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Is there a better way to reframe experience than changing your thoughts?

Three levels with border

Three views of the same scenario

The practice of reframing is commonly used these days to change something about yourself that you don’t like.  Reframing is a method of changing your perspective, or the way you frame or look at an undesirable event, situation, or object.  Despite its popularity, however, the range, power, and usefulness of its application are not widely known.

The first basic principle of reframing is that “events or situations do not have inherent meaning; rather, you assign them a meaning based on how you interpret the event. . . . Even when something seemingly horrible happens to you, it is only horrible because of the way you look at it.”  –Mikey  D., http://feelhappiness.com/reframing-your-thoughts-make-yourself-happier/

Tarthang Tulku, a Tibetan Buddhist master, makes a very similar statement:  “our problems do not lie in what we experience, but in the attitude we have towards it.”   p. 51, Openness Mind

So we may have considerable freedom in the way we can view and interpret our experience. The practice of reframing usually involves identifying negative thoughts or beliefs and replacing them with more positive or beneficial ones.  Thus reframing is very often an intellectual or cognitive process used in order to change one’s undesirable feelings or emotions about something.

Someone else  on the web wrote about those who use reframing to ‘chip away at beliefs’ that mistakenly support a negative conclusion:  “Chances are you have a limiting belief that is encouraging you to think negatively about your situation. This limiting belief is based on assumptions you have made that probably are not true. Find reasons why they aren’t true, and you chip away at the beliefs causing the negative thoughts [assuming that other thoughts somehow cause the troublesome beliefs]. This is the most powerful long term reframing technique . . . .”

This ‘chipping away’ at supporting assumptions is common psychological analysis, and may be somewhat helpful.  But is it true that this last method is the most powerful?  The least powerful techniques would probably make the most superficial changes to the  original content, event, or situation.  And the most powerful techniques would probably change aspects of the original content, event, or situation the most.

Deeper or more effective methods?

Are there even ‘deeper’ methods that more profoundly change the original content or scenario?

Instead of thoughts or beliefs, what about changing these:

  • Space within and between thoughts
  • Gravity, or momentum of thinking

Ownership and ‘conducting’ (by the subject or ‘doer’) of thinking and feeling

One might challenge the inclusion of the above on the list, and there might be other candidates as well.

Space within and between thoughts

We usually are concerned only with the content, or meaning of thought.  However, suppose we shift our focus instead to the ‘space between thoughts’?  Did you ever think of doing this?  What might result?  (See pp. 58-60, Time, Space, and Knowledge, Tarthang Tulku.)

The Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) discipline actually suggests that we experiment at length with this shift in focus.   People who do generally find more openness, peacefulness, silence, freedom, greater openmindedness, and greater relaxation.

Gravity, or momentum of thinking

As another example, suppose we shift our focus instead to the ‘gravity’ or ‘momentum of thinking’?  “Some thoughts loom large and others small, exerting a different ‘gravitational’ pull accordingly.” (p. 65,  Love of Knowledge, Tarthang Tulku)  What might result?  People who do this exercise a while  generally experience less pressure from anxiety, driven thinking, and time pressure.

Ownership and ‘conducting’ of thinking and feeling

As a third example, suppose our focus in thinking were shifted from the content to the ‘thinker’ who organizes, observers, interprets, and ‘owns’ the situation and the content.  What might happen?  (p. 41,  Love of Knowledge)

People exploring this exercise find a new kind of ‘knowing’ or nonverbal awareness can arise in contrast with a less ‘driven’ ‘train of thought’.  This different type of knowing is not affected by the usual distortion of the self, subject, or thinker and its kind of motivation, desires, and concerns.

Mind and the source of thought

Is there anything else to reframe, or to leave out of the frame?

What about the mind from which thoughts seem to arise?  Are thoughts limited to coming from our minds, or can they arise in some other way(s)?  TSK asks, when observing directly how thinking occurs, do we really see any ‘mind’ at its source?  Is there any ordinary source or ‘generator’ of thinking and experience in general?  What if the presumption of mental generation of experience is challenged, and the presumption of ‘an ordinary mind’ is dropped?

Time and the events of our lives

What about time itself, that presumed ‘medium’ that is thought to ‘carry’ or present the events of our lives?

TSK shows that the feeling of time passing from past to present to future can be reframed in many different ways.   Suppose you think, “I don’t have time to get everything done today.”

You might try to reframe the sense of not having enough time by (1) affirmative self-talk, saying to yourself, “I have enough time for everything I need to do today.”  Most people who try this find it doesn’t work very well.   “Replacing conventional constructs with new ones . . . will still leave us in the realm of descriptive knowledge and the narrative.” (p. 257, Love of Knowledge)  Self-talk and affirmations don’t seem to strongly affect the level at which our temporal experience is actually ‘operating’.

However, suppose we observe time flowing “from moment to moment in a way that makes available, on an ever ‘smaller’ scale, moments ‘between’ moments”?  After some awkwardness or confusion trying to ‘figure out’ how to do this, people usually find it quite effective.  Add extensive practice, and then you’ve got an amazing way to really start dismantling the time pressure in your life.   (p. 119,  Love of Knowledge)

Challenging our usual presumed frame of reference of the self

What about the usual ‘frame of reference’ itself that we try to maintain throughout our lives, holding a fixed point of view and referring all our experiences back to our self?  TSK notes that “Throughout history, we have been maintaining a fixed and limiting ‘focal setting’ without even being aware of doing so. Yet, although our familiar world seems to depend upon this ‘setting’, if we become able to change the ‘setting’, fantastic new knowledge and appreciation of life can be gained.” (pp. 4-5, Time, Space, and Knowledge)  “For example, it may be possible to discover a kind of space in some intimate connection with each thought, each sensation, each surface, and each conceptual category which constitutes our lived world. The availability of such discoveries is entirely a matter of the particular ‘focal setting’ or perspective we use.” (p. 4, Time, Space, and Knowledge)

Unframe Yourself

We are not limited to the comparatively ineffective conventional way of reframing just the mental contents of experience.  A far more encompassing and powerful version of reframing is possible.  We can include all  the apparently fixed framework of experience–including our mind, the self, as well as our sense of limited time and space.  Although these mental structures may seem inherently fixed, limited, or limiting, “The basic, absolute, or opaque character that some things have for us is [just] due to our unwillingness to change this ‘focal setting’ point of view, or to our assumption that it cannot be done. . . .” (p. 4, Time, Space, and Knowledge)

Questions to Approach the Zone

  1. Are you applying effort or control to something that feels separate from you, or does your activity seem to flow effortlessly “by itself?”
  1. Do things feel familiar, somewhat predictable, or even habitual, or does each new moment, along with all that appears in the momentary scenario, seem spontaneous and fresh?
  1. Are you looking forward to being done with the work, or are you currently fulfilled within your work-in-progress?
  1. Do objects and events take up space and appear to be separate and dispersed, or are do they seem intimately connected in and even as one space?
  1. Is there a private space or personal world that feels separate from everything outside, or do inner and outer, subjective and objective appear to be inseparable facets of the same undivided space?
  1. Is there a sense of self that stands apart from experience and externals, or do you feel identified with, or absorbed in, what is happening?
  1. Is knowledge simply something that you or others possess or lack, or is there a sense of being intimately part of what’s around you, knowing things that are happening ‘from inside’ them?
  1. Is knowledge only identification, categorization, judgment, and detached observation, or also an illuminating clarity merged with the subject being explored?
  1. Are there divisions among your self, mind, body, and personality, or is there a natural sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction?
  1. Are you driven by a need or a desire for pleasure, or is everything being found to be immediately and inherently fulfilling?
  1. Do you notice a feeling of time flowing in the background, or are you timelessly involved?
  1. Does reality seem solid, fixed, and substantial, or does everything seem somewhat fluid or dreamlike?

