Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 16, 2019

Distinction month continues…

There is a distinction, a difference, between complimenting someone, and acknowledging someone.

Complimenting someone is saying something nice to, or about, them.  It is a polite expression of praise or admiration.  It often is also in rather vague or even impersonal terms, and often focused on the giver rather than the recipient.

Acknowledgement is far more personal.  It expresses definite gratitude and appreciation, and, above all else, it explicitly demonstrates that you noticed and are present to the person you are acknowledging.

The best way to learn this distinction?  Be acknowledged.  The feeling we get when we are acknowledged is worlds apart from the typical compliment.  Inside of acknowledgement we know we are seen, valued, related.  Compliments roll off our backs in the next moment.  Acknowledgement sticks.

As a very simple example:

“That was a great job, thank you,” is a compliment.

“Thank you for producing such an excellent report.  I know it was something new for you, and I acknowledge you for being willing to take up the challenge and learn quickly.  Thank you for your dedication and for putting in extra to complete this,” is an acknowledgement.

Even in such a simple example, there is acknowledgement of the work, the person’s spirit, their courage, and their potential sacrifice.  There’s nothing rote about it, nothing insincere, nothing detached or depersonalized.  It’s personal and affirming.

Want to get good at acknowledging?  Ask people what they want to be acknowledged for.  And then acknowledge them for it.  It may sound a bit odd, but I guarantee you that, given a chance, people have no problem knowing what they’d like to be acknowledged for and even though they just told you it still is amazing for them when you do so.  And vice versa.

As always, there’s nothing wrong with compliments per se.  Acknowledgement is simply more powerful.  It is more involved (as it requires being present) and so it is why when we intend to acknowledge we often instead blat out a compliment.  But with a bit of practice it becomes not only easy, but powerful for the acknowledger as much as it is for the acknowledged.

Inside of acknowledgement, we are all present to our connectedness, our humanity, and to who we are.

 

* This all also dovetails nicely within the concept of Presence not Praise

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 9, 2019

There is a distinction, a difference, between being honest, and being authentic.

And I love this one, because it is both subtle (they seem, in many ways, like they’d be the same thing, right?) and, as so many of the seemingly subtle ones are, to get it has unusual and amazing amounts of power:

Being honest is putting your inner dialogue, aka that little voice in your head, on loudspeaker.  It is broadcasting the automatic thoughts (which, to nest a distinction within a distinction, thoughting is distinct from thinking) that blurts into your mind.  When you say “Just to be honest here…” mostly that conversation is being directed by your calculating self.

Being authentic, on the other hand, is speaking from your central self.  It is sharing and acting from the core of your being.  It is the self of creativity, generosity, relatedness, connection, sharedness, vitality, bounty, and freedom.

The notions of keeping it real, or to be authentic, or “Tell it like it is…” are all over the place.  We are invited to do so all the time.  It becomes a catchphrase.  Let it out!  However, it is very unclear what is actually being invited by those notions.  Even more unclear is what is, eventually, expressed.  Is it truly authentic?  Not so much… most of the time it’s simply being honest, spewing forth nothing but first thoughts with the calculating self piling on for more.  The authentic expression is buried, if it can even emerge at all.*

And to be clear it is not, as it often is with distinctions and philosophical ontology in general, that one is good and the other is necessarily bad.  It is to know them distinctly such that you can employ them as appropriate and as you intend.  Often it is very useful to be honest, to say what is right there in order to be able to move it aside so you can hear and express your authentic self.  The deal is to not just put your little calculating self voice on loudspeaker as though it was you but instead purposefully create “hey, this is my calculating self here for a moment, it wants to speak” so that it can speak and be satisfied and then sit down to let your authentic self step up and be. **

But first you, we, have to learn and to know and hold these two things in distinction.  To tell when we’re being truly authentic, and when we’re just “being honest”.  With that we begin to gain control over our stories and we begin to better hear, and live by, our central selves.  And with that gain all the strength, joy, and peace of mind that comes from it.

 

* Which is doubly unfortunate, because the more the calculating self is expressed and even lauded the more powerful it’s view and grip on us becomes, and the more we then encourage each other to further indulge our calculating selves, leading to an unproductive cycle…

** Eventually it need not be spoken aloud.  You can hear your “honest” calculating self and say to it, inwardly, “Thank you for sharing,” and letting your authentic self come to the fore.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 25, 2019

Every philosophical tradition begins with learning to be present.  Learning to be mindful of the current moment.

