Posts Tagged ‘practice’

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 23, 2019

There is a distinction, a difference, between being skeptical, and being cynical.

And yes, it is very easy to collapse the two.  However, while the former can definitively slide to morph into the other, they are not the same.

Being skeptical is engaging our thinking muscles as we engage with life.  Indeed, the roots of the word comes from a Greek word meaning “questioning” or “thoughtful”.  It is to enter situations with trust and empathy and listening while keeping our awareness peaked and mindfulness engaged.  We seek to learn and to see clearly.*

Cynicism is to enter into situations already believing the worst of someone or something.  Rather than being open to truth and truths, the cynic knows the truth, and it is the cold, hard, truth.  And in that world there is no engagement, and no need for thinking muscles – there’s no point.  The truth is already known.

Being skeptical is to keep an open mind (for we can be, and it is very powerful to be, skeptical of our own reasons and views**).  We can balance our levels of skepticism with our levels of connection and trust.  We can be deliberate and whole (not falling into the depths of Descartes-ism) in our choices.  Skepticism walks along the middle path.

Cynicism has already shut the door, believing the worst of people or of outcomes.  It is immediate.  In the realm of cynicism there is no possibility; only, at best, survival.

 

* It likely goes without saying being skeptical takes work insofar as maintaining a practice of mindfulness takes work.  Cynicism is very easy, quick, and can even feel safe, even as it boxes one in to narrower and narrower confines, and where one’s baseline experience of life becomes most unpleasant.

** The very underpinning of a transformation is the shift to a new view that seems unfathomable and darn right unreasonable under our old view.  It is a jump to a new you.

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 30, 2019

“Management’s traditional assumption is that employees are recalcitrant and irresponsible. As a result, they design both equipment technologies and organizational technologies to ensure compliance, minimize employees’ scope of discretion, and reduce their reliance on employees’ skills. And management should then not be surprised when employees respond by apathy and antagonism — a result which in turn comforts management in their initial assumption that employees are recalcitrant and irresponsible.”

Paul Simon Adler (emphasis mine)

 

(This is such a great reminder.  When we approach people as jerks (or etc), we very much tend to get jerks back.  We are leaving them no other avenues for expression.  And then when we, surprise surprise, get jerk back we get that little rush because, by gosh we were right, and thus we totally get to justify our initial jerk interaction.

It is well worthy to be mindful of this downward spiral, not only in the field of business* but everywhere else in our lives as well: friends, family members, our children, people on our sports teams, hobby acquaintances, supermarket clerks, people at the DMV… and even beyond to those of differing groups, views, upbringings, social status, origins, life experiences… The list goes forever on.  No matter whom, it remains that when we relate to another or a group of others as a particular way, that’s what tends to come back to us.

Our listening is incredibly powerful.  When we listen to people as small, we get just that.  When we choose to listen to someone from and as an empowering place, the possibilities for great things opens wide.)

 

* The quote itself comes from a research paper looking into the NUMI plant, which was a closed GM plant that was re-opened as a so-called venture with Toyota, although really it more or less was a case of having Toyota run the joint.  Prior to shutdown, the plant had been a poor performer, with lots of employee trouble.  Upon re-opening, nearly all the employees were re-hires.   Under Toyota’s management style (which involved a very different “management vs worker” dynamic), the plant’s productivity, quality, and profit rose tremendously, employee turnover and sick days dropped, and worker satisfaction reached towards the nineties.

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Philosophy Tuesday

January 15, 2019

There were many things that were amazing about my Sifu.  I learned so very much from him.  One of which he never taught me directly… he was simply an embodiment of it.

Sifu loved Kung Fu.  That may seem like an unnecessary statement – of course Sifu loved Kung Fu, you’d think.  After all, he practiced it diligently for so many years.  But this is not just some matter-of-fact thing.  Sifu loved Kung Fu for its own sake.  When Sifu practiced, he practiced because of that simple enjoyment.  There was no “in order to” behind it.

And that was the great insight, lesson, and wisdom he demonstrated.

Often times in our lives we take on something, practice something, or do something “in order to” accomplish, have, possess, or gain something else.  We don’t do it just for the pleasure, satisfaction, or pure difference it might make in the world.  We do it “in order to” get that other thing.

We train martial arts in order to feel manly or not scared.

We run marathons in order to look sexy and have something impressive to tell others.

We take a job in order to make money*, because we want money in order to feel powerful.

We buy something in order to distract us.

We like a particular band to fit in socially

We seek conflict in order to avoid loneliness.

Sometimes we undertake things because of some perceived flaw in ourselves.  Other times, we may not even be aware of the hidden purpose,**  the “in order to” remaining hidden from our view.  “I like it!” we think.  “It’s just what’s needed,” we add.  “I have no choice,” we finalize.

