Laura Basha, PhD, is a published author, professional artist, compelling and empowering speaker, and certified trainer. She holds a BA in Fine Arts, an MA in counseling psychology, and a combined doctorate in clinical and organizational psychology. Through the years, the focus of her work has always been personal and organizational transformation and leadership development, and she has been an international consultant, educator, and personal coach for thousands of clients since 1978. Mother of two, stepmother to three, and “Nona” to nine, Dr. Basha resides in Northern California with her husband and beloved Tibetan terrier. More information at www.whitebirdrising.com.
• What do you mean by an inward outlook?
An inward outlook is a perceptual stance from which to interact with our environment, our relationships, our world and the world. This outlook on life emerges as we listen from our own inner wisdom, taking our cues not from the external world of form, but rather from the inner realm of the authentic essence of who we truly are, expressed as compassion, transformational humor, and peace of mind.
The external world of form refers to, among other things, our own personality and personal thinking, other people and their opinions and attitudes, events and occurrences and conditions that we have to deal with on a daily basis, world events, and the public discourses promulgated by the media. This does not mean that we turn away from the reality of our everyday life, relationships, and the events of the world, ranging from atrocities to suffering to celebrations. Rather it means that while we are confronted by and engage in these relationships, challenges, and occurrences, we make choices for action from a mindset of calm, bringing forth the presence of essence which is stillness infused with the wisdom of Infinite Intelligence. In other words, we have access to our best quality of thought and whatever choice is made from this state of mind adds to a solution or response that is a benefit to all concerned. This transformative presence and state of mind emerges from our practice of being present in the moment, and is not contingent on memory, or on having to know ahead of time how to deal with the situation or person.
An inward outlook offers a buffer to the challenges of life for the one aligned with the present moment, as well as the one or others involved. This is a practice for being in the world but not of it, listening to what we don’t know rather than thinking from the ruminations of the past.
An inward outlook brings peace of mind, quiet confidence, brilliance and ease to any circumstance. –
• With so much going on in the world, how can we stay present and not become hopeless?
It is vital to be able to distinguish our personal thinking, so that we can turn our attention away from it and listen for wisdom and to the Silence of a quiet mind. This simply means being completely present with what is happening in the moment with no attention to thinking from the past. For example, thinking from the past would include internal or voiced opinions, judgements, and any type of emotional reaction to what is happening in the world.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t react, although ongoing practice of the presence, ongoing practice of the inward outlook, will eventually have any reaction be lessened. The key is to understand that any of these reactions are based on memory, not based in the truth of who you truly are. So, noticing the reactions you are having automatically makes the quietness of the present moment available. Remember, it is the quiet mind that recognizes personal thought or memory. The work then is to choose the stillness of the present moment, with its access to wisdom and common sense, even while still being aware of the reaction.
One can subsequently sustain a grounded perspective of possibility, acknowledging the nonsensical nature of the events of the world, while maintaining a serene equilibrium. From this vantage point, any choice for action from you will be a contribution, and will not take the emotional toll that aligning with the externals can take. You then become part of the solution instead of being contaminated and swept up into being part of the problem.
• There’s a lot of talk about compassion and kindness in the media. Why is it easy for some of us to be compassionate and kind to others, but not ourselves? How can that be fixed?
The most accurate answer to this question would relate to the specifics of each person inquiring. That said, if you find you are kinder to others than yourself, are you granting them more forgiveness than you grant yourself?
Here’s the thing. If you had the exact same experience as another person, with the exact same history and perspective, and the exact same reaction to the same experience, you would make the same choice that the other person made. Everyone is doing the best they can, given the way they see life in any particular moment. This is no different for each of us, and no different for you. So, understanding the psychological innocence of making any choice, allows us to let not only others off the hook, but ourselves as well. If we knew better, we would do better. This is a reliable truth.
Again, we all make the best choices we can perceive at any particular moment, given the way we see life at that particular moment. There is no other choice we can make except what seems best at the time. We then judge ourselves after the fact, but that judgement comes from a renewed perspective that has evolved after making the initial mistake. You would make a different choice now than you did then, because you have a different perspective. Perhaps in the future you would make a different choice still.
