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The energy that determines how we feel (love/hate, happiness/ anger, confidence/fear, etc.) in many circumstances and situations does not come from the environment. These feelings and emotions are already part of us, and we will automatically feel them when there is a matchup (perception) between what is outside in the now moment with what is already inside of us as a result of our past experiences. For example, imagine a father holding his five-year-old son with one hand, screaming "you stupid idiot" while spanking him with the other hand. And lets assume that this is the first time the child has heard the words stupid or idiot. Now he may not know what the words mean in an adult context, but he will most certainly connect the words with pain he is feeling through both his body as well as his ears. From that point forward these words will have a strong negative charge attached to them in his mental environment.

Now, when he encounters these words in the environment again in some future moment he will be able to recognize them because he has experienced these words-they exist as a distinction in his mental environment. As a result of the way in which he learned the meaning of these words, how will his perception of them affect his experience of them? Whenever he hears the words "stupid" or "idiot" he will feel the negatively charged energy connected to these words in his mental environment and consequently experience the physical environment in a painful way. Does the environment need to physically assault him, as in the first experience, for him to feel this pain? No. All he has to do is hear the words and he will experience pain. After his first encounter with these words, the pain doesnt have to come directly from the environment because it is already inside of him. Would it make any difference if from the environments perspective that the words were spoken with absolutely no intent to cause him any pain or without any awareness that they could, in fact, cause him to feel pain. Again, no. He would not be able to perceive the intent of the environment as anything but wanting to cause him pain because that is exactly what he experiences when he hears those words. How could he know that other alternative meanings exist for these words or that they can also be used within a context of good-natured fun? He couldnt, because he has never experienced those words in any

kind of fun context, he hasnt learned to make that distinction yet. From the perspective of his mental environment, there are no other alternative possibilities for the meaning of these words. Furthermore, he may never learn to make any alternative distinctions, because every time he hears the words "stupid" or "idiot," he will perceive them in a painful way, thereby creating an experience of pain, which will in turn reinforce the negative energy already connected to the meaning for those words. From the first experience forward into the future, he will be locked into only one version of the way he can experience those words.

In any given moment, there are a whole range of experiences available from the environment. What we experience as individuals will be a function of what we perceive, unless wc are in a learning mode. In other words, what we are experiencing in any given moment is being shaped by what is already inside of us (memories, distinctions, associations, and beliefs), and what is already inside of us may not be remotely close to what the environment is offering in the way of experience. When we are in a learning mode we open ourselves up to learn new distinctions and alternative meanings to expand what we know about the nature of the environment.

Our experiences shape our meanings and then the meanings shape our experiences of the future. Let me illustrate this concept for you. I was watching a local television program in spring 1987 called "Gotcha Chicago." It was about some local celebrities who played practical jokes on other Chicago notables. In one segment of the program the TV station hired a man to stand on the sidewalk along Michigan Avenue holding a sign that read "FREE MONEY- TODAY ONLY." (For those of you who are not familiar with Chicago, Michigan Avenue is home to many of the most expensive and fashionable department stores and boutiques in the city.) The mans pockets were stuffed with cash, and he had been instructed to give money to anyone who asked for it. Considering that Michigan Avenue is one of the busiest areas of the city, how many people do you think took him up on his offer and asked for some money?

Out of all the people who walked by and read the sign, only one person stopped and said, " Great! May I have a quarter to buy a bus transfer?" Otherwise, no one would even go near him. Eventually he grew frustrated and started crying out, "Do you want any money? Please take my money. I cant give it away fast enough." Everybody

just walked around him as though he didnt exist. He approached one businessman asking, "Would you like some money?" And the man responded, "Not today." The "plant" said, "How many days does this happen?" as he tried to give him a handful of cash, while continuing to say "Would you please take this?" The businessman responded with a terse "no" and walked on.

Now here is a situation where the environment was expressing itself in a way that only one person had the mental structure to perceive. For the rest of the people, there was no meaning inside of them that they could directly correlate with the actual environmental conditions. Other than the one person who asked for a quarter, nobody looked at the sign and said to themselves "Great! Somebody is giving away free money, I wonder how much he will give me."

Peoples responses to the conditions shouldnt be too surprising because we generally dont believe that money is ever free. And we can know what people believed about the situation by just observing their behavior. If they thought that it was possible to get free money, we can assume that they would not have walked by, ignoring the opportunity to get some. So the meaning they attached and what they experienced corresponded to their belief that "free money" isnt possible or nobody gives away money on the street-no strings attached. In fact, most people probably thought he was crazy, which would explain why people went out of their way to walk around him to avoid contact.

