An accurate view of reality..
For all the years that I've been teaching Generative Attention in the Thinking Environment, I've been using Brangelina as a perfect example of what happens in one’s ‘second stream of attention’.
I've explained it like this: we know that Attention is the first, and arguably foremost, component that creates an environment in which another can do their best, most courageous and creative thinking. We also know that inside each and everyone of us is a competition for attention every time we listen.
We want to indicate to the person to whom we are listening that we are interested. We want them to feel our respect for their thinking, our wanting to know where it is they are going, even if they don't know where that is.
In order to provide this quality of attention we have to notice, and manage our ‘response’ stream. This is our own busy, active mind that is either (a) getting busy to respond to their thinking, or (b) is drifting off to some unconnected concern that pops up and demands our apparently ‘urgent' attention!
Hence my Brangelina reference! People always laughed, (that laugh of recognition), but I'll never know if they actually believed me when I admitted my drifting off was, oddly, often in Brangelina's direction. Firstly, my thoughts would wander to how likely it was that such a fairy tale of talent, beauty, making a difference in the world and looking gorgeous to boot could ever last? Then I became worried about her bold mastectomy statement, and post-op about the marvels of modern day constructive surgery. Suffice to say, though, my sharing made the point.
People connected to my example and learned from it about the challenge we face in remaining mindfully connected to the thinker’s thinking: where it is now, and where it might be going next?
Now it turns out that I was right! I did need to be concerned about them, as recent ‘news’ reports testify. On a recent long-haul flight I had the delicious joy of re-watching Mr & Mrs Smith, made poignant by the news of their impending divorce. It's at times like this I find myself wondering if I should seriously be trying to get hold of them (well, at least Brad) and offer them the gift of a Thinking Session! If they had the Ten Components as a checklist for living at the moment, we might be looking at the fairytale’s next triumphant chapter, instead of its horribly predictable disguise.
I know a thing or three about divorce! I know how relationships can fold in on themselves, about how love can crumble into the rubble of disconnected resentment in the absence of what we know a Thinking Environment can provide: When we no longer listen to one another with genuine interest, and without interruption,When we think the other’s weaknesses outweigh our own, that we are a better, more superior form of human being than they areWhen we are filled with an urgency to be done with them, to move them out of our way. When we no longer have time for them,When all, or even mostly, what we can focus on, are their faults and failings, rather than on their beauty, goodness and truth,When we don't care, anymore, about how they feel – and maybe we actually want them to feel hurt,When we no longer want to know the cutting edge of where they are striving to go in their thoughts and ideas. When we no longer consider the possibility that they could create a breakthrough solution to save us from the mess we are in, when all that matters to us is that we trump their thinking with our own,When we do not want to face them, or ourselves, tell the truth, or face the hard facts,When the ways in which they differ from us do not meet our expectations, are no longer of genuine interest, no longer valued by us as adding enrichment to our lives,When what we assume to be the truth about them limits our ability to love and respect them,And when we want to move them out of our sight, instead of create a space for them that tells them we care, and that they matter.When this happens, it's game over! How could it not be? And yet……turning around any one of these could signal a new possibility – it could, and it does.
And because the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment make way for each other, and need each other for each to thrive, I am sure that if someone could listen to Brad and Angelina with genuine interest: that dispassionate, yet deeply connected witnessing of the other that happens in a Thinking Session, could lead to the restoring of possibility for them. It could lead to the strengthening of an accurate relationship to their reality, even as they become disillusioned with their own fairytale.
In his book Thoughts Without A Thinker, Mark Epstein talks about how “the relentless demand to make relationships flawless squeezes the life out of them.” He goes on to add that “all usual efforts to achieve solidity (certainty, security) are ultimately doomed.” But, one of “the most compelling things about the Buddhist view of suffering is the notion that the causes of suffering are also the means of release.” It is the sufferer’s perspective that determines whether a given realm is a vehicle for an awakening or for further bondage.
What an enormous gift it is, then, that we can listen to each other, treat each other, in such a way that a person’s view of their reality can shift profoundly, and that in the presence of a Thinking Partner, we really can spin gold out of straw!