Take care

Our illusion of feeling safe most of the time in our lives, has now been shattered.

For the first time, every single human being is realising and experiencing that we do not actually live in a safe world. We are all feeling vulnerable, uneasy and at risk.

Many of us are now saying or writing ‘stay safe’ or ‘keep safe’ when saying goodbye to loved ones or when ending emails to friends or business associates. While this highlights a high level of concern for the well-being of those we know and love, it also seems to suggest that the world was considered a safe place before the coronavirus outbreak.

For most people, the harsh reality is that the world has never been a safe place. War, poverty, abuse, corrupt government, racism, sexism, xenophobia, ageism, pollution, nuclear threats and famine have all resulted in the majority of human beings constantly feeling unprotected and unsafe (not to mention our wildlife and the environment).

For the first time, we are experiencing what a global crisis truly feels like. Global issues have no respect for wealth, status, political power or entitlement. We cannot buy ourselves out of this problem, or impose laws to silence protestors, or quieten the voices of the abused.

In this time of crisis, we all need to fully appreciate the intricate, interdependent fabric of life. Everything is connected. Someone’s poverty may be connected to our wealth. Someone’s pain may be connected to our pleasure. This is now a time to become more sensitive to the fabric of our relationships with others and our environment.   

As we grapple for answers and take stock of our lives, maybe we should try and align to one simple principle as we navigate our way through this crisis. And that is the principle of ‘taking care’. ‘Take care’ is an extension of ‘keep safe’.

drkenjen@gmail.com
Nibbling each other

Take care of yourself, take care of your family, take care of your neighbour, take care in how you interact with others. take care of the environment, take care of birds and animals, take care of anything that you are connected to.

The foundation of care is gentleness, respect, gratitude and humility. In this regard, you are no better or more important than anyone or anything else that is living on our planet. ‘Take care’ counters arrogance and entitlement. 

We are living in uncertain times, dealing with many unknowns. However, as a collective it is not necessary to intensify and escalate fear. Instead of worrying about your safety, rather commit yourself to taking more care of anything that you are in relationship with. 

There is no need for the government to protect you and keep you safe. This is an illusion. If they had the power or the honest desire to keep you safe, then why do they start wars, abuse power, avoid global issues or selfishly only look after themselves? 

While your primary responsibility is to keep yourself safe, now is the opportunity to expand this into taking care of the living fabric that exists around you. As we move through this global crisis into the future, the challenge is to make our new world order a safer place for everyone and everything to live in.

Paradoxes, borders and runaways

Since my first post dealing with the impact of coronavirus, the death rate in the USA has increased from 93 to 217 (average of 32 deaths a day), while deaths related to the ‘gun virus’ have increased from 8144 to 8460 (105 deaths per day).

The whole world now seems to be in lock down, with border closures preventing the movement of people. In addition, many towns and cities are ghost-like as people have gone into self quarantine, and bunkered down. The family system has now also closed its borders to the outside world.

Over the past week, our global system has gone on a runaway in its efforts to deal with the coronavirus. We have never experienced such a challenge before. We are in an unbalanced state as the domino effect kicks in on all levels of society. When one country closes its border, another follows, with the rest following rapidly. This cascades down further, within each country itself. If one restaurant closes, the domino effect kicks in and the rest follow. If one sporting code decides to cancel a season, other sporting codes follow. No one wants to be seen to not be responding. While these decisions might be imposed by government or reached by the respective institutions, a runaway gets triggered. This is the process of how a system implodes.  

Runaways are activated when a system loses its ability to self regulate and to be in balance. Extreme actions and excessive gyrations of extreme reactions are activated as processes get unleashed that impact all levels of the system. Everything that constitutes and defines the system is affected. In this regard, it is interesting to watch the financial markets, since they reflect these uncontrollable swings in a system that is on a runaway.

This runaway is usually internally triggered by an unhealthy system that needs to change.

drkenjen@gmail.com
Rushing for water

In time, systems do eventually find a new equilibrium. Ecological systems have a deep wisdom of their own. We need to trust this. New patterns of interaction, new ways of thinking and acting start to emerge as the system searches for a new balance. In the process, the system undergoes a significant change.

Many paradoxes come to the fore when dealing with ecological crises. The reason why paradoxes emerge is that the interdependence, interconnection and circularity of processes that exist in a system, have not been fully understood or respected. Further, these delicate interconnections are not always evident when a system is in equilibrium. In fact, a healthy system seems to function and evolve effortlessly, with checks and balances in motion.

Limiting the movement of people, and reducing contact with others by creating social distance, is the most effective way to tackle any virus (not only the coronavirus). However, the closure of borders (within countries, societies and families) has created a world that feels so unnatural and strange. The imposed restrictions go against our deep need to connect and to feel a sense of belonging with others, since loving touch and physical contact with others is a vital part of remaining healthy.

Closing borders between countries is a necessary global response, but in doing so we are in fact experiencing, first hand, the sort of world that nationalistic, populistic leaders are advocating for, in times when there is no global crisis. The closing of borders in the present crisis, however, does not mean that we are fighting each other, but rather paradoxically we are working with each other. It is not a ‘them versus us’ response. In this regard, we are all in the same boat, existing in our closed political and social systems.

