“Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all!” ~~Helen Keller – Writer, Social Activist
What a way to start your day…
It was 8:55 AM; the start of the first day of Shanti’s two year college program and she was seated behind tables along with her other new, twenty year old, class mates. Suddenly she got up and approached me at the front of the room where I was preparing to start my orientation to the program.
She said, “Ken, I can’t sit in that chair, it is not safe!”
I said, “Is it broken…I will get you another!”
She said, “No, it is not broken, I just can’t sit there and feel safe!”
I responded, “Why?”
She said, “I don’t know but I do know I can’t sit in that seat!”
I asked her, “Shanti, would you look at the chair carefully and tell why you feel unsafe sitting there?”
She stared intently at the chair for about 60 seconds and then said, “Well I don’t think it is the chair, it is the person in the next seat.”
I said, “Oh! Do you know her?”
Shanti looked again…this time at the fellow student in the seat beside hers and responded, “Nope, I have never seen her before in my life!”
So I said, “Then, how do you know it is not safe to sit beside her?”
Shanti retorted, “Ken, I just know, I can feel it.”
So I asked her to look carefully at her fellow student and tell me why she felt unsafe sitting beside her.
Again Shanti stared at her classmate for a bit and then she blurted out,”Ken, it is not her it the blue top she is wearing…that is what makes me feel unsafe.”
So, thinking, let’s keep peeling this onion, I said, “Shanti look at her blue top and tell me why you feel unsafe!”
Shanti stared again, but this time at the blue top.
Suddenly, she jerked her head then she turned to me and said, “Never mind Ken, I am alright now!” and proceeded to walk away.
I said, “Shanti, hold on for a second…what just happened?”
Shanti said, “I am kind of embraced now…realizing what this is all about. Ken, I was robbed in a park about two years ago and the man wore a blue top of the very same color.”
“Will you be alright now?” I asked.
“I will be fine, thanks Ken.”
And, she was…she returned to her chair and never mentioned it again.
I offer you this story because it is a classic example of a case study in axiology. Axiology is the study of human values and worth.
What Shanti did and I witnessed was resolve an illusion within her value system she had carried for two years and which was holding her back and limiting her life.
“Pain loses its power when other things become more important.”~~Brandon Sanderson – author
Let me explain. Your past is composed of thousands of experiences which your brain, acting as a central processing unit, condenses for efficiency into a value system.
Your value system is what you have decided is good and bad or right and wrong from your collected past.
Since you have a unique past your value system will also be unique. Siblings, and even twins, while they may share some common values, will have an overall unique value system.
You have specific values in each of the seven areas of your life: spiritual, mental, vocational, financial, social, familial and physical health. Your values will reflect your essential, collected knowledge of how to survive efficiently and effectively into the future.
“Knowledge rooted in experience shapes what we value and as a consequence how we know what we know as well as how we use what we know.” ~~Bell Hooks – author
It is this process of collecting values which creates people’s preferences for specific sports, political or religious affiliations, art, music, hair or clothing styles and so on. So a “jock” or a “lady” are simply people with a specific set of life experiences which have left them believing these values will contribute to their future survival and well-being.
Building and maintaining your value system is, for the most part, an unconscious process. However, we become more conscious of its presence when we are making decisions.
“The more choices you have, the more your values matter.” ~~Michael Schrage – author
Perhaps the most important thing about your value system is this…while it is your perception of the good and bad in life…it is still an illusion…it is not the truth of your existence. The truth is you are living in a perfect universe that has existed for billions of years using fundamental laws to govern itself which have ensured its continued survival so far.
Everything in this universe has a role to play in the universe’s continued survival…including you and me.
Your value system and mine would suggest there are mistakes in our universe, but the hard sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology and others demonstrate every day this is not the case.
“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.” ~~Deepak Chopra – author
So ultimately our journey in life is to resolve or dissolve our value system by finding the two sides to any and every perception we have had. By doing this we learn the truth of our existence…which is we are a part of this perfectly organized and designed universe.
It was this learning process or this evolution in thinking which Shanti experienced that morning in my classroom. Our entire conversation lasted about five minutes but in that short block of time Shanti evolved herself in some significant way which she will take to her future.
When she started our conversation she had a value…an illusion certain things were bad without being equally good (a chair, a person, a blue top). Then as she studied the situation consciously and carefully, with her own knowledge and skills, she realized each thing was neutral, but she had colored it one way because of her past experiences.
With her increased awareness she moved her perceptions from fear, anxiety and panic to certainty & calm & control.
- Imagine for a moment where in your life you need to find the balance.
- Imagine for a moment the certainty you will have there.
- Imagine for a moment the calmness you will bring to your life.
- Imagine for a moment the control you will feel.
You are capable of doing this right now about any perception you have which limits you in any way. Pick your first one and just follow the process outlined in the Take Away Tool below.
Step 2 – Identify one of your clearest memories where you perceived this value running your life.Step 3 – Go back to that event and ask yourself these three questions: “Why did I have that perception? Why did I have that perception right then? What did I learn at that moment which is critical to who I am today, what I do today and what I have today?
Step 4 – Think carefully, honestly, truthfully and persist until you find the answers which make sense to you.
Step 5 – Notice when you have found the answers how the value you had, regardless of whether it was an infatuation or a resentment, was just a tool for you to learn vital information to be more balanced and appreciative of some aspect of yourself and your life.
So the POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Everyone has a personal and unique value system.
- Your value system is what you have decided is good or bad from your past experience.
- Your value system will be demonstrated in each of the seven areas of your life.
- The universe is a system of laws which have been working perfectly for billions of years.
- So your value system is your personal set of illusions which create your emotion of elation, depression, fear, guilt, shame, etc.
- Emotions motivate you to learn by uncovering the other side of your illusion.
- You are unconsciously motivated to learn which ensures your biological survival and evolution.
- Any illusion can be resolved to appreciation by the application of the Take Away Tool above.
Remember everyone’s personal value system is simply their set of learning tools to grow in self-appreciation of themselves and their lives.