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Keeping It Real — Do You Get It?

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More

…the whole point of keeping it real is so you can take it to the next level.
—The character Phil in episode
“Come Fly With Me” in television sit-com
“Modern Family”

My almost 24-year-old son simultaneously appeared agitated and deeply chagrined over seeing and musing over how few people are “keeping it real” and “get it” in his life. In fact, he bemoans having experienced this throughout his young life. In further discussion it became clear that his best friend, a male, and a recent fast friend, a female, got it and a few others “partially got it” according to him. Apparently my wife and I “basically got it, but not over everything.” It is as if our son in meeting anyone is asking, “Do you get it?” What is it to take it to the next level? Actually I seemed to get what he was describing, although perhaps not. What do I know? What is he referring to with such consternation? Here’s an opportunity to explore some possibilities.

One possibility is to “grok” another human being, that is, a term made up by Robert Heinlein in the science fiction masterpiece Stranger in a Strange Land indicating a fundamental way of knowing that is holistic, intuitive, direct and immediate. To grok, getting grokked, and grokking point to beginner’s consciousness, like mindfulness is spoken of in meditation circles as Zen mind or new mind, all of which referred to the fresh spaciousness of a vast open awareness to this very moment. Although “grok” has no definitive meaning or definition, possibly the closest is to fully get, understand and dwell within another’s consciousness. An ancient meaning of the word “understand” gets at it-to “stand under” another’s experience and world. This is like a mystic or an artist who enters into another’s direct awareness and perception. It is a rapport felt when you share the same wavelength with another so that each separate one seems to fade and melt into a shared oneness of consciousness. Grokking is to risk everything for everything and is more available with rising psycho-spiritual growth, maturity and awareness.

Being completely grokked evokes a non-separate and undivided oneness. Grokking is a wholly shared co-consciousness-two or more people sharing a similar experience of awareness. To completely grok another in being fully seen, heard and known is not only the ground of being in all relationships, it may well be at the core of our heart’s desire as human beings. A fair number of people seem to agree that all there is are relationships. Being grokked is a seamless descriptive pointer or signpost not that one merely sees or hears us; it’s rather that one sees and hears who we truly are. It’s not our appearance, mask or persona that is seen and heard, rather these are seen through and beyond to who we actually are.

Another possibility for keeping it real, that actually includes grokking another human being, is the experience of being seen, heard, and understood by another person. When anyone freely offers mindful attention and their presence, doesn’t this naturally draw you into their field of consciousness? Doesn’t this evoke feeling that you are seen and cared about, especially when it happens to be the one you understand yourselves to be? Who doesn’t feel acknowledged for being seen for who we truly are? Being accurately seen, heard, and understood gets catalyzed in the moment-to-moment actions and interactions of life. When there is a resonance of values, common interests, chemistry and shared cultural backgrounds, it is akin to finding another kindred soul, one who is a beautiful spirit and rhymes with our being. This experience is recognizable by most everyone and it is not an everyday event.

When you are fully accepted with your “crazy” (i.e., the ego or mind as a false self) and all your idiosyncrasies, then there is room to be seen, heard, and understood. We build trust organically. Then we naturally want to spend time with this person. This is equivalent to reconnecting to the best of ourselves.

Another hypothesis for making sense of keeping it real and getting it is having developed the capacity to communicate on many levels of our bodies. Human beings can build the capacity to communicate on the levels of the head, the heart and the gut, each being its own developed intelligence. First and foremost this connects us with ourselves, and then allows us to reach out to another fellow human being who has also developed the same capacity. One can bring the willingness and capacity to grow, like developing bodily muscles, and consciously attune to head talk, heart talk and gut talk.

As anyone who has been on the planet for some time can tell you, an “intellectual understanding” just isn’t enough in life. Seemingly you can know everything on the level of head and know nothing on the level of embodied living experience. Pure head talk without corresponding actions is empty talk, although it may be priming the pump for actions later. A wonderful Zen aphorism says: “To know and not to do is not yet to fully know.” When an insight or awareness is embodied, it is obvious to all and requires nothing more.

Head talk has its place in the empirical world for conveying data and other information that makes a difference in both the public and private realms of living. Head talk comes across as powerful to the degree that the information being conveyed is timely, accurate and balanced. It is further enhanced when the person authentically inhabits the present moment and is sincere in their delivery. Head talk becomes more credible when the words match the actions of the speaker. In the field of Psychology such communication is often referred to as “verbal behavior” given that the words match a pattern of consistent actions. Terms like authentic, trustworthy, honest, sincere, dependable, solid, and having integrity describe this pattern of behavior.

Heart talk operates on another plane altogether. When one speaks on the level of the heart, there is a conscious attuning to our emotions and ability to relate in the present. It need not take any specific form, though it often is spoken more slowly, with unwavering eye contact and deep sincerity. Heart talk is largely devoid of ego, that is, the separate or fictional self, and all its shenanigans and nonsense.

Someone talking from the heart does not carry grudges or past biases, non-existent in the here-and-now. Talking from the heart, you have no need to be right. Further, there is innocence in speaking from the heart that accepts knowing nothing, other than the honest truth.

On a more primal level is gut talk, coming from the center of one’s being-the gut. Some traditions call this center of our being “Hara” or “belly power,” the instinctual core of who we are. When one speaks and lives from Hara, a palpable power and presence is evident. You may think the drama of great passion, loud hysterics and upsetting tears to be most prominent with gut talk, however experience points elsewhere. More often gut talk arises when the false self or ego is so distraught humbled and at its wit’s end that it gets out of the way long enough for simple gut-level truth to arise. This is talking on the level of perceived survival, whether that is on a physical level or the survival of a relationship, an emotional connection, or security on any level.

