flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness

Tonight

Do not strike the chord of sorrow tonight!
Days burning with pain turn to ashes.
Who knows what happens tomorrow?
Last night is lost; tomorrow’s frontier wiped out:
Who knows if there will be another dawn?
Life is nothing, it’s only tonight!
Tonight we can be what the gods are!

Do not strike the chord of sorrow, tonight!
Do not repeat stories of sufferings now,
Do not complain, let your fate play its role,
Do not think of tomorrows, give a damn–
Shed no tears for seasons gone by,
All sighs and cries wind up their tales,
Oh, do not strike the same chord again!

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

The people who came are the right people.

Whatever happens was the only things that could have happened.

Whenever it starts is the right time.

When it is over, it is over.

Open Space Technology

I first heard of Open Space Technology back in the 90’s ~ in Africa.  Yes!

Open Space Technology & Myers-Briggs

Open Space is a challenge to we ++++J types.   We are schedulers.  We want things to be right.

+++P types live like this anyway.   Schedules make their eyes glaze over.  They like to be curious and love situations where we don’t know what will unfold.

The West is generally (though not exclusively) +++J.  We value schedules.   Even when we laugh at Open Space Technology, we secretly believe it is “wrong”.

That is burden we place on ourselves.  We put in a lot of effort to deciding what is right or wrong, rather than what is.

Modern Organization Theory

Modern organization theory (in the west) is moving more and more towards open space ideas.

We hold conferences in London with the loosest of schedules.  Someone puts a sign up sheet online, organizes a venue, and provides some basic kitchen facilities.  People sign up online and pitch up.

Imagine, if you will, going to a conference in a smart part of London, dodging riot police because Tony Blair is talking about Iraq around the corner, showing up late (courtesy of the M1) and staying till 8 during which time people who didn’t know each other before they arrived but done the equivalent of 8 dissertations (all except the write up).

With minimal organization, people learn as much as they would in 6 months in a university.  Moral hazard is avoided as people fund their own basics.  No one overeats. No one gets drunk.

What is, is.  And the economic impact is enormous.

Is all Open Space Technology productive?

No it isn’t.  Sometimes I attend something which clearly does not speak to me.

But that happens far less with unconferences than with conventional formats.  Conventional formats are also far more expensive.  People stay because they have a “day off” or have to fill in a “CPD”.  They are bored.  They eat too much bad food. They get drunk.  They learn little.  They create nothing.

Can we all work in Open Space Format?

I think it is a shock to people who are not used to “being answered back”.   If I have worked long and hard to be a Professor, I take it as my due to drone on for an hour and have a few hundred people sit and (pretend to) listen.  What would I do if I have to grab an empty room, start speaking, and have people to leave when they are bored?  I wouldn’t like it at all.

It is a new game where we work with others.  It is no longer “who we are”; it is how we collaborate with those who were there.  When we have no interest in their story, we will find the event a trial.

The old guard might, I fear, never learn.  People my age repeatedly ask me: what do you get out of it?  The sub-text is why speak to someone if they cannot give you something.  The old guard are so obvious at a meetup, cruising, if not for sexual pickups, then for money.  They are very difficult to speak to as well.

Conversation is a building process.  We put something on the table.  The next person builds upon it.  When someone just wants to take something off the table – what are you supposed to do?  Keep putting things on the table?  I can’t see why that would be interesting.

This “take” mentality only works when there is a third party in the equation.  I am paid (by someone else), for example, to stand there and put tidbits on the table.  People have got into the habit of “not being present” with people in business.

So, yes, open source format might be too much for some old dogs.

Young dogs.  I am sure they need to learn to work in open source format. But they have less to unlearn.  And what they will know, is that it is what they do with me that counts.  If they think the world owes them a living, they may still find a patron who can “supp” them.  They will find it harder and harder, I think.

Today’s working environment requires them to show up, work with whomever is there, and produce something by the end of the day.  To be in the game, they should expect to produce in a day, what an individual used to produce in several months.  Working on a time model of 20% of time on one project, 4-5 months, and 3-8 people on the new team, productivity has just leapt 3x to 10x.

That’s what it is all about.  With a lot less management, angst, & overhead, we can get 3x to 10x more out of life.

