A Problem Related to Spirituality: Understanding the Concept of Free Will

Until the End of May these blogs will focus on problems related to creating a spiritual life.

Lewis Answers: One of the most commonly discussed ideas among thinkers great and small is whether human have freedom of choice or is everything we do predestined? Historically, there have been two schools of thought concerning whether or not we have free choice. 1. Determinism: This is the idea that for everything that happens there are conditions that dictate that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. 2: Metaphysical libertarianism: Implies that though there are many factors, variables and events that cross our paths the individual may be able to take more than one possible course of action even under this set of circumstances. Metaphysical libertarianism is concerned with how something is known rather than what is known.

The principle of free will has religious, ethical, and scientific implications especially for a student of the Wisdom Path. Recent  neuroscientific findings regarding free will may suggest different ways of predicting human behavior, which is an essential factor in the creation of life strategies.

Even if free will exists there are always going to be constraints that define how we are able to make choices such as physical constraints (e.g. chains or imprisonment), social constraints (e.g. threat of punishment or censure), or psychological constraints (e.g. compulsions or phobias). In fact, some important thinkers concerning this discussion (compatibilists) will often assert that determinism is not just compatible with free will, but actually necessary for it.

In the end there is actually no way to know if there is or not free will. The illusion of ordinary life convinces us that we are free to choose but there is much evidence that could prove that this is not the case. The best one can do is live daily applying the four pillars that define the Wisdom Practice – Meditation, the study of koans, chop would and carry water, laugh sing, dance and be silent.


Lewis Harrison is a poet, author, teacher, speaker, life coach and contemporary spiritual teacher and mentor. He is the creator of www.AskLewis.com. Lewis specializes in helping individuals and organizations solve basic and seemingly unsolvable problems through the application of principles and ideas drawn from Decision Science, Positive Psychology, Game Theory, Zen, many of the great thinkers and from his personal life experiences.

Lewis will be teaching a weekend program “Make, Choices, Not Excuses” in Oneonta, New York May 3-4

To learn more about Lewis’ work go to “Ask.Lewis.com”

“Like” us on Face book at “facebook.com/AskLewis”

Thoughts on Peak Experience

I began my career as a motivational speaker. This peaked my interest in life coaching, spirituality, positive thinking, success, personal power, and issues related to “self-help” and personal enlightenment. Over the years I have gotten to meet many extraordinary people. Occasionally I receive a gift in the form of an e-mail full of life and wisdom. I recently received such an e-mail from a deep thinker and world traveler named Vicky Kapatos. The letter she wrote was very kind and enlivening and I wanted to share it with you.   Enjoy, Lewis Harrison – www.AskLewis.com ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Dear Lewis, I just read your definition of the peak experience and I got shivers down my spine as you put it in such an eloquent way and decribed it so perfectly how I experienced it that it blew me away.  I wanted to share my experience with you as you hit the nail on the head.  Thanks so much. Regards Vicky  My three peak experiences were so profound they changed my life and “blew” me away. They made an orgasm feel insignificant or mild. The peak experience which I call the mystical experience as I am spiritual but not religious, was so ecstatic that I felt unified and unseparated and “whole” with the world. An intense love agapi not eros takes over your being and you transcend ego but ego is still there in a refined state. It’s seriously amazing and hard to explain. Only to people that have had them know what you’re on about.  So it can be a lonely experience trying to explain to people what they are without sounding weird.  So I usually shut my trap about it, only at appropriate seminars, workshops I will discuss if it is raised. One happened with an ant on the ground on a bush walk feeling serene and sunbathed as I was walking in nature, I looked down and saw this bull ant which I nearly stepped on accidently. I raised my foot and an immediate sensation took over where the ant I were one and unified and an intense love for it took over me. Deep compassion and love for this creature permeated my consciousness This lasted approx 2 minutes. One happened with walking on the beach very early in the morning waiting for the magic of sunrise, the sun was me and I was the sun and I felt a deep protection and blessing. This one was so intense I had to surrender almost in prayer on the sand. The other with a beggar on the street near the sacred temples of Mahabalipurum Chennai India, when I looked into his eyes I saw his soul. Again I was him and he was me, not separated. Deep love and compassion for him and I were one. My husband had to take me back to the hotel as I was and “spun” out by it in awe. The effect it has is profound.  It intensifies humility, compassion and empathy and helps you surrender to a greater force than you as you are not separate from the world, humanity and nature. It all becomes one living consciousness and you are of it and in it. Hard to explain using platitudes, it really is an experience, words do not do it justice. Vicky PS I was not on any mind altering substances in these experiences. I am wary of anyone that tells me they’ve had a peak experience on drugs. Then it’s not the real thing. Only in a natural state can this truly occur. Drugs are a poor mimic of a true potential The peak experience is what I believe helps in self actualizing or self realizing. Everybody has it in them its a matter of trying to assimilate the ego into doing things that really matter to our true nature, experiencing by leading an authentic life, which ​I have been trying to do for over 30 years now.​  No one should ever think they are special having one of these as you are not.  God does not discriminate. The peak experience is a small taste of the ecstasy of God ​for me​. oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Understanding Games and Gamification in Stress Management

