This post is a guest piece by Paul Bailey, a regular participant at the Mindfulness sessions I give at the Impact Hub co-working and social enterprise space near Kings Cross in London. One morning after the Mindfulness practice Paul (the founding partner of 1977 Design Brand Consultancy Agency) remarked that the exploration of the Seeking and Non-Seeking mind that we had just done was a perfect way to facilitate creativity.
Having worked with many creatives Paul decided to put his inspiration into words and the following article (which you can also find on his blog ) is the result.
We're also looking into designing a Mindfulness based workshop/course for Creatives.
So watch this space... and here's Paul's post :
Creativity is a complex subject, and ‘creative’ is a popular word, but what does being creative mean and how might we aid creative thinking?
To be creative, in its simplest sense, is to be inventive, imaginative, innovative, original, visionary, abstract, lateral – to have new ideas. In running a brand consultancy and design studio for many years I’ve worked with a great number of creative people, from designers to leaders of global businesses, and have seen a wide range of creative processes in action. One thing that these creative processes have in common is the ‘flash of genius’ or that ‘moment of inspiration’. We have all experienced this, the times when we might have been struggling with a problem or issue for some time when all of a sudden, and when we least expect it, an answer pops into our heads seemingly from nowhere. It often seems to be the way that after a great deal of time spent surrounding ourselves with research and influences, once we stop consciously thinking about the problem then our subconscious mind appears to work overtime to come up with a solution.
So what has this to do with mindfulness, and how can mindfulness aid creative thinking?
Andy Paice is an expert with 20 years experience in mindfulness and meditative practice. In his mindfulness teaching Andy likes to draw on a method he learned from an American Zen teacher (Genpo Roshi) which separates the mind into two perspectives, the seeking and the non-seeking. At this point it is best for me to give an example of the seeking and non-seeking minds using Andy’s words from the facilitated process he uses in his sessions:
I am the seeking mind. I’m always on the lookout for something new that will improve life in the short, medium or long term. If there is agitation I seek calm, if there is calm I get bored and want something to happen. Whenever the thing I am seeking is obtained or achieved, I seek the next new thing. I never stop seeking, my quests are infinite. My perception is limited to that which I’m seeking. I’m not so interested in the here and now, more in what should happen next. I am the very impulse behind innovation and evolution. Without me things would stagnate.
I am non-seeking mind. As non-seeking-mind I am simply here in this present moment. I don’t look for anything different other than whatever is happening in this very moment. Therefore I’m not trying to reject or get rid of anything either. I allow whatever is happening to happen. I am a state of pure being. I am not interested in doing or getting or striving. I am the mind of meditation that feels complete allowing and accepting. Because I’m not searching for anything I see what is already here. Things just happen by themselves and that’s fine.
These are brief explanations but hopefully they are clear enough. The seeking mind is looking for new things and always in a state of doing, whereas the non-seeking mind is content and allows whatever thoughts it has to enter, always in a state of being.
For me this is a fantastic structure within which we can appreciate how the creative process might work. Think of times that we might be striving to come up with new ideas or solutions for hours, days or weeks only to find nothing. Consider this as our seeking mind being active, striving for answers, looking for new ideas, only to find nothing. But then there are those times when we might be out for a walk, or having a shower, or sitting on a bus, and that ‘moment of inspiration’ hits us. These are times when we are right in the here-and-now, in the moment. Consider this as a time when our non-seeking mind is open to whatever comes in to it.
When meditating, we accept and acknowledge everything that comes into the mind, whatever that might be, and we allow those thoughts and impressions to move freely and leave again. This is in effect, returning to a state of non-seeking or simple acceptance. However, when considering the creative process the optimum state for the ‘moments of inspiration’ or unexpected thoughts to arise is when there is a paradoxical integration of these polar opposites of seeking and non-seeking. In other words, we need our seeking mind to kick in again, to take the thought that came to the non-seeking mind but then seek to develop it. Andy describes this combination of the seeking and non-seeking mind as the third state. I’ll let Andy’s mind speak for itself again:
As the integration of seeking and non-seeking I have an alive feeling of flow and connection and an openness to whatever is happening in the here and now. Life lived from my state is an endless play of new possibilities. In this place I can be less fixed and rigid because there is no sense of failure. I embrace the non-seeking part which is so accepting that I need not be hard on myself, whilst the seeking part is free to give a big Yes to life and to go out and find whatever interesting things may be sought.