While these “in order to”s can be great motivators, pushing us with an intensity and persistence in our pursuit of that goal, they also rob us.  Rob us of freedom, rob us of satisfaction, rob us of joy.  Rob us of the experience of the moment.  And, most ironically (though you can probably guess), they also rob us of our performance.  They get in the very way of the thing we’re trying to get.  If anything starts to slip, we become frantic.  Small or large, any panic will stunt our game.

When we set aside our “in order to”s, new levels of growth and delight are available.  When we practice, do, or take on something for its own sake, we free ourselves to play and dance.  What we do becomes a self-expression, leaving us energized and fulfilled.

And In that space, we love it.

 

* As distinct from earning a living.

** Or we don’t want to admit it to ourselves…

 

 

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Wonder Wednesday

August 29, 2018

Ah!  Check these out, a fun exercise by this artist to create spaceship designs from objects lying around…

What a fun idea, and a great way to get some practice.  And some fine looking ship designs to boot!

Art by Eric Geusz (lots more nifty to see at his portfolio)

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Philosophy Tuesday

August 28, 2018

One of the activities the Black Rock Kwoon often hosted was a push hands* meetup organized by the Dread Pirate Lee.  It was a great time to meet fellow practitioners and to get to push against a wide variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds, lineages, and experience levels.

One year, mid-way through, I began to develop a sense of something.  Taking it on as an inquiry for the rest of the meetup, I began to formulate a principle/theory I quickly coined as the Tai Chi Push Hands Skill Differential Exponential Experience Factor (or TCPHSDEEF for short**):

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 1 level of skill, to me it will feel like you have 1 level of skill.

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 1.1 level of skill, to me it will feel like you have 1.25 level of skill.

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 1.5 level of skill, to me it will feel like you have 3 level of skill.

If I have 1 level of skill, and you have 3 level of skill, to me it will feel like you are a god.

As the skill differential grows, the one with the greater skill gains the multi-whammy ability to be more relaxed, have less openings, sense the other’s movements and openings with greater clarity, and has the techniques to be able to engage those openings, AND those techniques will have greater subtlety, compounding the lesser sensitivity on the other side to respond before flump!  You’re off balance.

The upshot of it was this: when I pushed against those at higher skill levels than me, it almost always felt like I was light years behind (both physically in the movements/responses but also metaphorically), being tossed this way and that.  On the other side of the skill coin, however, it mattered little what my partner would send my way, even if I was unfamiliar with the technique.  I could remain centered and able to redirect with seeming ease.  I felt very much in control.

While the idea of the compounding nature of skill, and the abilities that it grants us, was important enough, it was the experience, the feeling, that came with that really struck me (and stuck with me).

Especially as this, as they so often do, ranges far beyond just implications for the martial arts.

No matter what skill we may aim to develop, whether it be tennis or skiing, drawing or cooking, working or playing, listening, giving, caring, or even in the realm of profound skills such as being peaceful, generous, passionate, expressed, loving… for any of those skills it means that the high level of ability is actually closer than we might think.

For one, that compounding nature works in our favour.  But more importantly, it further means that things that may seem out of reach are not really that out of reach.  We need not accuse ourselves of lacking talent, or fall into “I can never…”, or relegate ourselves to the dustbins along the margins.

It is nigh-well inevitable that we compare ourselves with others and their skill level(s), but any vast gulf that seems to scream at us that we (still) suck is illusionary and, in actuality, an overly dramatic scream.

We may see someone, interact with someone, be with someone, and come away with the feeling that they so own that skill that it must be ingrained, and I must have an equally ingrained difficulty with it.  And yet that feeling is just the Skill Differential Exponential Experience Factor (SDEEF for short…?) at play.

Thus, we can let that feeling be the feeling, and continue to play.  For that is what great push hands is, play.  You play, you teach, you learn, and ultimately grow, enjoying the moment now and enjoying the fruits and fulfillment that comes with the ever-deepening skill.

 

* Push Hands is a practice from Tai Chi to develop the basic concepts of sensitivity, following, emptying, redirecting, and effortless pushing, beginning with simple drills where one partner pushes while the other receives and empties, followed by a switch in roles, continually back and forth.

** Well, OK, not really for short…

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 3, 2018

“I don’t even know them… why should I have empathy for them?”

I heard this quote during an interview on the radio the other day.

I would like to answer the question.

Beginning with that empathy, and its cousin, compassion, by its very nature is a generous act, one given freely.  It is not transactional.  ‘Knowing’ someone is secondary.

We interact with and pass by and come in contact with and inhabit the same space as countless people in any given day.  Many, and sometimes most, of them are people we don’t even know.

