Sunday, July 15, 2012

Koan #25 - Promote or Hide

Koan: We have been looking at this one praxis question for some years. This is both generally, and specifically in apithology practice. The dilemma is between the desire to promote to grow - or to instead hide to refine. Each has their benefits and costs.

The full dilemma goes something like this: 'A theory of generativity for thought involves establishing the conditions for this. However, to do so with  the distortions of noise, confusion and perplexivity that generates the need for these questions dissipates the effects gained even before beginning. Once established, generativity comes from more openness, inclusivity and transparency. But what happens to the potential actualised when opened to deconstructions of mind generally? How does one form these initially?'

Discussion: Apithology as a theory of praxis is not an idea, a construction or a prescription - it is an injunction. It is 'done'. So the question is really about the practical implications of its doing. In reality, while this question in apithology praxis involves many nuances, an analogy is found in the example of someone learning to meditate. Essentially, apithology is humanity learning to meditate on its own mind.

Like in meditation we might seek to find a dedicated space, time, conducive conditions and a community of practitioners to provide support. Over time the 'meditation break'  being the real world existence between meditation sessions becomes the meditation. However, it is not so easy to start that way. The question of 'how when in' promotes the dilemma of distinction of separation.

Inquiry; While noise, awarenesses from within the body, and continual adverse conditions initially are to be eliminated - this may lead in a maturity later to an active seeking and accepting of abrupt interactions - as reciprocations providing the instructions of  aversions, attachments and ignorances as loving distractions and interruptions. The noise is the practice. The interruption is, in response, the test of the injunction.

Insight: We recognise then that comfort is not practice, as if a wider world is required to be lived in (i.e. humanity level dynamics) smallness is not conducive after its initial mastery and accomplishment. Yet the answer to the koan is not simply to have a dedicated safe place and then extend.

It is a question of re-framing the question. Rather than promote or hide, or isolate then extend, the koan is really one of availability.

People respect the entitlement to not be disturbed if asked to and provided with the awareness of the request. The neighbours may not know your time for meditation is the same as their time for metalwork and grinding. This is provided that the benefits are shared. That one lives in the world - and so is of the world.

Resolution: I find (this day in the downtown industrial landscape of a large urban North American city) that instead the paradox is answered by the instruction for the injunction held in the phrase Practice and Provide.

The dedicated space for conducive practice is first to be provided. What exclusions and conditions are needed - are needed. This is done, however, with the recognition that the doors are open, the space is of inclusion and the results of those reflections are 'provided' as opportunities for engagement. What we provide by our introspection is the provision for the capacity for greater invitation. This is done only for those asking similar questions - and never in projection.

Practice: In this way, perhaps, over time nothing needs to be promoted and nothing is hidden - because the inside space for practicing practice, becomes the outside space of our practice practiced.

We begin with the without in mind, and when the without comes in, our practice of the within - includes the all. In this way, and I suspect in this way only, the humanity 'in us' becomes our meditation on, and as, humanity 'as us'.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Koan #24 Holding and Expecting

Koan: How can you hold a neutral space for a process without expectations and sustain the direction and intention for specific and contributive outcomes?

Discussion: This question seems to reflect two positions within the 'development' paradigm. I think one paradigm is about facilitating development simply being present, increasingly self aware (conscious) and appreciative with other's in a process. Perhaps the other is that there is intention to be expressed, a position to be chosen and actions to be taken in order to influence the direction and outcomes that result from (other's) process.

To understand the dynamics of process, I contemplated this question in three contexts: the whole of the kosmos as a process, the urban form and infrastructure development of a city as a process, and a group of peers from different organisations meeting to co-create a vision and plan a way to achieve it.

Inquiry: The idea of a 'neutral' space implies that there is a truly objective position in relationship to whatever is happening. The only position that I know of is that 'no relationship', 'non-dual' position where there is no object (only subject), no separation, no process and no direction.

Apart from that, any position is not 'neutral' and has a relationship and an orientation to the object of attention. It seems reasonable to assume that the relationship and 'space' held is likely to be 'positive', not neutral. For example, a facilitator's relationship to a meeting is likely to be positive, as they are invested in a good outcomes resulting. The same could be said of a community's relationship to its city (if asked, most would only want positive outcomes, though they may disagree on the specific outcomes and the process to achieve them) and the kosmos' (or 'god's') relationship to the kosmos (own) unfolding. If that's true, then there are expectations (and they are positive), even though they may be general, principle- based, or just that 'whatever happens is the only thing that could have'.

The question is then about to what degree the facilitator, community or 'god' (in the kosmos), is aware of the expectations it is trying to hold and achieve. The subject ('you' in the question) that hasn't disclosed its expectations to other's in the process, nor inquired into the expectations of those others, seems likely to contribute to a division and dynamic that undermines the potential for positive and contributive outcomes to occur.

Insight: The 'you' in the question could be presumed to be an individual, collective, engaging some 'others' in a process. That is, there is some boundary or separation perceived. That (separate) individual may presume that their own expectations, directions, intentions and outcomes are separate from those 'others'. This is one perception or conception of the situation.

A more useful or accurate conception may be to understand each instance of a process (even in the case of composing this blog post) to actually be some manifestation of the 'whole' participating in, experiencing, and reflecting on its own perspective. That is, there are no others, there is no process (meeting, city development or kosmic emergence) separate from one's own, there is only one, infinite process perceived as multiple processes.

Then the question becomes about 'my'/'your'/ 'our' relationship to, and meaning-making about, our own process. The only 'problem' is reducing the difference between one's perception and reality.

Practice: The practice is:
  • continuously increasing your awareness of your and our intention, and expectations,
  • continuously inquiring into the direction of the (our) process,
  • observing our contribution to the process and outcomes.
This practice means becoming as 'conscious' as possible of the expectations, intentions, contributions. That is, if we have unconscious expectations, to try and reveal them and become more conscious. Only when those expectations etc. become 'objects' in consciousness, can we actually choose. Without being able to 'choose', there is nothing to do in the process whatsoever: not potential to choose, hold a space, direct direction, express intention or contribute to outcomes.

Without the awareness of and inquiry into self as (and contributing to) process, any action is simply what would have always happened anyway.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Koan #23 Here and There

Koan: How can you get the benefits of being there, while still sustaining the contribution to and relevence of here?

Discussion: Does access to the ocean and waves have anything to do with why we don't live anywhere else in the world? Visiting cities and communities with a different culture to our own communities is making me re-consider the value to the kosmos of me persisting in the place I live. This may be a question you've considered yourself. What are your thoughts on living in the most remote city on earth...far from your friends? Is moving to a larger city a half-step closer to 'heaven'?

Inquiry: What is this place we call home, and does our work in the world need to be in that place. Do we build community in places that our not our community of support, simply a community of work, and how do these divisions divide us?

Insight: In a worldcentric or kosmoscentric reality these divisions are meaningless. There is no local in a non-local perspective. There is only one field of activity. In a community of humanity, which part are you not a part of. That said, we all have a place we go in retreat, a place that is less expansive than where we are stretched and pulled to our ultimate giving of self.