Even for the Jedi.  As Yoda said of Luke in The Empire Strikes Back:  “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”

Being present is learning to be with the way things are.  Truly are.  Learning to distinguish our thoughts and feelings and emotions about events, both now and past, from how the events actually are or were.  Without adding interpretation or story.  And this can be toughVery tough.  Because we are so accustomed to, so familiar with, so entrenched in our automatic assessments that we don’t even realize we are making assessments.  We instantly collapse our conclusions with that which is accurately in front of us in physical reality, and we so with such intensity that we then go through life relating to the conclusion as though it was reality.

We let those instant and automatic conclusions rule us.

Being present is learning to differentiate between what’s so (what’s brutally, actually so) and all our judgement, assessments, stories, and interpretations about what’s so.

Once we can stand there, we gain peace of mind.   Once we can stand there, we can then act from a place of choice and creation that arises from deep within our authentic selves.  Rather than being hemmed in and restricted by the frame of our views we explode the frame to open new realms of possibilities.  Transformation is now in reach.

Every philosophical tradition begins with learning to be present.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 18, 2019

“There’s also the fact that we all imagine ourselves to be somehow immune to the way that the information feed shapes our understanding of the world.  But it is precisely the belief that we are immune to it that makes us so susceptible to it.  It is because we don’t think advertising works on us that it works so well, it is because we think that, you know, propaganda can’t affect the way we vote that propaganda is so effective at changing the way we vote.  We need to think harder about this stuff and not imagine ourselves as being people floating above a sea of information, and instead understand that we are fish swimming in that sea of information.”

“Yeah, the idea that we are at all separate from many of the things that go on in our culture is buck wild.  It’s part of us, we’re part of it, we can’t separate ourselves from it, and just because something happened in a movie doesn’t mean we’re going to be that thing, it’s not like a direct 1:1 relationship, but everything that we do is informed by culture.  We cannot escape that, so we have to be aware of it.”

John and Hank Green

 

(Oh so nicely succinct and well put.  They are, after all, called hidden views and biases for a reason.  Are you human?  If yes, then you have biases.  It isn’t about being good or bad, right or wrong, it’s just something we do.  We create our reality, out of the many fragments that surround us, forget that we did, end up with biases, and then, in the immediacy of our lived experience, not recognize that those realities, views, and biases are acting upon us.  Not to mention emotions and identities, the likes of which we totally pretend we are above and unaffected by.  We get trapped, of a fashion.  And the only way to not be trapped and hooked is to acknowledge that there is a trap, own our humanity, and practice being mindful to notice when the hooks come up.  Then we remain free to see, to be, and to choose.)

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 11, 2019

When we interact with someone, we often operate under the unspoken 50/50 rule:  “I’ll do my part, and you do your part.”  Which is also sometimes known as under the name of “It Takes Two To Tango.”

Which is great, right?  I mean, clearly there are (at least) two parties involved, so each should be doing their bit for things to work out.  Except – and you knew this was coming – there’s this thing we do.  Well, a couple of things, but the biggest of them to speak of tonight is the “integrity baseline syndrome.”  Which is fancy name for the effect where we start off in a relationship at 50/50… but then you don’t do/be/handle/etc this thing that I think you should have, so now I’m going to pull back a bit, so we’re at 45/50… which of course means then that you notice I’m not doing/being/handling/etc as much as I should, so you pull back, 45/40, so then I say you’re not efforting enough and pull back to 38/40, and then you… and I… and you… and I… and before you know it we’re both pretty much being 0% responsible for the way the relationship goes.  It’s all eggshells and accusations.

(Of course, not all or even most relationships go that way, but they likely end up with each of us cycling around 25% to 35% or so… which feels fine, normal, and even right because it’s what we’re used to, it’s how relationships always have gone… but it isn’t where it could be.)

The extra kicker about the IBS, which you may have already noticed, is that many of the “you didn’ts” are unspoken by us.  They are never communicated, created, nor checked in on.  So, the transgressions we use to cut our percentage are often involuntary, unexpected, and even unseen.  There’s no explanation for why the other person suddenly seems less invested or active or engaged.  Which both hurts, and then prompts the further pullback, leading to the downward spiral.

