Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stress, distress and longing for all to be well

I am writing this for all the people I know who are really struggling right now. The hazard of coming to care about lots of people is that some of them, inevitably, will hit rough patches. Life is like that. You can't outsmart it and you can't outrun it. Somethings just hit you from the blind side.

So what do you do when life shakes you up and scrambles your ability to find even a moment of peace and rest? What happens next when tomorrow might not be better than today? It's easy to talk about staying positive. It's hard to do when you're tracing the course of an emotional tsunami. Sometimes you can see the wave and sometimes it is building deep under the surface.

If you can't fight, float.

I don't know what that means to you, but you do. You know that fighting is eating up energy you need. You know that fighting is generalizing so that you are doing combat with the wrong things or the wrong people. You know that you don't want to fight. You want to live in flow. You want to float.

And you can. If you're reading this because you are stressed and distressed and longing for all to be well, you know that you can float. You can breathe and let yourself be carried. You can notice that your mind is quick and awake and watching for the moment when movement will help. Until then, work with the flow. Even when it means that you get to hurt - congruently and terribly and usefully. If pain were not useful we would cease to experience it.

I don't know what you will learn except that you will learn that you can handle more than you thought you could and that you have better friends than you thought you had and that every day you can find just one moment to engage outside yourself with someone or something that helps.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Working your way to the weekend

I am writing this in class while observing how the bind I have set for my students plays out. It's not just Friday afternoon; it's their last class on the Friday before Reading Week. They would all say that they are ready for the weekend. To get started on the weekend, all they have to do is complete their assignment.

There are no marks on the line. When they make the presentation assigned, they will all get full marks.

So the question is. . . why is it so hard to get motivated people to move more quickly in the direction they say they want?

They want to move comfortably. They want to be comfortable with what they present to the class. They want to look at least as good as the other groups. They want these things more than they want to start their weekends a few minutes early.

I am wondering where my own lines are. What do I want enough to allow myself to move quickly in its direction?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feeling Frazzled?

It's so very peaceful outside my window. The street is very quiet. The sky is about the same colour as the snow covering the lawns.

I could feel that way: calm and present and balanced.

I could, but I don't. I feel frazzled. A phone call, a scheduling headache, concern about driving through a snowstorm this evening. So many little things opening the door to a hoard of their friends: the goblins that poke and prod and annoy with screechy little sounds. These are not important things but they like to proclaim that they are urgent.

If I pack them away, one by one, I will spend my whole day forcing screechy beings into small packages.

I will have to quiet them instead, by moving my attention someplace bright and still and quiet. Someplace like the world outside my window. I will have to breathe gently and play Bach and tell myself: Just one thing at a time. Baby steps.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Restoring Your Attention

So many things knock us off our game. I've been busy with good things, but I've been so busy that it's been more than a week since my last post. I have friends who are being knocked around by big, bad news and others who are being pushed a little by physical stresses or too much work. It's hard to pay attention when your attention is up for grabs so much of the time.

I have just been scanning through this post at idealawg. It made me think about blogging, which is one of the ways I restore my own attention when I feel depleted. Writing a post allows me to gather my thoughts, to sit still, to find a point of balance.

Prayer helps, and so does ice cream. Sunshine helps, but it can be hard to get in February. A cup of tea works, but only when it is exactly right.

It's easy to find reasons to be depleted. It's easy to find reasons to stay depleted. Easy gets you stuck.

It's good to move if only in your mind. It's good to feel your muscles stretch and loosen. It's good to feel the ground under your feet, especially when it feels like fresh grass or deep, fine sand. It's good to breathe in fresh air as your eyes seek the horizon.

It's good to spend a few minutes quietly with friends. It's restorative.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Through a glass darkly

Some people will immediately recognize the reference in the title; others will have no idea. This is partly true because the quote is from the bible, and partly because the quote is metaphorical.

