GorillaFriend Blog

‘The map is not the territory.’ Why is this phrase SO important?

If ideas are too far ahead of our time, many will judge that the holder of the ideas as ‘nuts’.

For example, Alfred Korzybski’s ideas were way ahead of his time (photo, left).  He was a Polish engineer, a mathematician and amongst other proficiencies, he spoke five languages fluently and wrote his first book in 1921. He searched for the cause of behaviours and results. He wanted to know why humans were so self-destructive. It was Korzybski who is responsible for the profound phrase, “the map is not the territory.” The core claim of General Semantics  (which Korzybski founded) is that the world is NOT identical to our abstract descriptions of it.

His hundred year-old idea has been proven to be completely true through modern  scientific research. Watch the wonderful TED Talk How language shapes the way we think, to learn about specific examples of how this plays out in different cultures – it’s a very powerful presentation.

Author Konstantinou , a professor University of Maryland at College Park, reports that “Korzybski thought that language and neurology fundamentally limited human understanding, a claim that resembled the more famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Moreover, he argued, we often mistake linguistic abstractions of the world for the world itself. “The word is not the thing,” he wrote.”

Of course this wisdom is very old. The parable of the blind man and the elephant is first noticed in one of the earliest Buddhist texts Tittha Sutta in Udana 6.4.

Likely the observation is much older than that.

Korzybski’s ideas are similar to the hypothesis of linguistic relativity or Sapir–Whorf hypothesis which states that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition, and therefore our human perceptions are relative to our spoken language. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was introduced by Edward Sapir in 1929 and later developed by Benjamin Whorf.

Here follow some quotes by the founders  of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:

“Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached… We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.” -Sapir (1958:69)

“We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds – and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way – an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, but its terms are absolutely obligatory; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees.” -Whorf (1940:213-14)

Getting back to Korzybski, the following excerpt is from article The Eccentric Polish Count Who Influenced Classic Science Fiction’s Greatest Writers” by Lee Konstatinou:

“We mistake words for things because Aristotelian concepts have conditioned our thinking. When we use the word “cat,” for instance, most of us supposedly take for granted that the word “cat” wholly describes the creature under discussion. But language necessarily, Korzybski emphasized, abstracts from the empirical world. (He called this doctrine “non-allness.”) The cat is never only a cat. At best, language can create an incomplete, albeit useful, map of our environment.” 

I read about the blind man and elephant parable while studying Buddhism. The concept was not taught to me during my public schooling nor did I learn this from my parents.  I learned about Korzybski’s ideas after I wrote my book Harmonizing Consciousness, How the Acquired Faculty of Language Wreaks Havoc on Human Consciousness, and What We Can Do About It (2018). I remember feeling like I had found an old friend when I read about him. And I only learned about the labels ‘linguistic relativity’ and ‘Sapir -Whorf hypothesis’ today while researching this article today. These are labels our culture has created and have nothing to do with the wisdom itself, which is beyond words.

The latest science research proves linguistic relativism as true for cultures but very little research has been done on the fact that each PERSON’S world is completely unique even within the same language. This is being attempted but it is very difficult to undertake because each person’s reality is beyond words, using our senses and imagery in unique ways and therefore is elusive and subjective – and always changing. This is because each of us have individual associations to words, different life experience, different genes and so forth. The bottom line is that each of us reside in our own individual world because of language. We can sense each other and relate reams of information without a word but language uses a few symbols which most likely have different meanings for each person and we assume we are speaking about the same thing. Try naming the feeling of aliveness and reverence. How many names are there for the feeling behind God, Spirit or Universe?

It turns out that although language shares information over space and time, it does not hook into nature to accomplish this.  Language is divisive. It pulls us out of the flow of subtle information streaming into us from our environment and from within. It’s because we have to interpret the symbols that we feel alone and isolated. We enjoy our inner fantasies very much however!  We may sit in the same movie theatre and watch the same show but each of us is having an entirely different experience. When we are silent and connecting with others on nonverbal levels, we feel most connected with others in the realest sense – because our senses are being engaged and the divisive filter of language is absent. To nature, language is a dumbing down process, one that oversimplifies and misses reality completely. Reality is always now, in this moment.