The irrealism of being away from home while traveling is an escapist sense of 'other place', where by living on anothers sofa, using their kindnesses, where they pay the rates, contribute to the infrastructure, we become but the parasite tourists living offf their kindness in an avoidance of our own senses of obligation. From this characterisation, we understand that the 'there' is not other than 'here'. The benefits of another place without the obligations are the illusion of the holiday from self.

Resolution: Are we only talking about physical benefits and detriments of place? Or are we talking about where we experience community, which is where our heart calls us? Or are we talking about the illusion of separation between the place we learn and the place we are called to apply what we know in love? I returned to western Australia almost 20 years ago from a sense of family and community from a place where I had connections and community. My work became non-local while being practical in the locality of need. In this there is a finding of what we need to do what we do. Disconnection with place is the pathology of a missed aspect of self. Finding this is a second obligation in the apithological self-senses.

Practice: In doing Big Mind/Big Heart practice the other day with Musho Hamilton the kosmoscentric self maintains that expanded space and when translated into smaller fields, such as the world, the ethnocentric identity, our closest dependent beloved and even the single self, the nature of that held engagement and care does not change, yet there is a different quality to it. The joy and pain experienced is equisitely different for each, and in other ways only ever the same. This practice reminds us that the location of enactment is only ever an illusion and boundary of our own mind and inadequate heart.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Koan #22 - Retreat and Advance

Koan: How can you be sure you are advancing, even if you choose retreat?

Discussion: Linear models or cultures of development would have us believe that all forward movement is an 'advance' e.g. a staff person moving up the hierarchy of power and responsibility in a workplace, or moving from an economy based on hunting and gathering towards a 'knowledge economy'. I recognise the same mentality in myself as I aim to improve my typing speed, or the rate at which I can process, manage and complete tasks in the worksplace - surely faster is better? Even in some interpretations of psychological/social developmental models, the drive is not to be more kind, aware, healthy, integrated or to make a more authentic contribution, rather the focus becomes on accelerating 'vertical' development.

In contrast there are movements such as voluntary simplicity, downshifting, Transition Towns or 'Energy Descent' where people with (generally) post-modern values see the wisdom and attraction in ways that those interested in continuous forward progress would see as 'going backwards'. In these cases, 'retreat' to growing your own vegetables, reducing your working hours and spending more time 'around the campfire' talking is promoted as an 'advance' towards (ecological) sustainability and a more wise and wealthy culture.

Inquiry: How can you be sure that a move to the forward or to the rear is actually an advance? 'Getting more things done' or 'doing less' can both be seen as retreats or advances in different contexts. In martial interactions or relationships where the goal is victory or simply positive interactions, retreat and yielding can be more of an advance than attack or forcing. So, rather than simple 'direction' is true advancement more qualitative and about the increasing health, contribution, capability or capacity?

Insight: There is something here about:
  1. the experience of the doer,
  2. the changing quality of their interactions and relationship with their context,
  3. their capacity, capability and actual contribution to the health of the system of which they are a part, and
  4. timing
[Oh, I just realised that is the classic 3: I, We, It + time! Ha Ha Ha Ha haaaaa.] Note **

Resolution: True advance or retreat is a non-linear concept that needs to be assessed in at least four dimensions.
  • Has the experience of the being/doer evolved? Does the change lead to a more nuanced, complex, pleasing, enlightened, blissful way of being?
  • Is the tone, posture and interaction in the inter-subjective space more fluid, beautiful, healthy?
  • As observed from afar, has their skill increased? Are they now making a more effective and generative contribution to the development of the systems of which they are part?
  • Does the timing of all this sing? Does it make music? From all three perspectives previously mentioned, does everything mesh together as an advancing whole? The music, the movement, the advancement may NOT be linear (even though it would be so easy to think that this follows that, and so that is how it should go), so this timing really requires a lot of attention.
Practice: Pay attention, in at least four dimensions, for signals as to whether you, we, it are advancing or retreating. This requires a substantial expansion in awareness: an increase in the capability to see, and an increase in the capacity to discern and comprehend what is happening.

Such a practice is definitely an ADVANCE, and may be best developed through a meditation RETREAT ; )

Note **

Perhaps the judgement about advancement and retreat is further complicated by the relationship between what IS, and what ISN'T, and the role of the observer.

In terms of the role of the observer, from any position a) there are an infinite number of moves (like 4D chess) to some undefined position b). While there are broad patterns of development that would increase the probability of where b) might be, there is perhaps something almost 'quantum physics' about the role of the observer in determining where b) is (which is one step beyond just whether the location b) is seen as and advance or retreat from a)! ).

In terms of what ISN'T playing a role, I guess there is this fundamental position from which directionality is not particularly meaningful. Where advance and retreat don't make sense in a place of no-time, no-context, no-doer and non-relativity...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Koan #21 - Purpose and Service

Koan: How do we be true to our Purpose, while also offering ourselves in Service?

Discussion: What is the relationship between purpose and service? Can they be separate and what if they are contextless? We might find service in the open question of public service. We might find it in the very specific meeting of needs of professional practice. We might also find it by an alignment with Spirit in service of all sentient beings. What we do find is purpose and service are never far from each other. The skill is in the discernment of the context in which those two concepts are being applied. How often then do we not even make the time to inquire into what purpose and service mean, in our context?

Inquiry: Vickers writes about how human systems are not purposeful. Human systems can appear purposeful just as ants colony may appear e.g. singularly focused on running a particular 'program' to achieve an outcome. The concept of a purposeful system is 'linear' and doesn't reflect the deeper complexity of systems that are 'appreciative'. Appreciative systems, such as individual consciousness or a human community 'notice particular aspects of a situation, to discriminate them in particular ways and to measure them against particular standards of comparison..'. The appreciated aspects condition any new experience, but are also modified by new experience.

If one had a linearly-framed purpose, one could presumably do something in a way that produces and outcome in a time without undesired results, and it would be intensely satisfying. But the reality of the human experience and human communities is that all of the purpose, the system within which that purpose is achieved, and the perception of different aspects of that system are all evolving.

Insight: Purpose is coupled with Service and each is always in a (evolving) context. When we see someone offering something aligned with their sense of purpose (e.g. a service, or a workshop), but it is not meeting any need of the context (e.g. a need of the organisation or community) then the offering is purposeless. But that person (or us!) may only be appreciating aspects of the context (e.g. perceiving certain needs) that are aligned with their own purpose and their own context-independent definition of Service, and so be unable to see that their offering is actually purposeless in this particular context.

If there is a tension or disconnect between Purpose and Service then that may result from misinterpretation of the context and imposition of service to only serve one's own purposes: if YOUR purpose is of no service in the context (as defined by others e.g. those who you are claiming to serve), then what is the purpose of you doing it?

