So much more yourself..
This month I've been hearing and seeing evidence of the profound impact on personal growth and the development of one’s truest-to-oneself way of being in the world that comes from learning to create a Thinking Environment.
This is something that I've known personally in the last 12 years during which I've been intimately engaged with this body of work: best described as a way of being in the world.
I had done a lot of what people call personal development work before I came across Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment and if I’m honest I would say that, at the time I came across her work, I wouldn't have credited the amount of personal growth I’ve gained from it as even being possible – arrogant as I am aware that sounds!
Of course we know now from the field of neuroscience that change and growth is perpetually available and possible for us, and is a necessary activity for brain health. But I felt a little bit jaded about the whole notion of personal development. I was aware that there were issues in my life that, despite my having taken them in to workshops, therapy and countless conversations with friends, not a lot had really shifted around them.
The journey to being a conscious practitioner of the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment is a journey which invites us to develop a personal expression of these ten individual and symbiotically connected behaviours. The journey is one of applying this way of being towards self and others.
Whenever I am teaching the Thinking Environment I invite people to start to notice, from the get go, which of these components come easily to them and which ones are going to require more of a journey before they are easily expressed and embodied. This is the profound heart of this practice.
Developing an intimate, personal relationship to what it means, for example, to be listening in a way that is felt by the person being listened to as if there is no place else you would would rather be, no one else you would rather be listening to. Through the connective threads between this component of Attention, and it’s neighbouring components, there is no competition in our minds as we listen - causing us to want to interrupt, disagree with, dismiss, invalidate or change the other person’s thinking to which we are listening.
I hear back from them along the pathways to accreditation, how that journeying towards more ease and elegance in “being” the components with which they struggled at the outset, has lead them into an expression of themselves, which is so much more themselves than they were at the start.
Many people who are interested in the world of mindfulness find themselves attracted to the Thinking Environment. It's intriguing to notice how many mindfulness practitioners, even though they already know so much about this, are profoundly impacted by the slowing down that the Component of Ease invites us into. Mindfulness may have been an already deeply embedded practice for the participant, and yet I still get to see how the addition of the components enable even further deepening of attention, ease and compassion towards others and, maybe even more importantly, towards self.
The Thinking Partnership manual starts with a sentence which reads: A Thinking Partnership is a powerful individual-development tool.
In recent newsletters I've been saying that, in addition to what I've described above as the journey towards embodiment of the Components, that the other aspect of personal development that comes from this practice is the removal of untrue limiting assumptions. Assumptions that are embedded in the view that we have of ourselves, others and life. These assumptions shape our behaviour, our actions, and ultimately the results that we get – which have a nasty habit of confirming those assumptions – driven as they are by the assumptions in the first place!
The systematic uncovering of these untrue, limiting assumptions every time we give ourselves permission to have thinking sessions means that, over time, less and less of what you have allowed yourself to become limited by remains true for you. Instead, those beliefs have been consciously and choice-fully replaced by assumptions that are true and more liberating and which, in due course, enable more positive outcomes in one’s life.
The other really delightful aspect of self development that comes from thinking sessions is that you give and receive appreciation at the end of every session. Giving yourself permission to have thinking sessions on a regular basis therefore means that you give yourself permission to hear and (hopefully) receive the many qualities that other people see in you, many of which could be qualities that you do not initially identify with. If you keep hearing people value you for that quality over and over again you start to have to include it in your lexicon of how you would describe yourself. This can shift the tectonic plates on which your life is built!
This feedback moves from being something you hope you could be to something you begin to know you are. The practice of giving and receiving appreciation is life-alteringly transformative because we have, many of us, been raised with and in environments that say back to us that the only real thinking: proper, intelligent, worthwhile thinking, is critical thinking – thinking that finds fault with, unpicks, undoes someone else’s point of view.
On top of that we were raised by people who were probably tired and stressed and snapped at us, and projected their unowned fears on to us and blamed their embarrassments on our behaviour. Without meaning to, these experiences break our sense of belonging in the world and lay down the foundations from which our sense of shame, and our often, in fact usually, untrue limiting assumptions arise: I am not worthy, I am not love-able, I am not good enough, I will never get it right.
The Thinking Environment is a practice in kindness.
However, it is not fluffy, airy-fairy or mushy. It is deeply rigorous, very boundaried and inside its rigour we discover a version of ourselves that enables us to be more and more of who we truly are. From there we can craft our vision, world view, values and beliefs in ways that enable us to express ourselves more fully in the world. Personal development and life enhancement rolled into one!
Many people come to engage in learning the Thinking Environment because of the difference it will make to their interactions with others, and it certainly delivers on that.
But I think one of the most precious impacts it delivers is a profoundly altered relationship with ourselves, from which everything alters for the better.