Have a strategy and be open to the potentiality

To be successful in your endeavour, you need to have a clear intention that directs your energy. This can be termed your plan of action or your strategy. This creates a structure and focus in which to operate, practice and compete.

Coupled with this focus, you also need to be open to the potentiality of possibilities that are unfolding in the present moment. It is in this potentiality that unpredictability resides.

This potentiality will not manifest into a reality, unless you spontaneously and consciously respond to it. In fact, it requires a creative response. You may need to expand or adjust your original strategy in a creative way to make room for a ‘detour’ in your journey.

There are many possibilities unfolding in the present moment. The reality that you experience depends on where you look (your perception) and on your decision whether to act or not (which is predominantly driven by your assumptions and beliefs).

I wanted to photograph the full moon rising above trees in the black forest. This was my vision. I did my research regarding locations and about the time and the direction of where the moon was to rise. This took time and effort, especially looking for a row of trees that could act as the foreground to the rising moon.

I arrived at the location 30 minutes before the moon was to rise. I set up my tripod and attached my camera, and waited. I was ready.

As I stood there gazing in the direction of the expected moonrise, other potentiality existed around me that I had not planned for or had anticipated. As I looked to my right, the beautiful Alps where revealing themselves. I was standing about 50 km inside Germany and the Alps were another 100km or so into Switzerland. The föhn was blowing and with it, the usual haze that normally acted as an obscure blanket, had disappeared.

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To my left, I noticed how the light was striking one of three trees. It was such a simple scene. And in the simplicity lay the beauty.

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Time was moving on and the sun was just about to set. The row of trees from which I was expecting the moon to rise, was bathed in golden light. I put on my telescopic lens and took the trees.

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There was a thick layer of clouds that had formed just above the trees. I was worried that the clouds may drop and hide the rising moon. As I waited, I hoped that the clouds would remain still to provide a window of opportunity for the moon to seize.

There was a 15 minutes period for me to enjoy the full moon rising. And then the moon disappeared as it ascended behind the clouds on its upward journey. 

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If I had not acted on my intention, I would not have experienced all of the photographic gifts that had presented themselves to me. Without acting or doing, not much is possible.  

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Change positions to access the diversity

Landscape photography has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of how time, space and object, interconnect to create and define the reality that we observe.

If you go to the same place over and over again, and keep your focus on a specific object of interest, you will notice the impact of time. The belief that you know the place due to the familiarity, gets challenged when you consider how time changes the landscape. From a psychological standpoint, the person you are today, will not be exactly the same person you are tomorrow. While you may think or believe that you are the same, small (and maybe unnoticed) changes are unfolding as you evolve over time.

In a previous article, I mentioned that a beginner’s mind (that makes no assumptions when you encounter sameness or familiarity) gets cultivated when you are open to ‘seeing’ the ever changing dynamic of time.

So what do you experience if you keep time constant (which is not actually possible) and then change space or perspective of the object of interest? You get diversity.

At any given point in time, when a group of people are discussing a specific topic of contention, different perspectives (or positions) will emerge. Diversity is all about viewing the same object but from different positions in space. Space is context. Context defines meaning.

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There are daily patterns of events that recur at approximately the same time everyday. The A380 Airbus passing overhead at approximately the same time of day, everyday, is a case in point. It is a beautiful plane and has such presence when flying above.

To reveal the diversity of perspective of the plane in different contexts, I set up my camera in different places and waited for the plane to pass by.

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IMG_8464-2When considering any issue, try and shift your position or perspective so that you get a more ‘richer’ understanding of the complexity that surrounds the issue. However, this requires that you give up your usual perspective, which feels safe, comfortable and ingrained. That is why most people find it extremely difficult to let go of the familiar position that they take. Holding on to one’s perspective is driven by fear of change, or fear of losing oneself, or fear of being negatively influenced by another perspective. It is this fear that rigidifies and intensifies a stance or position, which then increases the possibility of conflict and blockage.

A dominant voice that prescribes to others closes down possibilities and increases feelings of resentment and anger. All perspectives need to be seen and considered in order to gain a deeper understanding of an issue. The challenge is to then integrate this diversity (incorporating all perspectives), so that more complex solutions can be formulated for a resolution to unfold. This is especially true when dealing with global concerns that do not have a ‘simple, one answer’ which is driven by a one size fits all, type of thinking.