Resolution: Purpose and Service are context dependent. They can be defined and achieved, but only within context. People, projects or organisations would have multiple purposes and multiple services, but these purposes and services only make sense in a certain context. These can be placed within a heirarchy that makes sense e.g. 8 levels of naming what you do

Practice: Inquire into context first. Do not come into the party blindfolded into a room of unsuspecting guests offering sweets of delight that suit your tastes. Come first and wait to be invited to inquire, see what the need is, and then find if your purpose can fulfil any part of that in Service. This requires a letting go of the idea that your Purpose can be achieved, or even that you can be fulfilled in achieving that Purpose, free of the context. Instead, understand that real purpose, service and bliss co-arise: "Happiness is where your heart's deepest desire and the world's greatest need meet".

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Koan #20 - Gravity and Levity

Koan: If most serious things are 'weighty', is it appropriate to hold them lightly?

Discussion: What in life deserves to be taken seriously? Serious endeavours, religious schisms, human development and our civilisations most insoluble social challenges are weighty topics. They deserve our serious attention, and understanding of the 'gravity' of the situation and consequences of our choices.

My experience is that my interpretation and expression of seriousness of intent can manifest as earnestness, obsession, perfectionism, rigidity and lack of compassion. This is not healthy if one wants to stay healthy, resilient, loved and in-relationship with others who may not share the same vision or intention.

In my case, I am particularly aware of the tone I use and commitments I make with peers and friends. I sometimes get it completely wrong - making jokes about something/someone that are really hurtful, being flippant about the most serious of invitations and commitments, and being serious and dramatic about things other people perceive as being relatively trivial. Or, in the worst case, when someone earnestly approaches me about a topic they know I have an interest in (global justice) I can make jokes about it being for hippies who 'want to save the world' (sarcastic tone). A great way to shut down conversation.

It is not that topics such as that can't be treated with humour to good effect, but perhaps it is the type and tone of humour that matters. Shallow seriousness is perhaps more offensive than humour that expresses a deep understanding of the paradoxical nature of truth, being or our own incoherence.

Inquiry: To work in partnership, in community, in engagement with others effectively on any meaningful topics requires seriousness and a commitment. Yet my experience of the most effective and creative leaders is that they know when to joke around. If you are playing the role or the jester, stand-up comic, monkey, bubble-blower or (rodeo) clown one of the benefits is to to 'lighten' the dynamics within the serious context while not sacrificing any of the depth. The heavy and light, serious and humorous, earnest and flippant, constrictions and fee-flow can be juxtaposed and new paths illuminated and navigated. Even with those professions mentioned, serious skill, practice, discipline, and a clarity of intention is required in order to skillfully execute the most hilarious fall.

That's on the conscious side of the coin.

On the flipside, humour and levity can be an unconscious reaction to challenging circumstances where seriousness may lead to shame, acknowledgment of hurt, and all sorts of conversations that we would rather not have! It can be a way to dismiss the seriousness, dismiss the intent, close down the opportunity to engage more deeply and refuse to inquire into our own priorities and integrity.

Insight: If gravity and weight is the energetic and conceptual equivalent of 'attachment', and levity and lightness the same equivalent of 'detachment', then perhaps it is what we are attached or detached to that is the question. The seriousness and commitment can be to the relationship and the ultimate outcome (in the future, and in-this-moment), while the levity and detachment can be in relation to the means by which that relationship is maintained and that outcome achieved. It is only by holding things lightly that you can be open to new depths, new learning, holding new perspectives. Perhaps the most burdensome, weighty item is one's ego as it clings to all that it knows and has.

One idea is to consider a human walking on a planet as an expression of interacting with the ground and moving towards a goal, while showing right relationship to gravity and levity. With too much gravity imposed the human would be unable to move or see beyond their nose, as they become stuck in place and squashed into the ground. If there was too much levity, one might float away into the sky. One would be free, mobile, with a vast perspective, yet unable to actually push against the ground to generate forward movement. The resolution in the metpahor is that humans have evolved within the atmospheric and gravitational context in a way that enables us enough freedom to jump, but not so little freedom that we leave the ground completely. The rhythm of our motion is one of constant contraction and expansion, pounding into the pavement then leaping away with alternate feet.

Resolution: I posed the question in the context of moving towards some outcome, or maintaining some relationship. That may be for individuals as much as it may be the relationship of a community to its bioregion, or local government to its state counterparts. There is no 'right' answer to weighty or light treatment of a topic, rather it is a case of generating energy through the alternation from weighty to lightly. Skillful interaction requires an ability to 'play the whole piano' from the heaviest tone to the lightest tinkle. Whatever is appropriate in the context of the ebb and flow of the energy of others and in service of meaningful and effective relationships and progress.

Practice: Gravity and levity, weighty and light are relative concepts. So too are seriousness and humour. Shift your attention to the relationship, and relative position to the other actors and the end goal. If the intention is to engage and mutually inquire and develop, then the primary attention is on maintaining the relationship. A sort of 'elastic' relationship with push and pull, stretch and rebound as you moment-to-moment orient to (and choose) the tone, energy, position and perspective most appropriate for the people and purpose. And if you get it 'wrong' then be prepared for a 'snap' as the elastic breaks, or stings as it snaps back and awakens you from your unconscious slumber.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Koan #19 - Acceptance and Agreement

Koan: If you haven't got agreement, can you at least get acceptance?

Discussion: In Edgar Schein's process consultation and Peter Block's contacting process the presumption of the equalisation of the psychodynamics of status imbalance means that to gain agreement to co-operative development, there must be an equality of understanding. Where we 'do' development to something, there is no problem with this. The only problem is if we confuse their needs with our own. The need to do something for, in the absence of agreement in equality, is really a need to do something, or to do something to. Mistaking this is usually ineffective (which is lucky because the act is possibly unforgivable).

Inquiry: The challenge comes from this where the other party does not have the capacity to choose (i.e. they do not have the question you are asking). The challenge also comes where we do not have the capacity to ask (i.e. where acting for the benefit of the whole, but there is no one person to ask). What happens then?

Insight: Nothing changes in these circumstances. You cannot move past agreement, just because you have acceptance. What is required is greater sophistication of practice. One might have to wait two years for agreement by continuing to hold and frame the questions space, doing the development needed to get to the point to begin or not begin the work that begins at that point. One might also have to develop an inquiry practice for the desires of the whole, if one seeks to look to the health of the whole.

Resolution: When I misspelt the word 'consensual' the other day, meaning to provide consent in agreement, by writing instead 'consentual' I had to inquire into the difference. Consentual is a word, and is used to imply not non-consentual, being agreement in a dubious situation of mutual consent. It is a circumstance where there is not really a choosing, only no choice. This highlights that circumstances can be created to gain consent, but one is mistaken if they believe there is a consensus. The resolution to the koan is what appears to make it easier to precede, simply makes it harder to achieve.

Practice: Walk the only path there is, continuously in engagement, and not seeking 'the engagement'.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Koan # 18 - Ebb and Flow

Koan: How do you choose between effort and acceptance?