Whatever your beliefs about the bible, it is worth considering the phrase "Now we see as through a glass darkly. . . " You can imagine looking through the side of a pop bottle if you like. Now we see as though there were a piece of dark, heavy glass between us and the situation we are observing. Whatever we see, we miss the details.

This is a fairly accurate description of what happens when we look at ourselves. Even when we stand under a bright light in front of a mirror, what we see is filtered through how we feel. It's true when you ask "how do I look in this outfit?" and it's true when you ask "how will I succeed in this new job?" Self-reflection is never 20/20. It's more like looking through a glass darkly.

This means that we never really make decisions the way we say we make decisions. Our ability to see our own process is coloured and distorted by what we think we should believe, by our previous experience, by our hopes and fears. We don't know what we are doing while we make the choice, much less how the choice will affect us after it is made. Whether we choose by guessing or by analyzing, we are not good at knowing what to choose because we are not good at knowing ourselves.

How can we get better at choosing if even the people who study our choices are looking through a glass darkly? The routes to a better process begin with recognizing that the one you are using now could be better. The world is full of people who looked through the glass darkly and made a good choice anyway. The question is not how they got better information; it's how they did their best with the information they had.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Synaesthesia: Learning to See with Your Heart

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
A. St Exupery, Le Petit Prince

How do you see something that cannot be seen? We often try to answer that by discovering new ways to make something visible. There's a better answer. If you cannot see it, perhaps it's because you are looking for information through the wrong system. If it can't be seen, maybe it should be explored with your ears or your heart (kinaesthetics of emotion) or your physiology (touch and internal sensation). Maybe you are attacking a problem with logic that would be better approached through design thinking (as described by Roger Martin). Switching your perceptual system might yield faster, better results than working harder or digging deeper.

Switching perceptual systems can be learned, practiced and developed as a skill. Everyone does it naturally some of the time; most people never work at moving from what they know best and what works most often for them. That's why, eventually, most people get stuck. They come to a point that requires they explore an alternative way of perceiving, and they don't want to go down that road. This is as true of the artist who refuses to meet deadlines and manage money as it is of the hard-line manager who seems to have had an imagination amputation.

Learning to see with your heart does not always mean learning that your emotions are also a way of perceiving and responding to information (thinking). It doesn't always mean exploring the way that all beings are woven into a single cloth. It doesn't mean being nice (although that is - well - nice). It means learning that you can switch from one perceptual system to another in order to get new information.

We teach people to listen with their eyes, to see with their bodies, and to feel the rhythms or tensions that they hear. When they do these things, they develop a richer, more layered description of the goals and problems that engage their attention. They notice more because they notice differences. And with that information, they also notice and create new choices.

Teaching to see with your heart doesn't sound like hard-nosed, practical advice. It is.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is the internet a soapbox or a conversation?

A friend with considerable business success told me yesterday that she thinks social media is just a passing fad. While she might be right about any particular manifestation of social media, she probably doesn't want to be right about all of social media. Whether she - and the many traditional thinkers like her- understand it or not, social media is about the difference between a world where we each yell options at everyone else and a world of conversation.

I would rather live in a world where people talk to each other.

Social media gives us a way to talk to people we might never meet and to talk to people when they have the time or attention to offer to us. Those of us who converse on the computer find the telephone a little loud and intrusive. We would rather pick our conversations than have them thrust upon us. On a scale of a thousand years, landline telephones are beginning to look like a passing fad.

What is not a fad - what is constant, is the desire of human beings to share stories. Many of us would argue that is best done face to face - when you can watch the way light passes over the face of the storyteller and hear the breathing of the audience as it falls into the rhythm the story is setting. There is no substitute for presence.

That's why social media can seem to be so much work. In reaching beyond the limits of soapboxes - with their scripts and their one-way sense of story - social media asks us to create a new richness to our communication. It demands layers of meaning communicated in multi-media, a mixture of colours and rhythms and perceptions. It is intricate and filled with errors. And while it is not exactly like life, it is closer than staged utterance usually comes.