Would we judge a child for running into the street without looking? It makes sense if all you want is your ball and you don’t know about the danger of cars!
There’s nothing to fix. Nothing was wrong, just in retrospect perhaps misguided, given the way you saw things.
Let yourself off the hook. It was a mis-take. So, take it again.
All is chosen.
• What is a good first step to getting unstuck in life?
A good first step – and for subsequent steps as well – to getting “unstuck”, would be to begin to notice the repetitive thinking one is paying attention to. Human beings are thinking machines, and the body thinks just like it beats a heart, breathes, and releases saliva in the mouth, without any of our conscious attention.
Once we recognize thought as one of the many automatic functions of the body, we can take it less personally and begin to notice how much we are listening to the internal automatic thinking inputted by us over the years as data. The intellect keeps repetitively spewing out the thoughts that we pay attention to. It’s like watering the weeds in your garden. What happens if you water the weeds and not the lilies? The lilies die and the weeds grow. As we keep paying attention to repetitive automatic thinking from the past, we keep bringing it to life and making it appear real. When we stop watering the weeds – these repetitive thoughts – they fade and even though they resurface, they don’t have the influence they did previously.
It behooves us to notice what thinking we are paying attention to. Thought is a brilliant tool to be used. But mostly we don’t use thought at all, thought uses us! Once you notice you are caught up in your thinking, you are at the choice point to stop paying attention to the thinking that is repetitive. Paying attention to the thinking that is repetitive is what leaves us with the feeling of being stuck.
Quiet the mind. Learn to stop paying attention to thinking from the past and listen for the quietness that emerges. Become comfortable with not knowing. Human beings are not comfortable with not knowing. As you practice listening for what you don’t know, you will soon be able to hear the whispers of creativity, wisdom and insight, and something new will emerge. Possibility unfolds. This is what is meant by “stepping off the hamster wheel”. You can then stand on solid ground and – through focus in the present moment, listening to what you don’t know – move into a new future devoid of the past. Freedom and authentic self-expression emerge.
• What is the Law of Thought and how does it play into our personal experiences?
The Law of Thought refers to how thinking creates each person’s experience of life. There is an operational relationship between Source, or Mind, and consciousness, and thought.
Source, or what we could call Infinite Intelligence, the one substance out of which all things are formed, also referred to as the Absolute, or the Tao, interact together with consciousness and thought to create our experience of day-to-day reality.
Another way to say this is that our perceptions – our thoughts – are the “material” if you will, that inform us of how we feel, how we make meaning of experience, and how we choose to take action in life.
The Absolute, or Mind, and consciousness work together to bring to life our thinking, according to the character of the thought. The function of Mind and consciousness in this equation is to bring to life what our thinking is. This is why the character of the thought is important. What we focus our attention on is what will be our experience. For example, if we have a tendency to worry, our experience of life will be influenced by this tendency, and there may be a persistent background feeling of concern or unease, as we expect – perhaps unconsciously – that something will go awry and we need to fix it, handle it. A kind of vigilance may be ever-present in the background for this person, keeping them from relaxing and simply enjoying life.
The Law of Thought also references that the condition of the consciousness will determine which types of thinking arise. So, if one practices some form of meditation, or practicing being calm and present as opposed to worrying, the type of thinking that will arise in such a person will naturally be one of more ease and tranquility.
• You talk about Impersonal Thought. What do you mean?
What I mean by Impersonal Thought is the thinking that occurs to us when we are completely present in the moment, with no attention paid to thinking from the past. This type of thinking is the source of creativity, wisdom, common sense and peace of mind. It is what we sometimes refer to as genius. This thinking is distinct from personal thought, which is the accumulation – or memory – that we each have, based on our past experiences in life and what we made them mean. Mostly we live out of what we made experiences mean – our stories about our life, all of which are generated from the past.
Impersonal Thought is ever available to every human being. We live and move and have our being in it. When we are completely present with no attention to thinking from the past, insight, creativity, wisdom, and common sense emerge. As we can stay present and in the moment, whatever circumstance we are in, whatever condition we are dealing with, will have the highest quality of thinking available to address it. Impersonal Thought brings clarity, power, and brilliance, and peace of mind. It is equally everywhere present – we look at each other through it.
