Do we really not exist in anything, but a sequence of popping in and out of life forms? This is what Professor Fred Alan Wolf is suggesting in Matter Into Feeling. And he takes it back, first photons – a photon we call as a piece of light. It’s an energy of light. And he says, when we see the light, it dies or it goes away, that hits our eyes, register it, and it’s gone. He also says that photons are emitted in pulses like light, light, light. However, we perceive it as a continuum. So say for example, right where I’m sitting here outside the table, the early morning sun’s starting to shine on. There’s a lovely gold Buddha here actually, and so I’m seeing that color, but that color is registering in my brain based on the information picked up by my eyes, and my eyes are picking up photons, which are packets of light. Once they’ve picked up that packet of light and my brain’s interpreted, the one that I’ve already picked up doesn’t exist anymore. There are more photons coming off that Buddha, but that’s a different lot of photons. And in a second, probably more or a millisecond, it’s a continuous stream of photons. So much like having water in front of me, but the water’s in front of you because there’s a river moving along. But the piece of water you’re looking at any second is the next one, because the water that was in front has already gone past.
Likewise, he’s saying that our own cells are in this dance of arising and dying and arising and dying and arising and dying. So what we’re perceiving as a material self is again this massive little dots, little blips of energy, blips of matter punctuated by death, as he says. So in any moment, we’re like a piece of water on the river.
What we’re experiencing now is different from that a few moments ago and is different from that, which is coming. Now, what has this got to do with anything? Well, let’s say that this particular self, right at this minute has a high probability to sleep in. Now, the self in a few moments could be a very different self in terms of the material nature of it. However, if I bring forward the thoughts and stay the same in terms of the thinking, so if the neurons don’t change, then it doesn’t matter if physicalness has changed or not. That mind or the stream of thought keeps the continuum and keeps the sameness of a being, which could be great. It’s our identity. We know who we are. We relate to things around us. We are pretty predictable. Given that there’s a predictability there, what is that predictability?
Well, it’s a likelihood. A predictability is actually a probability. What’s the probability that someone is gonna sleep in compared to the probability that they’re gonna wake early? What a start with, very high probability they sleep in, low probability, they wake up. However, if they have a job a particular day, or they’re going on a holiday and they need to wake up early, and they’ve settled their alarms and they’re fully intentioned to wake up early, there’s a high probability that they wake up early. So what changed here? Intention and actions. The actions of setting the alarm, the actions of being ready, the actions of knowing. There’s a decision that’s been made to get up early, so the probability shifted.
And as talked about in this particular chapter. There’s the reintroduction of probability curves, and this is where it’s very likely a particular thing happening and less likely for something else to happen. As we said, the sleeping in is usually than probable and the getting up early as the not probable. But on this day, it’s highly probable to wake up early and if we thought of that, of tossing coins, if we did nothing and went to our normal, it would be a 50% chance of tossing heads and a 50% chance of tossing tails. And the more we tossed, the closer we would get to that outcome. If we did what’s called a loaded coin, say, put a bit of blue tack on one side and made it heavier. So that usually fell down that way and the tails was normally facing up. Now, we have a very different probability, probability that we’ll get tails – maybe 80% of the time, maybe even 90%. So in our life when we want to change something, we have to load the coin. We have to change the probability. We have to make it more likelyhe thing we’re actively choosing to do happens, for example, waking up in the morning.
Once that’s actively been decided, there’s a purpose for it. There’s a mechanism with alarms, etc. Now, it’s like the loaded coin, when we go to sleep, the probability of waking up early is high. Hopefully a 100%, but more likely to be about 90%. That’s a simple example. How else in our life can we shift the probability curve?