It is in this integration of our seeking and non-seeking mind that we can help put ourselves in a position to encourage creative thinking. Making time for our non-seeking mind allows us to receive the abstract, lateral, unexpected thoughts and ideas, and switching to our seeking mind allows us to take these thoughts and develop them into tangible, creative solutions. The non-seeking mind doesn’t mean we don’t need to work at being creative, far from it. What the non-seeking mind is doing when we get these ‘flashes of genius’ is taking reference points from our knowledge and experiences, things we have seen, done and heard maybe years previous or at that precise moment.
This is how mindfulness can aid creative thinking. In this ever-increasingly hectic life we need to take a step back from constantly seeking and give our non-seeking mind time and space to just be where it is at right now. That way we can encourage the unexpected, the inventive, imaginative, innovative, original, visionary, abstract, lateral, new ideas, and then let our seeking mind take over again.
Last week I had the pleasure of leading the Mindfulness session at the Dare Conference - People Skills for Digital Workers at The Barbican Centre in London.
Here's the video of me leading the session!
What It Does...
How I teach Mindfulness...
I teach people the conventional basis of mindfulness meditation that I have learned directly from the source of the Buddhist traditions from which secular mindfulness arose.
These methods have been proven for milennia to gradually awaken us from the slumber of our automatic, habitual and destructive ways of being, as long as we are commited in some degree to practising them.
To that I add some work on bringing awareness to the use of technology and how we relate to our devices since this is such a major aspect of our modern lives.
Mindfulness is a skill that is not simply limited to the realm of personal development. It can also be used to bring great improvements to our interpersonal life, enabling greater empathy and connection. Mindfulness of Listening pairwork gives people the gift of allowing another person to be fully acknowledged and heard and sharpens our own interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
On top of that a major aspect of the mindfulness training I give derives from a confluence of Eastern meditative practices and Western psychological tools. The profound methods of Big Mind and Voice Dialogue are modalities that enable us to connect very directly and rapidly with innate states of calm and acceptance.
The way I teach these methods help mindfulness practitioners to understand how all of their states of mind are potentially useful but that it's the getting stuck in specific states of mind that causes problems to arise. In sessions we purposefully 'speak from' different perspectives so as to have an embodied feeling of them, understand what those states of mind have to offer and how to separate from them when it's necessary.
In this way mindfulness, when practiced in conjunction with an understanding of the different parts or perspectives within us, opens the door to living life in a fluid and relaxed way that embraces the totality of who we are. The goal of the practice is not to become attached to peace and calm, hiding away from the vitality and movement of life, but to find the balance that knows how to embrace and make appropriate use of the whole spectrum of the variety of aspects of our being.
Here are some upcoming opportunities in London to attend courses and day retreats which are consistently proving to stimulate insights and help participants find greater relaxation and ease with their minds.
Jonathan Kahn is the organiser of Dareconf a London based conference on people skills for digital workers and London Agile Content (meetup with over 1500 members) and is a writer on collaboration and people skills.
I'm looking forward to hosting a Mindfulness session for the attendees of this year's Dareconf from 22-23rd September.
Earlier this month Jonathan interviewed me for the Together London Podcast.
We had an engaging conversation covering topics from how mindfulness helps people with their work, to self acceptance, facilitation, purpose and spirituality.
Listen to the interview here on the Together London Podcast.
I started meditating around 19 years ago. At that time it was seen as something of an unusual activity pursued by hippies, new agers and 'alternatives' and this made it difficult to share my enthusiasm for it with friends, colleagues and family.
In 2009, after many years dedicated to practising meditation as a Buddhist monastic I returned to London. Once again it wasn't immediately obvious to me that there was a great demand for this ancient practice in modern society and as a meditator I still felt out of place.
Now in the last few years it has become apparent that something truly huge is taking place.
Mindfulness is the modern and secular presentation of meditation and it is now being adopted in business, education, psychotherapy and even in the military!
Below are the Google trends for Mindfulness as a search term over the past few years:
So why this surge in interest?
Well I'm sure you've noticed that we're living in a time of information overload. This coupled with increasing work performance demands and the lack of job security is leaving us stressed out and burnt out.
Just this morning I stumbled upon this article in the London Metro newspaper:
Mindfulness meditation is a very effective antidote to the stresses and strains of modern life.
But not only that. People are increasingly becoming aware of the numerous benefits that arise from meditation:
Mindfulness is a secular practice that is scientifically proven in its efficacy and it is easily integrated into 21st century organisations and institutions.
Basically there is a need to find strategies to cope with the mayhem of our everyday existence and for the above reasons Mindfulness meditation is proving to be extremely popular.
If your organisation is interested in setting up In-House Mindfulness workshops and sessions with an experienced meditation instructor, have a look through the slides below and get in touch!
In my work I often see people with a dilemma, asking themselves questions like: should I take care of others or should I be selfish and look after my own concerns? Should I be nice? Or should I be assertive and say what’s on my mind?