I first experienced the deep truth of how different our inner lives are during a specific group meditation practice (Star Group practice) and then later I very profoundly experienced this with each of my clients as a hypnotherapist. Because I am open to experiencing the experience of others in my own cells and body processes – my senses are open – and because I trust my sensing faculties completely, I am able to follow the different processes of others in a unique way, something that was not taught in school or by my parents!

That we are fundamentally different in how we know and experience life is important information we must all learn to incorporate into our individual maps. This act would be unifying and help us better navigate our territory which is nature.

Let’s sense the interconnectivity of our territory, together.

 

Language is not in synch with nature. Sensing and silence are.

 

Hanging  out with the untranslatable is super healing because language creates maps and maps are limited. “The map is not the territory.” Nonverbal sensing puts us in contact with the territory. Nature is the territory. Language usually takes us out of synch with nature. Being silent and sensing in nature, put us back in healthful synch.

http://nautil.us//blog/the-simple-dutch-cure-for-stress

 

Language is deceptive

 

If you wonder why humans are so anxious? Or why I state that our language wreaks havoc with human consciousness (in my book ‘Harmonizing Consciousness), consider these examples;

1)  From Pamela Meyer’s TED talk, “How to Spot a Liar“- 5:00 minutes; “We’re against lying, but we’re covertly for it in ways that our society has sanctioned for centuries and centuries and centuries. It’s as old as breathing. It’s part of our culture, it’s part of our history. Think Dante, Shakespeare, the Bible, news of the world.”

2) From Wikipedia’s “Origin of Language – Problems of reliability and deception“;  From the perspective of signalling theory, the main obstacle to the evolution of language-like communication in nature is not a mechanistic one. Rather, it is the fact that symbols—arbitrary associations of sounds or other perceptible forms with corresponding meanings—are unreliable and may well be false. As the saying goes, “words are cheap”. The problem of reliability was not recognized at all by Darwin, Müller or the other early evolutionary theorists. … A theory of the origins of language must therefore explain why humans could begin trusting cheap signals in ways that other animals apparently cannot.”

3) This article (“Mental countermeasures Beat fMRI  Lie Detector”) is more proof about how ‘cheap’ our language really is.

If our language does not deliver accurate information, then it misguides. What are the ramifications of this massive and moment-to-moment misguidance to our organism, our interpersonal relationships, our communities, our species, our world?

Do you wish you could meditate?

Or, do you wonder if you are meditating properly?

The following simple instructions (below) are all you need to achieve excellent results from your meditation. If you can manage even just one minute of practice of the below exercise daily, you notice improvements to your well being. Of course, more is better.

You don’t need any gear or equipment. You don’t need an App or guided meditations. You don’t need anything but these simple instructions (which are taken from my book “Harmonizing Consciousness,” written by me, Sylvie Rosewood).

If you have enough cognitive faculties to count to one hundred, you can learn how to meditate successfully. 

I have extensive experience in meditation and this was the first practice that was given to me by a meditation master.

You don’t need a teacher to start with this practice. (But keep on the look out for an experienced meditation teacher that you have confidence in, as it is always best to consult with a meditation teacher on some kind of regular basis. I offer more guidance on establishing a simple meditation practice in my book.)

THE NUMBER-COUNTING MEDITATION GAME

The objective of this particular game is not about counting breaths. The object is to remain aware of counting numbers while being aware of each breath at the same time. Breathing, which is as close to your biological life force as you can get—becomes your guiding markers.

In this meditation practice, your awareness is competing against your present level of concentration. It is perfect for both beginners and advanced meditators. Some advanced meditators can count all day and never lose track of their counting! If you wanted to, and if you trained long enough and hard enough, you could do this too.

