Mind and Beyond Mind [2/9] – Principles and The Power of Now: On Higher Perspective

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“Do you truly know what is positive and what is negative? Do you have the total picture? There have been many people for whom limitation, failure, loss, illness, or pain in whatever form turned out to be their greatest teacher. It taught them to let go of false self-images and superficial ego-dictated goals and desires. It gave them depth, humility, and compassion. It made them more real.” – The Higher Good Beyond Good and Bad, Chapter 9. Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p147

“Whenever anything negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it, although you may not see it at the time. Even a brief illness or an accident can show you what is real and unreal in your life, what ultimately matters and what doesn’t. Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are always positive. To be more precise: they are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in complete acceptance of what is – which is the only sane way to live – there is no “good” or “bad” in your life anymore. There is only a higher good – which includes the “bad.” Seen from the perspective of the mind, however, there is good-bad, like-dislike, love-hate.” – The Higher Good Beyond Good and Bad, Chapter 9. Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p148

All suffering is ego-created and is due to resistance. Also, as long as you are in this dimension, you are still subject to its cyclical nature and to the law of impermanence of all things, but you no longer perceive this as “bad” – it just is.” – Impermanence and the Cycles of Life, Chapter 9. Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p152

On the level of form, there is birth and death, creation and destruction, growth and dissolution, of seemingly separate forms. This is reflected everywhere: in the life cycle of a star or a planet, a physical body, a tree, a flower; in the rise and fall of nations, political systems, civilizations; and in the inevitable cycles of gain and loss in the life of an individual. … It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind’s judgment. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other. … You can still be active and enjoy manifesting and creating new forms and circumstances, but you won’t be identified with them. You do not need them to give you a sense of self. They are not your life – only your life situation.” – Impermanence and the Cycles of Life, Chapter 9. Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness There is Peace, THE POWER OF NOW (Eckhart Tolle, 1999), p152


 

Dalio describes his own definition of ‘spirituality’ while mentioning a conversation he had with Dalai Lama: The rising above oneself to feel a greater connection to the whole. (Dalio p217)

This led me to a clear recognition that he, as a meditator, is an enlightened person who has risen above mind and sees our existence in a grander scheme. (You may recall Eckhart Tolle’s definition of an enlightened person as someone ‘who has gone beyond mind’ from my previous article: Mind and Beyond Mind [1] – A Brief Introduction of The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle 1999): You Are Not Your Mind

This spiritual understanding that everything is connected and we, human beings, are just a tiny freckle of the whole, is not only the reason we observe his ultimate humility but also a key philosophy that runs in his life and work principles as a clear and firm foundation.

Personally, following and appreciating his spiritual understanding on ourselves – men -, our world and our universe, were the most serene and beautiful experience in reading Principles. If I borrow Tolle’s description, I could feel serenity and stillness coming from the joy of Being. Probably, it is because Dalio is sharing what is real – truth that is not subject to the law of impermanence and cycles and that is perceived from a higher perspective.

In this article, I would like to share a few cases where Dalio’s principles beautifully reflect Tolle’s spiritual understandings as quoted above.

I will follow below order.

  1. Understanding How Reality Works and How Painful Moments Guide Ourselves
  2. A Higher Perspective: Man Is Subject to the Universal Law That Are True for All Species, Not Just for Ourselves
  3. Nature Optimizes for the Whole, Not for Ourselves. Nothing Is Good or Bad or Permanent. Only Evolution Is Permanent
  4. In Evolution and the Cycle of Life, Growth and Dissolution Are Inevitable. Only How We Deal With Matters
  5. Closing

 

1. Understanding How Reality Works and How Painful Moments Guide Ourselves

To every investor, observing how the market behaves provides an absolute challenge of understanding how the market behaved in the past and of predicting how it will in the future.

Is there a set pattern? Is it truth? Is this one of other previous ones? As I mentioned in one of my previous articles (Weaving Webs: Give Me Problems, Not Answers), Mervyn King’s honest confession helps on this matter, especially in dealing with uncertain future: The answer is, we don’t know. We cannot pretend otherwise. This reflects how difficult this job – reading the market – is.

What’s marvelous about Dalio is, in his ultimate quest to reach truth – a hunger to have a universal understanding of how reality works and a desire to build timeless and universal principles for dealing with it -, he developed an original yet rigorous decision making system in the form of an idea meritocracy where everyone has to confront rather than conform to the majority via a ‘thoughtful disagreement.’

Definitely, his path to arrive at the current system must have cost him challenges, failures and pains along the journey. Just imagine how you may react when you face unpredictable factors not seen or not read anywhere. How would you deal with pains that come along with failure? I believe this can a perpetual motion that repeats.

Dalio’s choice of dealing with pain is by ‘putting pain into perspective in the grander scheme of things.’ He uses painful moments for building character and creativity, understanding that there is something important to learn in higher perspective.

