Set your mind free

Psychological flexibility is the ability to think and feel with openness, to attend voluntarily to your experience of the present moment, and to move your life in directions that are important to you building habits that allow you live life in accordance with your values and aspirations.*
(Steven Hawes)

When 3 and 4-year olds draw, the thing they are drawing can change from one thing into another, surprising them.**
(Lynda Barry)

We can rediscover the ability to change something into something else.

Especially important when it comes to the more difficult thoughts and feelings we have as adults.

I’ve been invited to read Steven Hawes’ A Liberated Mind alongside someone I’m in conversation with. Hawes writes out of personal experience about the Dictator Within, the story his ego had been telling him until he realised he could do something about this, he could change this into something else, identifying six pivots by which he would do this.

In the beginning there are yearnings.

Good yearnings.

Yet the ego’s story tells urges us to feed these in what are harmful ways. Hawes identifies our yearning for coherence and understanding, belonging and connection, to feel, orientation, self-direction and purpose, and, competence.

For coherence and understanding, instead of buying into what our story is telling us, we need to pivot to see this for what it is – simply thoughts rather than the way things really are.

For belonging and connection, instead of believing our conceptualised self-story we need to pivot to a perspective-taking self through noticing and attention.

To feel, instead of avoiding our experiences we need to pivot to acceptance in an empowered state.

For orientation, instead of being rigidly attentive to the past and future (what has happened, what could happen) we must pivot to being flexibly attentive to what is good and is happening now – presence.

To be self-directed and purposeful, rather than being socially compliant we must pivot to personal values – from should to must.

And for competence, instead of perpetually avoiding we must pivot to committed action – step-by-step, habit-by-habit.

Hawes is identifying how we turn from the False Self to the True Self, from the Ego to the Eco. I am already noticing how these pivots can be laid over the U-journey of Theory U and therefore I suspect to to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

Thin|Silence doesn’t aim to be finished and polished, rather it is about listening for whispers and reflecting on what is emerging.

Here’s something to play with through reflective journaling: let’s take each of the six pivots and reflect on where we sense ourselves to be at this moment.

(*From Steven Hawes’ A Liberated Mind.)
(**From Lynda Barry’s Making Comics.)

Humble truth

The path forward is about curiosity, generosity, and connection. These are the three foundations of art.*
(Seth Godin)

Humility is a seeking of truth: the truth of who we are and what we do in relationship to others, the world, ourselves, god, ideas, things. And there’s a lot more truth in each of us than we allow:

other thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that could benefit others and ourselves but don’t fit the story**.

Identify your curiosity and you will discover your generosity, discover your generosity and you will build connection – what catches you attention and draws you in, what are the values, talents and energies that accompany this from which you make things for others that they need?

Obversely, connect with others and you will be led to your generosity, led to your generosity, you will find your curiosity – what are the needs of those you connect to, how would you like to meet these needs from your values, talents and energies, what is it that you notice to feed these?

(*From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(**From Steven Hayes’ A Liberated Mind.)

The generous game

All creative work has constraints, because all creativity is based on using existing constraints to find new solutions.*
(Seth Godin)

Enough comes from the inside.**
(Ryan Holiday

The generous game seeks to include as many as possible for as long as possible.

Some say they don’t have much to play with.

Noticing our constraints, though – basically, what we have and we have not – makes it possible to do our most creative work and bring it to others.

We must notice our quality rather than quantity.

Here’s James Carse writing about how infinite players see time:

Time does not pass for an infinite player. Each moment of time is a beginning of a period of time. It is the beginning of an event that gives time its specific quality.^

Not only does the generous game play with time differently, but within time, also with values, talents and energies. When applied within a purpose, with passion, we find we have enough:

We don’t ship because we’re creative. We’re creative because we ship.*

(*From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(**From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)
(^From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

Open to the inauthentic

What have you and I been put on this Earth to do? Is it not the creation of the “inauthentic,” that is the purposefully crafted, in order to deliver to others the gift and simulacrum of authenticity? That’s why they call it Art, and why, in some crazy way, it’s realer than real and truer than true.*
(Steven Pressfield)

Inauthenticity is about who we can become rather than who we are; it is about openness rather than closedness.