The price?  That we work with who and what is there.  With no guarantees.  None.

Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition

Sir William Osler (1849-1919) Canadian physician and instigator of medical residencies

Sometimes it is really hard to live mindfully. We want to reminisce, or we left the past untidy and it bothers us. Or we are are excited by future possibilities or anxious about negative side-effects.

How would we feel if we were stranded, in the great grounding of planes by volvcanoes, in a place we didn’t want to be? Most of us will fret until we have a plan.

Organize agilely and leanly

That is the secret, isn’t it? To become ‘agile’ and ‘lean’, so that each day matters for what it is.

What if we rephrased the day’s purpose “from get back home because that was my plan yesterday” to “let’s see what is possible and let’s have fun working out what my choices”.

Leadership vs management

On another channel, some of us have been lamenting the lack of leadership in British politics and the distinction between management and leadership came up, as ever.

I don’t think that leadership and management are ever far apart. We cannot manage without leadership. What looks like management is just clerical work when it is separated from judgment, moral responsibility and poetic imagination.

Leadership, when exists apart from management. probably exists because good management, happening quietly in the background, allowed us to think about what we are doing today without stressing unduly about yesterday or tomorrow.

When the world gets in a muddle, we need leadership AND management to get our heads straight again and the world orderly again so that we can give unto today our full attention.

But that is our goal – to let today be enough to absorb all our energies.

When life is out of order, to put some effort into straightening out the way we think.  Sometimes it is a trial.  But we do have to ask ourselves how much energy we waste fretting.

Take a journey in your life

journeys bring power and love back into you.

if you can’t go somewhere

move in the passageways of the self

they are like shafts of light,

always changing,

and you change when you explore them

Rumi

Be not the traveller who takes their world with them

I caught something interesting on BBC4 yesterday.

Two travellors were walking all day, around the Cape Town area as it happened.  They were tired and very hungry.  One said to the other:  I must eat lest I faint.

The other said:  I am hungry too.  But I don’t find it uncomfortable.  I find it interesting.

The first travellor thought:  If he does not feel his own hunger, then how can he feel the hunger of another.

For some of us, entering into the moment is hard.  We watch.  We observe.  Even when we are abroad, we are distant from our our own emotions and feelings.   We travel, yet never experience anything new because we cannot leave our world’s behind.

Be the privileged who travels at home

It’s an interesting idea then to simply explore the passageways of the self.

Be like the first travellor who engages directly with the world and listens for its response?

Be the poet who describes his life and changes his poem as he reads it to his audience?

Riff rather pontificate?

Accept the demands of the moment and our response?  Perceive the limitations of others as part of the situation.  And act?

As Joseph Campbell said:  The greatest privilege of a life time is to be ourselves.

Happiness is a choice

With apologies to Joseph Campbell:

When you are in a place

Defined by fear or desire

Then you are self-exiled from your own immortality.

Entertain fear or ambition, and you have exiled yourself from your own immortality.

Is it possible to escape fear and desire?

If you were brought up in the west, you probably think my assertion is absurd.  So I’ll break it down logically.   The statement seems to have 3 logical parts.

  • We do this to ourselves
  • There is something called our own immortality
  • Fear and ambition have the same effect

Our own immortality

Let’s define immortality simply.  When you are exiled from your own immortality, you feel a sense of not belonging and being uncomfortable “in your own skin” and “in this world”.    You feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected.   Of course, that does not mean there is anything called your own immortality, but that is enough for now.  You would simply prefer not to feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected!

We do this to ourselves

Yup, fear is real.  Desire is quite fun when we don’t over do it.  Ambition is cool.  We can imagine relinquishing ambition, but relinquishing desire and fear?  The big test is to prove to you that fear is a choice.

Fear and desire have the same effect.

I need to show you that they both have the same effect.  Let’s see if I can!

#1  Fear and desire are both about what is not rather than what is

With fear, we fear not being in some way. We don’t fear being.  We fear not being.  Isn’t ambition exactly the same?  We want to be what we are not? Desire is similar.  We want what is not.

Fear, ambition and desire are essentially about nothing.  They are about absence.  We are focusing all our attention on what is not.

#2  We do this to ourselves

Why are we thinking about nothing?  Why not think about who we are and what is?

