Orientation to the Playground

Every day, our own behavior and the behavior of the people we relate with is taking place "in the realm of shadows." That is, it isn't brought into high relief and *seen* in its obvious particulars, as for instance, all of life can be seen with our senses by practicing mindfulness. All this behavior that happens between us and other people--it all goes on "without us," so to speak. We are not present, awake, observing.

So far in the kindergarten, students may have learned about mindfulness itself, what it is, and how to use it for bringing the physical world around them and within their bodies "out of the shadows and into the light." In just the same way, this playground is for bringing the clear detail of human behavior into the realm of light. This is so that we can learn to attempt to understand everything that's going on by studying what's obvious to be seen by practicing mindfulness.

Learning to understand human behavior can serve you in two fundamental ways. For one thing, you will almost always be able to understand why and how other people do the things they do. This includes not only the people you know personally and relate with in your life every day (at home, at work, and at play), but also people you see on television and read about in the newspapers. You will be able to recognize and catch-on to *exactly* where they are coming from, just what they are after, and precisely how they are trying to get it. It's fascinating. It's great fun. And it's very practical, as you will see.

Most importantly, however, you will be able to understand why and how *you* do the things that *you* do. Understanding your own "self" is the biggest prize in this class. Understanding others is a by-product of this, and a great bonus. This is truly a class in learning how to read your self and the self of others "like a book." As your coach in this, I urge you to remember the following rule:

From the very beginning here, and from now on in every situation in which you apply this knowledge in the future, always begin by studying and understanding your own self first. And then, study the self of the other person.

If you will follow this rule, you will become a master of human understanding. If you forget about this, and develop a habit of only trying to figure out other people for your own supposed advantage, you will become more and more confused about the true meaning of life and you will never be able to really understand human behavior.

I mention this at the top because over the years I have seen otherwise brilliant students fall into this habit of using this knowledge for selfish purposes only. This type of student has always thought that they mastered the course, yet ironically, they only alienated people in what they used it for, and they would have been better off without it. ('Nuff said.)

Everyone has a "personality"--a fixed collection of recognizeable characteristics in their personal make-up. These are habits of behavior that have become habitual, *conditioned*, acquired as the person has been growing up from childhood. Lying underneath their personality is their "essence," a group of ordinary human strengths and qualities that they were born with. But as a person is growing up, their essence becomes more and more covered over and forgotten as the personality begins to play a greater and greater part in their daily life. By the time they are grown up, the personality has taken over their life, and although the essence remains intact within, it is only occasionally brought into play. This is the ordinary human condition.

We are not talking here about "bad" people, but about all people--educated and not so highly educated, successful and not so successful, all well-intended in their own ways of looking at things. We all have personalities. In some systems of human study, this side of our human make-up is called "the lower self." (And the essence is called "the higher self"). In some primitive systems, this personality side is called "the evil spirits," or, anciently, the "lower gods," or "devils," and later, "sin." It is associated with the "ego" and the selfish and harmful desires that can rule a person's life.

Although these views are all valid, it doesn't have to be looked at quite as grimly as all that. After all, Jesus said that we are "all" sinners. We all have these "evil spirits" or "lower gods" to contend with in our daily lives. The human ego does exist, and the personality works for it. That's how we look at is here.

Yet all of us know that we do "the very best we can." And even those who beat other people up think they are doing it for the good of the other person at the time they are doing it.

And that is where mindfulness comes in. In the ordinary consciousness of everyday life, it is very, very difficult to be objective about other people's behavior, and *especially so* about one's own behavior! In ordinary consciousness, or "sleep," as it is called, we cannot be objective about our selves.

No matter what any person does, that is, no matter how harshly other people may look upon it, he or she always justifies it to himself or herself. That is just "being human." It's a part of the way we are made up. In any conflict that comes up with another person the mind starts inwardly justifying everything that one thinks and does while blaming everything on others. It could be comical. But it is tragic, really. It is the human comedy. It is the human tragedy. It is what separates us from others, and blinds us all so that we cannot see each other.

Mindfulness is a way of being objective. Mindfulness is an alteration of the ordinary consciousness to a state in which one is simply aware of what is. There is no judgment in mindfulness. Mindfulness "slips" judgmentalness. It is all just experiencing directly with the five senses. It is objective. It is all about an interest in just seeing what is so.