Well, another way is in changing our environment. Anyone who goes around self-help or business talks will hear the old saying, “Your success or your net worth is very similar to your six closest people around you.” Now, that’s a saying, you can see if it’s true or not. Others say, “birds of the same, feather flock together”, whatever the reasoning, if you look out into our society, you’ll find general similarities between groups of people. If a new person is brought into that group, say a child, they’re more likely to be like that group than a different group just by probability. So when you wanna change yourself, you may also seriously need to consider changing your environment. And now what we know is that you can change yourself completely from the inside, irrespective of your environment. But what we’re giving here is a little key to how to make it easier. And when we use the word easy, what we’re saying is how to make the probability of you doing that action, like waking up early. Or it could be of having a clean car. It could be of putting your clothes away at the end of the day. It could be of going, saying hello to people when you’re out at a cafe. It could even be more extreme. Being brave enough to ask for a review of a job description or a raise. It could be starting a new venture.
All of these things have higher probability when it’s already there in the environment. If it’s not there, you might need to make it. And in the words of, I would say many wise people, with Gandhi as one example, be the change you want to see. As you be the change you want to see, even if you’re an outlier to start with, others will notice, and if it resonates with them, they’ll be there.
It may be fast, it may be slow, but you’ll find there’ll be a new normal created around that particular activity. It could be those wonderful examples where someone started cleaning up rubbish on a beach, and there were tons and tons of rubbish. And through their action of starting, others started, and then it gained momentum, and then there were machines helping clean the beach and then big recycling contracts. Now the new norm is that whenever there’s a small bit of rubbish on those lovely clean beaches, they’re pick up.
So one of the key parts of this chapter is know that your probabilities change based on how you load the likelihood. If you want something different, learn more about it, have more reason to do different.
Put yourself in environments where that particular action or thought is normal. And there’ll be a greater probability of your success. Success breeds success. Also, knowing that failure breeds failure, because when you get used to something, you could tell yourself it won’t work again, and then it doesn’t work again, then you go down the spiral. Have some tools in place that if it didn’t work, you know how to hop back up and get out of that thought and emotion, and move back into the center line. Ready to do a restart with new information.
Did you know by just observing something, you change the probability of it occurring? For example, if you have decided that you’re gonna change particular behavior, just by starting to observe your behavior, you’ve already changed the probability of you having success with that.
For example, if your behavior is to drink coffee every morning, maybe two cups, and you’ve had the thought based on observing yourself being a little jittery and having higher stress levels than normal, with your cortisol levels raised to the excessive caffeine, you have now observed a situation – just in the observation. It’s changed the probability of you continually doing it.
The next part of the observation is an awareness where you then say, I’m gonna make a change. That observation and awareness again changes the probability out from what used to be normal – straight to two coffees, to two coffees sometimes, and sometimes one coffee, sometimes a tea, sometimes a week for a coffee.
There’s still very high probability you’ll have a coffee. Way out on the edges of probability is that sometimes you won’t have one. There’s also a probability you might have three. Knowing that all of this is possible within what we call a probability curve, our role when we want to move towards something different is to change the probability that there’s more of a chance of having one coffee or no coffee than there is of having two.
How do we do it?
As we said, observation and awareness already changes it.
Observation and Awareness changes the averages.
Then actually do it, the more times you have a win, that also changes the probability curve. It changes the mathematics of it, meaning the likelihood is now different. So success breeds success. When you have a win, albeit however size, small, when that occurs, celebrate it. Get more neuronal activity around that concept of the win. Recognize a win in others. Check your language, if someone’s doing something well, there’s no point saying, “Oh, that was good. You did this, but… blah, blah, blah.” And with yourself as well, just cut out the negative talk. So easy, keep the positive talk knowing you’re shifting the probability curve of being the person you want to be. And if you say you wanna be who you are right now, fantastic. Congratulations. If there’s a little area you think you’d like to be a little more friendly, a little less coffee, whatever it might be. Then use this relatively simple technique of observation, awareness, decision, celebrating the wins, and when there’s a so-called failure – Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha has taught us in the Cherokee, the word is not failure. There isn’t the word in Cherokee for failure,the closest is ‘falling forward’.
As we fall forward, we learn something. So allow yourself to fall forward and no more. Joy and change the probabilities. Shift them by the wins you have.