In understanding Game Theory and creating life strategy it is important to understand that all personal development and human potential is based on the time of game you choose to play in life. If stress management seems to be your issue there are many approaches that can be ta meditationken including laughter yoga, meditation and even hypnosis. No matter what approach you choose it should be place in the contect of a life game

A game is a systematized activity, often for fun or entertainment, in which an individual, or groups of individuals, must strategize, i.e. make decisions that will lead to a desirable outcome.  You can see from this definition that one can play a game alone.  For instance, the card game Solitaire only requires one person.  An individual could play basketball, or any number of games, alone and simply compete against him or herself. Of course much of life requires that we interact with others, so this naturally leads to games that require more than one person. Many, though not all, of these games require that someone wins and someone loses.  In these games, another person (or more than one other person) can affect the outcome of the choices you make. This type of game is called a competitive game.

Most of us have been playing games since were little children and used the word “game” freely. However, if one were asked, “What is the exact definition of the word ‘game’?” most of us could not answer. Since the foundation of life games is built on definitions, defining exactly what a game is might be a good place to begin.

In order to play effectively in a game, the players need to have strategies and plans for action.  Just as the rules need to have consistency, each player of the game is likely to adopt a strategy that he or she thinks is most effective and is unlikely to radically change.  The ability of a player to create an effective, consistent strategy will be defined, in part, by his or her understanding of the rules and of the perceived strategies of the rival or opponent.

For a game to be effective, the strategies of the players must remain minimally consistent.  If there are radical changes in a game there is a great chance the game will collapse.

For example, in baseball a pitcher is expected to throw a pitch that the batter is not expecting.  However, it would be too radical a change, and an unacceptable change, for the pitcher to go on the pitcher’s mound and throw a beer bottle or a paper airplane at the batter.


A Game is Visually the Same as a Smartphone App

Many people, even the highly educated may hear the term “Game Theory” a freeze up. They fear that these are all extremely complex ideas that require an in depth understanding of mathematics and specifically statistics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think of LHAGT as you would of a Smartphone: on the screen of the smart phone are Apps. Now an App is not the same as a game, although they may initially appear so when seen as an icon on a Smartphone, or even on a computer screen. However, a game requires strategies related to what other players may do or to changes in an environment, while most Apps are usually formal, rigid and structured. Think of a calendar App on your Smartphone, as an example. Still, when you look at a Smartphone screen and see those little icon boxes, it is easier to visualize the concept of the relationship between Apps and games. Imagine instead of Apps for weather or the Internet, you were looking at a family App, a job App, a religion App, a gender App, or a sexual orientation App.

An actual video game on a Smartphone can usually be accessed by clicking on a games App. This App is not the various games; it just stores and processes them. Thus, a game is a sub-category of an App.  An example of a rigid App might be called, “Legally Imposed Responsibilities in a Family.” Imagine an icon representing this on a Smartphone. Now, when you click on this App, various family games might appear.  In a family game for instance, there may be parents, children, grandparents, neighbors, relatives, daycare, pre-school, home school, visits to the doctor, etc., all of which require various strategies tied to priority planning, time management, etc.