However, the environment was expressing itself in exactly the way in which it was representing itself. The sign reading "free money" was the truth, but the information "free money" did not connect with anything in anyones mental environment so that it could be perceived as the truth. There was a direct one-to-one relationship between what any given individual believed, what he perceived, and what he experienced Except for one man, everyone else obviously did not believe in the possibility of free money; they probably perceived a crazy man and thus had an erroneous experience relative to the conditions. Now, the environment did not choose the meaning any of these people placed on the information it was offering. And if the environment did not choose, then each individual created his own experience out of the situation that was

presented to him. There were a number of alternate experiences available and each alternate experience would correspond to the type of belief someone would have about the possibilities.


Beliefs create definitions, make distinctions, and shape our perception of environmental information by programming our senses to hear, see, and select information that corresponds with what we believe. Our experience of the environment will correspond to the choices we make, and these choices will correspond to the information that is perceivable. What is perceivable to each individual, however, may not have much of a relationship to what is available or possible from the environments perspective. Each person in the illustration of free money would claim that what he experienced was, in fact, the true reality of the situation. What would cause them to believe anything different? People think of their beliefs and subsequent experiences as a fact of reality instead of a belief about reality. This is natural because beliefs create a relationship with the environment that is best described as circular or a closed loop.

What I mean by a closed loop is that every component part in the process of how we experience the environment supports every other component, making everything seem self-evident or beyond question These closed-loop systems that beliefs create are extremely difficult to open up. The belief controls the information coming into the mental system, the information that is actually perceived will be consistent with the belief, the course of action taken will be consistent with the information perceived, and the subsequent experience will support and reinforce the validity of the belief. This is a closed system that will not allow for the possibility of other alternatives because the experiences keep on reinforcing the beliefs, making the beliefs seem increasingly more self-evident and beyond question. Unless we are open or even know how to be open to new information that could lead to new experiences, we will experience the closed-loop nature of our beliefs every moment, assuming the whole time that what we experienced in each situation was the only possibility available.

The people who walked by the man giving away free money didnt know they were completely oblivious to the possibility of the environment expressing itself in such a manner, even though the sign said "Free Money." And if confronted with the same set of environmental conditions again, they would behave the same way as the first time, not knowing that other distinctions are possible, even if they are remote. The perception and the experience have to match up because we cant experience something that we dont know about yet, unless we are open to the possibility that what we believe might be very limiting in relationship to what the environment is offering. Remember the man who refused to take the money even when it was being handed to him? He was being offered an experience that would have increased the number of distinctions he could make about the nature of the environment (free money does exist), and he would have grown mentally as a result. Being given free money was obviously a distinction he didnt know about yet. And even though it would seem that free money would be a powerful incentive to question ones belief that it doesnt exist, it wasnt enough for this man. His beliefs obviously did not allow him to even remotely consider the possibility, again creating this closed loop, leading him to believe that what he ended up with or experienced out of this situation was the true nature of his existence, when all it really was was a reflection of the true nature of his beliefs and how they manage environmental information.

Beliefs define the parameters in which we perceive environmental information. AH definitions by definition create boundaries. Beliefs will manage information in various ways to maintain a balance between the inner and outer environment. Any perceived imbalance will result in some degree of either stress or illusion. In maintaining a balance, many of our responses to environmental conditions are automatic because our beliefs make the response seem self-evident, when, in fact, under any given set of environmental conditions alternate experiences exist along side of the experiences our beliefs locked us into.

By inhibiting the flow of information into the mental system, beliefs do exactly what they are supposed to do. They limit our awareness of data so that we can learn in stages. If we believe that things exist in only one particular way, then our beliefs will act as a natural mechanism to block the acceptance of any conflicting information.

Considering or accepting any new or conflicting information would open up choices that we ordinarily would not have to consider. Too many choices too soon can cause confusion and mental overload. If it were not for the limiting nature of beliefs, what would happen to our minds would probably be similar to what it would be like if a television set picked up all the information being broadcast from all the TV stations and projected that information on to the screen simultaneously on the same channel. Beliefs allow us to tune into one channel of environmental information at a time so that we can learn about the nature of the environment through that one channel. Then we can expand our awareness to pick up another channel as we learn how to deal with the additional choices we are confronted with as we become aware of the additional possibilities.


What we perceive is a function of the distinctions that we have learned to make. What we focus our attention on-out of all the distinctions we have learned to perceive-is a function of the intensity of the energy in the perception loop. We only have so much of our conscious attention to give to whatever information happens to be available in any given moment. Fear (high degree of negatively charged energy) has a profoundly limiting effect on the range of information that we can pay attention to. It causes us to narrow our range of perception to focus our attention on to the object of our fears. How else could we avoid what we perceive as threatening?

Learning to drive is an excellent example that illustrates how fear narrows our focus of attention. The dangers of driving are obvious even to someone who has never driven before. It isnt too difficult to imagine the harmful effects of a head-on collision. Without having developed the necessary skills to control the car, the new driver would lack the confidence to know that he can respond appropriately to any given situation. That is, he doesnt trust himself. As a result, he will feel some degree of uncomfortableness or fear when he drives. The fear will, in turn, cause him to focus his attention on the oncoming traffic or concentrate on the eye/hand coordination

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