Do you think you have good concentration? One hour without losing track of one’s place is an excellent achievement worth striving for. It may take several years of meditation to never lose track of your number in one hour of meditation practice. Start small with one minute daily and slowly increase the time. If you can manage even just one minute daily, you will start noticing benefits. Of course, more is better.

After you practice counting your breaths for a while, you will reach higher numbers in your counting. This means your concentration and awareness are increasing. That is good news!

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Set a timer. You may want to start with two minutes and increase the minutes gradually in future sessions. Assume good posture with a straight back and airways. Slightly tuck your chin down.

2. Notice the breath at the tip of your nose, as it moves against the tiny hairs of the nostrils. Focus on a spot in space approximately an arm’s length away. You will make faster gains if you keep your eyes half open because this position helps you stay alert and relaxed at the same time.

3. State your highest intention, briefly. (eg., may I feel peace; may I reach number 40 today, or whatever your highest aspiration is)

4. Slowly and gently inhale and say “one” to yourself silently.

5. Slowly and gently exhale and say “one” to yourself silently.

6. For your second breath, inhale and say “two” silently to yourself.

7. Then you exhale and say “two” silently to yourself.

8. Continue this way until the timer goes off, or until you lose track of your number.

9. When you lose focus and are not clear about your next number, return to number ‘one’ and begin again.

10. When the timer goes off, silently feel gratitude for something relevant to you.

11. Make some brief notes in your meditation journal about the highest number you reached and what else you noticed. (More instructions about this are found in my book or stay tuned for a future post on how to do this.)

The lower part of the brain stem is called the medulla oblongata. Its function is to carry out and regulate life sustaining functions such as breathing and heart function, among others. The great meditator and scientist Buddha made a huge impact on our world today by discovering this simple exercise (His discovery did not use numbers however). Science now tells us that this attention to breathing allows our cells and body processes to recalibrate themselves.

This meditation can be practiced without the use of numbers of course. It follows the same process as above, but without the counting. For beginners it is usually more difficult to stay focused on the breath without counting, however, you can try both ways and see which one you prefer. Or after a year of practice with using numbers, you could meditate on your breath without numbers.

Try this! It is so easy to do it and incorporate it into your day! Try this if you have trouble relaxing!

Do you want more specific instructions about whether or not you are ‘ready’ or capable of meditating? Stay tuned for a post called “Test Your Readiness to Meditate.” After that I will explain how to keep a very simple meditation journal so you can track your progress.

Someone’s life could be improved as a result of your sharing this simple method.

You can buy my book on Amazon (You won’t find it at stores). It is a great resource to have if you (or someone you know) is on the road to healing and wellness. In it I offer a world view that empowers, and I introduce some powerful tools and some simple exercises to help you develop the faculties to know yourself. The exercises develop your inner awareness and will increase your intuition and your biological intelligence.

This book will make a delightful gift for anyone interested in healing, psychology or consciousness.

Thank you for reading my post. My best wishes to you for 2019. May we come together in awareness and respect; may we be true to ourselves – and our cells – meet in harmony with others, and allow something greater to evolve. May we have peace and cooperation on earth.

Sylvie

What Do Your Feelings Look Like?

What feelings does this picture speak to you about?

Have you ever felt like you had to insulate yourself from difficult situations? Were you trying to create positive change in your life but still had to deal with difficult situations in your family or old home? How would YOU express those feelings in pictures?

This picture is how I did that about 18 years ago. It’s taken from the visual journal I kept at the time. The astronaut suit describes the situation well, but notice the bright green colours behind me. I was feeling positive about the changes in my life but long time relationships and memories were still very challenging for me. Taking time to think of images that honoured my feelings and pouring my energy into using colour and form to express my non verbal feelings was a powerful way for me to become more conscious of my processes, to work out my emotional connections – to harmonize my consciousness.

How does the word ‘insulated’ describe my actual experience? How do I know I feel I have to protect myself? How does my stomach feel, my throat, my heart, my eyeballs? Thinking, rationalizing and explaining using words, keep us at a distance from our emotions. Non verbal forms of communication ride on the senses, are are direct and transformative experiences.

