What’s your favourite thing about your work?
What’s your favourite thing about your work?
Is it really possible to have an absolute favourite thing? I think this notion is, potentially, trite.
That’s certainly true for me when it comes to my work. One (favourite) thing leads to another for me, when it comes to The Thinking Envionment. It is a smorgasbord of delights.
Having said all of that though, probably the most profound thing about it has been the personal development journey that endeavouring to live a life that expresses the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment has taken me on.
At the end of The Foundation Course manual we have a small but useful reflection exercise that asks participants to consider these questions:
Of the Ten Components which one do you think might be the most challenging for you to master?
What might you lose by not mastering it?
What might you gain from mastering it?
What can be your first step in ‘being’ that Component?
Ever since I first reflected on those questions for myself, this inquiry has become a regular compass – and, without wanting to sound too dramatic (although I know this is going to sound dramatic!), it is an exploration which, if I ignore it for too long, I do so at my peril! Sleepwalking is a risky business!
For many years, my answer to the first question was The Component of Place:
“Producing a physical environment — the room, the listener, your body — that says, 'You matter'
"When the physical environment affirms our importance, we think more clearly and boldly. When our bodies are cared for and respected, our thinking improves.”
At the time I first came across Nancy Kline’s astonishing, life-altering body of thought and practice, I was in my 45th year of having a very tricky relationship with my body. It began with chronic, life-threatening infancy and childhood asthma, on through teenage anorexia and adult bulimia, addiction, and just an all-round general disregard for my body which I pretty much treated as a nuisance that my head (where I lived) was attached to and I, therefore, had to lug around with me! Oh dear!
So the journey to answer the next three questions of the “Being a Thinking Environment” exercise took me on what has been an odyssey of affirmation that means I now live in a body for which I am filled with admiration and affection, and which I care for with daily protective & nurturing practices. Again, I’m going to sound dramatic, but to be honest this feels like nothing short of a miracle to me.
This story leads me to where I am currently when I engage with the reflection exercise. My answer to the first question now is, and has been for an embarrassingly long time, The Component of Information:
“Absorbing all the relevant facts
— Full and accurate information results in intellectual integrity.
— We base our decisions on information all of the time. When the information is incorrect or limited, the quality of our thinking suffers and we can be trapped in denial. Whereas, accurate and full information provides the path to good independent thinking.”
So I’ve finally decided to pull my head out of the morass of objections I have towards the word “fact”, and use the exact same tool I used to transform my relationship to my body – having thinking sessions – to upgrade my relationship to the Component of Place from crazy and deranged (I’m really not exaggerating) to one of intelligence.
What’s been in the way of this, you may ask?
Just what is the issue?
Well, for a start, you say the word “facts” to me, and I ask “whose facts?” Given that “we see the world not as it is, but as we are” (a quote widely attributed to Stephen Covey, but actually attributed to Anaïs Nin, who may well have sourced it herself – apparently – from The Talmud – you see what I mean, the quote itself is a case in point!), it stands to reason that when people start talking about facts, we ought to be asking ourselves what information is the source of these facts? What is the world view of the person deriving the information upon which the facts are based? And who is to say which world view is the “right” one, since we know that the mindset of the observer in any experiment seeking to produce proof influences what the observer sees and does not see. And yes, I know, we have peer reviewed studies, but peers may often come from the same world views, educated in the same systems, governed by the same presumptions. Do they, I wonder, actively seek peers from wildly diverse backgrounds and cultural frameworks to review their findings?
And then, even when we do settle on something being a fact, what we actually have, if we’re really honest is partial information: what we can know as far as possible right now – and we know that at any moment someone might (and will) discover some new information which will change the current “fact” into something more factual.
After my first, really committed thinking session on this subject, though, I realised I could come to terms with this: partial information – as much as we can know for now – I can live with that.
My second conundrum has less to do with facts that have been produced through scientific study and have been peer-reviewed and more to do with the news.
This letter of mine is going to get overly long if I take you on the tortuous relationship I have with the news, but suffice it to say at this stage that a key, influential question for me here is “Should I be absorbing ‘information’ (I have lots of questions about how factual the information is) about things that provoke anxiety in me and about which I either can’t or won’t do anything?”
A sub-set thinking session will definitely get me contemplating why I get so anxious about the potential impact on the future of the global economy, the influence of China, the war in Ukraine, the 25,000 people who die every day of preventable starvation, etc, etc, ad infinitum.
For now, however, I need to get around this (most perplexing of all) quandary in terms of my relationship to the Component of Information. Most of it is coming from the outside in, and most of it is second-hand. None of it is as tangible and real to me as my direct experience. Much of it is based on history, and that is over. Much of it is proposing probability about the future, and that is fantasy. The only time I ever have is now, this moment, and the only facts I can really absorb are the ones I can access through direct experience. All of this is real and true for me, and yet I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that there is stuff I do not know and do not know I don’t know, the knowing of which could transform my direct experience. So how do I marry these two seemingly opposing “realities”?
It occurs to me, from what has emerged from my first committed thinking session on this subject, that what I need is help! And so, I end this May letter with a request:
Can you help? What do you know from your own relationship to accessing information and navigating the issues I have outlined above, that you think could assist me to transform my relationship with this Component? What can you share with me from your experience, what information do you have?
I really look forward to hearing back from anyone with the time or inclination to respond. I’ve turned a corner now and I’m ready to have a more intelligent relationship to Information!