A Brief Account of Human Complex Development

What does the cultural and personal conditioning through our years of development enable us to do?  What layers of conditioning are there?  How does our conditioning operate and limit us?  What is our ‘normal’ Western worldview?   Can it be summarized?  What is possible for us as human beings?    When we try to open up to new possibilities, what typically happens?  When new experiences do happen, does our previous conditioning still tend to filter things?  

What’s possible for us as humans? 

As we ‘grow up’, our native cultures teach us how to function in certain common, practical ways as individuals and as ‘normal’ members of our particular society.  We learn, try, and come to embody a particular conventional reality–how people in our society usually perceive and interpret the incredible variety of situations and circumstances in life.  The study of these patterns is the subject of developmental psychology, linguistics, and anthropology, among other fields.

This enculturation is quite useful, to say the least. But once we are interested in discovering our full potential–not just what’s normal in our culture–we are likely to find that our conditioning has become confining and limiting.  Just about everything we do is filtered and shaped by it.

To ‘see through’ our conditioning, or even dismantle it, it seems essential to get very clear on exactly how we’ve been conditioned, and then to actually see our the habitual patterns in operation.  The next section will briefly examine the process of conditioning we’ve all undergone, no matter what culture we ‘grew up’ in.

A brief account of complex development

Who am I?   How did I get this way?  As newborns we seem to have little or no conditioning. As we grow up we learn: (1) language, (2) skills, and (3) habits, conditioning, and complexes–systems of interrelated, emotion-charged ideas, feelings, memories, and impulses*.

*footnote – my definition of complex is more liberal than that of most psychologists.

Conditioning is similar to programming the operating system software necessary to use a computer, after which it operates largely out of our awareness to enable the accomplishment of various tasks.  Over years we are conditioned  by our cultures in many complicated ways.

Very gradually we learn that objects persist at particular locations–they ‘occupy’ a particular area for a while.   We eventually learn that objects seem separate from each other.  We become very familiar with one special object ‘here’, as contrasted with other objects ‘there’.  And around the same time, probably by avoidance of displeasure and pain, we develop a simple sense of ‘inside’ contrasted with ‘outside’.*  By elaborating the simple sense of ‘inside’ and ‘here’, a complex sense of ourselves as a persistent observer is developed.  Eventually we distinguish ‘before’ from ‘after’.   Then a sense of how long something lasts, duration, becomes possible.

*footnote:   Inside-outside, here-there, and before-after are examples of what can be called strictures—-somewhat stable structural features of experience.  Some strictures may also be complexes–systems of interrelated, emotion-charged ideas, feelings, and memories.

 

So when we are still quite young, our conditioning includes at least a sense of inside vs. outside, here vs. there, a sense of occupying space, a perceiver and observer separate from the perceived and observed, a sense of duration, and before vs. after.  It has taken psychologists more than a century to understand how this ‘inner’ development takes place, and we may still not understand it thoroughly, yet it proceeds  very naturally within most cultures. Later, as adults, we even take these primitive, underlying strictures and complexes such as linear time and ‘container space’ for granted, as ‘real’ aspects of the physical world.  But they are actually the results of our conditioning.

The observer vs. observed stricture is elaborated into a sense of an independently existing self.  The self includes a ‘normal’ sense of having a personal space and mind that are separate from others, and a sense of being a willful and independent agent existing continuously across the flow of linear time.  Self is further developed into a particular type of personality–which is probably just a complex of habitual responses to events and circumstances of various kinds.

After these common foundational strictures have been firmed up, cultural differences come into play.  For example, in some cultures a sense of before vs. after, combined with a sense of occupation, is elaborated into  linear time–a persistent sense of time flowing from past to present to future.  Instead of linear time, other cultures seem to develop a less complicated perception of serial time.  And there are surely many other cultural differences.

The resulting restricted state

After years of complex inner development, our ordinary Western conditioning is complete.  As Tarthang Tulku wrote in Time, Space, and Knowledge, “the events and facts which we know—the tremendous weight of our past and of our cultural conditioning—have seemed to establish a vastly complex world within which our present positions gain their meaning.” (p. 212, TSK)  The resulting state can be summarized in terms of time, space, and knowledge:

Time is divided into moments and seems to flow linearly and out of our control, from past to future, at a constant rate. Within this flow we are limited to occupying a kind of ‘moving spot’ that we call ‘the present’. We seem to ‘have’ time, yet sometimes feel like we’re running out of time, and can’t stop the relentless flow that causes us anxiety, friction, overwhelm, and pressure.

Space is seen as an indefinitely extended ‘nothing’, with distance felt between things within space. We and things feel substantial, independent, and persistent, ‘occupy’ different locations in space, have size, volume, edges, and an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.  We have a kind of private mental, or personal space, but this seems less ‘real’ than physical space.  Personal space seems independent of others and other things, and yet seems to change somewhat, depending on our feelings and connections with others.  Our experience of space can feel restrictive, confining, and pressured, rather than open and free.

Our knowing or ‘seeing’ is limited to a particular ‘thinker’ position or ‘point of view’, with a felt separation or ‘distance’ from what is known.  Knowing and knowledge usually seem to be located primarily inside our heads and minds.   An act of knowing takes some time, and involves directing knowing from its source ‘here’  toward distant objects and events.  We collect experience and information by these acts of knowing, and build up models, systems, and theories.  Very often our knowing and perceiving is inaccurate and biased, depending on our unresolved emotional difficulties (conditioning) and current desires and fears.

Does this description of normal Western conditioning fit for you?  Does it seem accurate?  Is anything wrong, left out?

Though normal, this conditioned state is also inflexible. “Ordinarily, we have an unfortunate tendency to locate or orient ourselves in a very fixed way. Of course, we do not see this tendency as being a problem, but rather a way of keeping ourselves, our self-images, properly defined and grounded. But this self-centeredness obscures the vastness of space and time available by consolidating against it.”  (p. 44, DOT I)

Attempts to escape our condition may further condition us

In this way, over years of development, our lives are structured layer after layer, complex interwoven with complex, until our personality has been ‘formed’.  Again, all this conditioning is similar to the many layers of a computer’s operating system software. And just as we may pick up viruses on our computers, as humans we may develop various troublesome conditions that disturb our normal functioning and well-being:   confusion, doubt, rigidity, obsessiveness, loneliness, isolation, a sense of confinement (or even claustrophobia), pressure, discontent, anxiety, self-centeredness (or even narcissism), prejudice, hysteria, neediness (even emptiness), and so on.

Then we usually find methods to change or get rid of the troubling conditions. But these methods are likely to be further elaborations of our conditioning.  Like fish unaware of water, we don’t know how limited we are to our habits, even when we try to break them.

Krishnamurti said, “I am the result of all the social and the spiritual compulsions, persuasions, and all the conditioning based on acquisitiveness–my thinking is based on that. To be free from that conditioning, from that acquisitiveness, I say to myself, ‘I must not be acquisitive; I must practice nonacquisitiveness.’ But . . . what is important is to understand that the mind which is trying to get away from one state to another is still functioning within the field of time [which implies conditioning is still in effect], and therefore there is no revolution, there is no change.” – Collected Works, Vol. VIII,163, Choiceless Awareness

Our typical approaches to resolving troubling conditions and issues are completely oblivious of a crucial fact, which is that all these conditions as well as the self structure to which they seem to ‘belong’ are simply (convincingly real) instant-by-instant fabrications* that don’t need solving.    We can let the process go, without ‘freezing’ it and then trying to fix what was frozen.  If we can “go beyond this typical lower time orientation of ‘someone’s doing something’. . . . then our difficulties in living can be solved very easily, naturally.”  (pp. xxxiii-xxxvi, DOT I)

Breaking down the structure

Using patterns we’ve learned to break down other patterns we’ve learned can be self-defeating.  But eventually something often happens to break the logjam of patterns, if only briefly.   We might have a sudden opening or inspiration, spontaneously putting us in a very liberating state.   We might gradually learn to meditate and start to dissolve the holding power of a lifetime of habits.  Or we might somehow become exhausted, realize that all our attempts at change are futile, and find that we can give them up.  Perhaps our personal architecture becomes so complex and stressed that further complication just cannot be supported without a collapse of some kind.