Rather than a moment of triumph, gut talk is typically a moment of abject failure, utter hopelessness, and empty surrender. It is a moment of shedding all resistance to facing, owning and speaking the straight-up truth of what is true in this moment from the gut. Gut talk cuts through all the niceties of being politically correct, bureaucratic rules and regulations, and decorum. Such moments of gut talk are uncommon human interactions, yet can be life changing.

Head talk reflected in actions draws attention and interest, beginning to open the door of being seen, heard and understood. Heart talk is even more impactful acting like a catalyst in conveying that another human being has found us, where we genuinely live inside, and who we truly are. On the deepest levels, gut talk helps us take responsibility for our lives on the primitive levels of internal survival and security. In our weakest, most vulnerable moments, gut talk acts as a powerful catalyst for us to shed our egos. When head, heart or gut talk matches behavior, something real and honest is occurring that will long be remembered. Who you truly are can be seen, heard and understood inside this here-and-now moment. Head, heart and gut talk can be life-changing and empowering-leaving you space to be your own authority in life.

When someone is keeping it real, the person seems to bring a certain self-awareness or consciously living in this present moment, and enjoys a developed level of intelligence, maturity, humor and discernment. They get it. Humor may be a fitting way to detect anyone who brings all of this by their response of acknowledgment, or better yet, joining the conversation with mutually enjoyable repartee. Thus, if you asked what a paradox was, received no answer, said “A pair of physicians” and received the sincere reply, “I didn’t know that” or “A paradox doesn’t mean that!” or “What do you mean…I don’t get it”, the listener really didn’t understand or get the joke. If the other person draws a blank, makes a nonsequitur or a remark that has no bearing on what was just said, that one doesn’t get it. My son would only shrug, shake his head and say, “Cute…”

Getting it goes far beyond jokes, pointing to a whole way of being. It points to people who can operate on several levels of consciousness and have the capacity to be flexible in shifting their attention, tolerating ambiguity, and persisting with a trust and optimism. To get it means to be comfortable in your own skin having built strong internal resources, know what makes you tick and be comfortable with you. To get it means to not only accept, bear and tolerate paradox, that is, holding two apparently contradictory ideas that actually are both true, but further to relish it-the revealing discovery of every lived moment. Paradox is the core experience and truth of living in duality nested within the infinite eternal nonduality or oneness of the universe and Awareness.

Given personality differences and styles, some people may not relate to each other. Differences in values or interests may lead to a disconnect. Disparities in age, ethnicity, politics, religious and sexual orientations, and a host of other demographic differences, may not inspire any particular kinship with another. If one brings prejudices, stereotypes and biases, then the opportunity for getting them is severely constrained.

At the same time, all these apparent differences may be irrelevant to being on a similar wavelength. So we have a paradox-to get it seems to require that most if not all individual differences are irrelevant, though there surely can be differences that get in the way of being connected with another. That being said, on the highest levels of maturity and development, seeming differences are unimportant seen in the larger scheme of things.

Perhaps the extreme example of not getting it would be someone who simply is not present to their own life. Such a person would have difficulty giving and sustaining attention for very long, commonly called attention deficit. If someone is unable to give attention to “what is” in this moment, how could they be aware and present enough to get it? Occasionally people might “think” they get it, when others know they don’t. In noticing this difference, people who share an awareness could use this experience to further define themselves and find others on a similar wavelength. Through learning to disqualify those who don’t understand, we have the opportunity to better notice those who do. It is akin to developing a signal detection radar system to detect the signal from the noise.

Existing in your head, solely relying upon reason and logic, is a sure-fire way to not get it. Let us also acknowledge that human beings, more specifically human egos, are most clever at outsmarting themselves with innumerable ploys, defenses, and illusions. The breadth of deceit, rationalization and ignorance is unfathomable. What the ego-mind calls getting it may simply be some form of agreement and approval by another. The mental process goes something like: “if you agree and approve of me, or my views, then we’re buddies and you get me.” When these two egos agree on their point-of-view, aren’t these merely interests or values in common? To get another would seem to go much deeper. Without working on multiple levels of awareness and perspective, no one would get anything.

Getting it requires an ability to stand back and watch yourself or, even more accurately, observe, notice and witness yourself and, specifically, your ego-mind. The only way the machinations of the ego-mind can be seen is by standing outside of it in the present. Some might question how it is possible be observe the ego-mind when it’s always in use. Observing the ego from outside only makes sense within the context that the ego as a separate imaginary sense of self does not exist in the present for most people. Since the ego does not function within the present, once we stand back and gain some perspective, we witness the ego-mind’s stream of thoughts or concepts. It is at this point that we recognize that these thoughts cannot be who we truly are.

In looking through the prism of grokking, being seen, heard, and understood, or head, heart and gut communication, or flexibly shifting between multiple levels of awareness and perspectives of life situations, what is the shared core experience? Are people willing to shed their isolation and separateness? Are people willing to enter into a shared state of awareness that creates a larger space for being who we truly are? The central experience of getting it is the shared awareness of two or more separate ego-minds dissolving, leaving a community of people who keep it real, here-and-now.

So…get it, got it, great! Don’t get it, don’t got it, okay. You could say that keeping it real and getting it are the great desserts of life. Both naturally follow from ingesting the meal of life-the honest development and true growth that comes from building strong internal resources. As a result of engaging in this process, you progressively are able to tolerate strong emotional states and be your own authority in making your own life choices. Enjoy the meal, then savor the dessert.

Keep Reading By Author Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
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