let’s see what the pain looks like

synaesthesia

Someone once uttered those words to me.

‘Let’s see what the pain looks like’.

The context was around an organisational change. I remember at the time being momentarily confused. Don’t you feel pain? I don’t know what it looks like, any more than I can taste it or hear it.

On reflection I realised it was an interesting insight to the speaker’s inner world. I regretted the missed opportunity of exploring with them what pain looked like for them. Did it have a colour? A hue? Was it a picture, a particular image, a personal memory? Was it sharp, blurred? Was it a still image, a movie? Was it 2D or 3D?

Beyond the curiosity about their representation, I wondered what had led them to see, rather than feel, pain. Was it that feeling it made it too real? Was it a defence mechanism, to stay a little removed and observe the pain rather than taking it into the body? Was it safer? Were other feelings also seen? Did they feel anything and, if so, what was ‘feelable’ and what wasn’t?

Was this only related to pain and other feelings or did they ‘see’ everything? Could they see smells or see tastes too? Did they see freshly mown grass when the smell wafted into their nostrils? Did they see musical notes as they listened or played? Did they have other synaesthesia, such as hearing smells, tasting sounds or smelling images?

A missed opportunity, but one that still serves as a learning, one that stays with me as a curiosity about the uniqueness of our human experience.

 

the folding bike of life

folding_bikes
If you commute at all, you will have come across travellers with the folding bike.

If you have ever watched the BBC spoof W1A, the folding bike was an ever present star.

I have never owned one. I have never folded or unfolded one.  Yet they seem to me to be a marvel of engineering. Collapsing wheels, pedals, frame, chain and saddle into a compact , small suitcase sized, ‘luggable’ package.

Ideal for the linking parts of the journey; fitting easily into the boot of the car, compact for the limited space on a train, portable for the walk to the office or ascending in the lift before you hand it to your office assistant, as in W1A.

Wouldn’t it be great if life was engineered like that? Expandable for the journey itself, practical, functional, expansive, whole, readily facilitating movement and progression as we go about our business of living and growing.

Yet collapsible too. Taking on a compact form for the linking moments of change and transition on life’s journey. Periods perhaps where being expanded can bruise us, or strain us, as we attempt to move through life. Where parts of our own self catch us out, banging against our shins of resilience? Periods when bits of our life maybe stick out, knock against someone else, physically or emotionally? Periods when being expanded, our natural whole self, simply gets us stuck in a doorway, challenges our manoeuverability through a narrow gap and makes change from what was, to what will be, somewhat cumbersome?

If only life were as well engineered and flexible as the folding bike.

when we would do well to be the beach

What is is

When you go to the beach, you walk on the pebbles. You see some pebbles are rounded, polished, worn smooth in the rub of nature. You see some are sharp, jagged, fractured in the storm of collision. Some pebbles carry history in fossilised form. Some are small. Some large. Some brown. Some grey. Some multicoloured. And you observe this and you allow it.

When you go to the beach, you see the sea. Water crashes in foam, surging for freedom. Water retreats in liquid fellowship. Foams, retreats, foams, retreats, foams, retreats in enduring rhythm. And you see this and you understand. And you accept the way that it is.

And in all of this, you don’t get emotional about it. You appreciate the beach. The pebbles. The sea.

What is, is.

But when you meet other human beings, you lose all that.
You say “he’s too this” and “I’m too that”.
You say “if only she wasn’t…” and “I should be…”.
You say “They are different” and “I am not enough”.

Judgement comes in.

Maybe we should see people as the sea and the pebbles, and appreciate them as they are.

What is, is.

Inspired by Ram Dass

 

when the solution we seek stops us seeing

image

Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

This seems relevant in the context of recent world events. Our desire, and that of our leaders, to fix the current situation seems to blind us to the true nature of the problem. We must take action. Seek a solution. Find an answer.

What if we sought understanding? What if we employed curiosity? What if we questioned to heighten awareness, rather than to judge?

It seems this is a reflection of our society. The pace of change. The need to know, and to know now.

Contemplation. Reflection. Awareness. Stillness. Compassion. Humanity. These might be everyone’s ally.

#prayforParis

the direction of love and hate

love hate constellation personal conscience
I was reminded yesterday of a this quote…

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him

GK Chesterton

It was offered in the context of the recent Paris attacks, but it reminded me of the truth in this for us all, not just for the soldier, the man on the battlefield, the terrorist. We all have a bond, a love of what shaped us, what gives us belonging, those ‘like us’ who give us a place. We feel strong ties to our formative experiences; strong connections to our family of birth; a place where we learned the unspoken rules of belonging. Where we experienced love. We all have strong attachment to familiarity, to the system we operate in, to its customs and culture and to the way of working we have become aligned to. It too gives us a sense of place, a sense of belonging.

Perhaps this in part explains why change can be hard? We have to let go of connections, friends, customs, behaviours, ways of being which have given us a security.

