One Apple A Day #553 – Conversations

This morning I draw a Be The Change card that says “Invite multiple perspectives“.
I’m well aware of the power of finding and having multiple perspectives on things. It is the only way to go beyond the “flat” reality created by our beliefs and assumptions, and give substance to the world.
But this card uses the verb “invite“.
So, it is not inviting me to seek new viewpoints. Instead, the card challenges me to draw different perspectives to my life.
The best way I know to do it is by creating space for a “conversation”.
An open and enriching conversation.
One in which everyone feels invited to contribute.
I’ve been lucky to experience the wonder of such conversations.
And I’ve learned that to make those conversations happen, we must direct our energy on creating the space for the conversation, not on having it.
It’s not about talking, it’s about being open and ready to listen.
If we create a listening space, then that space will draw multiple perspectives, and a transformative conversation will start.

One Apple A Day #552 – responsibility and freedom

Bureaucracy.
This is the word that emerged and filled up my mind this morning.
Not a fanciest or most inspiring word in my dictionary, for sure.

I have a complicated relationship with bureaucracy. At any levels and in any context.
Sure, the worst experience is when I have to do with the public administration. In those cases, I feel as if bureaucracy has been carefully designed to create uncertainty and doubts.
But to be honest, I struggle anytime some rules and procedures overshadow human relationships to make things happen.

To me, bureaucracy is the epitome of a form depleted of the energy from which it manifested.

So, I woke up with this word in mind, and I want to do something with it, not just vent out my annoyances.

I remember a quote that I read a while ago.

“Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions.” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

That made me immediately think about the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

In a workshop that I did a few months ago precisely on this topic, I’ve been reminded that responsibility is the “Ability to respond” to situations.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

So, freedom and responsibility are strongly linked.

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

If we don’t feel free, we won’t take responsibility. But if we don’t take responsibility for our words and actions, we can’t be free.

I recollect many conflictual conversations in different organisations, where employees were asking for more freedom and the manager were asking for more responsibility. And they couldn’t find an agreement; apparently, they were asking for two different things without realising that they were just talking about two sides of the same coin.

Great! So, where do we start? From responsibility or from freedom?

It looks like a typical chicken or egg problem.

“The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

My feeling is that we should always start by expanding our awareness.

One Apple A Day #551 – untitled

“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can’t do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can’t’ once and for all.”

Vincent van Gogh wrote this passionate advice to his brother Theo. As I shared yesterday, I have the same experience when I stare at the blank document on my screen before writing anything. This is why I spend a few minutes to find a starting point before opening the laptop. Some mornings I look back at the experiences or the conversations I had the day before, other mornings, I use the BeTheChange cards, or I can start from something I’ve read.
I believe inspiration is within us, it is a state of the being. All those sources of inspiration are just triggers that allow for something, a story that is already in me to find its way out.

So, this morning I did the same process. But nothing came out. To be honest, I had many ideas, but no one stuck. I find myself staring at the black canvas within. It soon becomes paralyzing.
At that moment, when I felt lost before the void in my mind, I remembered that quote from Van Gogh.

How often in life, we feel stuck staring at a blank canvas? That canvas take may many forms: the story we want to tell, the love we want to share, the journey we want to start, the future we want to paint. And we stand there, without an idea on how to begin while the void of that blank canvas grows into us.
I know the feeling, I’ve been there. And I don’t have an easy trick to get out of it. In the end, the only way to begin something is to do it.
I know, this doesn’t make it any easier.

Though, maybe the first step can be to acknowledge that we are stuck. That we have no idea on how to begin our craft.
Who knows, maybe in accepting our humanness we may create the space for an unexpected story to emerge.
An untitled one.

One Apple A Day #550 – focus on nothing

What you focus on expands.

I’m sure you already experience this straightforward law. When you focus entirely on one thing, that thing fills up all your sensory space.
I experience the power of this law every morning when I approach this writing exercise. If I focus on the white page before me, it quickly fills up my mind until I’m stuck, unable to write a single word.