Lewis Harrison is a poet, author, teacher, speaker and life coach. He is the creator of www.AskLewis.com. He specializes in helping individuals and organizations solve basic and seemingly unsolvable problems through the application of principles and ideas drawn from Decision Science, Positive Psychology, Game Theory, Zen, many of the great thinkers and from his personal life experiences.

Lewis will be teaching a weekend program “Make, Choices, Not Excuses” in Oneonta, New York May 3-4

To learn more about Lewis’ work go to “Ask.Lewis.com”

“Like” us on Face book at “facebook.com/AskLewis”

What is Chi or Qi?

STUDENT: Is there a simple way to define what Qi, Chi or Ki is?

LEWIS: It is the expression of the law of nature?


STUDENT: How does one know what is a law of nature?

LEWIS:  Part of the process of self knowledge is to isolate and explore those human traits that are innate and that significantly impact the way we live our lives.


STUDENT: Is there a definition for the systematic understanding of natural law?

LEWIS:  The simplest definition might be to speak of systems that define the workings of the universe. These systems are generally defined either as LINEAR or NONLINEAR. Linear systems tend to relate to mathematical and scientific systems. Nonlinear systems may refer to a diverse range of perceptions including physics, theology and the belief that a creative intelligence is expressed in all living things.  There is no absolute definition of “natural law.”  One could say that responding to our instincts is a way of being in alignment with natural law, but how does one know for sure that something is an instinctual drive?  One could say that we are a reflection of natural law — that we are immersed in it all times – but to define exactly what it is, is probably impossible.


STUDENT:  How are we a reflection of natural law?

LEWIS: Our primal self and our self-actualized self are all examples of a Natural System.


STUDENT: Aren’t we also cultural creations?

LEWIS: Not on the deepest and most profound levels.  We are neither a cultural creation nor a reflection of some historical development. The process of self-actualization includes the full expression of all aspects of the primal self, expressed in ways that serve our own survival, our own abundance, and also the greater good of the world. All this is expressed in the elemts and in through Qi. Ruthless self assessment helps you to have a greater awareness of it.


STUDENT:  I have read that in prehistoric times, human beings survived by being hunter-gatherers?

LEWIS: Most anthropologists would agree.


STUDENT: Why is the concept of Nature’s Systems or natural laws of importance to  you approach to coaching and mentoring?


LEWIS:  Part of the process that defines this work is the attempt to integrate many different perspectives on the social and ethical needs of humans – more specifically those needs that are innate.


STUDENT: Is there any way to systematize this process?

LEWIS: There have been many attempts by great thinkers – philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, geneticists, physicists, etc..  The best any of us can do is to make educated guesses resulting from our own introspection and intuition.  Of course, we as a species are constantly evolving, and each of us evolves uniquely and at a different rate. Questions related to human potential and natural law are generally more complicated than the questions related to sciences such as biology or mathematics, where systems and abstractions can be precisely organized and defined.



You can find all of this information on the Ask Lewis Facebook page  at “facebook.com/AskLewis” and at www.Asklewis.com







Quote for the Day – “The truth you ignore will come back to bite you on the butt”

Author?  Someone who ignored the truth and has the butt bite marks to show for it!




Lewis Harrison is a poet, author, teacher, speaker and life coach. He is the creator of www.AskLewis.com. He specializes in helping individuals and organizations solve basic and seemingly unsolvable problems through the application of principles and ideas drawn from Decision Science, Positive Psychology, Game Theory, Zen and from his personal life experiences.


To learn more about Lewis’ work go to “AskLewis.com”

“Like” us on Face book at “facebook.com/AskLewis”



Q & A on Synergy, Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language and Problem Solving

Foundational principle of this Conversation: To explore how the recognition of subtle patterns can help one to solve complex problems.

