Rest, hold hands and appreciate

Life is movement.

We are on a journey, traveling to where…?

There may be times when we feel alone as we question the meaning of our quest.

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We strive and compete. We seek recognition and status. We rush as we guzzle time in our frenetic desire to accomplish.

We are afraid to stop in fear that others may pass us. This fear drives us to push harder and to increase our pace.

If crisis or illness stops your movement, you are probably feeling exhausted. It is time to take stock. Maybe a change is required? You may need to examine the pace, direction, intention and meaning of your journey.

While planning, perseverance, desire, honesty and meaning will help you reach your destination, it is important to consider whether you can sustain your efforts and whether you are truly happy doing what you are doing. To assist in this regard:

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Stop, sit, look up, and appreciate the broad vista
  3. Hold hands

‘Walk the dog’ is a metaphor to remind you about an attitude. A dog on a walk is totally absorbed in the present moment as it explores the environment with joy. There is no such thing as a depressed dog on a walk.

Sitting on a bench to rest and to look at the broad vista that extends in front of you, helps you keep perspective. Stopping and looking up, gives you an opportunity to notice and appreciate the beauty that exists before your eyes. This helps to nourish you emotionally and to regenerate your energy as you continue your travel.

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It helps to share the journey with a partner. Anyone who observes and supports your movement is considered a partner. Having a partner, seems to halve the effort and worry during difficult times.

Holding hands when you are walking can be done physically, emotionally and/or mentally. Holding hands keeps you balanced and helps regulate your pace and provides a context where another is connecting to you energetically. Holding hands is a loving gesture.

A mother is always the first to hold your hand as you begin the journey.

Dedicated to my mother, Mimi. Her abundant generosity and kindness helped ease the burden of many a traveler.

The story that is revealed in the eyes

On a physiological level, the eyes absorb visual sensory data, which then gets interpreted by the brain. This interpretation is a complex process and is influenced by many factors such as experience, beliefs, assumptions and social conditioning.

I have come to understand that there is so much more to the eyes than just their physiological aspect. The eyes are the ‘windows to the soul’ and reveal the most inner thoughts and feelings. They are constantly communicating, without the necessity for a word to be spoken.

A young, talented hockey player was telling me how well she was dealing with the stressful demands of competition. As she spoke, however, her eyes were telling me otherwise. They were filled with sadness and insecurity.

As she spoke, it was clear that she had learnt to put on a brave face and not reveal her true feelings. When I mentioned to her that her eyes were telling me a story of sadness, she burst into tears. After composing herself, she said that she felt relieved that her true feelings had been noticed. Since she was the youngest in the team, she was always concerned about what the older girls would think of her if she made a mistake during a match. This was starting to affect her emotionally and impact on her performance, resulting in her constantly feeling stressed and insecure.

Your eyes are also the director of your energy flow. They are connected to your intention. While this is linked to goal setting or creating a vision, it is also connected with what you notice in your experiences.

There are an infinite amount of possibilities and perspectives that can be seen in any situation. There may be times when you get stuck in some detail, which in turn, negates you seeing another perspective. While this is a natural phenomenon, you should consciously guard against becoming rigid in your focus. The eyes need to be flexible as they explore the range of perspectives that present themselves. When feeling stuck, you may need to consciously remind yourself to look elsewhere in order to take in more of the complexity that exists in the situation.

In the mechanical world of things (where there are specific objects to focus on), the eyes can find a resting point fairly easily. In such situations, there generally is consensus about what is seen. In contrast, in interpersonal contexts, there is so much fluid visual information available for the eyes to absorb. The challenge is having to piece together snippets of behaviours that are unfolding rapidly in time. In such situations, the eyes scan for patterns of interaction in order to give meaning to what is unfolding. For example, a frown on a face, a sigh in a breath, a nod or turn of a head, a clench in the jaw, etc., need to be integrated visually, interpreted and given meaning. How this gets done is a subjective process, and highlights that in an interpersonal context, there is no such thing as a single fixed reality that the eyes will see. Depending on where you look, a certain reality will emerge for you.

In a field of poppies

Recently, I was walking in a field of poppies. Four photographs caught my attention.

Never ending sameness

Every poppy played a part in the wholeness. Never ending sameness created an expanse of beauty and highlighted that the group took precedence over the individual.

In team sports, for example, ‘We before I’ is a philosophy that helps teams create a cohesive focused energy that goes beyond the individual. Being part of a team may require an individual to be selfless at times. This will occur when an individual aligns him/herself to a meaningful group vision.

Tall poppy

The poppies tended to be of the same height. However, there were a few that stood out and were taller. Not many, but a few.

Many societies and groups demand conformity. They feel threatened by individuality. Being able to stand tall is necessary if you wish to fulfill your potential. However, this may not come naturally or easily. Learning to see yourself in your highest light and expecting more from yourself may require courage for you to walk your own path at times.

In context

In some photographs, the poppies clearly stood out and appeared to be bigger and more pronounced than their surrounding. In reality they were small and looked somewhat fragile in the field.