“Watching the same things happen again and again, I began to see reality as a gorgeous perpetual motion machine, in which causes become effects that become causes of new effects, and so on. I realized that reality was, if not perfect, at least what we are given to deal with, so that any problems or frustrations I had with it were more productively directed to dealing with them effectively than complaining about them. I came to understand that my encounters were tests of my character and creativity. Over time, I came to appreciate what a tiny and short-lived part of that remarkable system I am, and how it’s both good for me and good for the system for me to know how to interact with it well.” – Chapter 8. Looking Back From a Higher Level, Part I. Where I’m Coming From, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p122

“In gaining this perspective, I began to experience painful moments in a radically different way. Instead of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, I saw pain as nature’s reminder that there is something important for me to learn. Encountering pains and figuring out the lessons they were trying to give me became sort of a game to me. The more I played it, the better I got at it, the less painful those situations became, and the more rewarding the process of reflecting, developing principles, and then getting rewards for using those principles became. I learned to love my struggles, which I suppose is a healthy perspective to have, like learning to love exercising (which I haven’t managed to do yet).” – Chapter 8. Looking Back From a Higher Level, Part I. Where I’m Coming From, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p122

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2. Higher Perspective: Man Is Subject to the Universal Law That Are True for All Species, Not Just for Ourselves

Man is the only species on earth that can go above himself and look at his existence within time and space. Despite having this intelligence, or rather maybe due to this intelligence, man believes the universe revolves around him.

Man is just one of ten million species and just one of the billions of manifestations of the forces that bring together and take apart atoms through time. According to Dalio, acknowledging this fact may make us feel humble and see ourselves from nature’s perspective, which is smarter than man.

“While other species operate by following their instincts, man alone can go above himself and look at himself within his circumstances and within time (including before and after his existence). … Seeing things from the top down is the best way to understand ourselves and the laws of reality within the context of overarching universal laws. … Man is just one of ten million species and just one of the billions of manifestations of the forces that bring together and take apart atoms through time. Yet most people are like ants focused only on themselves and their own anthill; they believe the universe revolves around people and don’t pay attention to the universal laws that are true for all species.” – 1.4. Look to Nature to Learn How Reality Works, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p138-140

“To try to figure out the universal laws of reality and principles for dealing with it, I’ve found it helpful to try to look at things from nature’s perspective. While mankind is very intelligent in relation to other species, we have the intelligence of moss growing on a rock compared to nature as a whole. We are incapable of designing and building a mosquito, let alone all the species and most of the other things in the universe. So I start from the premise that nature is smarter than I am and try to let nature teach me how reality works.” – 1.4. Look to Nature to Learn How Reality Works, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p140

3. Nature Optimizes for the Whole, Not for Ourselves. Nothing Is Good or Bad or Permanent. Only Evolution Is Permanent

That man is subject to the law of the universe means we are simply part of the whole. Nature optimizes for the whole, not just for the individual. We tend to think we matter – we (our beliefs, values and opinions) are the most important – so what is good or bad for us is truth. Truth is, what’s good for us doesn’t mean what’s good or optimal for the whole in nature’s perspective.

Tolle states that nothings is good or bad. There’s neither positive nor negative. There’s only higher good in higher perspective. Man is the only species who recognize his existence in space and time. For this reason, our mind exists and survives only in the dimension of time, which recognize things under the law of duality – like/dislike, good/bad, happy/sad, and right/wrong. Mind-identified egos don’t understand otherwise.

In the higher realm of Being, on the contrary, these dual judgments don’t exist. Only higher good exist. What mind-identified ego perceives is impermanent  under the cycle of life where everything changes and nothing rests permanent.

Dalio clearly points the same thing: While he could understand people like or dislike something, it doesn’t make sense to call something good or bad in an absolute sense based on how it affects an individual. Hence his emphasis: ‘Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should” be because you will miss out on learning how they really are.’

When we recognize we exist to grow and evolve while on earth, it pays to learn and acknowledge that we exist not just for ourselves but for the good of the whole. We matter but we are also insignificant in the bigger scheme.

In this sense, we feel serene and peaceful to learn from Dalio’s big picture perceived at the higher plane. Nothing is permanent. Only evolution is permanent: While everything apparently dies or disappears in time, the truth is that it all just gets reconfigured in evolving forms, for energy can’t be destroyed – it can only be reconfigured.

“I now realize that nature optimizes for the whole, not for the individual, but most people judge good and bad based only on how it affects them. What I had seen was the process of nature at work, which is much more effective at furthering the improvement of the whole than any process man has ever invented. … Most people call something bad if it is bad for them or bad for those they emphasize with, ignoring the greater good. … Typically, people’s conflicting beliefs or conflicting interests make them unable to see things through another’s eyes. That’s not good and it doesn’t make sense. While I could understand people liking something that helps them and disliking things that hurt them, it doesn’t make sense to call something good or bad in an absolute sense based on how it affects individuals. To do so would presume that what the individual wants is more important than the good of the whole. To me, nature seems to define good as what’s good for the whole and optimizes for it, which is preferable.” – a. Don’t’ get hung up on your views of how things “should” be because you will miss out on learning how they really are, 1.4. Look to Nature to Learn How Reality Works, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p141

Perfection, in this sense, doesn’t exist. We, and everything, are highly imperfect but capable of improving. He is teaching us that we need to be humble. In a grander scheme of things, we are unbelievably tiny and short-lived and no matter what we accomplish, our impact will be insignificant. However, as a small part, however insignificant it may be, contributes to the evolution of the whole, we can matter a tiny bit for the permanent evolution. Aren’t we nothing and everything in this way?