Pattern: A pattern is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects. The elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner. Patterns can be based on a template or model which generates pattern elements,

Pattern language: a term coined by architect Christopher Alexander, is a structured method of describing good design practices within a field of expertise. .

Q. Is all synergy positive?

LEWIS: Usually is but there might be times where two different groups come together and create a new factor that is detrimental to both.

Q. And where does pattern language fit in here?

LEWIS: When a person reverses a synergistic process they actually observe what might be called “a process of decomposition.”  Alexander generally speaks of designers but that term can be applied to anyone creating or “designing” a system with many components. What happens is that a creator of systems, often a designer observes a problem, selects a solution, then discovers new, smaller problems resulting from the larger solution. Occasionally, the smaller problems have no solution, and a different larger solution must be selected by recognizing a pattern that leads to the solution.. Eventually all of the remaining design problems are small enough or routine enough to be solved by improvisation by the builders as they clearly understand the pattern involved. Now the “design” is done – the system is created.

Q. Is there some formal way that these problems are solved?

LEWIS: The actual organizational structure is left to the discretion of the designer, depending on the problem. This explicitly allows a designer/problem solver to explore patterns, starting from some small part. When this happens, it’s common for a designer to realize that the problem is actually part of a larger solution. At this point, the design almost always becomes a better design.

Q. I imagine this can get complex?

LEWIS: It can but then again this is an approach specifically applicable to solving complex problems. When one recognizes a pattern they will likely notice ways in which that each pattern has relationships to other patterns and to the language as a whole. This gives the designer using the language a great deal of guidance about the related problems that must be solved.

Q. Are there experts in using pattern language to solve problems?

LEWIS: Yes. It is usually for a pattern language expert to come n as an outsider and solve a problem using this approach. This is because this outside expert must get a reliable, complete list of the problems to be solved and it is the people most familiar with the problems that need understand the pattern.

Q. How would this obstacle be addressed?

LEWIS:  Alexander recommended organizing a group of concerned, empowered users to improvise in creating workable large-scale initial solutions, maximizing the utility of a design, and minimizing the design and systems rework.


Q. Apply pattern language to how you use applied game theory in problem solving?

LEWIS: An important aspect of design patterns is to identify and document the key ideas that make any good system different from any poor system and to assist in the design of future systems. The ideas expressed in a pattern need not be specific to architecture, computer programs, or anything else. Any pattern language should be general enough to be applied in very different systems within its context, but still specific enough to give constructive guidance.


Q. Is there a general term applied to the wide range of situations in which the problems and solutions addressed in a pattern apply?

LEWIS: It is called a context.  An important part in each pattern is to describe this context. One can then offer examples to further illustrate how the pattern applies to very different situation.


Q. So every problem has a pattern?

LEWIS: Yes. If you can even recognize and define that there is a problem then you are recognizing some pattern. Many of these problems are highly complex and the problems and solutions described in a pattern can vary in their level of abstraction and yet even a very abstract pattern will usually contain examples that are, by nature, absolutely concrete and specific.

Q. In LHAGT we are concerned with real world problems as opposed to theoretical problems. There are many theoretical problems that architects, statisticians, and physicists deal with that may not have real world applications, Here patterns can vary in how far they are proven in the real world. Christopher Alexander addresses this by giving each pattern a rating by zero, one or two stars, indicating how well they are proven in real-world examples.


Q. Is this work all theoretical?

LEWIS: Many experts in problem solving and decision science believe that all patterns need at least some existing real-world example. However the logician-mathematician addressed this idea philosophically in his Incompleteness Theorum and from this perspective It is conceivable to document yet unimplemented ideas in a pattern-like format.


The patterns in Alexander’s books focus primarily on how to build a town or neighborhood as well as the design of individual buildings and the interior of rooms. Even so his ideas to general problem solving are invaluable because he sees the low-scale artifacts as constructive elements of the large-scale world, so they can be connected to a hierarchal network, These are models that help the problem solver to reproduce the unique properties of specific patterns.