Since these are questions many of us grapple with, let’s take a look at the outlooks of these two seemingly opposing ways of being:
The Selfish perspective
This kind of person feels it’s best to look after themselves (and the family and friends that they see as an extension of themselves.) “Looking after number one” is their motto and often this kind of person really does know how to do that. Not being afraid to put themselves ‘out there’, they pursue what they want without worrying too much about the effects on others. They can be assertive, often with a materialistic outlook and driven to achieve. This attitude gives them a feeling of strength as well as power and money which they feel good about.
The Selfless perspective
This kind of person puts others first. They are usually monitoring situations to check whether others are comfortable and happy. Looking at the big picture is important for them and they are often drawn towards spiritual teachings or social activism. They often value community or helping society more than having wealth and power.
How they view each other
People who identify with putting themselves first, when looking at those in the selfless perspective might say something like this: ‘Hopeless hippy, dippy types that are always skint, look slovenly and always trying to make martyrs of themselves. They’ll never get anywhere!’
Conversely those who have more of a selfless identification see the more assertive, self-interested people as “Arrogant, cold blooded, mean and socially irresponsible.”
For real life examples just think back to the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the City traders and their reactions towards each other!
So who is wrong and who is right?
How should we behave? Selflessly nice? Or Self-serving?
In my experience the answer is a paradox: We should abandon the ‘shoulds’!
Both ways of being are important and necessary and we have to work on developing our selfless nature whilst remaining very true to who we are as individuals and what we really want and how we’re going to get that. The trouble is we tend to get stuck in default habits of being comfortable in one extreme and fearing to act from the other. Being stuck in an extreme identification will inevitably bring problems sooner or later. Or maybe we have something of both tendencies (most of us do) but we feel confused as to when each is appropriate.
The learning here is ‘trust yourself’! Self-awareness is all important. Experiment with situations and see what happens. Life always gives good feedback.
Also if you notice in yourself that you feel judgmental towards people fitting into either of these categories, then this is a sure sign that you have not embraced that quality in yourself and that you would benefit from doing so.
The truth is a selfless person who hasn’t developed any selfishness will lack boundaries, means, end up exhausted and find it impossible to accomplish even their beneficial goals for others. People in spiritual communities and activists often experience this. That’s when it’s time to get in touch with and develop one’s personal power.
Also sooner or later selfish people will run into all kinds of problems due to relational difficulties through ignoring the consequences of their actions. This is why even the business world which went through its Gordon Gecko ‘greed is good’ period in the 80s is now having to adjust to the necessity of developing soft skills, social responsibility and listening to clients and communities.
There are times when being selfish is a very wise response in cultivating your own wellbeing, success and passion and other times when you need to develop empathy and a bigger perspective. But at the end of the day only you can find the right response that fits the situation by becoming aware of yourself and examining the consequences of your actions.
So what do you think? What challenges are you faced with that could be due to lacking an integration of either of these polarities?
As a coach extensively trained in methods from both sides of self/selfless spectrum I can help you to reclaim whatever is missing so that you regain balance in your life. If this post calls you to explore and do some work on yourself (or yourselflessness!) then get in touch with me.
Back in September of last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori Shook a Master Coach who has played a very supportive role in my own coaching journey.
Lori Shook is a trainer of executive coaches and is an expert in Relationship Systems Coaching
We spoke about:
To find out more about Lori's work visit Shooksvensen.com
I first met Lori through attending a Deep Democracy conversation in 2010. I was so enthusiatic about this method of creating greater understanding and cohesion in groups that I went on to help Lori and fellow facilitators in convening more of these conversations. We're now delighted to announce there will be another taking place Weds 1st May 2013 in Central London around the juicy topic of Capitalism: Here to stay or is there another way. If you are in town come along - it's a free event that's fun with a lot of learning!
This blog is to inform anyone who might be interested (including facilitators, consultants, social activists, community organisers, mediators, NGO members) about the opportunity to attend an upcoming workshop in a Facilitation method called Dynamic Facilitation.
The seminar will take place in London from 27th - 1st Feb 2013 and will be led by Jim Rough who developed this social innovation.
I'm promoting this workshop here because I myself have received training from Jim and Jean Rough in this facilitation method and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Not only that but I feel that it can make an important contribution to creating a wiser, happier society. Facilitation may not be something that gets many people excited but I have to say I'm really enthused about this particular method because it has such huge potential to transform meetings and the way in which people work together to get things done.
This relatively simple, organic method unleashes creativity and naturally fosters group alignment without anyone having to surrender their individuality. It's also particularly well adapted to working on the complex challenges that organisations, communities and societies are confronted with in the 21st Century.
