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.

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.

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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.

Time and change in a field of sunflowers

Six weeks ago I stopped next to a field of beautiful sunflowers. It was early morning. There was not a cloud in the sky. The flowers seemed to be worshiping the sun as they orientated themselves to the light and warmth. They appeared to be celebrating the start of a new day. Their body language reflected an abundance of optimism as they smiled joyfully.

As I looked at the sunflowers, no flower was the same. As in a sporting team, they conformed in dress, yet each reflected a uniqueness.

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Early morning

Metaphorically, opportunities and potentialities in life are associated with a new day as the sun first appears at dawn. As with a new born baby, there is much hope associated with the new emerging energy.

It was late afternoon, on a cloudy day when I stopped next to the same field of sunflowers. Six weeks had passed since my first walk in the field. How different they now were. They seemed to be weeping, heads drooped. Their youthful state had passed. They were now ready to have their seeds harvested.

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Six weeks later – late afternoon

As with all healthy processes, an end invites a new beginning.

This is the nature of life, never-ending cycles moving in time. However, despite the changing phases, there is a constant in the evolutionary process – healthy systems sustain and perpetuate themselves over time.

As a day or a month or year unfolds, there is a beginning and an end. But beginnings and ends are convenient punctuations that are intellectually defined to break the never-ending flow of time.

Due to the relativity of time, one does not always notice change. It is only when you ‘freeze frame’ a specific moment in time and compare it to another, that change is highlighted.

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.