flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘time

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

Can we be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time?

Goals and mindfulness are two of the most powerful concepts in contemporary psychology.

No doubt, when we are pursuing a goal, we pay attention to what we are doing.  But at a cost. We also neglect what is going on around us.

When we pursue a goal, we are often “in flow”.  It’s wonderful!  We are fully engaged with what we are doing.

Yet, the surest sign that we are “in flow” is that we run late for the next meeting.  We remember our flow experiences as much for the anger they arouse in other people as the joy we experience when we are fully engrossed in what we are doing!

This post is a cerebral account.  I am trying to understand the issues.

  • How can I be goal-oriented and focused on what is going on around me?
  • How can I pursue goals of the future yet be ‘fully present’.

Poets often solve our conundrums!

The poets have often already asked and answered what we want to know. Today I found a poem from Rainer Marie Rilke: A Walk and I hope it will help me understand how to be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time.

So often when an ideas in psychology is unsatisfactory, western ideas about time seem to be the root cause of the problem. Rilke’s poem recasts the ideas from temporal space to physical space and helps us imagine alternative ways of understanding the world.

Rilke suggests that that when we see a goal “on our horizon”, we draw it into our present. The present and future are merged and there is no difference between them.

When we look at the horizon we are energized to get up and walk.  And motivated perhaps to ignore the glorious flowers right near us.

The world exists because we pay attention to it and it takes its form because of our attention!

Equally, another person standing right next to us is in another world because they are paying attention to different things. They are even on a different time plane because their future changes their present!

The future and the present are not two different places ~ nor is one better than the other

Rilke talks in the poem about the pleasure of dreams.  He is not saying, though, that dreams are better than the present.  He is saying the future and the present are one place.  And whatever we believe about the future, changes the present.  Our dreams change the present moment.

How the future can fix the present

Sometimes, in those moments when we don’t like the present moment, we could look again at our horizon.

When we don’t like the present, before we complain, maybe we could run an exercise of looking at three different horizons?  If one of the versions of the present becomes more enjoyable ~ could we live from there?

Here is Rainer Marie Rilke’s poem, The Walk, translated by Robert Bly.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,

into something else, which, hardly sensing it,

we already are; a gesture waves us on

answering our own wave…

but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Translated by Robert Bly

Rainer Maria Rilke

PS What is the copyright on this poem and if someone wanted to by a copy, what would they buy? Is there an Amazon link I could add here?

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Carpe Diem or Slow Down and Smell The Roses?

I think Alan Watts might have decried Carpe Diem.  Seize the day!  He would have teased us for being in hurry and not savoring the moment.

Living in The Now is So Very Hard to Do

Living in the now, living mindfully, is very hard for Western-reared people.  Though we are here, now, we constantly worry about what happened last year, last month, last week, yesterday.  And when we are not occupying ourselves with our past, we worry about the future.  I must do this.  I must prevent that!  We have no time left for now.

We are also pretty suspicious about living now.  It seems self-indulgent to just stop and enjoy my coffee.   I rather suspect that we in the West interpret being mindful to living what Seligman pleasurably, as opposed to living with engagement and meaning. We are obsessed with children eating marshmallows, or not, as the case may be.  The reality is that we are obsessed with marshmallows!

We Desperately Want to Live in The Now

Alan Watts’ philosophy challenges us because it is alien to us.  But we seek it.  The idea of picking three tasks to do a day in an agile sprint or a personal kanban is a bid, I think, to justify our deep need to pay attention to what we are doing.

3 Videos on Alan Watts Speaking about Play & Work

I was brought up within a Western frame of thinking so I will stop here and embed the videos.  Each is about 10 minutes long, so maybe budget 40 minutes.  Know that you are a child of this age and that you will find it hard to block 40 minutes and to sit still that long.  Make some coffee, find a comfortable chair, put a pen and pad next to you  for the extraneous thoughts that will pop into your mind, and take the opportunity to relax ~ to deeply relax in the company of a man who knew how to enjoy life.

Hat-tip:  These videos were posted on YouTube by Broodbox

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance & the financial crisis

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

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Yesterday, I posted on my difficulty explaining the simultaneity principle in positive organizational scholarship and extrapolating the implications for organizational design.  If you can help me, please do!

Today, I followed up a review about a book on New Zealand history in The Economist.  I’ve extracted this quote wholesale:

“Christina Thompson is a New Englander from a trim town outside Boston with a white church and a green. Seven belongs to the Ngapuhi tribe and his family lives in a ramshackle settlement at the end of a dirt road. Ms Thompson is an intellectual in the tradition of the Enlightenment, an editor of the academic Harvard Review. Seven, with his belief in ghosts and aliens, is the very man that tradition hopes to enlighten. She weighs options and makes plans. He sees the future not as an arrow he shoots ahead of him, but as an arrow that arrives at his feet.”

The future is an arrow that arrives at our feet.

I intuit it.  Who can explain it further?

UPDATE:  I first thought of this as the future coming from behind me.  Now I think of myself as standing still and the future coming towards me.  How about you?

The way psychologists were taught to think

I suspect that the most interesting concept in positive psychology, if you are a psychologist, is the relationship between the past, the present, and the future.

Our training is based predominantly on on linear models. We are trained to think that if we are X today, we will be Y tomorrow. Most of our tuition taught us to define and measure X’s and Y’s and took for granted that today and tomorrow are independent.

The way psychologists will be taught to think

Positive psychology is based on recursive models. The past does not predict the future; it is part of the future. Mathematically, we predict the value of X in the future, rather than the value of Y in the future.

Is the future a separate place?

David Whyte’s Midlife and the Great Unknown begins by addressing the relationship between future, present and past. To feel well, to feel vital, to feel alive, we need to be active, to be acting our future in the context of the present. In other words, always to be doing now what we want for the future, without the future being a separate place.

Everyone’s story is unique

I particularly like David Whyte’s idea that we are all unique – well of course we know that, but do we act that way? Do we look at all our relationships with people, with events, with places and even with things and see a unique story that is unfolding and interesting in itself?

Mindfulness as experiencing being present

Related is the concept of mindfulness – to be fully present in events, not to experience their beauty or their ghastliness (ghastliness is real) but to experience being present.

It is a hard concept for we psychologists!


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