Meeting the master

When we wake up in the morning, we never quite know how the day will unfold.

Yesterday was a special day – one that I will always remember.

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The work of Erwin Rehmann

I woke up having the luxury of free time. There were no pressing demands to attend to. No deadlines to be met. 

I eased into the morning, having a leisurely breakfast. I intentionally extended the usual time that I take to enjoy my coffee. But as I did this, I became aware of some anxiety building within me. 

As the morning progressed, I became more and more agitated. A part of me felt that I was wasting the precious commodity of time, not being engaged in a meaningful activity.

There is a challenge when you have free time, since you have the responsibility of creating your own structure in which time can flow in a meaningful way.

In sharing this feeling with my wife, it became clear that there is an internal drive within us that wants to create, expand and produce. It is this energy that drives the evolutionary process as (a) new creations unfold through our endeavours, (b) new understandings emerge from our learning, and/or (c) new relationships are established as we share personal stories with others.

I sensed my agitation wanted me to move and act. Being still and doing ‘nothing’ was intensifying the feeling. After further introspection, I decided that the best way to deal with my agitation was to visit a place of creativity.

The Erwin Rehmann museum is about 30km from where I live. It is situated in the Swiss village of Laufenburg.

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The village of Laufenburg

Erwin Rehmann is a sculptor who works predominantly with iron and brass. He believes that one needs space around the art piece so that one can breathe and move around it while looking at the piece from many perspectives.

The museum is at his studio and home and still has the furnace where he melted the material to create his art.

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The work of Erwin Rehmann

Many of his pieces are exhibited in the garden. As you walk around in the garden connecting with the art, you physically feel the space and freedom that Rehmann believes is necessary to appreciate the beauty and understand the meaning of the art form that he has created.

My wife mentioned to me that an old man, sitting in a living room that looked onto the garden, had waved to her as she passed by. We knew that Erwin Rehmann was alive and we wondered whether it was he, who had waved. I felt a sense of excitement as we pondered this possibility.

We made our way inside and ordered a water as we shared our thoughts about the beautiful sculptures.

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The work of Erwin Rehmann

I looked up and saw an old man with a walker making his way towards us. On arrival, he introduced himself and listened intently as we made ourselves known to him. He ordered a coffee and sat with us. We had the most remarkable conversation with Erwin Rehmann. He is 97 years old, alert and coherent. He shared stories of his works and his experiences in his travels working with other artists from Paris, London and Tuscon.

He spoke freely and openly with us. There was no hesitation or censorship in his sharing. In all of what he was saying, there was a deep wisdom in his philosophical worldview. His statement of ‘Why do you search for a master when he in fact resides in you‘ continued to echo as I absorbed all that he was sharing with us.

After about 45 minutes he called the museum manager to our table and asked her to bring his book that detailed his works and entries into a personal journal. He autographed the book, addressing it: ‘For my new friends, Dellené and Kenneth’ and gave it to us as a gift.

He looked deeply into my eyes for the photograph. He did not seem interested to pose and look at the camera. As I looked into his eyes, I felt a strong bond that went far beyond the 45 minutes of us meeting. Age, experience, education and expertise had no relevance at that moment of time as we looked into each other’s eyes. We seemed to have been friends forever.

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Meeting a master artist

My wife and I left the museum in silence. We were in awe. How could one explain or interpret what had just unfolded? We had had a transformational encounter with a master artist. Our meeting Erwin Rehmann could never have been planned. It was a gift that we would never forget.

Photography helps to instill a beginner’s mind

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The normal response when you deal with a situation that is familiar to you, is to assume that you know everything about it. As you do this, you cut off and exclude so much information (and potentiality) that exists without you knowing it.

Many old relationships become rigid and stale because those in the relationship feel and believe that they know everything about one another. The belief that ‘I know exactly who you are, what you are thinking and how you are feeling’, inadvertently creates restrictions and limitations in the relationship as time unfolds. In the process, the relationship loses its generative ability to create new insights and understandings. Conversations grind to a holt and it seems that there is nothing new, different or more that can be said.