Outcomes of Dynamic Facilitation
If you are interested in attending this seminar visit www.changethatmatters.co.uk for details.
Innovations for Enhancing Democracy
Dynamic Facilitation represents an evolutionary advance in how human beings conduct meetings and conversations that matter.
It works on the principle that every participant holds an important piece of the puzzle in solving collective problems.
Because it's such a powerful method in harnessing the input of each individual, Jim Rough recognised it's potential for transforming our democratic processes. The Wisdom Councils are therefore a very practical extension of how DF can be used to create people participation and "We the People" solutions for the important issues that concern us all.
Interview with Jim Rough and Rosa Zubizaretta
In September 2012 I had the pleasure of interviewing both Jim Rough (who created Dynamic Facilitation) and Rosa Zubizaretta (who teaches the method, uses it extensively in organisations and has created the DF manual.)
In the video below Jim and Rosa discuss how DF works and how it takes participants out of adversarial positioning and into a state of collaborative creativity:
In the second video below Jim explains how he originated the Dynamic Facilitation method and Rosa tells of how she discovered and became passionate about it:
If you have any questions or comments about Dynamic Facilitation - post them in the comments box below and i'll do my best to answer them!
So we’ve arrived at December 21st 2012, the end of a 5000 year cycle in the Mayan calendar and the much vaunted “end of the world.” Whilst the destruction of the planet by gigantic asteroids or solar flares seems highly unlikely, we are nevertheless witnessing huge social, economic and environmental challenges that promise to change our lives beyond recognition in the years to come. So let’s take a brief look at the trends pointing, not to a definitive end, but to the end of the world as we know it and what this demands of us.
A faster, more complex world
If we look at the trends in society all over the world the structure of our daily lives is changing. The ever increasing connectivity of the internet age means we’re having to cope with increasing amounts of information. Think back just three years ago – how many electronic messages did you receive per day? And now…? The rate of change itself is speeding up. The complexity and networked reality of the 21st century means a lot more is being demanded of everyone .
Our present era has been characterised for centuries by pyramidal, hierarchical social structures. Those at the top have held the power, the knowledge and made decisions through processes of command and control. However centralised, hierarchical organisations and work places are now revealing themselves to be increasingly inefficient, expensive and unable to respond to rapid change. Businesses are awakening to the necessity of ‘workplace empowerment’. This model encourages staff to make their own decisions, form effective teams and take responsibility for their decisions and actions. At the same time companies are increasingly outsourcing to more cost effective independent contractors and freelancers. We are moving into the era of the creative freelancer, each catering to a specialised niche, a decentralised, networked, ecosystem approach to work that is ultimately much more sustainable and resilient to change. This will have profound implications for society .
The Age of Transparency and Accountability
Have you’ve noticed that it is getting increasingly difficult to remain hidden and out of public scrutiny for the institutions and individuals that are prepared to engage in socially harmful practices like fraud, tax avoidance, sexual abuse, closed door deals etc.? Reputations are easily broken these days. Trust in governments, corporations and authorities of all kinds is at an all-time low. The internet is giving birth to an age of transparency which means we all have to be more rigorous in facing up to how we behave. The times are forcing us to be more honest and trustworthy. In a connected age the degree to which we can be trusted is paramount.
Whilst governments are at pains to admit it if you look at what is happening in the US and Western Europe it is clear that the era of economic growth is coming to a close. Since 2008 economies everywhere have remained jittery. Our environment is continually degraded and ecological systems are broken so that it looks like more hurricanes, floods and natural disasters are likely. Also this year has seen droughts and very poor harvests to the extent that the UN is talking of chronic food shortages in 2013.
Unfortunately these are just a few of the crises that may well lead to greater instability and social unrest in the years to come.
This means that individually, in our life times, we will certainly have to learn to adapt to new circumstances.
New world, new mindset
Which brings me to the point of this blog. All of the changes in circumstances outlined above require a new mindset with which to deal with them. Up until now the majority of us have been educated and brought up to deal with how to get along in the old system which is on its way out. This has tended to mean finding our place within a structure, taking orders from those above and giving them to those below. Looking for possibilities within those existing structures will start to look and feel increasingly bleak.
With such tumultuous change on the horizon it is vital we learn new ways of being and thinking.
The blueprint for thriving in the new world is as follows:
This is not about doom and gloom. This is a blueprint for a satisfying, sustainable life!
Once you start to think and act in line with these principles, you’ll see it's only the end of the world as we know it… and you’ll feel fine!
Coaching can be a great support in cultivating such principles, learning to find your own inner resources for dealing with uncertainty and changes and shaping a satisfying life.
If you are interested in coaching services contact me to find out more.
Natural Insight - Life Coach and Facilitator.