Discussion: Objects and awareness seem to ebb and flow: move towards, move away, move strongly, move weakly, are present and absent. I perceive and experience a choice about how carefully I observe the ebb and flow, how I orient myself to it, and therefore what I decide to do and how I act. The currents of culture, time, money, resources, and energy are not just operating on an individual level, but at the scale of communities, nations, planets and beyond. Often my orientation has been towards always making effort to slow the flow, or accelerate and energise in the ebb in service of generating change, and based on an assumption that positive progress should always be hard work (because hard work is love made visible).

Inquiry: If objects and awareness are both in flux, but in a range of directions relative to one's intention, how does one know when to exert effort or when to accept the ebb and flow? If one's intention is towards sustainability, or aligned with sustainability, is there any guidance on how we can intelligently and effectively to support systems to move in that direction?

Some scenarios:
  1. If sustainability, resilience and health of a system/organisation/community are framed as destinations and the energy and resources to get towards that destination are unlimited then the logic would be to always be 'pushing' and making 'effort' and never accepting an ebb or flow back in the 'wrong direction'.
  2. If the framing as a destination remained, but resources are limited, then the strategy may be to accept when things slow down, but make efforts at the right time to accelerate flow in the right direction - like timing when you push on a swing in a playground to maximise the impact for limited resources.
  3. If sustainability, resilience and health are not framed as destinations, but rather states or conditions that are enacted, emergent and evolving then the question and answer are different again. In that case effort or acceptance are not simply considerations of the practitioner in relation to some external circumstances, they are also choices that reflect and create the experience of the practitioner and likely the system with which they are interacting, in the moment.
Resolution: Any sort of effortless power in facilitating healthy shifts or next-level catalysing of sustainable development is likely to require simultaneous acceptance and effort:
  • Acceptance of one's experience and context to orient towards it, and
  • Effort to stay connected to one's intention, the most enlightened perspective, and to make decisions take action that are most conducive to both positive experience and positive development.
The effort required to see and accept things as they can be substantial (if it requires practice and conscious setting aside of one's desires, filters and distractions) or none (if you just let everything fall away). Perhaps the view from the non-dual and the broadest perspective is of absolute acceptance, and yet the experience and observation within the relative universe is of constant striving and effort to reach towards perfection?

Perhaps the test of whether one is making 'right effort' in service of the whole can not be the either experience (of practitioner) or observation (in the system) of ebb and flow. Perhaps ebb and flow are ebb and flow, they are neither signals or health nor alerts to make more effort, rather just characteristics and 'moods' of complex systems.

Practice: Choose both and neither acceptance and effort, in service of one's intention: a sort of action-inquiry relationship to more and more healthy experiences and system' states. Have the humility to accept the ebb, flow, state and stage of experience and the system, but refuse to accept that it could or should stay the same. Have the boundless energy and temerity to make constant effort in service of the emergence of the more complex experience and system, but also know that if you are really making that much constant effort then it might nor really be contributing to either your or the system's health.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Koan #17 - Orientation and Determination

Koan: How do you introduce apithological concepts to affect a change in orientation, when that orientation is non-apithological.

Discussion: It is interesting when you see a new phenomenon and introduce it to a closed consciousness, because unsurprisingly, you get the reaction that is the very reason you wanted to introduce the idea. If something is not seen, you can't show it within a blind spot. What then is the practice?  

Inquiry: In sustainability thinking and change management we are constantly taking the opportunity to introduce new ideas in increasing layers of complexity and enable their integration. Receptivity is key to success. What we haven't acknowledged is the role of phase specific receptivity to these scenarios. 

Insight: A proof of a theory is if it proves itself in its application to itself. For example, if levels of consciousness are not perceivable by certain levels of consciousness, their proof is in their dismissal from those frames of knowledge. Similarly, one of the most significant and often overlooked implications of panarchy theory is that a system once it goes into decline and collapse will not be psychologically receptive to generative outcomes. It will go into a different coping orientation.

Resolution: If we are right about this, pre-transition is the management activity to engage in, either in mitigation or generation for the new alpha. 

Practice: To open systems to new potentials they must have that orientation. To enable that orientation involves inquiry and providing the formative conditions. If the conditions were not present at the time of formation of the system of perception .... - good luck with the offering.

The image is one of throwing the drowning person a bright orange life buoy which they cannot see because they have their eyes closed to protect themselves from the splashing water that is hitting their eyes ... coming from their own flailing arms.  In this situation, the aware life-saver knows that they must approach the drowning person, see the rationality in their irrationality, calm them, gin their acceptance, and contribution - and then together head to safety. 

To do otherwise risks both their lives - in a sea of turmoil and fatigue.  The formative conditions can be changed. But until there is an inquiry into the reason for the orientation, there is no work that can be done. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Koan #16 - Inspiration and Perspiration

Koan: What is the balance between doing the work and just making it simple and accessible.  

Discussion: Watching the trailer is not seeing the movie. Seeing the movie is not reading the book. Reading the book is not studying it as literature. Studying it as literature is not seeing the work as art, social commentary and philosophy in the history of the times. The speed of the current generational trends is to miss in the modern the distinctions of difference. Never having an experience of the former means that we do not know what we do not know. The mistake is one of perception.

Inquiry: I watch TED talks. They are a life's work in science reduced to 20 minutes. The newer format is rumoured to be 10 minutes. Is this information and exploration or merely meme propagation? In my own work people talk to me about what they have read and do not ask to read what has been written. Who explores behind or do we know what we need to know.

Insight: There is no problem in the simplification, as long as people know that it is a simplification. The problem only arises in the mistake. When we understand something by metaphor, it gives us a means to access that work. When we understand something as a metaphor, we are confused and overly simplistic. The field of panarchy is entering a point now of everything being resilient and in adaptive cycles. I read all of the literature and studies, conversations and papers of over 30 years work and see that the simpler ideas lead people into the field, but also lead the field into dilution.    

Resolution: Be socially aware in the messages you propagate, be accurate and complete and not overly compelx, and allude to the partial view, the unknowns and the mysteries yet to be discovered. Is it better to have a mass market or 1000 true fans? The answer is both, just make sure the two are not at all confused.

Practice: Undertake the perspiration so as to reach those with inspiration, but look mostly for those who stay back and help pack the chairs, as they are probably waiting for an invitation to pick up something a little more profound.

Footnote: In the tipping point Gladwell talks about maeven traps that allow those with specialist inquiry skills or interest to select in. I wonder what a 'One of the One Thousand' portal would look like? 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Koan #15 - Speaking and Silencing (The Ethics of Tipping)

Koan: What is not said in what is said in theories of tipping points, leverage points and systems change.