After a breakthrough, we try to understand what happened.  Often we don’t know what to think about the experience itself, and how it arose, but we’ll still decide what to do about it based on past conditioning.  What else do we have to go on?   We might maintain most of our old structuring for a while, but as time goes on it may become more and more difficult to hold things together.  The edifice of our conditioning may continue to crumble.

Eventually we see that our personal edifice is no longer edifying or otherwise worth trying to maintain. At some point it may even seem that the primary way to progress is to foster, rather than resist, the dissolution of the complexes that constitute layers and layer of habits and filters.

Since this breakdown of structuring usually occurs over such a long period, and since it still tends to be interpreted in terms of our past limiting conditioning, it can be very difficult to see clearly what is happening.  We may find it helpful to get some idea of what others have experienced during breakthroughs, and to clarify how these essential or peak experiences differ from the layers of cultural and personal conditioning we and others have taken on and embodied.

Levels of Participation in the Ocean of Knowledge

The quality of our participation with time, space, and knowledge corresponds to differences in the quality of our experience in the following metaphor:

Imagine that you live within the depths of an ‘ocean’; you are completely permeated by it. It gives to you, and you take what it offers, acting in ways that are expressive of the purity and power of the water. The results of your actions remain within that same sphere, flowing freely back into the water. But the ‘ocean’ is vast, unbridled power, not limited or constrained by anything, and constrains nothing. It permits everything, even ways of relating to it that are very limited and ‘stand-offish’.

Let’s suppose that you become identified with one of these narrow, aloof ways of interacting with the ocean. It’s as though you have drawn above it, ignoring the qualities and depth of its waters. You don’t even “acknowledge” that depth; you don’t knowingly interact with it. But you can never completely sever your connection, so you can never avoid depending on it and interacting with it in some way. The result is that the ocean leaps up and slaps you in the face with the peaks of its high, jagged waves.  This is the only form of contact your aloof stance will permit.

Perhaps you come to live on the very peaks of these waves and look across to the peaks of other waves around you. You pretend that reality is comprised only of what floats there on the peaks, that there is no ‘underneath’, not even any supporting water, except perhaps in some abstract sense. Even so, part of your new existence is the constant, shocking sensation of being struck by ocean sprays.

Perhaps you take this unpleasant experience as meaningless, just a ‘background phenomenon’. But it won’t go away. Always churned about by the waves, out of phase with the rise and fall of other peaks, it is hard to relate satisfactorily to others. The structures you build seem unstable, subject to some relentless, destabilizing power, and you are always struck in the face by the surging water.

If, eventually, you relax your obsession with scanning across the peaks, and become willing to give more attention to the water itself, to acknowledge it in a participatory sense, you can delve deeply into the ocean. Then, much to your vast amazement, the annoying stinging sprays and the undermining influence of the waves ceases. Your awareness is not restricted to maintaining contact with tiny, erratically jumping objects separated from you by unbridgeable distances.

‘Beauty’, ‘peace’, ‘security’, ‘fulfillment’, ‘intimacy’, ‘knowledge’, ‘communication’, ‘coexistence’ all come to acquire meanings very different from what they had for you on the surface. This ‘ocean’ and its ‘waves’ are only rough metaphors for the range of space and time as they are seen by different types of knowledge, different degrees of participation. Frustration, loss, and separation may have been typical themes for the knowledge of the surface, which was subject to the waves. But nothing can be lost or exhausted for that knowledge which remains attuned to the depths of space and time. Everything that fulfills and delights, and everything that stimulates knowledge to become more sensitive and encompassing, is perfectly preserved there. You can see why it’s so important that we be totally ‘in’ or ‘within’ time, space, and knowledge.  (p. xxx-xxxiii, DOT I)

Time, space, and knowledge do not act in one particular way . . . . [it depends on] how deeply we acknowledge* our connection with them. Whether we acknowledge them or not, we are using them, and they are using us. Just because we ignore them, depending on them only unconsciously, doesn’t mean that there’s no interchange. We are still bound to time and space; we and they are inseparable companions. If we ignore our connection to them, we relegate ourselves to lives of a kind of menial, trivial service: the only way we allow ourselves to be used by the universe at large. (p. xxx, DOT I)

*footnote: “‘Acknowledging’ is not just an acceptance of an idea. Remember, the emphasis is on active expression—participation. What is the depth and quality of our participation?” (p. xxxi, DOT I)

Discovering the Zone of Peak Performance

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Our typical approaches to resolving troubling conditions and issues are completely oblivious of the crucial fact that all these conditions as well as the self structure to which they seem to ‘belong’ are simply (convincingly real) instant-by-instant fabrications that don’t need solving. We can learn to see how the apparently continuous movie of life, with limiting habits of self at center stage, is actually a bewildering flurry of momentary, fleeting projections onto the screen of ordinary consciousness. Troubling scenarios clearly have no absolute or fixed, unchangeable nature—unpleasant experiences seem ‘real’ only because of the way of projecting.  We can let the projecting process go, without ‘freezing’ it and then trying to fix the problems that were frozen.  Aware of this projecting, we can redirect its energy, breaking up limiting scenarios as soon as they appear, and before we get caught up in the parts and story lines. By recognizing the ordinary structures of life before they are firmly in place, as they are just taking the stage, we can directly and powerfully break free from limiting patterns.  Without special effort—for no effort is needed—the whole of experience is already transformed. (DTS, p. 302) “Our whole purpose is to go beyond this typical lower time orientation of ‘someone’s doing something’. . . . If we can understand this correctly, then our difficulties in living can be solved very easily, naturally.”  (pp. xxxv, DOT I)  “The idea should be to not add or subtract anything from the immediacy of any knowing encounter.” (p.  xiii, DOT I)  “Everything required for contacting freedom and everything required . . . is already being done.”  (Interview with Tarthang Tulku)

For the second edition, go to:

http://www.tskassociation.org/transpersonal-psychology.html

Managing, Producing, and Evolving by Actualizing Values (MBAV)

Summary

No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

To facilitate progress toward personal and organizational goals, each individual can define performance values to measure his/her involvement along one or more dimensions of the experiential field. As we act to accomplish our goals, we can then periodically measure these values as a way to evaluate and drive our progress.

Then, assuming that individuals periodically make suitable redefinitions of their performance values, the following two practices should optimally drive and sustain long-term individual and, for those involved in organizations, organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity:

(1) The primary practice, related to the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field as often as one can, while:

(2) Acting and keeping one’s scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

Introducing the Issues Addressed

Employees and management alike suffer from the lack of a vision and operational method of optimal work which truly provides and actively fosters a natural meeting ground for both personal fulfillment and corporate results, and which inspires people toward peak performance, self-actualization, and optimal well-being.

We can inquire first, whether there actually is a balanced, general vision of Optimal Work. If so, instead of the modern preoccupation with bottom-line results, it would ideally balance concerns about productivity, product and service quality, and employee well-being and work capacity. And if it’s truly general–applicable to any person, environment, culture, and task–it cannot be defined in terms of organizational structures, management styles, employee habits, and best practices or processes.   Though such a vision can’t prescribe specific practices or processes, perhaps it could tell us how best to do processes and practices by defining a set of possible experiential “performance values” and tracking our progress within this set.