So, I know I have to find an idea before opening a new file. Most of the time is just a small seed like a sentence, an image or just a word. Once the seed is there, I focus on it for a minute or two. I allow for that seed to expand until it becomes an idea, and it wants to flow out.

This morning, the seed is a question.

What would happen if I deliberately decide to focus on nothing?

Being able to laser focus on something is extremely powerful. It removes all distractions, so our energy is wholly devoted to making happen the target of our attention. It’s one of the first concepts taught by all experts in high performances.

So, what happens if I deliberately turn off my attention?
When I don’t have a goal to reach, a target for my attention and I just am?
I’m not sure I can describe it in words.
I remember feeling like that when I was wandering in Patagonia with my best friend. We didn’t have anything to focus on but fully being in the moment.
And it was bliss.

One Apple A Day #549 – Make it personal

Don’t take anything personally” is the second of the four agreements shared by Don Miguel Ruiz in his most famous book, The Four Agreements.

Ruiz reminds us that nothing other people do is because of us, but it is because of themselves. Using his words: “Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.

This is a powerful reminder that would remove a lot of tension and stress from our life. We spend so much time worrying about the opinions of others. In doing so, we let those opinions shape our behaviours and, in the end, our lives.

As Ruiz wrote: “You take it personally because you agree with whatever was said. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you, and you are trapped in the dream of hell. What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.

What happens around me is not about me. It may impact my life, indeed, but it is not about me.

Though, in my experience, I’ve learned that only when I make something personal, I really give everything I got to make things happen.

So, my agreement becomes “Don’t take anything personally, but make everything personal.

Whatever happens around me, it is not about me, but it is part of me as much as I am part of it. So, I won’t take it personally, but I’ll make it personal infusing my whole being into my doing.

“If we understand and feel that every animal, person and object is our very own self, we cannot go wrong. That is the experience of love.” — Rupert Spira

One Apple A Day #548 – stereopsis

I’ve been shortsighted my all life. I began wearing glasses when I was 6 years old, and I got rid of them only two years ago with laser surgery.
Maybe this is why I’ve always been fascinated by everything related to vision, the eyes and the way we see the world.
Humans are visual creatures. About 30 % of the neurons in our cortex are dedicated to processing visual information. That’s a lot compared to the 8 % devoted to the sense of touch or the tiny 3 % focused on hearing.

When I facilitate a workshop, I invite people to swap their places often. Sitting on a different chair gives a different perspective on what’s happening in the room. This is important to provide more substance to the reality we are experiencing, and it is one of the many lessons we can learn from our visual system.

We generally have two eyes located side-by-side in the front of our heads. Thanks to their close side-by-side positioning, each eye sees the same area from a slightly different angle (binocular vision). These two different images are then fused in our brain, creating the perception of depth and 3-dimensional structure of what we are seeing. This perception is called Stereopsis (from the Greek στερεο- stereo- meaning “solid”, and ὄψις opsis, “appearance, sight”).

Reality may seem flat from where you are. But if you merge your perspective with someone else’s (through an open and authentic conversation), you can add substance to it. And if you don’t have someone to conversate with, you can just move often to collect and fuse different perspectives.

Sources:

  1. https://www.seyens.com/humans-are-visual-creatures/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereopsis
  3. https://www.vision3d.com/stereo.html

One Apple A Day #547 – sensing and making-sense

During a conversation with one of my mentors, I became aware of the essential difference and the vital connection between sensing and sense-making.

Sensing is the ability to perceive something even if often we can’t describe it. It’s an innate capacity of our intuitive intelligence that allows us to sense the energy and vibrations of the universe, the one within and the one around us. It is at the base of empathy and compassion.

Sense-making is the ability to find or give meaning to something, to create a logical frame to explain what we experience. It is mostly a cognitive ability.