A visual journal stimulates cellular transformation of our inner structures by introducing NOVEL experience to our senses. We get stuck in using the same words and phrases. They trigger the same responses in us and we run on with that. Creating images bypasses our language processing centres. A visual journal provides a means to track and reflect on experience over time in a more responsive, wordless way. It increases and harmonizes our consciousness.

Healing is a biological process which involves our cells, tissues, blood, mucous, muscles, bones and so on. Our very biology lives and breathes imagery for our brain mapping processes, so when we contact inner imagery directly, we are on our same page.

A portion of the above is an excerpt from my book “Harmonizing Consciousness.”

Why Visual Journals Are Better Than Written Journals

Why are visual journals more transformative than written journals? Some people will disagree with this idea, but let me explain. This picture below is some of my past subjective experience, and it became part of my healing process because I made effort to express feelings that are impossible to put into words.

Here follows an excerpt on this topic from my book “Harmonizing Consciousness- How the Acquired Faculty of Language Wreaks Havoc with Human Consciousness, and What We Can Do About It.” 

“The Value of Written and Visual Journals”

Written journals have limited value in harmonizing consciousness.

“That’s untrue! Writing in my journal helps me understand how I feel and gives me insight into my process!”

I know this will be the response from some readers! A lot of people, women in particular, use written journals to cope with life. Sometimes our written journals feel like the only safe place to express our feelings. This becomes an important comfort to us. If written journals feel like a vital support to us, we must keep them! In this case, consider keeping both written and sensory journals. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. At the same time, lift one eye to the far horizon and remember what Albert Einstein said; “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

To harmonize consciousness, we want to find ways to connect with our experience before we attach words to it. Recall that words have become wired to our neurobiological processes, so our objective will be to bypass this artificial lens and connect directly with the source of our inner knowledge. This will be impossible to do while using the acquired faculty of language.

We will want to collect manifestations of our experience so we can study them later. Sensory journals can achieve this because language and words are not the focus. Images, movement, touch, temperature, sound, odour, and taste transcend language. They can communicate things we don’t even have words for yet—but we know what they mean anyway. We will benefit greatly by learning how to trust our silent information process again. We have successfully relied on this faculty for millions of years.

Written journals keep us mired in old patterns because our code is not only “limited, it is inadequate. Even if our language skills are advanced, the same response is elicited by our cells and body processes each time we use a certain word. We tend to use the same words from our word bank because words become hardwired into our systems. We become ensconced in words or phrases that resonate in a way that is familiar to us—and not necessarily in a liberating way.”

….

A final word on visual images. We can purchase paintings that resonate with us and ponder those, however it is even more transformative to create a journal of our own, even if the images in them are stick-figures in pencil or abstract swirls of colour. When they come from us and through us, they more truly represent an important piece of us.

The act of noticing our own processes is itself transformative.

(A description of how to keep a visual journal can be found in “Harmonizing Consciousness” by Sylvie Rosewood.)

If Inner Sensations Are Calm, Meditation Is Easy… But …

Who knows this meditation experience? This image is my subjective experience that I painted into my visual journal 15 years ago. I was on a three month meditation retreat alone in the wilderness. I was trying to be peaceful and silent and a whole bunch of birds decided to squawk and make a ruckus all around me. The nerve.

If my inner sensations are calm, my meditation is calm. How to get there…

A first for the world!!! Introducting the Interoception Classification Project

I am super excited to announce that a project called “Interoception Classification Project” was launched at the University of Luxembourg last year. There is a lot of confusion about how to classify our inner sensations (aka subjective experience) so this is very good news!  Here is a link to their blog: http://blog.associatie.kuleuven.be/icp/ 

I will be following their insights with great interest. The first course to be launched in GorillaFriend’s “Subjective Experience University” will be a mini course on how to know our organic intelligence – also know as our inner sensations, perceptions of the body within, or interoception.

This is a picture from my visual journal, which is a great place to record our experience of inner sensations. This picture is called “Agitation.” Keep watch for the online course about how to keep and interpret a visual journal.