Knowledge which is unable to support action is not genuine – and how unsure is activity without understanding? - Rudolf Virchow
I found this quotation from the 19th-century physician, anthropologist, social activist and scientist, Rudolf Virchow at the beginning of David Rock and Linda Page’s book, “Coaching with the Brain in Mind”.
One of the series of questions I often get asked when I am teaching The Thinking Session, either in the Thinking Partnership Programme, or in the Time To Think Coaching Programme is “is it enough that the thinker removes their untrue limiting assumption and replaces it with something more liberating and true? How can I (coach) be sure that they are going to translate their insights into action? Do I not need to give them homework, and then follow up on what they did at the next session? If they don’t translate their insights into action, will they mean anything at all, will they make any difference?”
In my line of work, as a practitioner of The Thinking Environment® I assume the thinker’s (client’s) intelligence, all the way through their session, and beyond. I assume that the actions they take, and the ones they do not take, are as much their choice as the pathways they took in their thinking (coaching) session, as the ones they did not take. It is all in the hands of the thinker.
Having said that, there is no doubt in my mind, that taking action in the world on the liberation produced by an Incisive Question will embed the insights differently. The fact that the thinker continues to ponder the insight internally can also be seen as an action, but of a distinct nature.
The work of the Thinking Environment® has much to do with slowing down. This in part, for me, influences the choice not to insist on homework: time-bound actions that need to be achieved between one session and the next. Timing is everything, and sometimes the time for action will not be in the immediate aftermath of a session. Pondering may be the appropriate action for quite some time. This brings me to the theme for this month: living life slowly.
I took action following a thinking session. It was something I had been promising myself I would do for some time. More than one thinking session was needed before I committed to the awareness raised by several Incisive Questions. I did a juice cleanse. For 3 days I drank organic juice packed full of nutrients, drank kefir shots, drank Maca Nut Mylk and Cacao Nut Mylk: it was all delicious.
After the cleanse ended, I felt light and, well, cleansed! I did not want to lose that feeling so I decided to continue to avoid the dairy, wheat, caffeine, alcohol and sugar that the cleanse had enabled me to separate from.
It’s been two and a half weeks now since I finished the cleanse, and the results of my continued efforts (actions) have resulted in all sorts of outcomes I did not anticipate. I have to slow down in the morning, to make smoothies and juices. I have to slow down and consider where I will be during the day and how I can access food in keeping with my new “regime”. I AM slowed down by the absence of caffeine and sugar. I am less rushed and urgent – many of you know this already – by the living of life mindfully.
But the least expected result of all this is the emotional landscape that has opened up now that I am no longer layering addictive substances over my feelings. The absence of the soothing mechanism of putting something – anything – in my mouth – learned from birth, means that I am much more present to the minute changes and shifting patterns of how I feel. And because “soothing” is often the motivation for putting something in our mouths, the emotions that arise in its absence are the ones we are most keen on escaping from.
I have learned in these last two weeks which of all the emotions is my bête noir. Irritation! I like a good cry. Personally I truly believe it’s good for my health. I’m down with outright anger these days – I love it’s boundary-setting guidance. I’m one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have to deal much with fear or anxiety….but irritation! That’s a feeling I’ll do a lot of chocolate cake eating to avoid. The desire to rid myself of it will produce a sense of rush and emergency. I get irritated with feeling irritated, and go into over-drive to replace that feeling with more calm. It’s something of a losing battle!
Some years ago when I was researching addiction, I discovered that one of the core ingredients of the addict’s personality is the inability to be with life (people, events) turning out in ways other than the one hoped for or expected. It could be summarised by the assumption life (people, events) is supposed to be meeting my needs, whether I have communicated them or not! As I have slowed down to face it I have found that this, usually unconscious, assumption is often at the root of my irritation.
It’s made me realise the challenge posed to me by living consciously: supremely well represented by the choice to be a Thinking Environment® in the world. The world at large is not a Thinking Environment®. It is filled with interruption, power differentials that are used abusively, urgency, criticism, competition, misinformation, denial, limiting assumptions lived as truths, and the destruction of both of our internal and external environments by the greed of capitalism.
As I continue to work to replace this litany of unhealthy and adverse aspects that life seems to drift in the direction of with the Ten Components™ of a Thinking Environment®, I see why we might be tempted to soothe ourselves with substances or the behaviour of avoidance and denial. It can be confronting to live a slow life. It is emotional and awake. But it is also beautiful, wild and deliciously unpredictable. It is not deferring to my expectations, but it seems, for the most part to be giving me just what I need.