Everything from the smallest subatomic particle to the entire galaxy is evolving. While everything apparently dies or disappears in time, the truth is that it all just gets reconfigured in evolving forms. Remember that energy can’t be destroyed – it can only be reconfigured. So the same stuff is continuously falling apart and coalescing in different forms. The force behind that is evolution. … From this perspective, we can see that perfection doesn’t exist; it is a goal that fuels a never-ending process of adaptation. If nature, or anything, were perfect it wouldn’t be evolving. Organisms, organizations, and individual people are always highly imperfect but capable of improving. So rather than getting stuck hiding our mistakes and pretending we’re perfect, it makes sense to find our imperfections and deal with them. You will either learn valuable lessons from your mistakes and press on, better equipped to succeed – or your won’t and you will fail.” – c. Evolution is the single greatest force in the universe; It is the only thing that is permanent and it drives everything, 1.4. Look to Nature to Learn How Reality Works, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p142-5

 “We are unbelievably tiny and short-lived and no matter what we accomplish, our impact will be insignificant. At the same time, we instinctually want to matter and to evolve, and we can matter a tiny bit – and it’s all those tiny bits that add up to drive the evolution of the universe. … For me personally, I now find it thrilling to embrace reality, to look down on myself through nature’s perspective, and to be an infinitesimally small part of the whole. My instinctual and intellectual goal is simply to evolve and contribute to evolution in some tiny way while I’m here and while I am what I am.” – d. Realize that you are simultaneously everything and nothing – and decide what you want to be, 1.4. Look to Nature to Learn How Reality Works, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p149-150

4. In Evolution and the Cycle of Life, Growth and Dissolution Are Inevitable. Only How We Deal With Matters

Tolle states that on the level of form, there is birth and death, creation and destruction, growth and dissolution, of seemingly separate forms. This is reflected as the life cycle of everything – a star or a planet, a physical body, a tree, a flower; in the rise and fall of nations, political systems, civilizations; and in the inevitable cycles of gain and loss in the life of an individual.

By now we know that neither up-cycle is good nor down-cycle is bad because it’s our mind’s judgment. In the life cycle of everything, if there’s a growth, there must also be a destruction, because without dissolution new growth would not happen. Our wisdom then is not to let our mind identify ourselves with our life situations – both in up cylce and down cycle. Tolle suggests we can still be active and enjoy manifesting and creating new forms and circumstances, but we won’t be identified with them anymore.

This is exactly what Dalio perceives. Having setbacks is inevitable in our life. But how we deal with it counts. In times of setback and pain, no matter what we want out of life, our ability to adapt and move quickly and efficiently through the process of personal evolution will determine our success and our happiness.

“This evolutionary process of productive adaptation and ascent – the process of seeking, obtaining, and pursuing more and more ambitious goals – does not just pertain to how individuals and society move forward. It is equally relevant when dealing with setbacks, which are inevitable. At some point in your life you will crash in a big way. You might fail at your job or with your family, lose a loved one, suffer a serious accident or illness, or discover the life you imagined is out of reach forever. … At such times, you will be in pain and might think that you don’t have the strength to go on. You almost always do, however; your ultimate success will depend on you realizing that fact, even though it might not seem that way at the moment.This is why many people who have endured setbacks that seemed devastating at the time ended up as happy as (or even happier than) they originally were after they successfully adapted to them. The quality of your life will depend on the choices you make at those painful moments. The faster one appropriately adapts, the better. No matter what you want out of life, your ability to adapt and move quickly and efficiently through the process of personal evolution will determine your success and your happiness. If you do it well, you can change your psychological reaction to it so that what was painful can become something you crave.” – b. Embrace tough love, 1.7. Pain + Reflection = Progress, Chapter 1. Embrace Reality and Deal with It, Part II. Life Principles, PRINCIPLES (Ray Dalio 2017), p155

Closing

When we face an obstacle in any stage of our life, it helps to perceive the situation from a higher perspective. As Tolle says, we are not to confuse our life with our life situations.

Also, as Dalio states, perfection doesn’t exist. As an infinitesimally small part of the whole, our instinctual and intellectual goal should be simply aimed to evolve and contribute to evolution in some tiny way while we are here and while we are what we are.

So we get the lesson of humility in dealing with our challenges by not pretending we are perfect and our way is the only truth.

What’s your thought after having perpetual insights from Dalio and Tolle? Can you share what you could perceive which I couldn’t? I look forward to your wisdom!

Jay

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