world. It is cognitive dissonance and willful ignorance on the part of the individual who looks only at the collective as the being the sole contributing factor to whatever it is that ails you. Now we can see how psychological projection is in play in these reactive situations. When we find something outside of us to be the recipient of the blame for our issues, we have literally projected the internal corollary of the external object or event out onto that external object or event. Now, we are angry at this group or that group, and we've lost focus on the fact that it is not solely in the external world that we can influence the change necessary to alleviate the internal resistance that resulted in the anger reaction, but rather it is within ourselves that this can more effectively be accomplished. A healthy orientation to this situation would see a person recognizing that their anger is indicating something "wrong" INSIDE and they would then move to a different place within themselves in order to see and orient ones' self to the internal landscape which, as previously discussed, is a product of the individual AND the collective. I see "wrong" as an indication of there being a clearer view on the topic at hand that is not yet being considered. This brings me to my next topic for discussion: morals and ethics.
"Wrong" as I see it and have just described it is an indication of morality. "But," I hear you think, "something can be ethically wrong. That's just how it is. There are unethical things in our reality." To this point, I don't disagree. My point is not on the existence or non-existence of things that are unethical in our experience. My point is that our relationship to those unethical things, which cause the reaction of aversion and moral objection is not as developed and harmonious as it could be. As soon as we see something as unethical and deem it "wrong", we have taken ethics and stuffed it into the box of morality. We are saying here that "MY world does not allow for the existence of such a thing as this." Forgive me for the reality check here, but they DO in fact exist in your reality. Not only are we partially responsible ourselves for the existence of the formations of unethical experience in our reality, we are also equally responsible for the adjustment of our reality as a result. How do we do this? If I haven't made it clear enough just yet, I'll repeat myself because it bears repeating. We might find it to be a more effective use of our time to take the opportunity to look inside and find out what exactly our individual role is in the formation of the thing that is presently standing in violation of our current center. If we do not take the time to pull the identifications and projections back into ourselves and realize that the external situation is as much our fault as it is the fault of others of this collective thing that we are trying so hard to separate ourselves from; mentally, emotionally, and/or physically, then we will forever be reinforcing a very narrow perspective and watering seeds of suffering within that will continue to flourish and find their place in our experience as more and more things in the external and internal world to be upset about.
It is only through participation internally and externally with the individual as well as the collective of which the individual is a part that the seeds of ethics can be watered and nurtured until they bloom within us and we find their reflections blooming outside of us as well. Identification and projection are two methods that we utilize to engage in this interaction. Becoming mindful of these methods as well as our reactions and withdrawing them into ourselves to find their source is an incredibly effective way of utilizing them as a tool to help us act or move and adapt as we are designed to do. This affords us the opportunity to move with a high level of efficiency and allows us to see that the "wrong" things in our worlds are wrong because we have not yet seen clearly enough the multi-faceted truth of the issues at hand. This truth is usually easily seen when we address of our personal responsibility for the existence of those "wrong" things inside and outside of ourselves that we deem are "not me" and rectify the erroneous perception that we have built within and of ourselves about those "wrong" things.