The hilarious* thing is that many of these standards and ideals are amazingly arbitrary and trivial.  No, this isn’t about if the person abuses or controls or takes advantage of you, but rather the expectations of what a “person with whom I’m in this kind of relationship with should do” kind of way.  Does it involve gifts?  A certain way they listen to you?  Scheduling?  Activities?  Certain statements they should reiterate with a particular frequency?  There are hundreds of these, and so many of these are deeply individual; we created the expectation of what’s right and proper based on what we saw modelled growing up, both live and in fiction.  We decided it all.

Turns out, the other person may not have decided the same things.  And they have equally weird and specific metrics they’re applying to you!

So here’s the crux:  It’s best to enter into and maintain relationships where each person takes on 100% ownership of how it goes.**  And since you can’t act for another person, it means taking on being 100% responsible for how all of the relationships in your life go.

There’s great joy and power in this.  Extra joy, really, for what’s available in a high-ownership relationship is amazing and so much above what we’re used to as we dabbled around our 25%ness.  And given that forming connections is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling things there are for us human beings, this is super important.

An acquaintance once shared a story about their first Christmas with their, at the time, new boyfriend.  Starting in October they had been going out seeking the most amazing gifts they could think of and discover.  It was great, and they were super excited, hiding the gifts all over their shared place, all ready to surprise come the day of unwrapping.  Until they had a thought.  “Wait, if I’m using all the good hiding spots, where are they hiding their gifts?”  So they, as casually as they could, asked, “Hey, how is your Christmas shopping going?”  “Oh, I don’t buy things.”  And like that, an explosion.  Storming around the house, yelling “you’ve ruined our Christmas,” ready to throw them out, and lots of crying, especially from the boyfriend who wasn’t even sure where this was coming from.

Fortunately, mindfulness was present and so before too long my acquaintance caught then excused themselves for a moment as an interrupt, regained their centre, and returned to conversation.  Through talking, they learned that gift giving just wasn’t part of the boyfriend’s upbringing, both because they never had much money and moreover it wasn’t how they showed love to each other.  It wasn’t part of their world.  “I honestly don’t know how to do it,” he said.  “Would you like to learn?”  A pause to consider.  “Yes. I would.”

That Christmas was wonderful.  And in a delightful “be careful what you wish for” twist to the story, that boyfriend ended up being a MASTER at gift buying, so much so that my acquaintance’s mother prefers the gifts that the boyfriend buys to those from her own child.

100% ownership for how things go.  Disasters avoided, great enlivening relationships available, and the chance for things to be wondrously amazing.

 

* Hilarious in the “man aren’t we humans ever fascinating!” kind of way…

** Again, this is not control; see this post.***

*** Because if it doesn’t go as you’d like it to in order to maintain the relationship, you have the say in how it ends as well, whether it ends or not and whether it ends gracefully or in a train wreck.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 4, 2019

I remember when, a few years ago, Warren Buffett let it be known that he pays his secretary $200,000 plus a year.  Moreover, I remember a bunch of the reactions to this.  “Whaaaat?” was one common refrain.  “That’s ridiculous!” and “You can’t pay a secretary that!” were two other accompanying exclamations.

There’s a bunch to unpack here, isn’t there?

First, espoused in the above is the mind trap of thinking that there is some inherent, actual, way things are in this world as though given down from the universe above.  Just as gravity pulls and water flows, so too are salaries of secretaries governed by these unseen forces.  It’s just physics!  (But it isn’t.)

Second, coupled with the above is the notion that things in “the economy” should and do have an absolute or real price/worth to be paid, rather than remembering and engaging with the notion of value.

An employee* is of value to a company.  That is why they are there, working.  If they weren’t of value, they wouldn’t have been hired.**  The last thing a company wants to do is to increase its employee base unless it has to.  And so, without those workers, the company would not be doing as well as it is.  Even the brilliant leader with a brilliant idea*** wouldn’t be sitting on top of a successful (and/or profitable) company if there weren’t the workers generating the thing that is being provided to the market thus bringing in the revenues that leads to the company’s success.  Our architecture firm, no matter how great the principals in charge, would not be able to produce all the work we do and keep all our clients happy so we could charge our fees for our work if all the architects, managers, drafters, and support staff weren’t there doing their jobs.  Disneyland wouldn’t be the happiest place on earth and overflowing with high-paying guests if the janitors weren’t there to keep things remarkably clean and thus ensure a great park-going experience.  Just like the coffee provider listed in movie credits, everyone engaged is a contribution towards the final product.