Our material society favours sense-making. We spend most of our time in school learning how to make sense of everything. Mainly because “making sense of things” is what is supposed to help you move forward in life and have success.
Though, a lot of studies proved that very successful people also have a high ability to sense. Emotional Intelligence is now widely considered essential for a successful life.

Sensing and sense-making are activities of different “muscles”, but only when they work together, we can express our full potential. A high ability to sense that is not matched by a developed capacity of sense-making can easily lead to a sense of overwhelming. Sense-making without the ability to sense is like an empty shell, dry and non-generative.

How can we develop our ability to make sense of the world without losing our capacity to sense it? And how can we awaken our dormant innate ability to sense?

I have the feeling that “art” is an excellent answer to both questions.

“While a toddler’s world might be geographically tiny, it is mentally limitless; conversely, when we grow up, we have the potential freedom to explore everything around us, but will often limit ourselves to the same narrow range of places, people and experiences.” — Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler by Paul Lindley

One Apple A Day #546 – I am only a visitor

I took a few trains these last two days, and I’ve spent some time waiting at the stations. To most, the time spent waiting in stations and airports is probably time wasted. Not for me.

I’ve always been fascinated by stations and airports.
Maybe because I love the space in-between things.
And a train station is exactly that; an interstitial space in-between an arrival and a departure.

One of my favourite games is to sit in the hall of a station to observe the people around me and imagine their stories. Each person is a universe of experiences, emotions, relationships.

Where are they going? Where are they coming from? What are they leaving behind, or what are they going towards? Are they fugitives or seekers?

Each one unique and yet all sharing the same humanity. A myriad of different voices in one infinite conversation.

This incredible constellation of diverse stories all in the same place is a beautiful reminder that we are all unique and all one at the same time.

Isn’t that magical?

I’m writing this in the hall of a small train station.
When I started writing, this place was crowded with people commuting to work and school. In less than 15 minutes, everyone is gone, and now I’m alone in the waiting room with my small bag. And I just remembered a short story I read a while ago.

In the last century, a tourist from the States visited the famous Polish Rabbi Hafez Hayyim.

He was astonished to see that the Rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench.

“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.

“Where is yours?” replied Hafez.

“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”

“So am I,” said the Rabbi.

One Apple A Day #545 – maybe we should

Maybe we should/could …” is an expression we often use when we discuss changes we would like to see in our communities, organisations or groups.

Maybe we should be more grateful. Maybe we should do more of this. Maybe we shouldn’t say that.

And so on.

Most of the time, they are beautiful ideas that, if implemented, they would create a positive impact. However, they rarely get done.
How can I expect something to happen if I am not even sure if I want to do it. “Maybe” and “should” are two words that speak about possibilities, not intentions. And the use of “we” as the subject says that I’m hesitant in taking responsibility for what I’m proposing.

So, here’s my commitment. When I am in any meeting brainstorming about ideas and solutions to change, I commit to avoiding the expression “maybe we should/could …“. Instead, I can start my proposals for new actions with “I want … ” or “I’ll do … “.

Other ideas on how we can replace “maybe we should“?

One Apple A Day #544 – no meaning

A few days ago, during a casual conversation, someone asked: “why do wasps exist?“. It was an innocent question due to the annoying presence of some wasps in the house. But that question made me think, so I asked a bit more. We discuss the fact that wasps, apparently, have not a known role like bees, they don’t make honey.
I realise how human-centric is our vision of the universe. So, I push the conversation a bit further asking: “interesting, so why do we exist?“.
Obviously, I wasn’t expecting an answer. We just laugh together about the whole conversation. Plus, a quick search on google showed us that wasps, like bees, pollinate plants and flowers. So, they have a vital role in nature.

But the role of wasps is not the point. The point is that when we ask about the meaning of life or of anything in the universe, we are pointing our attention in the fruitless direction. It is only when we look inward, and we ask ourselves what meaning we want to give to our presence in the universe, that we take responsibility for our lives and in the end, find freedom.

“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” – Viktor E Frankl