As families close their own little borders, separating themselves from the wider community, internal stresses unfold. As parents try to work from home, work and family dynamics may clash. The line between doing work and dealing with family demands, gets blurred. Depending on the developmental stage of the family, parents will be stressed further as they may need to take on educational duties in order to keep their children busy and stimulated. Allocating time for work, play, study, leisure so that the family system can fully function, is a fundamental challenge for parents during this time. New patterns of interactions and routines will need to be found as the family experiences the challenges of blurred boundaries between work and family demands, fun/play time and ‘school’ time, exercise time and quiet time. This may require parents to work while children are sleeping, which in turn eats into their ‘sleep’ time. This could result in fatigue as time goes on, as the family has only its own internal resources to call on.  

At the moment, the medical system is under severe stress and is vulnerable, since no vaccine has been developed yet, to treat the virus. In time, however, the scientific and medical system will ‘catch up’ in its understanding and in the process find the ‘formula’ to treat coronavirus effectively. Until then, we need to wait for science and medicine to unravel the ‘complexity’ of the virus. As we wait, we will encounter our own stresses as we try to deal with the abnormality that every country finds itself in.

drkenjen@gmail.com
A man made cloud

 

Keep perspective in the panic

The Panic

The world is in a panic about coronavirus.

It is scary when group panic intensifies. People cannot think straight. Common sense gets thrown out of the window and weird behaviour occurs, such as hoarding excessive amounts of toilet paper. While this seems laughable, it may reflect a metaphor that has the fundamental message of that ‘we are in deep shit’.

One of the major difficulties in dealing with coronavirus is that it is a global issue. By nature, global crises cut across borders, and require an integrative approach to resolve them. In this regard, the coronavirus is similar to the global warming crisis that science has been flagging for us for a number of years now.

The Political Response

In the initial stages of dealing with the outbreak of the virus, politicians escalated the panic by comments that had not been carefully thought through. Statements were made without any scientific backing, coupled with more and more talking in an attempt to correct past inaccuracies. Instead of calming and reassuring people, politicians added more fuel to the fire. Unfortunately, there are not many politicians who are systems thinkers. Politicians such as Trump, for example, have no understanding of the interconnected and interdependent nature of global issues. In his national address, the public and media sensed that he was out of his depth in dealing with this crisis. The result? More panic, and no confidence in his leadership. 

drkenjen@gmail.com
A new day, a new beginning

The Scientific Response

One has limited understanding of the nature and complexity of any virus in its infancy stage. There are many aspects of a virus that need to be researched first, before a clearer picture emerges. In this regard, viruses are one step ahead of the researchers. In time, however, the scientific system is able to unravel the complexity of any virus. So in this regard, our scientific system will in time, offer us deeper understanding and also resolution of the crisis at hand. 

A Simple Comparison

Statistics about the (a) contraction, (b) spread and (c) mortality rates of a virus need to be carefully examined. Due to its chaotic, fractal and exponential nature, viruses are notoriously difficult to monitor. Given this, it is important to question statistics and not to assume that whatever statistic is presented to be representative of the actual reality.

While I do not want to downplay the potential threat of the coronavirus, it is interesting to note that if you live in the USA, you may have more chance of dying from a gun than from coronavirus. While I know that viral contamination can increase exponentially, depending on movement and contact of people, and you cannot compare oranges with apples, I would like to do a simple and crude comparison of the number of deaths caused by guns, to the present mortality rate of 93 deaths from the coronavirus in one month

At the time of writing, there have been 4748 reported cases of coronavirus in the USA, 4569 people are in mild condition, 12 people are serious and there have been 93 deaths (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/).

In 2019, https://www.thetrace.org/2020/01/gun-deaths-2019-increase/ stated that there were 15,292 gun fatalities (excluding suicides) in the USA. That translates to 1275 deaths by gun per month.

As of 17 March 2020, the Gun Violence Archive reports that in 2020 there have been 8144 deaths through gun violence (5082 were suicides). This translates to 3257 deaths by gun per month (if you include suicide). 

While the comparison of ‘gun virus’ with coronavirus is not actually statistically possible, I wanted to do it in order to put the present crisis into some sort of perspective. 

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Keeping the chicks safe, as they cross the road

Keep Perspective

A global crisis disrupts a system on all levels. Financial, political, social, educational, medical and scientific systems all are impacted, each in turn, affecting the other. A system in crisis can respond in paradoxical ways to ‘injected’ help from the outside. Take the US Federal Reserve Bank, for example. After cutting the interest rate to zero in an attempt to offer financial assistance to the market in distress, the NYSE dropped 10%.

With regard to the coronavirus, we are all in the same boat together. Due to the nature of the virus, the decision to close borders and to encourage everyone to keep some social distance and limit social contact is necessary. On another level, it offers all of us the interpersonal space to pause and to take stock. It also allows time for the dust to settle, and for us to gain a better perspective of what is unfolding. In a panicked state, one loses perspective. We become blinded and are unable to step back to reflect on the process in a logical way. The mental challenge is not to get ‘contaminated’ by the social drama and the propensity of people to exaggerate during times of crisis.

The coronavirus surfaced quickly and has disrupted the established order of life. It is now time to pause. Things will never be the same again. Unlike the ‘gun virus’, the coronavirus has created unprecedented panic on all levels of our global system. A new order is wanting to emerge and this paradoxically, may be the systemic gift resulting from coronavirus. 

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.  

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.