How are you being influenced?

Besides being an energy system, you are also an information system. How you interpret and give meaning to information you encounter is determined by your unique cognitive structure – your experiences, knowledge, beliefs, perceptions and assumptions. As an information system, you are constantly integrating and splitting up pieces of information in unique ways to create new meaning. This is the fundamental nature of consciousness.

Information cannot exist in a vacuum. It needs an interpersonal context that offers meaning and value. There is no absolute truth when it comes to ideas and perceptions. Instead, there is a movement towards truth which is dependent on a process of unspoken consensus.

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A contrast between rock and water

In the scientific community, there are strict protocols to follow for ideas or hypotheses to be accepted and considered worthy. In such a community, no piece of information is immune to being scrutinised and re-evaluated over time. This is because technical and scientific information is evolutionary by nature, moving towards more complexity over time.  

When it comes to social contexts, information and influence are intricately interwoven. Who is saying what to whom, how is it being said and received, when and why is it being conveyed, are all aspects of the dynamics of influence. In social contexts, ‘truth’ is determined by the dominant opinions that exist in the community in which the information is exchanged.

In today’s information age, one needs to understand the influential power of how peer groups participate on social media. Over coffee when discussing his difficulty dealing with his teenage daughter, a friend reacted with surprise when I mentioned that his daughter’s peer group probably had more influence over her thinking and behaviour than what his opinions, values and family norms had. 

Social platforms can become all-consuming and addictive. This is largely due to the need to be accepted and validated by the social group that one is part of. On all of the social media platforms there are influencers, shaping the thinking of those who follow. There is an illusion of having an individual perspective on these platforms. However the need to fit in and conform are actually the deeper processes at play.

Due to the nature of the information flow on these social platforms, opinions and judgements are usually offered immediately without censure. In addition, these opinions unfold in the public domain, which in turn, activates further comments from those who need to add their voice to the story (see Discernment, drama and deception).

Social platforms offer a 24/7 service to those who want to offer their opinions and judgements on any issue. They cater for the immediate desire to ‘have your say’. These platforms spew out information at an alarming rate. For those involved, there is no escape from the drama of the process, especially if there are personal, contentious or sensitive issues at play.

Due to the malleable nature of informational feedback loops, ‘like attracts like’ when it comes to what you say. Given this principle, aggression will be matched with aggression. If what you say, is driven by a feeling of entitlement and arrogance, you will probably get caught in a cycle of constantly trying to prove your importance.

One of the major concerns regarding these platforms is how information can get distorted and vindictively used to emotionally bully others. Despite his age and standing, Donald Trump, is an example, of how a person uses social media to feed an insatiable desire to be worshipped and validated. This, coupled with his propensity to bully and divide, if his opinions and desires are opposed, are at the heart of of how destructive these platforms can become (see Trump trumps politiciansDealing with an aggressive, self-opinionated energyLeading a Divided States of AmericaStruggling to gain credibility).

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Move into the light

In landscape photography it is light that enhances and ‘uplifts’ a photograph to a new level. The eyes are naturally drawn to the light and when the eyes are directed to points of interest from a compositional perspective, the photograph has an emotional and meaningful impact.

When it comes to light in relationships, being emotionally light has the characteristics of creative playfulness, optimism and openness. Light is the energy of love which is up lifting.

Light is also the interpersonal space where meaning gets created. Light offers the fabric on which diversity of perspectives can be embedded.

IMG_5929-4There may be times in your life when you have to deal with trauma and/or uncertainty. In such times, you will probably feel as if you are trapped in darkness.

img_6683The metaphor of darkness implies that you do not know what to do, where to look and in which direction to move. This activates caution, which in turn, restricts your ability to move. Feeling stuck can cause a downward spiral of helplessness and despondency to unfold.  

Lack of movement will activate your survival instincts, heightening stress and intensity. This tightens  and rigidifies your energy system.

img_5549In times of despair, look for the light and move towards it. Trust the light, it will help guide you when you find yourself in the darkness of ‘not knowing’.

img_7376Let the light draw you into the landscape of your experience. Move in a gentle and loving way. Small steps towards the light. There is no need to rush. The destination is not important. Instead, it is the movement towards the light that eventually offers clarity to your experiences. 

IMG_7539-2When out in the landscape, the light can be illusive. At times, you will have to be patient and wait for the light to arrive. Waiting for the light will highlight aspects of yourself that may need to be addressed. Rigidity of perspective, unrealistic expectations, or self-absorption are likely to emerge during this period of waiting.

In times of darkness, you may question the existence of light. 

It is important to remind yourself that light is a gift that arrives in its own way and in its own time. It is not a mechanical phenomenon that can be directed by your expectations or needs. 

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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.  

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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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