"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."
I’ve been flirting with that which is mysterious lately. Mystery is a tricky concept to write about, precisely because of the definite nature of language and the abstruseness of mystery. I am drawn to, and perplexed by, mystery: in equal measure. I know, already, that in this newsletter, I am not going to be able to pin it down. Here are the places where I’ve been playing with it:
The distinction between looking at someone and connecting with them.
I have loved teaching the Presentations application of the Thinking Environment in recent Foundation Courses and Facilitator Programmes. It is of deep interest to me how profoundly challenging and uncomfortable it is for most of us to be invited to stand at the front of the room, and to make unbroken eye contact with an audience for a minute - in silence. And, to go beyond the making of eye contact to the experiencing of connection. This is the phenomenon of awareness. That I, standing in front of you, connecting with you, can become simultaneously aware of myself, over “here”, and you, over “there”. That my attention can be in two places at once, or, at the very least, can move between these two places. And, where it really gets mysterious is when my anxiety (“how do I look to them? What do they see? What do they think of me?” etc) softens into this thing we call connection. When the apparent distance between us appears to disappear and is replaced with a contact of sorts, even though I am still over “here” and you are still over “there”.
The space between the Thinker and the Thinking Partner: the magnetic pull of Generative Attention.
Many years ago, at the start of my journey of exploration into this marvelous odyssey of being human and living life – I was introduced to this idea:
Life is a conversation.
There are many conversations that make up the conversation of life. Conversations for being related, for establishing relationships. Conversations to generate possibility, dreaming up conversations. Conversations for opportunity – for the many diverse ways in which dreams can be translated into reality, and these are followed by conversations for action – in which we make promises, and commitments, and we set up boundaries and agreements, during which we may need to re-think, revoke, take back and remake new agreements.
And then there are conversations for resolving breakdowns and disagreements - conversations in which we need to clear the air, to give and receive forgiveness, taking us in a full circle back to relationships, where we mend, rebuild, deepen and restore.
In the world in which we live, these conversations take place inside us, ourselves with ourselves, and also between us, from me to you, and you to me, and us together with one another in dialogue. The world is rich and noisy with these conversations. We are getting ready with these conversations all the time. And so, when you are talking to me, and I am preparing to talk back……..and the “getting ready with my response” nature of my part of whatever conversation we are having is always threatening to tread on the toes of your emergent thoughts.
We sense this, we feel it, we know it is there, even when it is not being articulated and we, more often than not, crash right into each other with this bubbling up of conversation, which is – like the internet provider – always on.
When, however, we agree to be each other’s thinking partner, we make a radical adjustment to this incessant, ubiquitous inter-personal clamour.
We agree to replace it with a silence that is filled with a mysterious combination of mutuality and detachment. By consciously choosing to give and receive this unique regard for one another’s independence, and singularity, we produce what is, without doubt in my mind, the most mysterious experience of affinity and alliance.
The dance between intentionality on the one hand and surrender on the other.
My dear friend and fellow Thinking Environment colleague, Heather Cresswell, gifted me a book for my birthday this year called “The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Alan Singer. Even though it is a slim volume, with very short chapters, and should, therefore, be an easy read – and I have been reading it – I am still not finished with it.
The book charts the author’s journey with what he refers to as an experiment in surrendering to the infinitely more wise and discerning intelligence of life itself, rather than in trying to enforce his will onto life’s directions and outcomes.
I believe some “bad shit” does happen at some point – but I’m three quarters of the way in, and so far it reads like a fairy tale. Each time the author lets go of trying to control the outcome, the exact right people bearing the exact right amounts of money needed for the exact right opportunities that have materialised out of nowhere at the exact right times, show up. His explanation for all these miraculous occurrences is a combination of trust, faith, intentions that have emerged from the last act of surrender, and a setting aside of personal preference.
As you can probably tell, there’s a battle waging within me between my hippie heart, that can dance for hours on end to the beat of such notions as happenstance, serendipity, synchronicity and faith in the harmony of the universe, and my unconvinced intellect, bombarded as it is by information that contradicts the notion of anything but random chaos.
But, and it’s a pretty big one……….. I do suspect that herein lies one of mystery’s most enigmatic chambers, and I’m paying attention to see what I might discover. I’ll keep you posted.