• What is “flow” thinking and how can we stay in the flow during a busy day?
One of the first distinctions of the inward outlook paradigm is that between what we are calling two “modes” or “channels” of thought. Once these two channels are delineated, we can be aware of which channel we are paying attention to.
The two modes are personal and Impersonal thought. Personal thought is based in the past, or memory, and is basically how we have created the persona or personality we identify with as “myself”.
When Impersonal Thought of being present in the moment of now is distinguished by us from our stories from the past, then listening for what we don’t know, listening for what we’re not seeing, we have access to the “flow” state of thinking.
Flow thinking is available during any moment of the day once we see the difference between these two channels of thought. When we are feeling “stuck”, or when we are frustrated, annoyed, offended or resentful, or any form of reactivity or even inauthenticity that we might notice, as soon as we notice we are caught up in this type of thinking, as soon as we recognize we are identifying with something external to us, we are at a choice point. This choice point is that which allows us to consciously choose – or not! – to stop paying attention to what we have been thinking and listen for the quietness of being present. This diffuse, effortless state of consciousness of being completely present in the moment with no attention to thinking from the past, is what we are calling “flow”.
It is actually the “flow” state that recognizes we are caught up in our thinking, as soon as we recognize we are caught up, we are actually in flow. Personal thinking cannot recognize itself as thought, because it thinks it is all there is. Only the flow state of being in the moment can recognize personal thought.
This is the difference between consciously or unconsciously creating our experience of life, and holds the secret to masterful living.
• What do you mean by “humor continuum?”
By “humor continuum” I am referencing the various levels of sophistication inherent in humor. One can have a sense of humor that is essentially based on the ridicule of others, which I would say is at one end of the continuum. And then one can also have a sense of humor that captures our human foibles within a context of relatability, humility, and compassion, which recognizes we are all in the same boat. This would be the other end of the spectrum, which we might call transformational humor.
Humor can be grounded in ridicule of another’s foibles, or it can be elevated to pointing out human foibles as a way to relate to the commonality of the vulnerability of the human condition. With the first example of the humor continuum, the laugh is at another’s expense, inferring superiority to another’s vulnerabilities. With the second, the laugh is good naturedly at ourselves and belonging with our fellows, inferring the compassionate acceptance of our collective vulnerabilities.
This state of mind actually allows us to be standing in the midst of suffering or trauma, and while being compassionately moved, to still add to the solution or healing of a situation. Presence emerging from the state of mind we’re calling transformational humor does the work.
• What is Transformational Humor?
Transformational Humor refers to an elevated sense of alignment with our humanity, infused with compassion and empathy. Transformational humor allows us to be present in a myriad of circumstances while maintaining a sense of lightheartedness and possibility. This level of humor allows us to be with suffering while at the same time knowing that in spite of the circumstance or condition, there is a greater order of wellbeing available. It also is accompanied with a lack of judgement, understanding that in spite of appearances, we are all doing the best we can, given the way we see life.
In the face of daily circumstances and conditions and the myriad challenges of being human that we all face, transformational humor allows for a childlike joy and lightheartedness coupled with the wisdom of the elders. It is the compassionate humor available in the present moment of Now.
Developing the capacity for alignment with transformational humor is synonymous with becoming a conduit for infinite intelligence, omniscient wisdom, and omnipotent love. Alignment with transformational humor brings wisdom and common sense, and the possibility and probability of transforming suffering and negativity to authentic lightheartedness. If one is willing to take on the practice of listening from the quietness of the Silence, developing the capacity to be in the present moment with no attention paid to personal thought, this alignment is available to every human being. Transformational humor is an attribute of Source and transmutes whatever circumstance is in its field to its divine correspondent of health and well-being.
The Inward Outlook: Conscious Choice as a Daily Practice by Laura Basha, PhD
Publisher: She Writes Press
Price: $16.95 | 152 pages
Format: Trade Paperback