Second, we can inquire how workers can best motivate themselves, or be motivated.  Besides the usual external carrot-and-stick management methods, there is the inherent drive for self-actualization described by Maslow.  Are there ways for individual workers to set up a challenging atmosphere centered on this perennial, intrinsic drive? If so, how can management establish extrinsic organizational goals and yet support this intrinsic drive? Might it even be possible to foster a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and organizational results that has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives?

INTRODUCING THE WORK GAME, THE SCOREBOARDS, AND THE POSSIBLE MOVES

No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

I propose that to optimally facilitate progress, each individual should maintain a scoreboard that represents progress toward both personal and organizational goals (determined as described in step 1 below), and should then focus on one’s experiential field while making different possible ‘moves’ of increasing involvement defined by performance values measured along one or more dimensions (this will soon be explained further).

IN THE WORK GAME, WHERE SHOULD WE FOCUS?

In a typical organization the primary emphasis is on productivity and the bottom-line Outer gameboard goals (step 1). Sometimes there is a secondary emphasis on quality.  Very seldom is there even the simple recognition of the importance of the natural process of trying to deepen our concentration and involvement in the experiential field when we try to improve performance.

Emphasizing results on the scoreboard can negatively affect employee well-being. By focusing on results without a balanced attention to their well-being (which can be measured on the experiential field) employees may produce a great deal during a long work crunch, yet burn out in the process.  It’s clear that focusing on results, often touted as a kind of overall ‘best practice’, does not guarantee optimal employee well-being or even long-term productivity.  As Kenneth Blanchard asked in Managing By Values, when you’re playing tennis, what kind of results can you expect if you keep focused on the scoreboard–measuring profit or ‘results’–rather than the ball?  (Blanchard, p. 49)

However, with a set of experiential performance values (defined in step 2), you can drive balanced, overall personal and organizational progress–including improving quality, and employee well-being–if everyone focuses on increasing their own engagement/involvement on the experiential field (see “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?”  http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html ) rather than focusing on the scoreboard, productivity, or the bottom line, all of which are lagging indicators.  In the preceding chapter we saw how measuring involvement provides immediate feedback to drive progress.

For clarity in this article we can distinguish two types of involvement, behavioral and inner. Behavioral involvement is measured in terms of a person’s actions, or observable behavior. For example, one might join a group concerned with the disarmament movement.  This type of involvement is often noted in black-and-white terms–that is, you’re either involved in a movement or you’re not. Most of the literature on involvement or engagement uses this behavioral meaning (for example, see dictionary.reference.com).

However, use of the word involvement in this article often refers to inner, or experiential involvement, which is measured by the degree to which one is fully preoccupied or experientially absorbed in whatever is at hand. It focuses on change in one’s inner experience. While inner involvement is also often seen in black-and-white terms, it can instead be defined and used as a work performance measure that varies along one or more dimensions of the experiential field (discussed in detail below).

Outer involvement behavior, such as attending meetings, is often accompanied by ‘moves’ or changes in inner involvement, but these two aren’t always congruent: people can just ‘act the part’: “talk the talk” outside, but still not “walk the walk” inside. For a significant contribution, ‘inner’ buy-in is necessary, mere behavioral compliance is insufficient.

EXAMPLE OF HOW IMPROVING INNER INVOLVEMENT DRIVES PROGRESS

To clarify what inner involvement is and how it changes at transition points, and perhaps to see how numerous the possibilities are, you can examine this account of an extended work period during which involvement increases gradually for some time, then decreases a while. Increasing involvement is defined in the case of this example simply as “a more complete integration of the experiential aspects of the work scenario;” decreasing involvement is “greater disintegration of experiential aspects of the work scenario.”

I have a speech I need to prepare. There’s a feeling of dread. It’s Monday, and the speech is to be delivered Thursday. It takes considerable effort to even think about getting started on the script. I need to get it done, but I don’t want to. I could avoid the feeling of dread and the task of speechwriting, but I’m not going to be that irresponsible. So I allow the feeling to be there, and begin to make notes about the talk. The sense of dread gradually dissipates.

I visualize myself speaking a few days from now, at a point along a linear time line that extends from here in the present to Thursday. I feel time flowing strongly and relentlessly in the background. There’s pressure and a subtle sense of anxiety attending the flow of time. I could focus on the deadline up ahead and the feeling of time slipping by, and make myself more anxious, but I decide to let go of these unproductive concerns and focus on the work. The pressure and anxiety about the deadline gradually subside as I turn toward the work a little more.

After I get more of an outline for the talk, it begins to feel like writing this speech is a kind of ‘thing’ that I have to do, something very separate from me, almost forced upon me. I notice my feeling that it’s being imposed from outside. There’s a tendency to take the idea at face value, to believe it and react to it. But from another perspective it’s clear that no one is forcing me to do this. It’s my decision. As this becomes very clear, I relax a bit and think about what to do next.

Although the task is no longer just an idea to me, I still experience the work from outside, as an observer who is not “into it.” The papers feel distant from my body. I am aware of a lot of other objects in the room, as well as other things that I have to do in the next few days. My energy is somewhat scattered. The subject-object split and the scattered energy are recognized as signs that there is an opportunity for more involvement in the scenario. I could see these experiences as being normal, but from past experience it’s clear that they are common, yet not ‘normal,’ and if I take them as being realistic for this kind of work, the work scenario will not improve.

I write down some more ideas that I want to present, visualize myself giving the speech, and check the list to see what is missing. I write down a few more ideas. I feel a little puzzled about the order of these ideas. There’s some momentum to write more ideas down as well as a draw to examine the confusion. I know if I simply rush to put more ideas down, I may miss something important. I face the confusion, and soon realize that a couple of the topics would be better at a different place in the talk.

Things begin to flow a little more easily. Although time is not passing so strongly from past to present to future, more work ‘events’ seem to be occurring every minute, as if some other kind of momentum was accelerating. I reorganize the list, then read the list from beginning to end, once again visualizing giving the talk. At this point I am considerably more involved in the work. I am not aware of other projects I have to do, or other objects in the room. I am not an observer separate from the work. In fact, there is only a slight boundary that is sometimes felt between my mind and body and the papers. When I am thinking, I am often not aware of any objects at all. The quality of thinking is different also, not so much like ‘I’ am pushing the thoughts. Although a bit of effort is required on my part, the thoughts and the work seem to flow somewhat by themselves. And this is not just a feeling, I’m getting the work done more quickly. The insight about rearranging topics clearly came on its own, with no volition on my part. My feeling of time has changed considerably. Time has only a subtle flow apart from me and the work. I feel very little anxiety about time passing toward the deadline.

Now the writing really takes on a life of its own. Ideas come easily, and insights are frequent, surprising me again and again. The material seems completely original. The process is creative in the sense of presenting material that seems new and fresh, not arising from any apparent source. I experience wonder and awe at the process and the accuracy and value of the content written. I feel good about being able to participate in this process. Periodically there are little bits of pride that arise as I congratulate myself on my improved progress. I have thoughts about rewarding myself by taking a break. There seem to be more points at which these interruptions and others are noticed. I could take a break, but I know I would miss the strong flow of the work and the fulfillment I am experiencing, let alone the opportunity to get so much done so quickly. It is also realized that congratulating myself on ‘my’ progress doesn’t make much sense, since it doesn’t feel like ‘I’ am the source of the flow. These distractions are noticed and disappear very quickly.

There are no noticeable feelings of anxiety, fear, or pressure. Nor is there a feeling of time passing. I am not aware of objects in the room, nor of the work as a ‘thing’ or project. There is little felt separation between ‘my’ mind and the thinking and writing being done.

