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 expereience 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.

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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.

The height of stupidity

After the recent mass shooting in a school in Florida, there has been an intense debate in the USA regarding gun control and school shootings.

The tragedy in Florida has not been an isolated event. It has been reported that in the seven weeks of 2018, there have been eight school shootings resulting in injury or death.

Mass shootings are proliferating in the USA in an uncontrollable way. On a broader societal scale, 2017 has been reported as the deadliest year for mass shootings in the history of the USA. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 345 mass shootings in 2017.

The frequency and/or ferocity of the mass shootings can be viewed as a measure of the emotional and psychological health of a society. Given these number of shootings, one can draw the harsh conclusion that American society is at war with itself.

Politicians are reluctant to (a) impose any restrictions on gun ownership and (b) get to the societal and psychological reasons of these horrific events.

Many politicians have been funded by The National Rifle Association. In fact, it has been reported that Trump was the beneficiary of $30 million in NRA spending in the 2016 election. Given that the NRA, politics and finance are so tightly interwoven, it is no surprise that many politicians will not support any form of gun control.

Two days after the Florida tragedy, insensitive and inappropriate photographs of the president of the USA (with thumbs up and narcissistic grin), with (a) law enforcement and (b) medical personnel in the hospital where victims were being treated, were officially released by the White House.

A week after the event, the president has now suggested/proposed that teachers need to be armed as a solution to stopping school shootings.

Pointing the way – To where?

In line with this stupidity, maybe the following should also be considered:

  • all 18 year olds need to undergo weapon training in order to protect themselves in times of crisis,
  • every 18 year old student should be legally required to carry a weapon at school for protection and as a deterrent against possible attack,
  • a parental roster needs to be drawn up for at least 10 armed parents to patrol the perimeter and corridors of the school at any given time to protect the children,
  • at least two snipers need to be strategically positioned on school roofs in order to eliminate any potential threat,
  • two police patrol cars and an ambulance permanently stationed at every school so that the 1st response time to crisis is almost instantaneous.

While this may all sound ridiculous it is not out of the realm of possibility, given the type of thinking from the president and the politicians in Washington. The simplistic logic of trying to solve mass shootings by adding more guns to the gun problem is the type of ‘more of the same’ thinking that escalates and intensifies the problem, yet also avoids the fundamental societal issues that are at the heart of the issue.

Mass shootings are an attack on the system. From a psychological perspective, a student or person who embarks on a shooting spree has been dealing with an unresolved interpersonal issue that gets projected onto the group.

On a fundamental level, the perpetrator is generally dealing with one or more of:

  • an intense build-up of anger that eventually cannot be contained,
  • a masked depression that gets expressed in a hostile way,
  • alienation, isolation and exclusion, with no sense of belonging,
  • severe emotional pain that dulls sensitivity, compassion and remorse,
  • rigid and excessive prejudice towards those who are perceived as being different, and therefore considered a threat.

These feelings cannot be taken out of a family, community or society context. Without considering an interpersonal context, behaviour has no meaning.

Perpetrators of mass shootings have a deep anger and resentment towards the group/society in which they exist. Turning onto the group in a violent way is a counter-balance to feelings of helplessness. On a historical level, many of those carrying out these acts of violence have had to deal with being bullied, acts of unfairness, exclusion and/or alienation at certain stages of their lives. On a family level, little or no emotional support may have been available to help encourage the individual to resolve conflict in a healthy, constructive manner.

The president of the USA is known to be a bully and bigot, who unleashes processes that divide instead of unite societies, and who supports legislation that excludes and alienates minorities. Maybe the statistic of 345 mass shootings in his 1st year in office is just a reflection of how his personal methodology of resolving conflicts is playing itself out on a societal level? But there again, deaths of innocent children at school may actually be nothing more than fake reporting by the fake news!

As I conclude, I want to acknowledge my sadness at the loss of innocent lives in all of the mass shootings that have occurred world wide and my anger at all of the inept, self-serving politicians who are reluctant and afraid to address the real issues that are tearing societies apart.