Q. Please explain some of the factors than enable a creative intuitive thinker to see patterns that may not be obvious to a purely logical thinker?

LEWIS: A pattern must characterize the problems that it is meant to solve, the context or situation where these problems arise, and the conditions under which the proposed solutions can be recommended.


Q. This seems basic. Why wouldn’t a logical thinker, especially a mathematician recognize this?

LEWIS: Often unique problems arise from a conflict of different interests or “forces”. A non-linear pattern might emerge as a dialogue between thinkers that will then help to balance these conflicting  forces, and finally allow them to make  a decision.


Here is an example based on what Alexander has written.  Imagine a pattern suggesting what we now call a  “wireless smart telephone”  at a time when wireless phones had not yet been invented.. The different forces involved would be the need to communicate, while also needing to get other things done at the same time such as cooking, walking down the street, and the ability to find a good Tex-Mex restaurant in Alaska. A very specific pattern would be just “WIRELESS TELEPHONE”. More general patterns would be “WIRELESS DEVICE” or “SECONDARY ACTIVITY”, suggesting that a secondary activity (such as talking on the phone, or researching restaurants in Alaska) should not interfere with other activities.

Though unspecific to the point that a mathematician would have a hard time grouping all the variables involved in its context, the forces in the “SECONDARY ACTIVITY” pattern are very similar to those in “WIRELESS TELEPHONE”. Thus, the competing forces can be seen as part of the essence of a design concept expressed in a pattern.


Q. Why is it so difficult for a mathematician or an expert in logical thought to recognize a pattern?

LEWIS: Traditional mathematics is logically driven. Pattern language is not.  Pattern usually contains a rationale referring to some given values which are not absolute but which are actually defined by those individuals who are receiving the value. One might say that the content for the individual define the pattern in a particular form. It might be giving a person a great sense of love or freedom.  Christopher Alexander calls it the “quality without a name” (QWAN). This idea also reflects in certain trends of thought that might be associated with Taoism, Zen and mystic trends in other religious faiths. The best patterns and systems enrich daily life. It is the extraordinary person (see glossary) who is most likely to understand the subtleties in pattern language.

In traditional, ordinary ways of thinking the quality of a system is defined by how efficiently and effectively the system works. With pattern language the quality of any system: whether technical devices such as telephones or computers cars, to social networks, or physical teams interacting to complete a project social structures like a team working on a project, can be rated more easily. In some situations the defining factor will often be whether users spend their time enjoying or struggling with the system while in other situations the key will be to create design patterns help to create an object-oriented code that is easy to read, maintain, modify and reuse.

In this way pattern language creates a value defined in part on how it impacts on human life. From this perspective one can identify patterns that are distinct from the mapping of patterns associated with changing technology. Alexander says that having this distinction allows us to find a “timeless quality” (Alexander).



Q.Is there some connection between all patterns?

LEWIS: There are different theories on this. A pattern language, as described by Alexander, contains links from one pattern to another.


Q. How would this effect the ability of a group or individual to solve a problem?

LEWIS: When trying to apply one pattern in a project, a designer is directed organically to other patterns that might be helpful in its context.

According to Alexander, such links are collected in the “references” part, and echoed in the linked pattern’s “context” part – thus the overall structure is a directed graph. A pattern that is linked to in the “references” usually addresses a problem of lower scale that seems to be part of the higher-scale problem. For instance, a “Kitchen Design” might have a category for “countertop, “Utensils” “Oven” etc.

Even without the pattern description, these links, along with a “specialized  language”, what Alexander calls “meaningful names”, tell a story message: When building a place inside where food will be stored and prepared  (A Kitchen) consider to include places to store food, prepare food, utensils for the preparation and a place to cook it.


Alexander argues that the connections in the network, the lower scale problems, can be considered even more meaningful than the text of the patterns themselves. In other words with certain types of problems the elements in the parts are of greater importance than the sum of the parts. One might call this “reverse synergy”.


