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.

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

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.

Shine your light in winter

Growth is not possible during a severe winter. The predominant concern for all living things during this period is one of survival.

Metaphorically, I feel that we are in a global spiritual winter at the moment. This feeling is exacerbated by the way many political leaders are conducting themselves at present. Ethics have given way to lies, corruption and manipulation. In the process, trust no longer exists and hope fades quickly as the harshness of the winter reality hits everyone. Darkness descends, and the possibility of sustainable growth wanes as the system struggles to sustain the values of honesty, courage and compassion. There are many weak enablers that add to (and benefit from) the wintery conditions; running and hiding for shelter while looking after their own comforts.

Over the weekend, I was outdoors taking photographs of the snow, wintery landscape. In late afternoon, I walked passed a small field of dead sunflowers as the sun was trying to break through the dense cloud cover. As the rays gained strength and penetrated the cover ever so slightly, I felt light and joyful.

As I looked at the sunflowers, I knew that each one of them contained the seeds of new life. The potential energy of growth existed in the seeds that lay dormant during winter. Nature is self-generating and in times of winter, it is not necessary to lose hope in a future that is still to unfold.

As the sun broke through, I was reminded of how light changes one’s perspective. During cold wintery days, everyone hankers after light. Feeling the warmth of the sun, just for a couple of minutes, helps to lift the spirit.

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When reflections in the water are added to light, the snowscape is enhanced dramatically.

Walking in the wintery landscape in Germany over this weekend helped remind me of the power of light and reflection when interacting with others and dealing with challenging situations.

Shining one’s light in wintery conditions lifts spirits. Being emotionally light, honest, compassionate and courageous in one’s relationships brings warmth and hope to others.

Framing your vision

Creating and defining the realities that you experience in life, can be likened to taking photographs.

Your mind is full of snap shots. Each of these snap shots are framed, which helps to provide clarity and order in how you see and interpret your experiences. Frames define and direct where you look, helping to give meaning to your experiences.

The frame that you place around a particular snap shot, is self-constructed, and is determined by your beliefs, assumptions and perceptions. Knowing this, will help to liberate you from a restrictive view point, since this realisation will offer you the chance to frame your old snap shots in different ways.

In helping my clients resolve some of their emotional or interpersonal difficulties, I have seen how problems have a way of narrowing their vision. The frame that is placed around ‘the problem’, tends to prevent them from seeing the array of possibilities that exist outside of the frame. The frame acts as a boundary that keeps their eyes rigidly locked into one particular perspective. This tends to tighten and intensify where they look and what they see.

There is an old castle not too far from where I live. A couple of months ago I took a photograph using a wide angle lens. It was a misty morning as I looked south towards the Alps. I decided to do a black and white conversion of the photograph.

Into the distance
Into the distance

Last week, I went back to the old castle and again looked south to see the Alps in the distance. It was a clear morning and as I framed my shot I decided to use a telescopic lens. The early morning sun rays were starting to shine over the tiny village in the foreground.

Into the distance

As a therapist, I have become sensitive not only to how my clients frame their problems but also to how I am framing what I am hearing and seeing in the stories that they are sharing with me. This awareness has helped open up my vistas as I encounter the vast array of complex snap shots being shared with me.