#3  Can we think about who we are when we are frighten or driven?

Yes, we can.  Indeed it is the only way to stop thinking about what we are not. Forsake fear, ambition and desire and we have time for ourselves. (TG for our small minds; we think of one thing at a time.)

Being present

It’s an odd idea, or so it seems to us in the west.  But it is a long standing idea in east.  We can call it mindfulness.  Pay attention to what is here, now.   Other religions call it giving up attachments.

In the secular world, we help ourselves move from agitation to calm thinking by making checklists and keeping gratitude diaries.  Other people meditate.  Take your pick!  If you pray or balk at prayer, try a gratitude diary on for size.

Is being present selfish and irresponsible?

The curious thing about stopping and focusing on what is closely around us is that there is an immediate effect of connecting us more fully to the world.

Paulo Coelho suggests a simple exercise of stopping to listen.  Close your eyes and listen for the furthest sound.  You thought your fear and ambition came from paying attention to the world.  Now you feel your horizon of attention recede a little and the world seems more alive, more interesting.   There is more space for you.  You come back from your self-imposed exile.  You can breathe.  Try it. It is amazing!

Yes, it seems as if our fear and restlessness came from shutting the world out, rather than letting it in. We are scared and dissatisfied because we are not paying attention.  Or rather we were attending to what is not there rather than to what is.  We drove ourselves into exile by worrying about what is not.  Nuts.

Interestingly, you can call back the fear and ambition any time you want it.  But why replace the exciting world around you with nothing?

Galba Bright

Many of you will remember Galba Bright. The British Sierra Leonian migrant to Jamaica who built a successful emotional intelligence website in less than a year.  He died very suddenly and many of us miss him.

Shortly before he died, Galba set me a challenging questions. Do “in tune” people reflect?

When Galba died, I had two unfinished posts on my computer.  They’ve stayed here for quite a while and a Twitter poll urged me to publish them in tribute to a man who many of us found inspiring.

This is the draft that I find the more inspiring.

Walking with Elephants

zimbabwe_hwange_national_park-compressed.jpg

Galba Bright of TuneUpYourEQ asked me to expand my comment that people who are tuned into the world don’t reflect much.  I thought this picture of Paul Van R bicycling in Zimbabwe illustrates the point I wanted to make.

Of course, we laugh at first.  Then we may wonder whether Paul was being slightly reckless.  We question his good sense and  wonder if he knows what he is doing.

If he does know what he is doing, if he understands elephants, if he knows when they are likely to walk on the road, if he knows how they will react when they see him, then he is not necessarily reckless at all.

Moreover, if he meets an elephant and the meeting is cordial, if the the elephant was allowed to be an elephant and do elephantly things in an elephantly way, then that evening Paul is likely to relax with some fond and pleasant memories.

Of course, if he doesn’t know much about elephants and he reacts to any elephants he meets in a ways that elephants don’t much like, he might spend the evening in a whole different form of reflection.

We could flesh out this question quite a lot more.  I thought it would be fun though to think about elephants.

I think my point is that when we are “in tune” with the world, we don’t reflect very much. We are connected. We are in touch.  We are enjoying the world and ‘dancing’ with its rhythms.

When we are not “in tune” with the world, then it is time to reflect. Then it is time to focus on where we are in touch, where we feel vital and alive, and what to follow and do more of.

And as most days are not blissful rides through Africa on a hot, sultry day, some time spent each evening in reflection and when we awake in the morning, helps keep us in touch with what keeps us in touch.  Some reflection calms down our fretful helter-skelter rush into stressful activity that is poor replacement for what we love.

We miss you, Galba.

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Mindful

Every day

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light.

It was what I was born for –

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world –

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant –

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these –

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

Mary Oliver

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Psychologists need poetry

I have one piece of advice for anyone who aspires to be a psychologist.  Read poetry.  Read good novels.

Your College or Department will jump your through a  lot of pseud-scientific hoops.  Jump through them but for a different reason to the one they give.  Jump through them because they will teach you how to ‘fail informatively’.  Yes. Fail informatively.

In the future, you will be able to handle unfamiliar situations by proposing one or more reasonable ways forward.  And then you can set up some experiments.  You can choose the best way forward.  And if you have set up your experiment well, the less favorable ways will also teach you a little more than ‘wrong way’.  This is the reason why you should study science.