Discussion: It's frequently the stated intent of the profession to support, create or catalyse systemic change in organisations, communities, or whole sectors of society. There are professional communities focused on specific aspects of this sort of change, from community-based social marketing for sustainable transport to coaches working on organisational development for sustainability to landscape-scale rehabilitation. These groups are usually acting based on a theory of change. The theory may emphasise the importance of individual leadership, building a social movement, shifting mindsets, or changing the economic rules within the system. Beyond simply assuming there is only one always-appropriate means to contribute to systems change, there are some commonly-cited meta-theories of systems change. Those that I am familiar with include Meadow's Leverage Points, Gladwell's Tipping Points, Scharmer's Theory U, Mintzberg's Strategy Safari, Wilber's Integral Theory, Moyer's MAP Model, NESTA's Social Innovation Toolkit, Torbert's Developmental Action Inquiry or The Natural Steps's Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development. Some of these compilations or integrations of change models carefully examine the context in which different approaches are appropriate and more likely to be effective.

Inquiry: While these theories usually have emerged from specific contexts, and are general, it is a useful exercise to understand what it is that is not said in the theories. From a re-read of my notes relating to each of the aforementioned books, I noticed limited attention to the following aspects (in some, not all):
  • What are the limitations of this theory/model approach e.g. geographical or cultural context where it has been shown to be appropriate
  • If you are an advocate of this theory, or you have picked up this book, what are some pitfalls you are likely to be prone to
  • Exploring the motivation or intent of the person intending on 'shifting the system'
  • When, and how to tell when, continuing to pursue a particular approach may yield diminishing returns and may become more harmful than useful
  • Just beacuse you can, you can see how, have 'right' motivation, should you (intervene)?
While I recognise that just missing one sentence of those books could have meant I missed that critical factor, and that the books' audience and purpose probably mean that extensive discussion of those topics is not a priority, some of those questions seem fundamental for any practitioner.

So, if what is not said is that 'context, and the practitioner are what really matter', then I wonder what my observations of others, and reflections on my own approaches reveal. In recent experience I have:
  • Spoken with Transport Planners reluctant to investigate whether their proposed changes to infrastructure and behavioural change were actually the most effective way to achieve their stated goals of healthy people and reduced climate and energy risks.
  • Participated in planning of a major region-scale community engagement process where the actual outcomes, or relationship between the engagement process and real change in ecological, social or economic outcomes was 'blurry', and where it seemed more important to use the techniques and have the events than to understand how they would genuinely contribute to systemic change.
  • Provided comments on a sustainability book for post-graduate students where it was 'new' that an inquiry into the real motivation of the participants was part of the course. The question of "Do you really care about future generations?....Or is there something else that is motivating you?" was challenging in this context.
  • Observed my own perspective and approach to working within an organisation and community vary widely, and continue on a trajectory that was not necessarily aligned with my espoused theories nor its effectiveness tested relative to alternative approaches.
Insight: In proposing any paradigm of practice there are some underlying assumptions that are not said. Some do not need to be (i.e. Integral is about partialness, Sustainability is about sustaining what is, Development is about deficiency in learning levels etc.) because they are inherent in the problem definition. Yet there are others, and these are the unspoken ethics of change. If our ethic does not come naturally from the methodology and is fully formed and enacted merely by the signature on the course certificate, from where ... or from (in) whom, will appear?

I am also aware of making conclusions about what is included or left out of a particular meta-theory based on my quick judgement of the worldview or 'stage' that it arose from. There is something there about the genuine spirit of inquiry, an attention to detail (adn dare I say 'lineage') and consciousness about what I am actually reading and looking at that stands out. Similar to what was described here:

Lastly, during exploration of this particular koan, I really noticed the degree to which I share my thinking and the process by which I came to the conclusions. The fact is that much of this is not interesting, of limited help, and should probably be edited from my communication in favour of sharing what is truly useful to others.


What is not said in what is said in theories of tipping points, leverage points and systems change includes the ethic, approach
and context in which these theories arise and may be usefully applied.

What is not read when reading theories of change includes the difference between the assumptions of the writer, the reader and the other actors that are co-contributors to the creation of the system and the process of its change.

What may not be experienced when inducing a system change may be the psychological, phsyical, cultural and spiritual trauma of the individuals and communities being 'tipped'.


Listen and enjoy for what is said, and notice what is not.

Read and connect with what resonates, and pay attention to what you ignore.

Act in service of the whole and experience it as one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Koan #14 - Conjunction and Contribution

Koan: How do you sustain contribution in coaction without the conflict of conjunction?

Discussion: I have been looking at  the difference of an integrated view of ecology and an ecological view of integration. The difference is in the paradigm and purpose of each. A paradigm of partialness collects so as to integrate. A paradigm of wholeness coacts so as to contribute. One sees the parts a contributory but inadequate. The other sees the parts as adequate and contributory. What results from the first is a collection. What results from the second is a conjunction.  The difference is subtle, but necessary from their intention.   

Inquiry: How is the cojoining into completeness (e.g. the pizza) different to combining into equisiteness (e.g. panacotta). When one inhabits each intention, the feeling is profoundly noticeable. Different intention leads to different attention. Contributing stingily from surplus is different to gifting from abundance.

Insight: I think its that old joke. An optimist is someone who believes things are as good as they possibly could be. A pessimist is someone who fears the optimist is right. A realist is someone who knows the optimist and pessimist are both spot on. An apithologist is someone who sees the potential in the conjunction of the three.

Resolution: The potential of partialness is in its conjunction. This is distinct from integration. The integration of the parts only makes the whole of what is (the optimist and pessimists middle ground.  The conjunction sees the potential in their contribution.

Practice: To understand that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and that some of the parts do not make a whole, but wholeness is awaiting in every single moment. To see the bike as the exquisiteness of the cycles within it, means letting go of the carefully made list of assemblage ~ especially if you want to hear it purrrrr.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Koan #13 Practice and Practicing

Koan: When is practice practice, and when is it just practising?

Discussion: Having the discipline to practise is wonderful. There is no substitute for doing something consistently, with commitment. But that can be totally different from having the intent to actually learn, to actually develop skill, to actually be transformed through your practice. I even recall the precondition of the practice being very intentional being cited in Gladwell's book 'Outliers' regarding the '10,000 hour rule' to becoming an expert [sorry, I didn't read the cited studies at source, yet!]

Consider the example of swimming lap after lap, just because you are training for some race and you thought you should swim a lot. Compare that to swimming with the intent that you would get faster every session, more perfect with every stroke, and that swimming was another means to explore the limits of your body and develop a increased sensitivity to the placement of your hands, curve in your elbow and rhythm in your kick. There is likely to be a huge difference in the learning curve and potential for insights between those two approaches.

Having considered that example, there really is something to be said for practicing even when your intent (on a given day) is not right. For example, sometimes I go to Tai Chi, or start weights, or go skating, or cycling, not because I have the right intention in that moment, but rather because I am just following through on some commitment I made to myself to do it. It is sometimes only in the last quarter of the time spent that I actually snap into actually being interested in the practice.

Another interesting dimension is the frequent mention in definitions of 'practice' of the word 'habit'. Yet, my experience of spiritual practice is that the act of meditating is not so much habitual, rather deeply intentional most of the time. The habit would, most of the time, be to not do it, sleep in, not engage with any intention. Yet the joy from meditation (or buzz from exercise) can be equally a habit and addictive.

