A Field Guide to Life – Principle #4 – Simultaneity

by Brad on November 27, 2012

This installment of A Field Guide to Life shows that nature is alive with “many right answers” to every situation. It challenges you to explore ambiguity, and to “allow” answers to come forth.


Principle #4 – Simultaneity 

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  – Wayne Dyer

Nature’s Principle: In a universe that continually unfolds via creative expression, that senses and seizes opportunity when conditions allow, and that creates order from chaos, there must be an infinite number of possibilities from which to choose at any given moment. This is, in fact, true; all possibilities always exist, simultaneously. The universe is alive with possibility. It’s the place creativity goes when opportunity knocks. The world we see, whether it be this year or this instant, is simply that which has manifested in this moment, out of an infinite sea of possibilities. Others are still there, but are rendered invisible by the emergence of one specific choice. A simple example is this: a crow flies by you; it has an infinite number of choices for where to fly next, in every instant. As it chooses one path, all the paths it didn’t take become invisible. At the same time, an infinite number continue to emerge in the next instant. 

Quantum science has taken this principle a step further, showing that an observer of a system can impact the behavior of that system. For example, it’s known that light is made up of photons, and that photons can exhibit both wave-like and particle-like tendencies. The possibility to be either is always there. The simple act of observation, however, results in a photon “choosing” to manifest as one or the other; a curious result, with very interesting consequences, as we shall see; infinite possibility, manifesting anew in each instant.

The Opening Offered: Although we’ve learned to love having answers, even instant ones, the principle of simultaneity would suggest we’d be better off staying with questions instead. As soon as we have an answer, all other possible answers, which were always there, vanish from view. Curiously, once we have an answer, we also tend to stop thinking. Truth is that there are always “many right answers.” We therefore have the potential to create more simply by learning to see more. As we learn to see more, new possibilities emerge, and with continued awareness and openness, they keep materializing with every step.

Non-dualism is a term often used to describe the idea that nothing is “separate” from the whole, that there is truly no either/or, good/bad, right/wrong, except in our perception of it. This is one way in which simultaneity plays out in our lives. All things are, in some way, both. Dualism (exclusively one or the other) doesn’t truly exist. By learning to see both-ness in everything, we come to appreciate simultaneity and the power of many right answers. This, in turn, opens us to creating a “consciousness of possibility” as a way of seeing life. Every moment is richly alive with potential.

Prevailing Wisdom: As a society, we’ve become obsessed by having answers, and only right ones at that. Society’s systems, from families to schools to businesses to institutions, seem to value “one right answer” above all. Among other things, this is home for fundamentalist thinking – that with only one answer, there’s no more conversation. It’s also the home for our obsession with setting goals, the way to achieve that one right answer. Goals, however, create more problems than they solve. Setting a goal is not only a way to declare, “there is one right answer,” but it’s also a way of defining the answer before setting out on the creative process to create it. That’s not only stifling, but it causes us to systematically ignore all the other possibilities we encounter along the way, which nature tells us are infinite in number. Unaware we’re doing this, we wonder why life feels so constraining, even though only our ways of seeing and thinking created the constraints. This is why a shift how we see and think offers such a powerful path forward. 

The Opportunity/Promise: We create our reality by how we see and think. In a world that is susceptible to the power of our thinking and seeing, there is no such thing as “independent reality.” Because the universe is far too complex for us to see or to comprehend it all, we’re accustomed to see what we look for instead of what’s there. Simultaneity tells us the more we “see for possibility,” the more possibility we’ll see. This is how two people presented with the same information can arrive at two different conclusions. Again, we can create more by learning to see more. This demonstrates the value in defining the framework, or context, of our lives, and not worrying so much about the details or the content. By creating bigger and bigger contexts, we simple allow a bigger and bigger reality to fill them.

Nature’s Story: A beautiful example of simultaneity, or non-duality, in nature is the “braided stream.” A braided stream is a river, flowing in a broad, flat valley, which allows the flow to separate into many channels that continually criss-cross, so as to appear from above as a braid. Its beauty and its complexity come from the fact that it is both one river and many rivers, at the same time. If you view any piece of the stream, up close, you have the sense you are looking at a river. If you look at a different piece of the stream, up close, you again see “a river.” Yet when you climb the banks and look down from a broader perspective, the beauty and complexity of the whole comes into view. You see “bothness,” one and many, together. We’re like this too. The richness of personality is a braided stream, one person, with many “personalities” expressed at different times.

My Story: My ‘engineer personality’ has been a strong force in shaping the course of my life. Although a natural part of me, he became bigger than his nature due to the not-so-natural lessons of my upbringing. Get it right; be responsible; fix everything; be perfect. I learned to cherish this part of me, for he held keys to my “winning strategy,” lots of things in the world needed his presence. Business loved it, too; the bait they offered came in the form of goals. Engineers love goals, and I was no exception. Goals are business language for “one right answer.” The engineer was Brad’s way of saying yes to goals, a perfect, if not dysfunctional, pair. I brute-forced my way through 25 years of business life, all the time unaware I’d missed probably 90% of the opportunity life held for me (the other right answers) for I was too busy pursuing just one. I’d also left behind a wake of those I’d walked on, walked over, disrespected or ignored. Indifference is a powerfully negative emotion. For both missed opportunity and the wake I left, I’m saddened.

What it took for me to even notice this was happening was the loss, in a one-year period, of all I’d been taught I should work a lifetime for – job, professional reputation, [another] marriage, a home, a large retirement account. I remember waking up mornings, all the things I had thought defined me gone, wondering who I really was. It was a painful opening to the world of many right answers. 

Nothing in my previous ways of seeing offered me any help; I was in foreign territory. I recalled what I’d learned about being lost in the wilderness. First step is to stop and think; this is not the time for panic; doing more of the same thing would only get me more lost. Second step is to look around. The environment always offers feedback, clues to next steps. Third, follow the clues, not your old ways of thinking. In the wilderness, the choice to walk downhill and/or to follow a stream is a far better strategy than walking uphill, no matter what your mind says. I stopped and looked around. Although I was tempted to ask for help (a decidedly new idea for me), I noticed everyone else looked lost too. Then, for a reason I still can’t explain logically, it dawned on me I’d only looked in half my world, the outside. I’d never looked inside myself for clues to anything. Scary as it was to look inside, I had one more unexplainable revelation; if my engineer could figure out anything in the outside world, how about putting him to work figuring out my inner world. He discovered what sages have known for centuries, and what I’d never realized consciously, that everything I’d ever done or thought or said in life had come from an unconscious belief system that was still acting as a “conveyor belt,” driving outdated and false lessons into my world as “truth,” and I’d been “listening” all these years. Another big new opening. 

Invitation: How often do forsake the experience of the journey for the promise of the destination? When you “get there,” how do you deal with the inevitable letdown of the failed promise? How might your life change by changing how you see? When you “look at” life, what do you see? (love or fear? abundance or scarcity? boundaries or possibilities? learning or judgment?) What if, in a world of diverging viewpoints, one of them didn’t have to be wrong? Take a step back; how does the view, and therefore your answer, change? Wherever you’ve adopted a rigid structure around your life, you’ve clouded your view and made lack of possibility a self-fulfilling prophecy. Explore “in between.” Ambiguity opens you to the possibilities life offers while you’re on the way to wherever you’re going.  You not only create your own journey, but you create your own map to it, too. If possibility isn’t on your map, you can’t go there.


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