At some point, I get confused about the message I want to get across in the speech. There’s a strong tendency to avoid the confusion, and a pull to continue the momentum of the work and figure out what to write next. My mind starts to wander, and I look at the clock and realize it’s almost time for my favorite TV show. I know this is the best time to do this work, but pretty soon I’m thinking about how I might be able to finish my work after the show is over and during my free time the next couple of days. Yes, it seems possible! I think I have enough time. With some subtle anxiety lurking in the background, I procrastinate, put my work aside, and begin to watch the show.

The flow of work has stopped and time slips by quickly again. While I’m watching TV, I’m slightly anxious, subtly aware of what time it is and how much time I have till the end of the show, when I’ll return to my work. Watching television is not a flowing experience now, nor is it as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. My mind is divided between the show and being aware that I really want to do my work. I am self-consciously watching TV here in the present, feeling anxious and guilty about a job waiting for me in the future. My experience is divided into present and future, into an anxious self and the relentless flow of time. Besides anxiety, I also feel guilty or pressured about not getting the job done. The scenario is complicated, with my awareness divided, time partitioned into present and future, strongly ambivalent feelings about what’s happening, and a persistent sense of separation between myself, the TV, and my work.

HYPOTHESIS:  THE BEST APPROACH TO OPTIMAL WORK IS . . .

In the previous section, we concluded that work progress naturally results from (1) noticing the transition points where your (inner) involvement could either increase or decrease, making the scenario either more simple/integrated or complicated/fragmented, and then (2) making a ‘move’ in the direction of increasing involvement. This is the natural way that we improve productivity usually without even thinking about it.

This leads to a hypothesis about the best way to drive progress.  Presuming that there is sufficient organizational support (mostly management understanding and trust) for the environment described below in steps 1 and 2, the following work practices should optimally drive and sustain both long-term individual and organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ as often as one can (a process defined as continuous improvement), while:

(2) Working and keeping measures of one’s progress and goals (the scoreboard) “at the back of one’s mind.”

The significant presumption of the hypothesis is that the ‘inner’ playing field and the scoreboard are not separate, but related parts of our larger reality in which moves on the inner, experiential field drive both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ progress.  Although most people in most cultures and in these times have become preoccupied with the outer world, this statement redirects the emphasis and says that the inner field is essential–outer results somehow follow directly from inner progress. In the book Peak, Chip Conley confirms this: “I came to realize that creating peak experiences for employees, customers, and investors fostered peak performance for my company.”

This approach to optimal work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing Values (MBAV), similar to Blanchard’s Managing by Values approach, for which it’s stated, “When we keep our eyes on consistently operating our business by aligning with our core values, the scoreboard does in fact take care of itself!” (Blanchard, p. 49)

We could reword it this way:  Actualizing values drives inner and outer progress.  When people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or on what could be called inner performance values–they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.  As Blanchard says, when people do their best, “all of their attention is on what they’re doing . . . . The results just seem to flow from this focus of energy . . . . Lots of companies seem to watch only their scoreboard–-the bottom line.” (Blanchard, p. 3)

Three steps are suggested for implementing this Managing by Actualizing Values approach.

STEP 1: SET UP THE OUTER, GOAL BOARD BY DETERMINING PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS AND PRIORITIES.

Each person identifies and prioritizes his or her personal and organizational goals using common time management practices (For example, see conventional time management (http://www.manage-time.com/103Frames.html  on the Results in No Time website at www.manage-time.com).  This action is initially done, and updated periodically when useful, by every individual in the organization, whether manager or individual contributor.

One should not start with an organization’s mission alone, which just limits possibilities at the outset.  Any organization is just part of a much larger whole, and the MBAV goal here is to improve performance in life in general, not to limit oneself to only personal or corporate goals.  Anyway, any effort to keep corporate and personal goals separate is artificial and confusing at best–our personal lives affect our corporate lives, and vice versa.

Organizational goal-setting may be done privately by management, or more publicly with (external) involvement or participation by other employees. The organization must at the very least, somehow clarify and periodically update its goals and mission, and pass this direction on to all employees.

These goals then are up for adoption by every individual employee–and it’s still up to the individual to decide whether to adopt them.  In some cases there may be personal ethical or moral objections.  In Managing by Values, Blanchard says, “a company  creates  a motivating environment for its people–one in which  employees can  see that  working  toward  the  organization’s  goals is in their  best  interest.” (Blanchard, p. 23) However, presuming that this is in fact the case can be misleading or even dangerous, and personal freedom and integrity takes priority over trying to accommodate an organizational decision that one doesn’t put faith or credence in.

Personal goal-setting may be done privately or in a group setting.  Ideally an organization will provide time for identifying personal goals.  Doing so demonstrates management’s understanding of the close connection and interrelationship of personal and organizational goals, as well as support for, and trust in the efficacy of MBAV.

STEP 2: DEFINE A RANGE OF INNER INVOLVEMENT IN TERMS OF EXPERIENTIAL PERFORMANCE VALUES.

As discussed in my article “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?” (http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html, with a shorter version at https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/boosting-productivity-quality-and-well-being) inner, experiential involvement in the current scenario is directly proportional to employee well-being, productivity, and quality of product and service. We could symbolize it this way:  I ~ W*P*Q.  Thus tracking and improving experiential involvement is both an indicator and a driver of all aspects of progress.  In addition, unlike other measures of progress defined in terms of specific results, services, or production processes, the natural practice of tracking involvement–however it is defined, as discussed below–has the important benefit that it can be used not only while focusing on any task, but also as you switch between tasks, or even when there is no apparent task at hand.

Inner involvement is operationally defined as a measurement of one or more dimensions, with each dimension having a set of work-process or performance values that are experientially possible during a work period.  For this step, each individual should specify his/her personal set of performance values to be used to measure inner progress at work, and if desirable, during other times as well. There are many ways to do this—your choices will probably depend in part on your own personality, goals, and religious or spiritual disciplines. Consider the core values that, for you or your organization, will guide and shape the way you fulfill your purpose.  Whatever your selection, how you define engagement or involvement will determine what your suggestions are for improving them.  Your definition will also determine whether truly continuous improvement can be fostered using the performance values—some specifications do not provide sufficient granularity for continuous improvement.

As a first example of how to do this, one’s performance level can be measured very simply along a single dimension by choosing one of the following seven ‘values’:  (1) avoiding, (2) holding back, (3) being resigned to doing something, (4) getting into it, (5) being involved, (6)  being absorbed, (7) being completely engrossed. Then at work you can periodically recall your recent experience as if you were viewing a videotape replay, determine which of these five performance values best fits your experience, and then look for ways to improve. Using these values provides a rough measure of involvement.

A second way to track engagement: define it as a combined measure of three dimensions, awareness (A), concentration (C), and energy (E) (See Tulku, 1994, pp. 120-129).  You can assign numbers from 0% to 100% for each of the three dimensions, and use the average of the three values for the combined measure of involvement.

Third, you could estimate involvement as a combined measure of three dimensions of integration, energy-flow, and spaciousness:  a high degree of involvement can indicate an experiential melding of objects and individuals, an effortless yet powerful flow of events, and a sense of openness pervading the entire work scenario. A low degree of involvement could mean that individuals and objects were strongly felt to be separate, intense effort was required to get small things done, or the work scenario had a heavy or inert feeling.

Fourth, for fine granularity and precision, you could (a) define engagement as a combined measure of the twelve dimensions defined in an article on the zone published in the Jossey-Pfeiffer Bass 2007 Annual.  These dimensions or aspects of the zone approximate irreducible aspects of peak experience.

Then (b), as in the second way to track engagement above, chart the rise and fall of these twelve factors throughout the day by periodically considering the following questions that contrast various aspects of ordinary work from peak performance:

1. Are you applying effort or control to something that feels separate from you, or does your activity seem to flow effortlessly ‘by itself’?

2. Do things feel familiar, somewhat predictable, or even habitual, or does each new moment, along with all that appears in the momentary scenario, seem spontaneous and fresh?