Going to the same place (location), time and time again, and to walk away with a different perspective has been the gift of landscape photography.

My photography has rekindled my beginner’s mind.

The challenge when dealing with sameness, is to notice the small changes that are unfolding (or have unfolded) over time. These offer the seeds for new knowledge and deeper understanding of the evolutionary complexity that exists. 

Being open to a new experience in the same old place (or in the same old relationship) requires the zen attitude of having a child’s mind when dealing with what you may believe is ‘the familiar’. The beginner’s mind has no assumptions, no preconceived ideas about how things should or should not be. Instead, it allows you to be open to the ongoing changes that are unfolding right in front of your eyes.

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Deaths in schools highlight the internal threat

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Here is a frightening statistic that US politicians and the president cannot intellectualize, offer some weird explanation for, or defensively suggest a solution for:

In 2018, there have been more school children violently killed in schools on US soil than military personnel serving their country.

To date, there have been 29 school children killed in an educational setting, while 13 military personnel have died (seven of which were killed in a helicopter accident). The harsh reality of this simple statistic shows that it is safer to serve in the military today than it is for an adolescent to go to school to learn. Formal school settings are now becoming war zones.

It is obvious that politicians have covert agendas (relating to financial support/benefit) regarding their stance to gun control legislation in the US. Given this, mind boggling reasons are being forwarded by politicians, for this devastating epidemic: abortions, ritalin, too many gates (entrances) at the schools, video games, the media, type of clothing worn, lack of religion, and so on and so on. I have previously written about the stupidity of the suggested solutions that have been forwarded by the president to deal with this societal issue.

The absurdity of how politicians are thinking (and speaking) about the most serious social issue facing America would not instill any confidence in a parent who has a child.

The thought of the possibility of a mass shooting occurring at a school that one’s child goes to, must now be in the forefront of the mind of every American parent. This thought will gain more and more intensity as time goes on, as parents live with the uncertainty and anxiety of realizing that the biggest threat to American society is an internal one. In February 2018 it was the Stoneman Douglas High School, in May 2018 it was the Sante Fe High School, in ….. it will be the ….. High School, and so on as the copycat ‘cancer’ gains momentum. Who and when will be next? Waiting for the next tragedy heightens anxiety:  It is only a matter of time…

The idea and metaphor of building a wall (a) to keep the enemy outside and (b) to protect and keep safe those living inside, no longer holds water given the ongoing nature of the mass shootings in schools.

Imagine being a student sitting in a classroom, constantly worrying whether you may be the next horror story in an ongoing cycle of destruction. Imagine the underlying suspicion that each student feels when looking around the class at fellow students, worrying about who the next shooter may be. Imagine the intense, anxious and stressful atmosphere in a classroom that is supposed to instill enjoyable creativity and learning. Imagine what it is like for students to return to school after the horrific event, walking through the previously blood stained corridors and classrooms where dear friends had been wounded or killed. Imagine the post traumatic stress reaction that each and every high school student of America is having to deal with, even those who may not have witnessed the trauma first hand.

Given the above, it can be argued that the next generation of Americans may be traumatized, anxious and fearful individuals who will not feel emotionally safe in any interpersonal context.

Many individuals take their cues from what leaders and public figures say and how they say it. This may be especially true for young, formative minds that can be easily manipulated. Words that spew out of a leader’s mouth offer suggestions of how members in their society should engage each other. In this regard, leaders need to assume responsibility in how their societies function and behave.

Aggressive and autocratic narratives, intolerance of diversity, fear-based rhetoric, self-centred and demanding comments, and suggestions that one stands above the law, are the building blocks for behaviours to manifest in society, families, and schools.

So sad, so very sad…

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Yesterday and today

A couple of days ago, the dramatic, over-night change in the weather reminded me of the nature of quantum transformation.

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Yesterday, the conditions of spring
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Today, the conditions of winter

The contrast between the yesterday and today photographs, visually highlights the nature of quantum change. All of the conditions, premises, perceptions and patterns have changed.