Insight: Intention defines relationship. Becoming more skillful in relationship to self, action and world is the purpose of practice. If the intention is to truly become more objectively skillful, then the practice will be intense, the relationship appropriate and the objectively observable quality and impact of the practice will be greater. If the intention is just to practice, as a means of growing into or reinforcing a particular identity, then intensity, relationship and quality doesn't matter. All that matters in that case is that you practice 'with' your relationship in Intention to Becoming.

Inquiry: What are the important distinctions to draw? Reading Varela (2000) today he makes the distinction between praxis, practice and practicing. Perhaps simply these are the apithological distinctions of theory of action (knowing), the presence of action (being) and the undertaking of action (doing). If we are (Being) and do (Doing) without the Knowing of why, we are engaging in something, but I wonder what it is ultimately for. To have a theory of action and to act without intention or presence also presents a disconnect. In apithology this in the conjunction of mind.speech.body. It is not necessary to combine all three consciously, unless you want generativity. The alternative is of course just to practice endlessly - which is an option. Hope (or self-delusion) is then necessary.

Practice: My grandmother (who was a very accomplished pianist) would say 'practice makes permanent' - as a play on 'practice makes perfect'. Only perfect practice makes perfection. The trick is to practice perfectly, but as that is impossible until we attain perfection, which we cannot do as there is no attainment, the aim is to 'practice mindfully' with an eye on (and toward) continual refinement. Our practice is to engage in practicing mindfully. The accomplishment is not in the result, but the time spent in aware engagement. Better one foot placed well with permanent awareness resulting of the difference in that step than do 108 moves completed with a concreting of a self-limiting habit in ignorance - no matter how good it looks.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Koan #12 - Being and Becoming

Koan: "How do you gain the energy for becoming, while expending all of it on being?"

Discussion: Being in transition sucks. We expend energy gaining distance from the old while needing to find energy to explore the new. It feels self-defeating. Transitions are like pushing out of a pool as opposed to swimming in it or running around. We have to expend all the energy being half in and half out and doing neither effectively.

Inquiry: Is a strategy to involve the mind in simply engaging with the new without reference to the old? But what happens to the new when you return to the old? Can it be held?

Insight: Perhaps when I write about the future as if it was existent, the existent-now will just flow there. Where no-one is asking, but will be asking soon, how does one answer the question and speak about it as if already answered?

Resolution: I am not solving a problem that exists, I am solving a problem before it occurs. And that means before it exists in mind. That is why bringing it into mind as a problem makes it unsolvable, but bringing it into mind as a solution, or a future state without a problem, there's a natural transition to it. The future must be attractive on its own merits, without the absence of the problem as its attractiveness.

Practice: The trick is, instead of expending the energy on being, instead exist by making the Becoming the present being.

Reflection: If you have to expend energy in solving a problem, as an apithologist you have failed, because you should have got there before the problem even came into mind, or even before the need for the problem's creation and causation came into mind. Our theory of change is then not a lightbulb effect, but a natural process of evolution, so we anticipate that progression and simply live into that path.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Koan # 11 Depth and Democracy

Koan: How can we think and act collectively and creatively and beyond our individuality and identity?

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We need to go very far, very fast" (attributed to Al Gore). If you act independently you can quickly and easily explore new ground like a bee searching for new flowers or ant seeking new morsels of food. Both insects seek on behalf of their community, and similarly if humans don't act consensually in our explorations and leave artefacts that are interpretable by others, any insights gained may have no impact on the whole. Practices and techniques such as Evolutionary Enlightenment, Theory U Bohmian Dialogue or even Deep Democracy point to and demonstrate means to collectively discovering new territory and act instantaneously through contributing to/seeing from a consciousness beyond the individual. It is this space that our real creative selves emerge.

While I have experienced some level of collective emergence in heterogeneous groups, most of my experience and understanding points to the pre-conditions for that emergence and discovery being relative homogeniety in the developmental stage and perspective of participants. Seeing as most of my experiences when it was heterogeneous were in intense (emergencies), drug-affected or less purposeful contexts (Glastonbury, Big Day Out?), I am curious as to what a practice of deep consensus and collective emergence looks like when the participants are very different. For example, given the huge range of perspectives, motivations, perspectives and contexts, in a regional community, how do you really do the 'collective creative' or 'higher wisdom' thing without simply being satisfied with a sort of lowest common denominator, safe, common ground?

Perhaps identification of participants with that which makes them 'different' and 'unique' can be relaxed when something else becomes more compelling than your own individual position. It is easy to think that this relaxation could occur if the environment in the workshop or geographic community is safe enough, but I don't think that is it. The 'container' for this creativity to emerge must be something more than just safe. For example:
  • In Deep Democracy there is a process of inquiring into the 'no' that both legitimises dissent from the majority decisions. If you take it further, the process continues to inquire into what is behind that 'no' for as long as there is resistance to consensus. In this case the container is both safe, but then extends into being incredibly challenging to any sense of individual uniqueness and 'shadows'.
  • When I have used Theory U with groups, the real letting go only occurs as the inquiry moves to uncover each participant's voice of judgement, cynicism, and fear. It is only once those phases have occurred that the real 'presencing' and connection to our collective source of creativity occurs.
  • In Evolutionary Enlightenment the pre-conditions to participation are far more exclusive than DD or Theory U. The 'Enlightened Communication' and other means of connecting with the wisdom of the collective require people to a) be interested in 'post-post modern' perspectives, b) attend sessions hosted by an organisation with an explicit spiritual purpose, and perhaps c) meditate a lot prior to the actual process beginnning.
In all cases, participants have responded to an invitation to participate in a certain process, in a certain way that does not hide its intention to go beyond the individual. I think this is a very stark contrast to more deliberative workshops or democratic processes where the invitation is not to something so deep. There certainly is a very strong theme in some facilitation methodologies to ensure that each person's view is heard and to honour their unique contribution. Whereas in other processes it is made explicit that attachment to that view is actually most of the problem! And it's not about creating 'ground rules in the workshop or community where we want people to self-censor unless it is 'contributing to the whole', it is something much deeper and earlier than that..right from the start of the invitation to not just 'hold' more perspectives but to 'let go of' yours.

Perhaps the contrast is between: "please join us in a challenging but liberating process to let go of your individual identity and perspective and tap into our deepest collective intelligence and wisdom" and "please join us in a process where we want to honour your individual identity and perspective, give you the opportunity to listen to other's perspectives and find some common ground".

While I think the crude comparison of those invitations and the crude drawing are not truly reflective of the position of any of the people or processes I have learned from, I think it does help me make a distinction. The distinction is between processes that enable agreement between individuals, and processes that enable emergence through the collective.

And there is a third position, that is relevant here (in the context of regional resilience): "My view of leadership starts with an assumption that democracy is always the best way to decide and collaboration always the best basis for action, but that total democracy and collaboration are almost always problematic. Leadership is, under this assumption, the next best recourse. The legitimacy of an act of leadership rests in the readiness of the actor to fall back into a collective process, and not to allow his or her leadership to concretise into a role." (Richard Little, pers. comm. 2009).