3. Are you looking forward to being done with the work, or are you currently fulfilled within your work-in-progress?

4. Do objects and events take up space and appear to be separate and dispersed, or are do they seem intimately connected in and even as one space?

5. Is there a private space or personal world that feels separate from everything outside, or do inner and outer, subjective and objective appear to be inseparable facets of the same undivided space?

6. Is there a sense of self that stands apart from experience and externals, or do you feel identified with, or absorbed in, what is happening?

7. Is knowledge simply something that you or others possess or lack, or is there a sense of being intimately part of what’s around you, knowing things that are happening ‘from inside’ them?

8. Is knowledge only identification, categorization, judgment, and detached observation, or also an illuminating clarity merged with the subject being explored?

9. Are there divisions among your self, mind, body, and personality, or is there a natural sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction?

10. Are you driven by a need or a desire for pleasure, or is everything being found to be immediately and inherently fulfilling?

11. Do you notice a feeling of time flowing in the background, or are you timelessly involved in something?

12. Does reality seem solid, fixed, and substantial, or does everything seem somewhat fluid or dreamlike?

However you define your involvement system, it would probably be helpful to compose some questions to help determine your current performance level and the direction for progress.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Consider relating to one’s work using average performance values limited by inculcated experiential strictures (see https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/whats-the-zone-of-peak-performance/ on my blog).  An individual who is experientially separate from the work action, and who experiences the flow of time from past to present and future, has ‘room for improvement’ in the transition toward peak performance values. Because the spectrum of fitting values is broad, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational and practical purposes.

If, because of your growing insight and realization, you periodically make appropriate revisions of your personal definitions of involvement, these performance values could gradually approach the irreducible, core values of the ‘zone’ of self-actualization.  By thus improving the precision with which you observe the workflow, you will have the granularity of feedback necessary to directly approach peak performance.

Besides helping to empower every individual worker, centering our approach to peak performance on increasing involvement relieves management of the effort involved in carrot and stick methods of motivation. These methods depend on repeatedly filling individuals’ lower-level needs (such as approval and security), which can only be temporarily satisfied.   In contrast, the motivation toward self-actualization does not seem to die out.  As Andrew Grove pointed out, “Unlike other sources of motivation . . . self-actualization continues to motivate people to ever higher levels of performance.” (Grove, pp. 163-4) Thus he suggests that “Our role as managers is . . . to . . . bring them to the point where self-actualization motivates them” (Grove, p. 168)

Another huge advantage of this MBAV approach is that there’s no need to persuade or convert anyone (including managers, who often “don’t have time for” this kind of approach) to adopt a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines. The method allows and even fosters people’s own current religious or sectarian (e.g., time, space, and knowledge—values ‘unoffensive’ for scientists and engineers) definitions of performance values on the experiential field. Organizational developers don’t need to adopt and implement another foreign program. It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress. Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the common employee distrust of management’s motives.

STEP 3:  IN ORDER TO OPTIMALLY DRIVE PROGRESS IN PRODUCTIVITY, WELL-BEING, QUALITY, AND WORK CAPACITY, CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE INNER INVOLVEMENT.

The following two work practices should simultaneously optimize and sustain long-term individual and organizational progress–including productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the Inner board:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field of experience as often as one can, while:

(2) Working and keeping one’s goals for the results scoreboard ‘at the back of one’s mind’.

About practice 1:  Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the experiential field as often as one can.

Although as we grow older, most of us become preoccupied with the outer world, to win the overall game of life, we need to focus and master our play on the inner, experiential field.

I made some arguments discussing step 2 above to support this statement, but can I really prove this to anyone?  I doubt it.  Though my arguments might be convincing, certainty about the efficacy of driving progress via increasing involvement will probably come only from validating it in your own experience.  That was certainly true for me.

To try it out, view your experience as a kind of playing field where you are the only player. The object of the game is to approach peak performance by driving inner involvement–in whatever way you have defined it–as high as you can.

To do this, as you work, occasionally notice where you are in the range of performance values you defined in step 2.  Are you experiencing ‘lesser’ values, or does your process currently exemplify the values toward the center, towards what is sometimes called the ‘zone’ of peak performance?   Use the questions you wrote in step 2 to determine the level of your involvement, and the direction for improvement.

If it seems there is no restriction or limitation, no opportunity for improving our work process, you can simply enjoy things and go on.  However, it’s often easy to identify a limitation on complete involvement in the work scenario. There seem to be countless opportunities for most of us to improve the degree to which we are absorbed. As we deal with those that are obvious to us, before long it seems we are naturally presented with possible transition points that are more subtle.

If you are aware of a performance value that is low, do whatever you can to change it to a central value.  For example, if energy is a dimension that you’re measuring by a percentage value, and your estimate was 40%, do something to increase your energy level.

On the other hand, sometimes people will define dimensions in terms of ‘values’ representing feelings, such as the level of anxiety about time passing.  Then you can simply attend directly to the feeling for however long it persists.  By noticing these feelings consistently and persistently–whether  focusing only on these feelings or simultaneously continuing to work–you can eventually dissolve  the obstacle clouding  the fuller and more frequent appearance of central values in experience.

It could be helpful for motivated individuals to meet periodically (even if only around the tea/coffee pot or dining area) and discuss obstacles and insights–our experiences are often very similar and it can be helpful to share how we deal with them. Participants might also practice various ‘noticing’ exercises designed especially to break up the limitations keeping us from deepening our involvement.  Management’s support for such meetings would be influential.

About practice 2:  Work and keep one’s goals for the results scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, this approach to Optimal Work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing ValuesWhen people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or what could be called inner performance values.  And although they naturally and periodically recall their tasks, objectives, and priorities as they work, they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.

CONCLUSION

In order to optimally drive progress in productivity, well-being, quality, and work capacity in any culture and environment, the primary focus should be to continuously improve inner involvement, which is defined as a measure of one or more dimensions of values that are experientially possible and measurable during a work period.  While experts in organizational development are usually preoccupied with dynamics and methods of outer or behavioral involvement, the most important, deterministic aspect of all forms of involvement is ‘inner’, or experiential–without this, behavior is meaningless and robotic.

There are many effective ways to define inner involvement.  The utility of one’s definition will clearly depend on two important factors.  First, it depends on the ‘fit’ or congruence of performance values chosen–by each individual–with the individual’s personality, goals, and religious or spiritual values and discipline.  Without a significant degree of congruence, the individual’s well-being and performance will suffer.  If the organization imposes values that conflict with those of the individuals–even if it considers those values worthwhile, innate, natural, divine, “best values,” empirically validated, or obvious–there will be conflict and overall progress will surely suffer.  Ideally, management will be willing to trust the discovery of efficacious and naturally motivating values by each individual.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values also depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Therefore, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational or practical purposes.  In addition, this method allows an evolution in definitions of involvement when appropriate–and with the average person this does happen occasionally.

As stated earlier, a huge advantage of this is that there’s no need to convert anyone to a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines.  It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress.  Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives.

In addition to congruence of performance values chosen with the individual’s personality and preferences, efficacy of each individual’s definition of involvement depends on the approximation of these same performance values with what to some people are presumed (and to other people are credible, or self-evident) essential, core, irreducible,  or ‘zone’ values of what has variously been called peak performance, self-actualization, self-realization, or enlightenment.  Managing by values is probably effective because of the focus on values instead of results, but its efficacy also depends on what values are used, and how they are used.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) national web site used to state: “Although there is an intellectual construct called high performance work, it does not have a common definition.” However, a definition of optimal work can be drawn from common descriptions of peak experience by Maslow, Murphy and White, Csikszentmihalyi, and Tarthang Tulku, among others.  From their works and many more by other researchers and writers we can piece together a vision of the zone and use it in our measurements of involvement during work. This foundation is currently available. Shared and irreducible attributes of cross-cultural peak experience can help provide the direct experiential–not theoretical or behavioral or results-focused–basis for continuous improvement, moving us toward realizing the zone and increasing engagement/involvement whenever possible, and managing by actualizing values at the deepest levels.