Which brings us back to Warren Buffett’s secretary.  Given what she provides for Warren in his week to week business life, what she manages and arranges so he doesn’t have to, and what she organizes and delivers affords him the foundation upon which he is able to do what he does.  Without her, he would be less effective.  In other words, she is crucial in the results the company produces.  So why shouldn’t she be compensated commensurate with that value?****

Getting caught up in the norm as reality and listening to “the market” as reality are easy traps to fall in to.  But shake our views clear bit and approaching our lives and interconnectedness with both mindfulness and relatedness allows whole new realms of value, contribution, and civil humanity to open up and invite us to step towards.

 

 

* Employee is being explored here, but of course this applies most poignantly outside of the business world as well, in our personal lives, families, communities…

** OK, natch, there are many companies, especially large ones where people can hide out, where there are employees who are not helping things along and could even be detracting, and yet they remain on the payroll.  These exceptions (as maddening as they can be if we have to deal with it!) do not nullify what’s being espoused.

*** Which itself, this notion of singular geniuses, is mostly overblown, but that’s a whole other topic…

**** I even would make the argument that given Buffett’s income that compensation may well be low (though truthfully we don’t know her exact wage) she should be compensated even more, just as all the employees at Disneyland should be paid a solid living wage and even beyond.  “I pledge to pay employees what I can, not what I can get away with.”

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 28, 2019

I have not watched any of the Game of Thrones*, but it has been pretty darn inescapable for the past few weeks as the final season wound towards its finale. And so it was that across my path came this article at Scientific American that piqued my interest, for it delved into realms both rich on a storytelling level but even more so in the philosophical realm. Besides a treatise on the path of the final episodes there’s a great exploration that ties very nicely into the concept and notions of the Path of Least Resistance as well as Systems.

Give it a read. There’s a lot of good stuff in there and where I begin to mine it for insights is here: If we’re not well versed in writing, or even consuming, stories that flow from a sociological level/view verses the individual/psychological level/view, then we’ll likewise not be well versed in seeing how much we all are swept away by the sociological waters we swim in. It therefore becomes more difficult to see the systems and shared identities that shape our views, reactions, and even (T)ruths:

“In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.

People then fit their internal narrative to align with their incentives, justifying and rationalizing their behavior along the way. (Thus the famous Upton Sinclair quip: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”)”

It can be tough to swim against a current. It certainly takes effort, especially when it confronts something we’ve made a part of our identity. And so once again we’re pointing towards the path of least resistance. Society, systems, structures are all there, flowing. It becomes easiest to simply go with the flow, no matter whether the outcome is a good or deleterious one, whether for ourselves, others, or the world as a whole.

Even when it is completely against our own self-interest.**

But the effort is worth it. When the already automatic systems are nudging us already almost certain futures that are not working as we’d like them to, it’s most fruitful when we aim to alter the systems rather than exclusively aiming to alter individual(s). When we can divert the flow towards great outcomes, then great outcomes become easy:

“But if we can better understand how and why characters make their choices, we can also think about how to structure our world that encourages better choices for everyone. The alternative is an often futile appeal to the better angels of our nature. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they exist along with baser and lesser motives. The question isn’t to identify the few angels but to make it easier for everyone to make the choices that, collectively, would lead us all to a better place.”

Through a broadening of storytelling to include sociological viewpoints, we can better gain that understanding. And while such stories may not be “out there” yet in great quantities (as this season of GoT apparently showed), we can always practice that storytelling in our own lives with that most important narrator – the one in our head. With mindfulness we can guide our inner commenter to encompass both the psychological and the sociological, gaining broader perspectives from which we can choose, be, and act in service of creating the society we truly want.

 

* As much of a surprise as that might be to many of you…

** And against that which fills our being with fulfillment and satisfaction and is a true self-expression of our central self and who we want to be.