In the kindergarten, you have learned how to have objective experiences with your sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. In practicing this, you have obtained direct objective knowledge of the world around you and within. In this way, you have seen what is so.

In exactly the same way, mindfulness can enable you to have objective knowledge of the simple, obvious, and apparent "suchness" of human behavior. You can see the apparent components of behavior jump out at you "in high relief," as in the kindergarten exercises. All you have to do is remember to turn on your awareness and look and see.

What am I doing here now? What is she doing here now? What's going on with me here now? What's going on with him here now? What's obvious and apparent? What stands out in high relief? Aha!

So the playground--that is, this course in the study of human behavior--is designed specifically for students and practitioners of mindfulness. For only in mindfulness can one see what's really going on right now objectively.

You could say that this is the study of "What's obvious?"

In every spiritual, metaphysical, shamanistic, and psychotherapeutic approach that teaches mindfulness, there is *a diagnostic tool*.

In Buddhism, this tool is spelled out in well-organized and thorough detail in the descriptions of the Aggregates. As well, there are the ancient mandalas of the East which boil down the basics of diagnostic information (i.e. what is a human? What does a human do?) into a handful of symbols that constitute a mnemonic teaching device which jogs the memory of the greater details that the teachers have explained in their lectures.

Elsewhere, I've written about the use of ancient nagüal ist petroglyphs for this diagnostic purpose by the Stone Age Indians of Arizona, as explained to me by the 102-year-old nagüal of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Tucson.

There seems to be every indication that the characters of the Tarot, and the figures of the various astrologies are keyed in with personal diagnostic characteristics. Likewise the Chinese book that pre-dates written Chinese, the I Ching. Gurdjieff said the twelve Apostles represented personality types ("Doubting" Thomas, etc.)

Only fragments remain today of most of the ancient diagnostic devices that were associated for the most part with monastic life. Even the Enneagram (taught by Gurdjieff), a dynamic holistic personality diagnostic device, said to have been invented by Sufi masters, is no longer available in the versions those masters looked at. It has been "pieced together," so to speak, by 20th century researchers, from fragments known from various sources, and hints and explanations in the written teachings, *and from their own contemporary practice of the spiritual methods and mindfulness that is entailed* which has enabled them to *see* how it works.

The point is this: spiritual approaches and all systems of "self-knowledge" employ diagnostic tools. The purpose of this is to "know thyself." Only by waking up in mindfulness and objectively experiencing the simple obvious nature of one's own make-up while it is happening can one *really* understand not only one's self, but also what our collective human nature is like for all of us as individuals together.

One has to be able to "stand apart from it," so to speak, by being in a posture of awakened mindfulness, in order to just see, and calmly understand, one piece at a time. And only by *seeing* in this way, is it possible to do anything that can really make a change in your life, if you'd happen to like to make any such change.

No one can ever figure you out. Not even me. I couldn't do it. There will always be surprises. The greatest surprises always continue flowing from the essence, and they are new, never seen or done before. And everyone I ever knew keeps surprising me. And they can be surprised, too!

That's not to say, however, that one cannot gain a pretty clear picture of the several types of behavior that are most commonly active in a person's life. These several types can be called a person's "principal types." And there will usually be one of these that most often takes the lead. And this can be called one's "chief feature," or chief personality type. With a little study, these can be seen.

The types that are used in this playground are divided into eight characteristic themes. Each of these themes is clearly distinct from the other seven. And taken together, all eight themes comprehend everything that human beings do. (When you understand what these themes are, you will understand how that can be.)

These eight types, or themes, are *equal*, and *in balance* with each other. (Yet, in everyday human affairs, they get easily out of balance with each other, and disharmonies, upsets, and clashes will occur.) When people are getting along well, they are often in essence. When they are not getting along so well, they are certainly in personality.

None of these themes is any better or worse than the other seven. Again, this is hard (and maybe even painful) to understand. The peasant is no better or worse off than the king, and vice versa. It sure does hurt sometimes to give up the idea that we are more special than the others that we live among.

Usually, when students learn the names of the eight types, or themes, they moan and groan a bit. As they begin catching on to these themes in their own lives they say: "Oh, I don't want to be known by that type name!" Or else, they say, "I'd rather be known by that name over there." :-) Come on! Be a little playful! Lighten up. Let's learn this as a game, the game of human understanding.