References

Blanchard, K. (1997). Managing by values. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Grove, A. (1983). High Output Management. New York: Random House.

Maslow, A.(1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking Press.

Maslow, A. (1962). Toward a Psychology of Being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

Murphy, Michael H. and Rhea A. White (1995). In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports. New York: Penguin Books.

Conley, Chris (2007). Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.  Audio recording of his book.   Recorded Books.

Rao, G. P. (2010).   Humanising Management: Transformation through Human Values. New Delhi:  Ane Books Pvt. Ltd.

Rao, G. P. (2009).   “Remaking Ourselves: Transformation through Human Values,” an article.

Randall, S. (2007).  Exploring the ‘Zone’ of Peak Performance. An article on pp. 171-96 of The 2007 Pfeiffer Annual: Annual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Tulku, Chagdud. (1993).  Gates to Buddhist Practice.  Junction City, CA:  Padma Publishing.

Tulku, T. (1994).  Mastering Successful Work.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing.

Tulku, T. (1977).  Time, Space, and Knowledge:  A New Vision of Reality.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing, p. 93.

Mastering Linear Time workshop, Section 5 Script

Mastering Linear Time

Mastering Linear Time workshop, script for Section 5

Title slide

This is the last of five sections in the workshop on mastering linear time.

A measure of time stress

We can take a simple measure of time stress, so we can compare levels of stress that we experience, and then learn to control the stress.

On a scale from 0-10, where 0 = the least and 10 = the most, how much stress do you feel about time right now?  Make a mental note about what this number is right now.

Giant Body exercise series

Slides

1:

Here’s an adaptation of the Giant Body exercise series from the first TSK book.

Breathing through both mouth and nose, be aware of any sensation, or feeling in or on the body

Let awareness and feeling merge. . . . There’s no need to try to change anything

As things change, awareness can be drawn to other feelings. There’s a natural movement of awareness

Awareness can operate and interact with feeling at different levels of magnification or size

2:

As the interaction of awareness and feeling proceeds, see if there are any persistent feelings or structures

Do these continue to persist, or do they become more open?

Do they have some kind of feeling of reality, existence, or a substantial quality?

Is awareness hindered from interacting or merging with such structures  or surfaces?

3:

Is there any awareness of size or shape related to various structures or regions?

Does the sense of size or shape come and go?

Is there any sense of extension in space, or a feeling of being located in an infinite ‘container’?

4:

Is there any distinction whatsoever between awareness and the structures or surfaces? If so, what makes the difference?

How do the forms or outlines seem to exist, to feel ‘real’?

Do the forms or outlines seem to somehow be imaginary or ‘unreal’?

————–

Notes:

While breathing through both mouth and nose gently, smoothly, and continuously, allow awareness to be drawn to any sensation, density, pain, heaviness, emotion, or other feeling in or on the body. . . . Let awareness and feeling merge , or let awareness arise from any feeling that is not completely open and spacious. . . . Just abide in the interaction. There’s no need to try to change anything–most likely the quality or location of feeling will change on its own, eventually becoming more open and spacious. . . . As things change, awareness can be drawn to other feelings. There’s a natural movement of awareness, possibly taking various positions, locations, points of view, or simultaneous viewpoints, or no apparent viewpoint, location, or direction at all. . . . Awareness can operate and interact with feeling at different levels of magnification or size, possibly at the level of organs, tissues, cells, molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. . . .

As the interaction of awareness and feeling proceeds, see whether there are any persistent feelings or apparently persistent structures or regions or surfaces or boundaries–such as ‘body’, ‘kidney’, ‘blood cell’, ‘belly’, or ‘skin’. Do these continue to persist, or do they become more open? Do they have some kind of feeling of reality, existence, or a substantial quality? Is awareness hindered or obstructed somehow from interacting or merging with such structures, regions, or surfaces?

Is there any awareness of size or shape related to various structures or regions or surfaces? Does the sense of size or shape come and go, depending on the related viewpoint, or lack of a located viewpoint? Is there any sense of extension of any aspects of ‘the body’ in space, or a subtle feeling of it being located in an infinite, yet empty ‘container’? Let awareness merge with any such feelings.

In the movement and interaction of awareness with forms and surfaces, is it ever limited to subtle positions or perspectives or directions? Is it ever obstructed in any way? Does it focus on distinct regions or fields? Does its breadth, range, or scope vary? Does it ever seem to lose all sense of definite scope and direction?

Is there any distinction whatsoever between awareness and the structures, regions, or surfaces? If so, precisely what makes the difference? How do the forms or outlines seem to exist, to feel ‘real’? Do the forms or outlines seem to somehow be imaginary or ‘unreal’?

Swimming in Space

Slides:

1:   Stand with feet apart, and arms stretched out in front at shoulder height.  Slowly move one arm up a little while moving the other arm down. . . . 10 secs

Gradually extend the movement until finally each arm moves straight up and down. Attend to the sense or feeling of space.  . . . . 50 secs

Continue 3 minutes . . .

—————–

2: Slowly decrease the range of the movement until your arms are still, extended in front at shoulder height. . . . 50 secs

Slowly lower them to your sides, and stand quietly for a few minutes, expanding your sensations and feelings. . . . 2 mins

——————-

3: Slowly lift your straight arms in front of you until they are overhead with the palms facing forward.  Bend down from the waist until your fingers almost touch the floor. . . . 45 secs

Swing up slowly until your back is straight and your arms are outstretched overhead. . . . 45 secs

Continue this slow swinging movement, down and up, three times. . . . 2 mins

————-

4: Lower your arms to your sides, and sit for five minutes, expanding the sensations quickened by this movement. . . . 5 mins

Recording:

1: Now we’ll do a slow movement exercise called “Swimming in Space,” which can help us relax, balance our energies, and relieve time pressure.

Stand with feet apart, and arms stretched out in front at shoulder height, palms down.  Breathing easily through both nose and mouth, simultaneously very slowly move one arm up and the other arm down, keeping arms and hands straight. First don’t move the arms very far. Gradually extend the movement until finally each arm moves straight up and down.. . . . [pause 45 secs]

Continue 3 minutes. Pay attention to the particular sense of space; you may feel a quality like swimming.

—————

2: Slowly decrease the range of the movement until your arms are still, extended in front at shoulder height. . . . 50 secs

Slowly lower them to your sides, and stand quietly for a few minutes, expanding your sensations and feelings. . . . 2 mins

—————-

3: Slowly lift your straight arms in front of you until they are overhead with the palms facing forward.  Moving your arms, head, and torso together, bend down from the waist until your fingers almost touch the floor. . . . 45 secs

Swing up slowly until your back is straight and your arms are outstretched overhead. . . . 45 secs

Continue this slow swinging movement, down and up, three times. . . . 2 mins

——————-

4: Lower your arms to your sides, and sit for five minutes, expanding the sensations quickened by this movement. . . . 5 mins

Notes:

Swimming in Space, pp. 218-19, Kum Nye Relaxation, Part 2

Stand well balanced with your feet a comfortable distance apart, your back straight, and your arms stretched out in front of you at shoulder height, palms down.  Breathing easily through both nose and mouth, with your belly relaxed, simultaneously move one arm up and the other arm down, keeping the arms and hands straight and relaxed.

Move very slowly.  At first do not move the arms very far—then gradually extend the movement until finally each arm moves up and down as far as it can go.  At the furthest points of the movement, relax the back of the neck and head.  Pay attention to the particular sense of space awakened by this exercise; you may feel a quality like swimming.