When looking at a specific piece of information, it is always necessary to understand the broader context in which anything exists. Context defines meaning and puts things into perspective.

Beauty in the light

There is a natural tension between individual and group needs. When this tension is integrated in a respectful way, an amazing beauty emerges that can never be anticipated. Light always shines through in such cases.

Seeking to integrate dynamic opposites is a complex challenge. This requires a systemic philosophy that embraces diversity and understands the inter-connected fabric of life. Extreme perspectives that deny or prevent alternative viewpoints results in division, exclusion, resistance and anger.

The tension that exists between globalization and nationalization (separatism) should never be examined in an either/or manner, but rather considered according to the philosophy of both/and. The self-absorbed, egotistical Trump is incapable of grasping this fundamental idea of both/and regarding any issue. He has decided to withdraw the USA from the Paris Accord on climate change and global warming. His decision highlights how self-centred, simplistic and archaic his worldview is regarding global issues.

Due to his narcissistic, bombastic and arrogant attitude (coupled with his lack of insight) more and more rifts will occur whenever he is called on to make a decision. Harmony and beauty will recede whenever he is involved in a process. Instead, more conflict will be activated as he feebly attempts to lead a Divided States of America that continues to polarize as time goes on. His biggest threat will not be an external one (such as immigration or terrorism), but instead, will be an internal one in which he will be the centre of a self-induced implosion as his own country fragments.

Time and movement in the competitive space

When considering the dynamics of sporting or business performance, one needs to consider time and movement in space. More specifically, a player needs to be mindful of how his/her emotional and energetic state moves while encountering challenges in a competitive environment.

Rowing in stormy weather

In general, the emotional state of a player will move in one of two directions during practice (or during a match) depending on whether or not he is successful in dealing with the stressful challenges. If he is effective in the process, his emotional state will move to a place of optimism, coupled with a sense of freedom on an energetic level. If he struggles and makes mistakes and fails in his efforts, his emotional state will move to a place of pessimism, and his energetic system will tighten. On another level, the energetic system gets stuck during poor performance, with the player feeling totally immobilized.

While consulting with an international athlete, I asked the player to get connected to his present emotional state before entering the competitive space of intense practice. He needed to do a mind/body connection, without judging his energetic state. This offered him internal information as a starting point. In addition, he was asked to share what he was going to work on, on a technical level, during his practice. This provided him with specific clarity as a starting point regarding technique.

During practice, the challenge for the player was to trigger an internal process to move his emotional and energetic state into a more optimistic place when he was performing poorly.

Introducing meaningful information at a critical point in the process is necessary in order to move a player’s energetic and emotional state into a more freer and relaxed place.

But what constitutes meaningful information, and how can the player access it?

On a fundamental level, there are two distinct levels of information that need to be accessed and integrated. Firstly, there is technical information that needs to be incorporated to ensure improved performance. This information exists on the mechanical level of performance. Secondly, there is emotional and energetic information that exists internally. This type of information can be accessed if the player is mindful.

On a coaching level, the skillful and wise coach is able to introduce a meaningful piece of information at a critical point in time, that frees up the tight emotional place that an athlete can find him/herself in, when performing poorly. This information becomes the key that unlocks the internal potential of the player. When this occurs, the coach will see an immediate shift in performance.

There may be times when the coach stops the process and asks the player to take some time out of the competitive space in order to reflect on what is unfolding. This may be enough to create breathing space, so as to allow the necessary movement to occur. However, while this can be done during intense practice, it will not be possible during matches.

In a recent conversation with another elite sportsman, I termed this general movement as one in which the player moves towards the sweet spot during performance.

A flow of seven unique moments

One of the tasks that I had set for myself when starting this project was to do a concluding post in which I integrate the seven different parts (photographs). On completion, however, I do not have any desire to pull the parts together in a formal way or to draw any further conclusions. Instead I feel that the seven parts should be left to dangle separately and to be joined together in whatever way you may wish.

At the onset, I had no idea of what I would produce for this project.

Cycling down the hill
Cycling down the hill
Running up the hill
Running up the hill
Walking the dog
Crossing the road, walking the dog

When going out to take the photograph, I found that it was best not to preempt where I should go and what I needed to be on the lookout for. This attitude freed up my ability to observe, enhancing the visual possibilities that existed in front of me. Given this, the external environment was allowed to flirt with me in whatever way it wanted. This provided a co-evolved creation where the context and I, were able to connect in a meaningful way at a specific moment in time. The photograph was a reflection of that unique moment of connection.

I walked away from taking each photograph with a feeling of appreciation. Each photograph acted like a Rorschach test for me, activating further thinking about psychotherapy, meaning of life, personal worldviews and created realities.

There are no simple answers to some of life’s tough questions. In fact, the complexity of life usually reveals itself as a paradox, where there are no rights or wrongs to an issue that you may be struggling with. Having said this, there is always a part to us that strives to live life in a more harmonious and meaningful way. Experiencing and then sharing my perspective of the flow of the seven unique moments offered me the opportunity to do just that.