It may mean someone chooses not to explode when their buttons are pressed. It may mean someone steps out of their tribe and walks a different path. It may mean sitting down with someone who is completely different and listening deeply to them. It may mean leaving something better instead of walking on by.

It strikes me that inauthenticity is connected to a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. I am not the final me and you are not the final you.

(*Steven Pressfield, quoted in Seth Godin’s The Practice.)

Same again

My daily activities are not unusual,
I’m just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing …
Drawing water and chopping wood.*

(Layman Pang)

What we seek out is someone who sees us and promises to bring us the magic we were hoping for. Someone who has committed to rhyming with what they did yesterday.**
(Seth Godin)

One of the best gifts we can provide in our work and relationships is consistency, to bring our best and then repeat.

Many things can throw us off course. The amount of sleep we had, the things we ate yesterday, the mix of what’s going on in our lives for starters. We need to develop consistency with ourselves first of all.

So I journal, read, reflect, doodle, exercise and blog – my equivalents of drawing water and chopping wood.

This consistency helps me to open my mind, open my heart and then open my will.

What have you already got going on that can be developed into your consistent practice of drawing water and chopping wood?

(*Layman Pang, quoted in Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(**From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)

The beauty of process

Good process leads to good outcomes.*
(Seth Godin)

Notice your process and hone it.

Your art is not the end product but what you do in order to arrive at it. It’s akin to a liturgy for you to follow (leitourgiawork for the people).

People may copy or own the outcome but they cannot copy or own the process. This is yours and it is beautiful.

It doesn’t have to wait for a muse or god or magic but is there for you to enter and perform right now.

(*From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)

The front edge

We fail and then we edit and then we do it again.*
(Seth Godin)

When we’re born we are thrust to the front edge of life, and with that comes vulnerability. Our parents keep us safe and then we have to take over, but sometimes we make ourselves too safe. If we want to live our lives at the front edge of something important – not necessarily large or recognised by the masses – then vulnerability has to be embraced:

Failure is the foundation of your work.*

So writes Seth Godin. On another occasion he penned a line that has remained with me ever since I first read it:

Fail and fail and fail again.**

Editing, or reflection, allows us to fail smarter and better each time towards the beautiful possibility off getting things right, making things better, making a difference.

Keep playing at the front edge of what captures your heart.

(*From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(**If only I could remember the book.)

Natural habituation

The slide toward average sands of all interesting edges, destroying energy, interest and possibility.*
(Seth Godin)

Habituation is our tendency to get used to things. Whether we’ve noticed it or to, the likelihood for the majority of us in this pandemic is we have become used to a limited way of moving through the day-to-day, and that will mean we’re missing an awful lot.

Rob Walker offers us a simple way of awakening our noticing to more, by naming a trio of things we take for granted, or that others do but we don’t.**

This kind of thing always gets me thinking about what we’re missing about our lives: our values, talents and energies. It’s worthwhile nothing these if we want to leave chronic habituation behind. I’m offering a Thin|Silence special online for this. Watch this space.

(*From Seth Godin’s The Practice.)
(**From Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing newsletter: Against Habituation.)

The dance of intent

Whatever our intents of the day or in life, we will need our bodies in order to make these happen.

We hardly notice this until we have to, but paying more attention so that we enable our bodies to build up their memories will make it possible to do the things we must even when our thoughts and feelings are resistant, whether it be journaling, coming to our place of work, walking away from something, listening, getting up in the morning, making a journey.

We may want to do these things but our bodies may be too “weak,” and yet, like a trained dancer, when honoured and honed the body can help us perform what it is we have in mind to do, rather than the brain shouting its orders and the body clunkily following.

Why not notice the ways in which your body supports you in some of the most important things to you; how can you improve these actions?