This third position does not exclude collective wisdom and action, but in my interpretation it does emphasise that Leadership through individuals a likely way that things will actually happen.

As a practitioner, what exactly is my intent. Really. Really. Why is it that I am doing this? Am I setting up a process, container or engagement that I know will very likely reinforce my identity and highlight my perspective as the most enlightened? Am I extending an invitation that is more like a 'trap' than a genuine inquiry where I as much as anyone else is willing to “let go of what I am, to become what I might be"? What is the 'role' and 'identity' that I am attached to?

Don't invite people into processes where the highest hope is that we will reach consensus without letting go of anything. Respond to invitations / Invite people into processes where the highest hope is that we will meet and act beyond the limits of our imagination.

Don't invite people into processes where my intention is to reinforce my identity and role, and where the invitation to let go is not extended with integrity and mutuality. Respond to invitations / invite people into processes where I am willing to let go of my identity and role, and where I invite them to act with integrity and mutuality.

Don't inquire into the alignment of others actions with their intentions or effectiveness of other's actions when I am not similarly open to inquiring into the effectiveness of my own. Respond to invitations / Invite people into a shared inquiry into alignment or our actions with our intentions and effectiveness of our actions.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Koan #10 - Satisfying and Satisficing

Koan: "How can one gain satisfaction from doing something that is merely satisficing?"

Discussion: We were reflecting on how when people look for a solution to a deficiency, the temptation is to avoid the deeper question that causes the lack. When we find the source problem can't be avoided forever and is difficult, we seek the resolution that suffices denying the need for the ongoing harder inquiry. We look for satisfaction and instead we engage in satisficing. Are humans happiness seeking or seeking to simply cope, choosing what suffices? Depending on the answer, how does that inform our questions regarding sustainability and the reasons for engaging in that inquiry?

Inquiry: The concept of satisficing is specifcally looked at by Evan Thompson in Mind in Life, extending on Herbert Simon's term and the role of organisms in applying a coarse filter to the environment to look for 'fitness measures in incommensurable dimensions'. The structural coupling of an organism with their environment and their history of networks means rather than growth through self-organisation being limited by natural selection, evolution is a 'stopping process' of selection from potential environments of meaning. Rather than deciding what suffices, we decide what satisfies on individual dimensions of 'good enough' and filter out the remainder based, not on an optimal choice, but what reinforces the well-being of the organism as a whole as it has been.

Insight: That rather than what suffices, do what is simply sufficient. Apithological growth is that which is generative and restrained based on the natural capacities and potentials presently existing in the conditions of the times occurring. Any other form of innovation or change generates, in remote times, dysfunction and eventually limitations. To protect that future potential requires clear seeing now.

Resolution: The middle way between Desire (Divine Dissatisfaction) and Wanting (Dissatisfied Sufficing) is Sufficiency.

Practice: To examine the person (organisation, community, city) as a whole and see what is sufficient to reinforce and support their extended self-sense for the future health of that entity as it is, and as it will become.

Koan #9 - Fullness and Emptiness

Koan: Something like "How do you know when the cup of opportunity is full, before you start to pour?"

Context: As you engage with someone or thing, you may perceive there are opportunities to share knowledge, support growth, learn and play together. The perception of the size of the cup, the size of the opportunity you perceive will be affected by your own motivations and not necessarily attentive to the actual need. If the rate, volume and type of energy and knowledge you pour into that system or relationship may be too little (dissatisfaction), too great (overwhelm) or just right.

Insight: The cup is not static, and a bigger cup can be built. Humans and systems develop over time, containing and perceiving increasing complexity. Occasionally cups also break, perhaps through the force of the content pouring in to them being too great, or those handling the cup being careless. If you the content you provide suits the tastes and is not poured too fast, the cup could be built upon to take more content. But that can't be done if the cup is overflowing.

Inquiry: My teachers and peers have often shown the restraint to enable me to grow and develop at a pace that is healthy. The pour into me only when asked, and observe, waiting until I ask for more. When teaching and engaging in others, I notice when the content I provide or the energy with which it is offered leads to their cups overflowing and none of it being savoured.

If other's cup (capacity to handle content) is smaller than the volume of tea, or I don't have the tea they prefer (the knowledge or experience they seek) then the only motivation for pouring is some sort of egoic seeking of self affirmation that what I have is valued. It's better for everyone, for the health of the community that you just seek out some other audience to which to offer your gifts. If offering those gifts and engaging in that experience is what I require to develop and grow my own container of consciousness, then there will be a tension created. Talking to a new friend this week, she had experienced the tension and sadness from living and working in a context where all that she was and could offer was simply not recognised, and so her sense of self and her gifts diminished.

When participating in or leading experiences that are 'state' altering, the size of ones cup can expand infinitely and all content can be considered. For example, after ten days of meditation the depth and breadth of my consciousness is almost infinite. However, I will still filter the information based on my stage of development, and breadth of my attention, and it is likely that all the content I could handle during the experience will spill out and be lost if practices are not maintained to build my container within the scaffolding of the experience.

Even this inquiry and the metaphor I have used are constructed and restricted within the relative container of my consciousness and not the ultimate emptiness of the absolute. Perhaps if this metaphor was with pints and beer, the link to state experiences would be more direct - drinking and drinking yourself into a stumbling state where you can't remember the content the next day, but just remember you had a great time!

Resolution: How can you begin to pour if you are not offering tea and offering a service? How could one pour if their is no customer who has requested tea? Why would you continue to pour if the recipient of your offerings has not savoured the flavour and asked for more? Why? Perhaps because all you want to do, in your own silly way, is share all that you are, all that you know, all that you love.

Practice: Only pour tea and offer your gifts when someone asks. Don't pour too much and make a mess, for someone has to clean up and the drinker will not appreciate what you have poured. If there is the opportunity to support cup-building, then make sure the container is sufficiently strong to handle the hot tea, otherwise the shoddy construction will probably result in a mess. Restraint is not some false humility rather a genuine interest in engaging in a way that is appropriate, respectful and conducive to further engagement and growth.

And, if you really need to pour, then go find someone who cares for what you have to offer!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Koan #8 - Truth and Truisms

Koan: How do you make comprehensive truth claims of the whole from examining only a partial aspect?

Discussion: We discussed the construction of ecologies of inquiry and the distinctions between the common criterion in levels of inquiry. The organism, community, population, habitat, landscape, ecosystem, biome, biosphere continuum is actually a confusion of different dimensions. If we discern between content, context and scale - we can see that these are very different aspects that only reveal truth claims for the inquiry made. For example, an inquiry into community reveals nothing (of validity) about individuals. An inquiry into landscape reveals nothing (of validity) about ecosystem functions.

Inquiry: The question to ask is: Where is my theory of change focussed and what is important to look 'for' and 'at' and 'with' in that?