Maybe we don’t hate the change we face, but rather we resist it from a place of love for what has gone before? What is, or will be, behind us?

#prayforParis

if the very ground I stand on isn’t there, what then?

believe in yourself
There are times in our lives when the world around us seems to be a given, outside of our influence but a structure we can rely upon. It is physical, emotional, social, psychological, spiritual. It seems an uncontrollable force. An influence we are subservient to, because it is bigger, stronger than our fragile unique humanity. It is a rock on which we are built. A grounding platform on which we stand and from which we can step forward, grow. It gives us context. It is the picture that gives us, as individual brush strokes, meaning. It is a defining play in which we are but puppets, actors. It gives us assurance, confidence. We come to trust it. It keeps us safe.

Recent events in Paris are a sobering reminder of how the structures we rely on, almost take for granted, can be questioned, break down even. Then what happens? We feel vulnerable. We seek to strengthen other foundations in our world, such as our way of life, our freedoms. To compensate. To replace one piece of ground with another, so that we might not fall.

This quote might remind us of something else though…

A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not in the branch but is in her own wings. Always believe in yourself.

It might remind us to trust ourselves and to believe in ourselves.

Humanity is greater than the actions on one or more ‘human beings’.
Humanity is greater than the world around us; the world created, shaped, destroyed by human beings.
Humanity is within.

#prayforparis

what is your psychological contract of self?

psychological_contract self
Psychological contracts are often referred to in the context of the employer and the employee – what is the expectation, commitment of both?

It sometimes explores qualities of trust, honesty, respect, fairness, compassion. It will often cover the visible expectations and agreements, such as pay, hours, work, training, but more usefully might look under the waterline, beneath the visible iceberg, so to speak. Here might be give and take, inputs and outputs, responsibilities and rewards which are less clearly in play. Concepts such as control, power, innovation, recognition, commitment, respect, loyalty, tolerance and much much more.

At a meeting the other day we were discussing psychological contracts. We were to be a team, so the question posed was, ‘How did we want to be with each other?’

We were to discuss what we were looking for from other members of the team, what we were seeking from the team leader and what we would bring to the team. What our commitments would be in terms of contribution and what we were seeking in return.

As I reflected, I wondered how I could even begin to answer this, as my thoughts and feelings were initially directed inwards, at me. I wondered what my psychological contract with myself was?

Did I respect myself? Did I have compassion for myself? Did I have faith in myself? Was I in control of myself? Did I fully trust myself? Did I appreciate my own being? Did I own my own power?

What are my perceptions of myself, what do I believe about myself?

How am I getting in my own way, either unaware of, or maybe breaking, my own psychological contract even before I entered the room. Surely this is where I should start before considering any team working agreements?

What is my psychological contract of self?

the last leaf on the tree

resilience strength last leaf

As Winter approaches the leaves on the trees thin daily. A tree in my garden has maybe only a hundred left.

I wonder whether I will get to witness the last leaf on the tree?

I wonder also, what makes it the last leaf on the tree? What gives it the resilience to hang on in there? What gives it its strength? The determination to stay attached to its branch? What marks that leaf out from the rest? From the masses? The thousands that have fallen?  Is it the courage to stand out, or the fear of falling that keeps it in place? Is it the position it holds in the structure of the tree? Or maybe its angle in relationship to the elements; the wind and rain that strive to dislodge it? What makes it special?

In life, what makes us persist? Hang on? What gives us grit and determination? What makes us stand out from the crowd? Unique?

 

the emergency kit

emergency kit of life
Travelling on the train the other day, I noticed a little green handle, secreted behind a glass pane, set into a grey nondescript panel. The panel was adjacent to the toilet. Next to the little glass pane was a sticker describing how to access and turn said handle after breaking the glass.

Further exploration, via a set of miniature icons next to the text instruction, showed the contents, presumably stowed behind the panel, to be the emergency kit. This kit apparently comprised a ladder, a rope, a crowbar and a saw.

Having briefly visited the notion, admittedly with some alacrity, that a secret game of Cluedo might be underway, wherein the murderer carried out the deadly act with the saw in First Class or with the crowbar in the luggage rack, I was curious about the selected equipment.

If the train was in difficulty, had broken down or worse become derailed or crashed, I struggled to understand how I, or anyone, might be minded to locate the toilet and its neighbourly panel, break the glass, turn the handle and access a saw and a rope … to what end I wondered?

My thoughts then strayed to the whole idea of an emergency kit. What might my emergency kit for life be?

My first thought was chocolate, but then I embraced the question with more serious intent. I would want a hug to be in my emergency kit – a reassuring squeeze. I would want a reminder of my sense of purpose; something to draw me back to the ‘for whom or for what’ I am here – a re-grounding in something bigger than myself. I would want a companion; someone to confide in, to share with. I would want a way to distract myself, to lose myself in my own imagination; maybe some music?

What would be in your emergency kit, behind the innocuous panel?