To understand people, well, meet a lot of people and do things with them.  And read.

A good read is Paolo Coelho who also blogs and tweets.  Today he posted a 1 minute parable on the meaning of happiness.  It is an easy read.  The ending sums up the meaning of happiness.

For psychologists out there, this parable talks about two important psychological phenonena.

#1  Management of attention.

To manage one’s own direction and to pay attention to what is going on around us.

We need lots of practice at doing this. Computer games help us do this.  TV and reading books does not.  Sport helps us learn this.  Writing does not.  But speaking does.  Make sure you get lots of practice at learning to manage your attention so that you tackle frontiers with greater ease!

#2  We live at our frontier.

To define who we are by what we do.

Not what we feel, or believe.  But what we do in various contexts defined by who else is there.  We are our frontier.  We are our edge.

Perhaps we are a young man who cannot carry two drops of oil and look around a new place.  Or frontier is the new place, the new idea, and our own confusion.  It is here that we are ‘alive’ with our dreams and our hopes, our confusions and our sorrows.

This is a tough challenge for psychologists.  We have nothing to measure.  The definition may even be circular.  That is because psychology is not a thing. It is a goal or a purpose that is supremely personal.  Our goal is to live a our frontier.  The story of our frontier and our confusion is the story we all want to hear.

When we want to do the maths, then we look at whether we were in a situation that covers the whole gamut of emotions and whether we were able to respond appropriately as events unfolded.  Or were we like the young boy, first forgetting the context and then forgetting his task.  Can we recover from confusion and distress or do we get stuck?  Are we so scared of life that we insist that it be plain sailing all day and every day?

Do we approach our frontier or do we hang back?  And under what conditions are we able to approach our frontier and learn to carry the oil and look around despite our initial confusion?

Yes, positive psychologists do know something about this.  But so do poets.  Begin with them.

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Positive psychology in poetry

When it comes to understanding positive psychology, there really is no competition between prose and poetry.

Today, Paulo Coelho quoted a passage from his book By The River Piedra I sat Down and Wept, the first in the triology about a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens.  You must read it for yourself.

Positive psychology in prose

In prose, which is no substitute, this is what he said.

Every day there is a moment when a miracle is possible.  It doesn’t announce itself.  It is easily missed.  And it is likely to present itself in the most unlikeliest ways.  In a humdrum guise, or as to lowly that it is not worth earthly notice.

When we look back on our day or our year or our life, we want to look back on those miraculous moments when we were fully attentive and our understanding changed in a flash and our lives changed too.

Because these moments are easy to miss, it is very easy to spend a whole day attending only to what we know.  To make sure we never miss those glancing moments, we have to pay attention, expectantly to everything around us.

So we slow down and live a less cluttered life.  To be sure, the more we pack in, the more we are likely not pay attention to anything.

And even when life is slow, when our company is dull, when we yearn to be elsewhere, we can still pay attention to the moment, and look out for a miracle.  It may not come in that hour.   There are no promises.  But it might.

Be mindful

Don’t miss it.

Don’t spend a day without having noticed a miraculous moment when the universe converges and you were there.

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I discovered this definition of a poem quite accidentily today.  I am quoting it verbatim.

What Makes a Poem a Poem?

Charles Bernstein

Professor of English

My lecture is called “What Makes a Poem a Poem?” I’m going to set my timer.

It’s not rhyming words at the end of a line. It’s not form. It’s not structure. It’s not loneliness. It’s not location. It’s not the sky. It’s not love. It’s not the color. It’s not the feeling. It’s not the meter. It’s not the place. It’s not the intention. It’s not the desire. It’s not the weather. It’s not the hope. It’s not the subject matter. It’s not the death. It’s not the birth. It’s not the trees. It’s not the words. It’s not the things between the words. It’s not the meter-…

(timer beeps)

It’s the timing.

A poem is at the right time and the right place

Have I understood Professor Bernstein.  Is a poem a poem when it is at the right time and in the right place?

Is poetry understanding the needs of the moment, as the moment exists in the river of time?  Is understanding the needs of the moment in the river of time poetic?


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