Enhancing quantum performance

I am constantly being asked questions about the psychology of performance and the ‘state of mind’ that is necessary to ensure success in competition.

Many athletes adopt a mechanical approach to their mental preparation. Specific goals are set which the athlete then strives to achieve. While this sort of approach offers structure and clarity for the athlete, I feel that it only taps into the logical part of the brain. Further, this approach is outcome based and does not embrace the fluidity and ever changing nature of competition.

Exceptional performance that catapults the athlete onto a new level requires an added dimension that incorporates an approach that taps into imagery and creativity. This approach is based in a philosophy of quantum thinking in which mental energy is seen as having properties similar to water, where multiple levels of thinking are integrated into a holistic focus.

The nature of this approach is nonverbal, intuitive and story-like in which ideas generate powerful meaning that the athlete can connect with. In line with this way of thinking, photographs, images and/or meaningful stories can help crystalise mental energy that will help the athlete reach higher levels of performance in a spontaneous and creative way.

On a recent walk I took three photographs that best illustrate ideas regarding the integration of three mental processes, that if one taps into, will assist the athlete during the unfolding process of competition.

Three inter-connected mental components form the holistic model that embraces quantum thinking. These three components should co-exist and be utilised at the appropriate time, depending on the nature of the challenge that is being encountered:

  1. The optimism and joy of a dog on a walk
  2. The alertness of a cat ready to pounce
  3. The freedom and flow of a bird in flight

In a conversation with an iron man triathlete, I was explaining that it was necessary to remain present in the unfolding moment of competition. The three dynamics mentioned above, are ever present during the race.

There needs to be an overall optimism in the way that one approaches and deals with challenges, particularly in the tough, down periods of a race. Remaining connected to the joy of a dog on a walk supports the athlete at times when doubts, despondency or fears creep in.

A cat that is ready to pounce is in a proactive state of readiness. The alertness of a cat helps the athlete deal with the unexpected. To be successful, it is important to trust your abilities and to respond immediately and spontaneously to a threatening or challenging moment. In order to respond in such a way, the athlete needs to be in a concentrated state of alertness, where nothing is taken for granted. Nothing should distract the athlete from the present moment of focus.

Many athletes go into competition with a definite, structured game-plan having specific outcomes. While this may offer the athlete security, the challenge during competition is to be able to adapt and be flexible to change. Trusting your instincts and being able to change strategy at critical moments of the unfolding process is a skill that champions possess. If the mindset is too rigid, the athlete is likely to hold onto a game-plan that was formulated before the start of the race, but may no longer be working due to changing conditions and/or opponents that have found a way to neutralise or defeat you.

In summary, the table below captures the holistic, and integrated mental state that will offer you the best chance of a quantum performance:

Aligns you to:

Counters:  

Dog on a walk

Optimism, Joy, Support

Despondency, Fear, Stress

Cat ready to pounce

Alertness, Concentration, Discipline, Stillness

Lethargy, Complacency, Distraction

Bird in flight

Flexibility, Flow, Freedom, Creativity

Rigidity, Tightness, Limitation

The column of counters highlight the mental challenges that negative energy activates. If you are feeling despondent during competition, then tapping into the theme of walking the dog will help you. If you become aware that you are getting too tight or rigid in how you are approaching the challenges, then linking to birds in flight will offer you the necessary flexibility of movement to navigate around the obstacle.

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Each new day begins with a sunrise, that brings light and warmth.

A new beginning or a new way depends on new insights that help direct your energy into a new direction. The model above does not only apply to elite athletes that are constantly working on expanding their expertise and skills to master taxing challenges in the heat of competitive battle.

A client of mine revealed that she was aligning herself to the themes of freedom, fearlessness and joy, as part of her change process, in how she wanted to live her life going forward. She stated that she wanted to better utilise and embrace opportunities that crossed her path. Such is the way to lead a more fulfilling life where your light can shine in its own uniqueness.