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Appreciating the practice of ‘not knowing’
...a personal reflection concerning today’s triad skype talk about action planning…
You have heard of flying with wings,
But can you fly without wings ?
You have heard of the knowledge that knows,
But can you practice
The knowledge that doesn’t know?
Consider a window: it is just
A hole in the wall, but because of it
The whole room is filled with light.
Thus when the mind is open
And free of it’s own thoughts,
Life unfolds effortlessly,
And the whole world is filled with light.
(Stephen Mitchell, The second book of the Tao)
Anita, Birgitta and I are doing the blended learning training for facilitators. Today we were talking about our practices in the context of creating an action plan. Among others, two questions came up that I want to reflect about, not yet knowing where I’m heading……J:
a) Can ‘ appreciating not knowing’ be a practice or is it just describing a state of being. The last would not be measurable and therefore not usefull as a practice.
b) Could we use the term ‘not knowing’ instead of what we do want to learn?
In our triad we come from different backgrounds, Birgitta and Anita are facilitators, consultants with a huge experience, sharing the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, also a lot of professional and technical skills. My background is psychotherapy, mindfulness -/ compassion training and many years of shamanic practice / teaching. Google sheets, skype meetings and and also the english language are not my daily concerns.
In fact, I love to learn new skills and I appreciate our triad discussions very much, only quite some moments I have the feeling that I don’t know a lot.
Of course we do share a couple of things besides the SALT approach, our three german mothers, and, we are all into Theory U.
Otto Scharmer describes in his book about Theory U how the actual form of his version of the theory was rooted in a personal experience. When he was 16 years old, his family’s farmhouse was totally destroyed by a big fire. Everything was gone. They had nothing left.
Right at this moment he experienced, besides his fear, a huge creative energy. The future emerged out of this chaos and showed the steps necessary to take….
Let’s go back to something we know: The iceberg model.
There is a little top, the known, and there is a lot of cold water, the unknown. Once in a while we are drawn to diving experiences. What else is there ? How can we get there? How can we make use of this enormous potential, or anyway just enjoy it? What can we learn from it?
The story Stephen Mitchell tells us about the tao, is talking about an open mind. In the course of my mindfulness / martial arts training I experienced a lot of trouble with this. All these thoughts and considerations that continuously show up. Especially in daily life. An open mind is a lifelong practice. Also, when I see the window in my mind’s eye, there is the light and there logically has to be also shadow.
This is the reason, in the future I want to combine the practice of CLCP / SALT with the practice of Deep Democracy (DD). Because of the shadow. Because DD teaches me to learn about the unknown, the not-said, the minority, the things that are not supposed to be said.
Example: in an introduction circle during a training people would tell that they like to be there. The facilitator could ask what part of them would rather be not there, would love to be at home right now, or elsewhere?
The aspect that are not common or not allowed to be spoken out loud, are called ‘ ghostroles’. They can bring a lot of trouble in groups, they can even be terrorists. If we give them space, if we listen to them, we are getting more whole. These ghosts are getting human then, they get part of the situation, they get even part of ourselves. In other words, we can recognize them in ourselves and get more compassionate with them and us.
When groups forbid their diavowed parts, they become incongruent, rigid and lifeless.
Arnold Mindell, the founder of DD.
However, the ghostroles are located in the cold ice water, creating hotspots in group sessions and we will all meet them in facilitating CLCP meetings. When I had one of my first encounters
with practicing SALT facilitation, I was glad to bring movement through a deep democracy body exercise about conflict. Afterwards the body was alive and conflict was allowed. It didn’t have to go underground.
Another quote from A. Mindell, as the three of our triad are 50+ people, talking about the difference between a leader and an elder:
LET IT BE
While leaders make strategies to win, the elder recognizes others and becomes their student. The leader focusses on issues; the elder on feelings as well. The leader tries to change people; the elder assumes we are all exactly what we are meant to be.
The leader thinks the future depends on which political party heads the government; for an elder the future depends on enabling what is unknown to appear.
Therefore the elder focusses on interactions between the visible and hidden polarities, not on the domination or success of any one of them.
During my 30 year experience as a therapist, I worked with many people suffering from depression. Different ages, different races, different backgrounds, there is one thing they all shared: the wish to be perfect! Now, that I’m about to leave this kind of work , I recognise the teachings every cliënt provided.
But there is more about this. As far as we want to talk about personalities, there is a root here to create the fertile ground for depression. Rigid patterns that don’t allow certain feelings (from under the waterline, in the ice water) and that expect a certain kind of behavior. If not done, it is wrong. These patterns can be repeated for generations. In therapy we try to get them more fluid.
In anscient traditions there are other ways to work with these patterns. For example the taoists talk about the ‘ Winnning Loser’:
The student of knowledge (aims at) learning day by day.
The student of the Tao (aims at) loosing day by day.
Native American traditions pray to the Great Spirit. They are adressing Great Spirit of Mystery.
The spirit of the unknown.
Finally, Carlos Castaneda, student of the Toltec teacher Don Juan, describes a practice that is called the not-doings.
He distinguishes the doings and the not-doings. This refers to the earlier described patterns that can be rigid and painfull.
The doings are the ways of behaving, thinking and talking we are used to. The ones we know. The ones that we are doing automatically and that might be expected.
Practicing the not-doings means to not act on auto-pilot. Not acting automatically, the way we are used to, the way we see ourselves….can be very challenging. Above all it requires a very active intention. It is an activity, and not an easy one. If knowing is doing, not-knowing is not-doing.
There is a lot more to say about the ice water and about our ways of diving. As far as I’m concerned, up to now, I would regard our 5th practice as active. Measurable?
That would be mind-blowing.
Stephen Mitchell, The second book of the Tao, NY, 2009
Arnold Mindell, The leader as martial artist, Oregon 2014
Arnold Mindell, Sitting in the fire, Oregon 2014
Otto Scharmer, Theory U, Zeist 2010