Due to the speed of the change, shock, disbelief, surprise and/or amazement are some of the reactions of those who witness this transformation.

When a person has undergone a transformational change, all assumptions, perceptions and the premises on which one makes decisions, will change. It becomes impossible to see or experience the world in the old way. In short, one sees the world from a totally new perspective. It is a reset that catapults one onto another level.

The eyes find it difficult to see or perceive slow change. In nature, for example, animals keep still as a way of camouflage so as not to be seen. The eyes are able to detect movement, but find it difficult to see stillness, especially if this stillness continues in time. In order to see still objects in space, the eyes need to make small movements themselves.

So in essence, the eyes need movement (either internally or externally) to see.

Due to the seemingly uneventful process that unfolds in everyday ordinary life when slow change occurs, the mind loses interest or gets distracted in the process. It does not pay attention to the small changes that are unfolding. While this is a natural mental phenomenon, it can create problems further down the line if the small changes accumulate in a destructive way and are not dealt with. This non-response usually results in crisis, which has a built up energetic power to activate the possibility of a positive transformation. This transformation will only manifest, however, if one has the courage, determination and openness to examine the premises and assumptions of the old worldview that may have contributed to the decay. Taking ownership for the old, supports the emergence of the new.

Practices such as meditation, tai chi and conscious mindfulness help train the mind to keep noticing what is unfolding in the present moment. In so doing, these practices help you become aware of the small changes of life that are unfolding right in front of you. Being able to see the subtlety, simplicity and beauty of these small changes (or movements), is as meaningful as when one witnesses or experiences significant transformational change that results in surprise, shock or amazement.

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It has been a long winter road

Being in a box

I was sitting alone in a coffee stop in Frankfurt reflecting on my participation in a workshop on business coaching. I was busy examining a work dilemma that I was having that was embedded in (a) the philosophy that underpins helping others and (b) the paradigm of thinking that directs and organises information flow in how one interprets human behaviour that unfolds in an interpersonal context.

I was deeply wrapped up in thought as I looked out of the window of the coffee shop.

A tiny, yet bright light shining in the distance immediately caught my attention. It was a light that could be easily missed, if you were not looking in that direction. There were many other competing visual and auditory distractions around me; traffic lights, people and cars passing by, laughter and chatter as people enjoyed their coffee, and the familiar sound of the machine grinding the coffee beans to produce the addictive auroma of the coffee to be served. Any one of these processes, at that specific moment, could have diverted my eyes away from the reality of the existence of this tiny source of light.

It was a light that only lasted a couple of minutes, just before the sun moved below the horizon.

The light was coming from a cross on a church, reflecting the rays of a sun that was about to set. While I do not belong to any one specific religious denomination; for me, the cross symbolises peace, tolerance, compassion and wisdom.

A bright, tiny light in the distance

Once I had noticed the light, I couldn’t stop looking at it. Its strength, power, significance and magnetism far surpassed its size.

As I looked at it, I was catapulted out of my internal debate. A clear meaningful insight about my dilemma was being transmitted by this tiny light. The insight bypassed my intellectual reasoning. Its magnetism ‘pulled’ me out of my previous train of thought. Instantaneously, I felt that I had been transported into an emotional and intellectual space where I could move freely between the opposing poles of the dilemma.

I immediately felt out of the box.

I felt free from the constriction that the dilemma had imposed on me. There was relief, coupled with a feeling of emotional strength.

As I continued looking at the tiny light in the distance, I was struck by its authenticity and beauty. In exploring my feelings further about the workshop that I had participated in, I realised how much courage it takes to be transparent and authentic in an interpersonal context that may be quick to define and judge you according to who they think you are (or believe who you should be).

The river Main separates the beautiful urban skyline of Frankfurt (representing the mechological powers of man) from the ecological rhythm of a gorgeous golden sunset unfolding behind a church.

A dualistic tension can emerge between the mechological and ecological approaches to understanding and solving human problems. As I moved out of the box, I felt free to jump in and out of each paradigm. This liberation offered me a wider and deeper perspective of the dilemma that the clash of mechological and ecological thinking can cause.

As the sun set, the tiny light still shone brightly in my mind as I left the coffee shop and made my way to the airport.