Continue the full movement of the arms for three to five minutes, then slowly decrease the range of the movement until your arms are still, and extended in front of you at shoulder height.  Slowly lower them to your sides, and stand quietly for a few minutes, expanding your sensations and feelings.

Now slowly lift your arms in front of you until they are overhead with the palms facing forward.  Keep your arms parallel to each other and straight.  Moving your arms, head, and torso together, bend down from the waist until your fingers almost touch the floor; then swing up slowly until your back is straight and your arms are outstretched overhead.

Continue this slow swinging movement, down and up, three or nine times.  Be sure to keep the arms straight throughout the movement.  To complete the exercise, lower your arms to your sides from the overhead position, and sit in the sitting posture for five to ten minutes, expanding the sensations quickened by this movement.

Moments between Moments

Observe the flow of time from one moment to the next. . . .

You may notice that between two initially observed moments A and B lie other, intermediate moments . . .

Practice observing from moment to moment in a way that makes available, on an ever ‘smaller’ scale, moments ‘between’ moments. . . .

———————-

Observe in your own experience the flow of time from one moment to the next. If the mind is calm and alert, you may notice that between two initially observed moments A and B lie other, intermediate moments:

Practice observing from moment to moment in a way that makes available, on an ever ‘smaller’ scale, moments ‘between’ moments.  LOK exercise 14, p. 119

“By learning to be sensitive to the infinity of ‘time’ available within any clock-time period, we can begin to appreciate more fully the value and possibilities life presents. We can begin by noticing more time, more available moments, and then later we can have a more intimate experience with ‘time’.” (Dimensions of Thought, p. 43)

Going without Going

Slide:

Look straight ahead and walk as slowly as you can, lifting each foot about six inches off the ground. . .

Now walk at half that speed. . . . Let the body  be  light  and  pervaded  by  space, breathing very gently through both mouth and nose.  . . .

Slow down even more. Point the toes of the ‘lead foot’ upward before lifting the foot. On the downward motion the toes touch the floor first.  . . .

Let go of the emphasis on your doing it.  You may discover that your body moves gently by itself.

Recording:

Remove your shoes or put on light slippers.  Looking straight ahead, walk slowly by lifting each foot about six inches above the ground. Walk as slowly as you can. . . . [pause 45 secs]

Now walk at half that speed. . . . Let the body  be  light  and  pervaded  by  space, breathing very gently through both mouth and nose.  . . . [pause 45 secs]

Slow down even more. Point the toes of the ‘lead foot’ upward before lifting the foot. On the downward motion the toes touch the floor first.  . . . [pause 45 secs]

Even the  slightest  experience  or  sensation is important . . . infinite, in fact.   Let go of the emphasis on your doing it and let all the experienced movements be seen as given by ‘time’.  You may discover that your body moves gently by itself. . . . [pause 12 mins]

———————

Remove your shoes or put on light, thin-soled slippers.  Stand  erect,  with  your  spine  straight  and  your hands relaxed at your sides. While keeping your upper torso erect and looking straight ahead, practice walking slowly by lifting each foot four to seven inches above the ground and stepping forward gently. Walk as slowly as you can. Now walk at only half that speed (yes, you can do it). Then slow down even more. Modify the walking technique by lifting or pointing the toes of the ‘lead foot’ upward before actually lifting the foot. On the downward motion the toes should touch the floor first.

If  you  are  having  trouble  with  your  balance,  relax your  shoulders,  throat,  and  heart  areas.  Perfect  balance will come as you let go of the emphasis on your doing it and let all the experienced movements be seen as given by ‘time’. [“You may discover that your body moves gently by itself.” Kum Nye Relaxation, Part 2, p. 173] Relax your body’s weightiness—let it  be  light  and  pervaded  by  space.  Finally, leave  your mouth slightly open and your throat unblocked, so that you are breathing very gently through both your mouth and nose.  The ultra slow pace will help put you in touch with every  minute  aspect  of  the  process  of  walking—the pressure of your foot on the floor, the lessening of this pressure, further lessening, rising through an arc, moving  forward,  almost  touching  the  floor  again,  barely touching,  etc.  Even  the  slightest  experience  or  sensation is important . . . infinite, in fact.  TSK, p. 185

Seeing through Negativity

‘Negative’ is often just a label atop neutral energy

Arms straight out to the sides

Breathe easily through nose and mouth, with tip of tongue on upper palate a little behind front teeth

Relax all muscles you don’t need to use

Find center of ‘negative’ feeling, or breathe ‘from it’; merge with it

See if ‘negative’ character changes

‘Negative’ is a way of perceiving from outside

——————-

Recording:

When young, we learn to avoid ‘negative’ sensations and feelings, and  intensify our sense of time passing over many years.

We can do a simple physical exercise that may help us see how the word ‘negative’ is often just a label on top of inherently neutral energy. Stand and put your arms straight out to the sides.  See whether you can keep the arms there for a minute or two, and breathe easily through nose and mouth, with the tip of the tongue on the upper palate a little behind the front teeth.  Relax all the muscles you don’t need to use to hold this position.  . . .

Before long you might feel some tension or pain.  If so, while being aware of the feeling, breathe lightly through your mouth and nose, inhaling and exhaling gently and evenly. . . . A negative feeling tends to fragment one’s awareness and cause a lot of thinking about how to get away from the feeling.  Try to focus lightly on the ‘center of the feeling’.  Be aware of the feeling as if you were a spot of awareness inside the feeling itself. You might also try to breathe ‘from the feeling’; or to merge with it.

When you change your perspective in one of these ways, see if the so-called ‘negative’ character changes. Experiment in this way for a minute or so, if you can. Does the word ‘negative’ describe a way of perceiving a feeling from outside?

——————–

When young, we learn to avoid ‘negative’ sensations and feelings, and  intensify our sense of time passing over many years.

I remember driving home from Yosemite National Park on a very hot day.  My young son Dylan was in the back seat, and he was wiggling around trying to get comfortable in the heat.  But he couldn’t get away from the heat.  Then he said, “I can’t wait till we get home.”  He couldn’t physically escape from the heat, so he distanced himself ‘internally’ from it. Instead of just feeling it and not taking a position on it, he observed and took a point of view apart from the sensations, and then the sense of time passing grew stronger, leading him to say, “I can’t wait till we get home.” He was visualizing a preferable future time that was separate from the present.  Distancing himself from the heat intensified the unpleasant, slow feeling of time passing.  Time was a mirror reflecting his way of looking at the heat.

We can do a simple physical exercise that may help us see how the word ‘negative’ is often just a label on top of inherently neutral energy. Stand and put your arms straight out to the sides.  See whether you can keep the arms there for a minute or two, and breathe easily through nose and mouth, with the tip of the tongue on the upper palate a little behind the front teeth.  Relax all the muscles you don’t need to use to hold this position.

Before long you might feel some tension or pain.  If so, while being aware of the feeling, breathe lightly through your mouth and nose, inhaling and exhaling gently and evenly. . . . A negative feeling tends to fragment one’s awareness and cause a lot of thinking about how to get away from the feeling.  Try to focus lightly on the ‘center of the feeling’, whatever that might mean to you.  Be aware of the feeling as if you were a spot of awareness inside the feeling itself. You might also try to breathe ‘from the feeling’; or to merge with it.

When you change your perspective in one of these ways, see if the so-called ‘negative’ character changes. Experiment in this way for a minute or so, if you can. Does the word ‘negative’ describe a way of perceiving a feeling from outside?

A measure of time stress

We can once again take a simple measure of time stress, so we can compare levels of stress that we experience, and then learn to control the stress.

On a scale from 0-10, where 0 = the least and 10 = the most, how much stress do you feel about time right now?

Make a mental note of this number. How does it compare to the number you estimated earlier in the course?

The End of Section Five

This is the end of the last of five workshop sections.