Empathy is what has it work (and the more empathy, the more it can and will work).  It is what has our daily lives be orderly, safe, courteous, striving forward.

It is what allows them to aid you when you are sick, or had a fire, or were hit by a disaster, or are grieving, or are just tired and frustrated at the end of a long day.

It can be the outpouring of support that gets you back on your feet.

It can just as easily be that smile and little bit of service, so you can get home and put your feet up.

Empathy allows us to build communities and build all the great things that come from working together.

Empathy is strength.

Empathy allows people to take us as seriously as we want to be taken.

It allows us to be related.  To feel connected.  To be generous, loving, laughing, giving, collaborative, and all the ways of being that we want and make us feel great.

Empathy is the pathway to discovering our spirit, in the grandest sense of the human spirit.

Empathy downright feels good.

And here’s the big thing.

You can’t ever ‘KNOW’ someone without empathy.

By your question, you clearly want to ‘know’ people.

Just as you, very much, desperately, like all of us, want to be known.

If no one grants you empathy, you will never be known.

And vice versa.

Being empathic allows that knowing to flow, and with it comes being touched, moved, and inspired.  By others and by ourselves.

Empathy begets empathy begets empathy begets empathy.

So the why I would assert that you should have empathy to those you don’t know is because you don’t know them.

 

* And, of course, this is not to say you shouldn’t be empathic to those you do ‘know’ as well!  Friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, lovers, significant others, business relations, whomever.

** And the reason I keep putting ‘know’ in those quotes is because thinking we know someone in the same way we know arithmetic or grammar is not really empathic, for we are no longer interacting with the person in front of us, but with a story we have in our head about that person…

 

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 12, 2018

I once forgot to pay rent.  Several days after it was due, I got a letter in the mail noting I was late, that there was a penalty, and that from there on forward I was to pay only by mail order or cashier’s cheque.

I became furious.  This was the first time I’d forgotten to pay the rent!  The requirements they were imposing seemed draconian!  It was unfair!

Mostly, truth be told, I was furious at myself.  How could I possibly forget such a thing?  I’m a smart person!  I remember all sorts of things!  Knowledge is my identity!

I was still angry when I met up later with a friend to do some work.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything done (or do anything right) in that state, so I told them the whole tale.

And they laughed.  And it wasn’t one of those “I’m laughing with you” kind of laughs… they were definitively laughing at me.

That didn’t appease my anger one bit.  “What is so funny?”

“Are you human?” came their reply.

That was… and odd question.  “Yeah…”

“And do humans sometimes forget things?”

I knew, immediately, I was busted.

Or, more precisely, my calculating self, so full of fury and self-importance, knew it was busted.

“Yes.”

“Great.  Are you ready to give up your anger now?”

I fixed them with a stare.  My calculating self was not going to go down so easily.  “No.”

“Ok.  Let me know when you are.”  And they turned back down to their work.

It took me a few minutes more to stop taking myself so damn seriously.   The central self returned.

“Alright, fine.”

And with that the rest of the day went swimmingly.  As did my conversation with the office staff at the apartment, which resulted in them willingly waving all those ‘unfair’ conditions on my future payments.

It’s so funny* how wrapped up we can become in our identity, such that even the most human and common of things becomes a lighting rod and catalyst for upset, anger, blame throwing, casting aspersions, and more.  How vigorously we can work to defend something that doesn’t even need defending, how our clinging to a view (or views) brings down so much provocation.

And just how crappy that all feels.  How much it ruins our day (or longer).  How much time it can occupy.  And how much of a hindrance it is towards doing and completing that which we do want to do, and that would bring us joy.

The super funny thing is that it all felt so darn right to me.  Until that moment where, with their piercing question, my friend interrupted the calculating train there was nothing other than all the fury and unfairness.  Of course I should think that way.  Of course it was that way.

Developing mindfulness to catch those crazy trains is a wonderful thing, as is having a conductor like my friend who can split the cars and put the brakes on those same trains.  The deal isn’t to avoid or resist the calculating self and its train; the deal is to choose whether to get on or not, and even then (or if we discover our automatic decision was to get on…) we can still always choose when to get off.

Because wouldn’t you know it?  Things tend to be a lot more peaceful, a lot more clear, a lot more productive, and a lot more enjoyable when not caught careening on a runaway trip to Smashville.

 

* And I mean this with full honesty, no hidden sarcasm here:  I am truly fascinated by and find it hilarious how we humans sometimes operate, and how hijacked we can become.  If anything else in this story, I learned how endearing it can be to live inside of that world of “do humans sometimes…?”  It means a lot more love and relatedness towards others, myself, and the crazy communities we create and live in.