Insight: If we are examining social qualities of the community, we may want to make truth claims about its effect on the wellbeing of the ecosystem or the psychosystem. The reality is we can only make claims about the truth that is inquired into. The rest (i.e. that healthy communities lead to healthy environments) is merely a truism.

Process: The process is simply one of avoiding the assumptions of naive realism (i.e. that what appears to me is a reality) and to consciously observe - really to consciously choose what is being observed, to decide what is being looked for and why what is looked at was selected. See and change that. Leave the truisms and the naive assumptions to others. Their truth claims are invaluable, but are extensions in hopefulness, rather than inquiry.

Resolution: All truth is a construction, yet rather than decide that there is none to construct, do so with care. Truth is not as it presents itself to us, particularly if our process used easily falsifies our claims made (e.g. Statement: "All these people want X" - Test: "How do you know, did you ask them, individually?" Response: "err, no." ).

Truth is as discovered, by what is asked for.

Ask well ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Koan #7 - Holding and Receiving

Koan: This might read: "How do you offer a substitute philosophy when the recipient doesn't even know they have one, and therefore don't feel the need for a substitute."

Context: There is an old parable about the monkey trap, where if we grasp something we have to hold it within our clenched fist and in not wanting to let it go, we remain trapped by the vessel that contains it.  The Koan this week was slightly more subtle, where until we are offered a new gift to receive, we do not know that we have our fist in a monkey trap. Sustainability conceptions are the monkey traps.

Reflections: Karl Popper said the only excuse for the modern discipline of philosophy is to know that you have one. I wonder if not knowing that we have a sustainability philosophy is prompted by an inquiry whether we would like one. Each person and organisation does have a sustainability  ethos even if this is tacit. Can asking them for a new one, prompt a useful no, but awareness of the one they have?

Context: I have a personal ethos of not projecting my values without first inquiring. People ask 'What do you do?' or 'What is sustainability?" and I usually ask 'How would you like me to answer the question?" - which seems obtuse, but really its simply respectful, as by their answer you gauge how the question is being framed and what makes sense in their meaning making. (Some subtle intuition is also involved).

Learning: I do this is because meaning and its coherence is paramount. Having it alter in my own image, opinion, desire is secondary. I'd rather a sustainable something than a confused nothing, as within coherence is the potential for emergence, and within emergence is the potential for greater capacity and more life. In confusion inflicted by me, there is only self-affirming conflict and frustration.

Insight: I think there is no paradox here. The offering is otiose. The prior question is to formulate the mind that helps find the sustainability vision they have. Only then can one inquire as to whether it is adequate, to them, for them. Bringing into mind the philosophy is always necessary before we try to ram home our own version. Only then can one see what it is they have and how it serves them best.

Nothing can fill a filled space. Let the other first find what it has, to decide if it is this that they want to keep, for now.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Koan#6 - Projection and Attraction

The Koan this week was - "What is the nature of my sexual projection and how does that generate attraction?"

Context: This is a koan that relates to the earlier theme of subtle dynamics and dancing. I have a lot to learn and explore in this space, and chose to bring attention to the generative, polarising, juicy, sexy aspects of my interactions with others. Not in a dirty way, rather that experience of absolute energy, fire and magnetism. For example, I am frequently overwhelmed with the feeling of love. And, seem to fall in love with moments, events, people, projects quite often. But I am not actually involved in an intimate relationship (and have not been for a couple of years) in which I exclusively experience of express those feelings.

This inquiry, then was relevant to both understanding if there is something that consistently characterises the objects/subjects I do feel attracted to.


Projection of what is attractive generates polarity and leads to attraction. The dance of love, life and energy is self-fueling...and ultimately hollow.

Falling in to the wondrous world of continuous subtle fields is so deliciously attractive. I am so enamoured by the opening of the world of FEELING, really just FEELING into everything. Breathing in passion, fire and even stuckness, then breathing out love and gratitude. There is so much for me to learn here, so much to explore and inquire into, so much I want to engage in the world of subtle dynamics, sexual attraction, and mindful loving.

And I also noticed this week how hollow and fleeting it is. As subtle and essential as it is, it is still made of thought and feeling. When it all comes crashing down or goes the wrong way you are still stuck standing there and (as Will suggested) wondering "What is the sound of one hand clapping?". Like a) launching a massive, beautiful creative process to engage a community in envisioning its future or b) engaging in some subtle sexual game with some unattainable goddess - the sheer sexual voltage and creativity can be intoxicating, amazing, filling me with love and joy. But once you take away the charisma, let go of the fantasy relationship, or fall back to the absolute ground nothing is there. What is there is only what is within. That is the nature of projection, attraction and creativity in the relative realm.


The process I went through this week was different from my habitual way, and thoroughly enjoyable, healthy and relatively effortless. I sequentially engaged in:
  • 1st person inquiry, observation, experiencing of different levels of attraction was delightful. Dynamics at work, while shopping, during and after workshops, on the soccer field, at Tai Chi. There is just so much going on to dive in to (or be blind to). Guided and supported through some of David Deida's insights and practices, this week was a wonderful experience in curiously engaging in this. And of course unconsciously stumbling through much of it.
  • 2nd person dialogues with friends about the patterns and dynamics in our own relationships and others'. Fresh insights into patterns in my own attraction were generated. One of my friends in particular is fantastic at just thinking and getting this stuff with no need for a conceptual framework, and beautifully articulated the dynamics he is conscious of and now seems to have control of in his relationships.
  • 3rd person investigation using the Enneagram - taking the full online RHETI test to generate my type. I also used some of the additional tests and reflected on the meaning of my type and preference in the context of my intimate relationships.
So, I got a lot from this week (though am hesitant to say I have learned it in a way that would someone could see had affected my behaviour).
  • I learned about a different process for investigating (1st person 1st)
  • I learned about the nature of my projection, specifically
  • I learned about the relationship between my projection (sexually) and the way it generates polarity and attraction
  • I learned that it is so rich, and so much there for me, but ultimately it is hollow. This even seemed to extend to my work as a sustainability practitioner (or whatever it is that I do). There was a point during the week when I glimpsed how hollow it was. How the passion I feel for this topic, these challenges are in many ways just a personal trip and crucible for development - it could be anything. Incredible that I can get so righteous at times about my journey, my topic, not realising that this is just my game and everyone has their own. Further, that even if I were to engage with my work perfectly and 'complete' it immaculately, it is still likely to be unsatisfying.

The practices are:
  • Consciously tap into and use the charisma and attractiveness I can generate, for good purposes.
  • Continue to inquire into the projection and attraction dynamics at a personal, team, community level such that I am not trapped in habitual patterns. And so I can engage with others in a healthy way
  • Integrate Deida's and other recommended subtle practices into my regular practice
  • Act in a way that is in alignment with the truth realised regarding the life-affirming yet ultimately hollow nature of this creative energy
  • Hold my passions and that which I am attracted to a little more lightly, recognising it is something I am attracted to because I am projecting it.
Hard work?