If social media is a fad, then what comes next? What happens when people stop trying to find richer new ways to tell each other stories?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Imagine we're taking a walk or having a cup of tea

That's what our new series of NLP Shorts is about. The one below is an introduction that answers the question "What do you do at NLP Canada Training?" Most of our recent additions to YouTube do more. They allow you to imagine that we're sitting or walking together). For between two and five minutes, you can step outside the busy-ness and confusion and gather focus and resources.

Why try an NLP short? Maybe your computer just crashed, or a phone call went badly, or you just can't focus on the work you need to be doing. You might be feeling sad or lonely or stuck. You might just feel like you need to get out of your own way for awhile.

So, get out of your own way for awhile and sit or walk with us. We'll look forward to spending time with you.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Every edge cuts two ways

We were intrigued when Tom Condon offered a course on the Enneagram and the Meta Model. That course offered a great review, but not much that was definitive and new. It did, however, make us take a second look at what we actually use of the Meta Model and how it works when it works.

If you're unfamiliar with the terminology, the meta-model is the way that NLP described the language patterns people use to dissociate from their own experience. It was developed by a linguist and a mathematician who observed psychotherapists - a strangely dissociated approach to language which results in a terminology-heavy and typically negative and combative model. Within the meta model, patterns were called "violations" and responses to them were called "challenges." The whole thing was supposed to be grounded in Chomsky's Transformational Grammar.

I've never thought that the meta model offered a rich enough understanding of what is at work when one person asks questions that allow someone else to describe their own experience in richer, more sensory and more meaningful terms. I have used it as a jumping-off point for exploring the conditions under which questioning becomes a powerful form of influence.

Since revisiting the meta model in the course, and then through some of Michael Hall's sensible and approachable work on NLP language, I am starting to uncover the missing piece that has been sitting in the back of my mind and making me uncomfortable with the model. The meta model patterns are a sign of dissociation. Dissociation from sensory experience is not, in itself, a bad thing. We use it often in NLP so that someone can work on problems without becoming overwhelmed by problem states. We also use it so that the 'pattern's we learn in NLP can be generalized to apply to a wide variety of situations.

The same techniques once described as "violations" were used by the developers of NLP to allow people to change and to learn. The dissociation that signaled problems in one context was actually the solution in other contexts. The patterns were useful in some ways, obstacles in others.

People who learn to recognize the meta models patterns in themselves and others (two different steps) will develop a real edge in communication and influence. They'll have a useful linguistic representation of when someone can be influenced to choose or to act and when someone must be shifted before they will be able to move. The same patterns that signal someone is stuck (which happens when we represent our experience as general or abstract) are useful steps towards getting a shift (moving into a more useful pattern).

The edge cuts both ways.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Getting Lost and Getting Lost and Getting Lost

For some people, last night was a momentous occasion. At our house, it meant a feast of ribs and tropical fruit while we watched the first two hours of the final season of LOST on television. We've been waiting a long, long time for the games to begin again.

Other people just don't get LOST. They don't see the fun in the endless, crazy plot twists, the striking images, the confusion of both ideas and emotion. All the characters are blends of good and bad, of likable and infuriating. The dead speak and the live are seldom allowed to get on with the business of living. Even time isn't a straight line on the island. Even the end is not certain. The mysterious, powerful, (now dead) Jacob says: "nothing has ended. And everything before the end is just progress."

Some people get lost in the jungle and some people get lost in this representation of the jungle. Each of the groups thinks the other is a little crazy. The fans feel a little lost without LOST; while other shows represent complexity, none does it with such a sense of curiosity and overwhelm. They also get lost in LOST. My husband is always in trouble because he asks too many questions during the show. Ask a question during LOST and you will lose another piece of the puzzle gathering information about something that may or may not already be in the past.

Of course, the people who don't get LOST are happy for the folks who do get LOST to take their crazy paradoxes and non-linear thinking and get lost. And the people who do get LOST think that the people who don't get LOST are already lost in a representation of reality that has too few curves to possibly be real.