It can only begin with your own self. You can't learn it by "what isn't." You can only learn it by "what is." These names aren't chosen to puff you up. They are chosen to wake you up.

And none of the types really is any better than any of the other types. Every single one of them is absolutely necesssary for human life to go on. Each and every one of them contains an essence which can make their lives and others around them sublime, and a personality which is the cause of all of the interpersonal troubles that are known to the human race.

In our types, whichever they happen to be, we each have what it takes to make our lives masterful and joyous, or to make our lives a movie that plays over and over in the same dramatic ways, coming out again and again at intervals to the same defeating outcomes. This is the typical life of the personality in the realm of shadows. Each of the types has a characteristic self-defeating cycle that is built in. We all play to each other to, ultimately, lose. It doesn't have to be that way. But it takes mindfulness to change.

All eight types are necessary. Each of the types has both an essence which is nourishing and a personality which is destructive. Your types are just as good and beautiful as anybody else's. They are just as valuable! The fact that you would rather be a "Superstar" than the "Noodnik" that you are, well . . . hey! The world would never work, not even for a day, without us nourishing Noodniks!

How to do it? Learn the *themes* of the eight distinct types as thoroughly and sensitively as you can. Look your self over mindfully to see if you can see if each of the themes seems to fit for you. See which several seem to fit you the most.

Study others to see if you can tell which several of the themes most closely fit their ways of being in the world. (Remember not to pin a single label of a type on *any* person, including your self. That would just blind you to seeing them as a whole human being, because all of our personalities are made up of several of these types mainly, and then perhaps a *little* of each of the others as well.)

Whether you are studying your own self or the self of another person, you are NOT looking for things that are hidden, or very subtle, or invisible. You are looking for things that stand out! Look for the things that are *the most obvious and apparent*. These are the markers of our personalities. Nothing is hidden! Indeed, you could say that what you are looking for in studying human behavior is: "What is the most blatant, the most obvious of all?" Being in aware presence, and doing this mindfully, you will have no trouble at all seeing what stands out in high relief.

What you'll be able to learn here is how to take the obvious things you see in any person's behavior and match them up with the themes of the types that they seem most compatible with. A study of fifteen minutes to a half-hour of conversation with any person may be long enough to see that clear patterns begin to emerge which show the personality types that their behavior relies on in the whole spectrum of what they do in their lives.

With people you know and have contact with frequently, or every day, you can take your time, and study what you see over weeks. Try to keep making adjustments as new information appears, until you are pretty sure that you have correctly identified the several types that play the biggest part in their lives. This coherent information enables a student to know the past, present, and likely future course of the life of the person being studied.

And continue your study of your own behavior over weeks and months. There will always be new insights and surprises and things you catch on to, always. And yet you can gain a whole insight into the prevailing several patterns of personality that, in fact, dictate most of what your life is about. And every time you see your personality clearly, it will show you a new aspect of the strengths and qualities of your essence underneath that you were born with, another part of your personal power that is already at your disposition to put into play, as you will.

But there is a lot of preliminary study and work on your part that is necessary before you will be able to do that. And, for mindfulness practitioners, if taken one step at a time, and worked with one week at a time, and one day at a time, and one moment at a time, it is NOT as hard as it might seem to get there.

As a first stage, for getting started:
check out the thumbnail sketches of the eight types (on the Playground page). By looking at those paired names (illustrating both essence and personality), see if you can tell by hunches which *several* of those types may be *the most likely* of the eight to describe you as you know yourself.

Then, learn the eight types, one at a time, as they are presented on the playground. See if each type seems to match up with you as you know yourself.

See if you can recognize that that type matches up with any of the other people you know. It could match up with either or both of your parents, any of your family members, your co-workers, boss, the people you know where you go for recreation, and strangers that you meet.

Spend a few days or a week with each of the types as you learn them, one by one. And explore your world in mindfulness watching for that type among those that you see. When you have a hunch that you can recognize one of the types in your self or another person, see if you can study that mindfully--that is, waking up and, without thinking a lot about it, just watching it awarely when it comes up. Just *see* it.

All of the rest of this course will help you in being able to do that more and more easily and fluently and more and more accurately and objectively.

Playground | Kindergarten Access Foyer | Classroom Talk

©1999 Teaching Tools For Mindfulness Training