Q. Speak more about the patterns in pattern language and links in the solving of extreme problems?

LEWIS:  In many extreme problems the ideas of links and hierarchic networks are important, and generally accepted among experts on the subject. That being said there are some experts who are working with unique problems in design where hierarchic networks would not come into play. Situations where patterns exist but links have not been established are often known as a pattern language.


Q. Is there some master code of all know patterns?

LEWIS: No. Just as new dialects and new words enter an existing language so do we find that existing pattern language is constantly expanding as individuals recognize patterns in their own unique challenges.


Q. In LHAGT you have spoken about the importance of self assessment in creating solutions to problems and preventing future problems. Can Pattern language be used as a tool for self assessment?

LEWIS: Yes. It can also be used as a general assessment tool. Alexander’s methods have been used to define expertise in many specialized fields. Expertise can be defined in many ways but one way is by determining whether an individual has the ability to recognize patterns in, let’s say architecture, education and even computer-human interaction. This is especially valuable in LHAGT theory because so much of what we are exploring here involves multi-disciplinary thinking.


Q. How important is Pattern language in the application of LHAGT and solving complex and extreme problems?

LEWIS:  Very. In LHAGT we often deal with Pedagogical Patterns, high-level patterns of teaching and group interaction. The core of Applied Game Theory to recognize, maximize, and actualize the potential in any system at the lowest possible cost.  To do this requires a profound understanding of available information, the unique learning, communication and interactive styles of the individuals within a group and the most effective means of presenting this information in a coherent and accessible form.


Q. Speak further about pattern language in a teaching-learning-group environment.

LEWIS:  I have integrated the ideas of two approaches to pattern language in learning environments. One is the theories on Multiple Intelligence created by Henry Gardiner and the other Mitchell Weisburgh’s work on Pedagogical Patterns. Weisburgh proposes nine aspects to documenting a pattern for a certain skill. Not every pattern needs to include all nine. His listing is reproduced below:

  • Name – single word or short phrase that refers to the pattern. This allows for rapid association and retrieval.
  • Problem – definition of a problem, including its intent or a desired outcome, and symptoms that would indicate that this problem exists.
  • Context – preconditions which must exist in order for that problem to occur; this is often a situation. When forces conflict, the resolutions of those conflicts is often implied by the context.
  • Forces – description of forces or constraints and how they interact. Some of the forces may be contradictory. For example: being thorough often conflicts with time or money constraints.
  • Solution – instructions, possibly including variants. The solution may include pictures, diagrams, prose, or other media.
  • Examples – sample applications and solutions, analogies, visual examples, and known uses can be especially helpful, help user understand the context
  • Resulting Context – result after the pattern has been applied, including postconditions and side effects. It might also include new problems that might result from solving the original problem.
  • Rationale – the thought processes that would go into selecting this pattern, The rationale includes an explanation of why this pattern works, how forces and constraints are resolved to construct a desired outcome.
  • Related Patterns – differences and relationships with other patterns, possibly predecessor, antecedents, or alternatives that solve similar problems.[e


Q. How can I learn more about Christopher Alexander’s work?

LEWIS: He  has published prolifically and has expanded and updated his work through the years.


I recommend the following.

The book “Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution,” containing 136 patterns for using information and communication to promote sustainability, democracy and positive social change, was published in 2008.


A New Theory of Urban Design (1987) coincided with a renewal of interest in urbanism among architects, but stood apart from most other expressions of this by assuming a distinctly anti-masterplanning stance.


The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe (2003-4), which includes The Phenomenon of LifeThe Process of Creating LifeA Vision of a Living World and The Luminous Ground, is Alexander’s latest, and most comprehensive and elaborate work. In it, he puts forth a new theory about the nature of space and describes how this theory



Lewis Harrison is a poet, author, teacher, speaker and life coach and the creator of www.AskLewis.com. He specializes in helping individuals and organizations solve basic and seemingly unsolvable problems through the application of principles and ideas drawn from Decision Science, Positive Psychology, Game Theory, Zen and from his personal life experiences.


To learn more about Lewis’ work go to “Ask.Lewis.com”

“Like” us on Face book at “facebook.com/AskLewis”