where does it all lead?

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The early morning sky today reveals the past. Journeys taken by airplanes, one after another, thrusting their way to a common destination. The trails remain, for a while, then dissipate, lost into the passage of time.

I wonder if we have trails too? Human trails of being? Invisible to others, often invisible to us. Trails which reflect a path we have journeyed; a choice we made, a decision we took, a thought we encountered.

Maybe the paths, like airplane trails, fade quickly? So quickly we don’t see them overlaid, repeated. We lose sight of the flight paths previously flown. The recurring patterns of thought, behaviour, choice… The fact that they might follow a similar route, that they might point to a common destination, is lost to us. But if they did linger, maybe we could see their purpose? Their intent? Their focus?

Maybe then we would know what silent beacon calls them?

These human trails of being.

 

is it off?

I wonder sometimes how far away we are from the office dying?

I don’t mean my office specifically. I mean the concept and the physical manifestation.

Huge swathes of land used to hold them. Resources expended through their sustenance, upkeep and running. They form visual blots on our landscape; splatterings of glass and concrete across our towns and cities.

Millions of us still travel to the office.  We walk, drive, cycle, commute. Time is lost, travelling. Pollution generated and scarce resources lost, through travelling.

When we arrive we sit in a box, or at a desk and we type and talk. We respond to emails, fill in forms, write presentations and papers. We sit in meetings, we talk in groups, we phone people. For many, the majority of the day is spent more engaged with a keyboard and display than with another human being.

Yet still we come.

Still we come to a physical building miles from where we live to sit with others who also come. Why?

Is this just a hypnotic pattern we succumbed to in past decades? A trance-like manoeuvre we replicate without thought? A pattern so ridiculous, yet so intoxicating, that we cannot see beyond it?

Many have seen the light. They work from home.  Some play with the light; they work from home on Friday.  Some tease the light; they come to the office, but continue working when they get home.

Some say they come for the interaction. To meet people. I wonder what future for this? The other day I heard someone say to their neighbour “I just sent you an email.” They didn’t then have the conversation. Alerting the recipient to the message seemed to suffice.

Nowadays technology either can, or is close to being able to, replicate our ability to perform all these office tasks from anywhere. Social media heralds a new way. We can already share screens, documents, hold chats, share video, see each other via Skype or Facetime. Virtual reality, an imminent reality.

So will the office die? Is the office off? Will it fade away as a construct of the 20th century, lost to the annals of history like cave dwelling or the medieval neck ruff?

Maybe we will convert them all to care homes for the elderly?  Or to shelters for the homeless?

 

 

trapped in my own mental construction

lifts

Yesterday I was at a conference. A hotel in central London.

Part way through the day I headed for the ‘facilities’ (strange how we invent words to hide our embarrassment of a normal human function – I needed a pee), only to discover that it was being cleaned. I wandered around the ground floor looking for alternatives. A man dressed in a ‘hotel concierge’ style approached and I sought his guidance.  He directed me to the reception area and the bank of lifts, suggesting I travelled to the first floor, where I could exit, turn left, left again and find the required room.

I headed off, conscious that I would soon be missing the start of the next break out session.  Finding the lifts, I pressed the button and the lift on the right of four opened its door. I entered and pressed the button marked 1. The lift door closed and it surged into life; well, actually it dribbled into life, but I could sense movement. I stood reflecting on the conference so far.

The lift juddered to a halt.

The door didn’t open.

Panic flashed into my body. Surely the lift hadn’t broken down? I glanced at the panel seeking the alarm button. I’d seen them before, but never had cause to use one. Into my mind came the conversation I would need to have, ‘yes lift on the right’, ‘yes, between ground and first floor’…

Thoughts swam in an ever quickening whirlpool in my mind… ‘how long might I be here?’ ‘what would I miss?’, ‘did I have water in my bag?’…

Then I turned around.

Behind me was an open door and an expansive empty corridor.

The lift had doors on both sides.

I tutted to myself, gently chastising my stupidity, glancing around to ensure nobody had noticed my tardy lift exit, or worse still witnessed my elementary mistake. I felt so silly.

Of course I have been in a lift before with doors that open both ends. Tube stations, hospitals. Usually large lifts, never a small 6 person lift in a hotel though. Lift doors normally ‘ping’ or are noisy enough for your attention to be drawn.

I noticed how my thought stream had moved from the panic of entrapment, to masking my embarrassment, to rationalising and justifying my inability to spot an open side in a four foot by five foot space.

For a moment, only a moment,  I had been trapped in my own mental construction – the lift and where its door should open.

Now I was trapped in a different mental construction – the need to hide and the need to make sense and justify.

 

tortoise beats hare at top trumps

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At a recent coaching session, my client turned up late.  Having arrived, they immediately downloaded a lot of story.  This, that, this, that.  Fifteen minutes. I was overwhelmed by the speed and complexity of thought.  Momentarily disabled by a wave of recounted experience, judgement and self questioning by my client.

My client has a map drawn on a piece of paper.  We created it several sessions ago. It maps out their pattern of stuckness. The behaviours, thoughts, feelings, values which interconnect to create how they are.

I asked them to bring it out so that we might look at it again. We notice the pattern repeating in their story that began the session.

I then notice that there is a pattern in our coaching. We have been here before. We meet in the same room. My client, although not usually late, begins with a high octane cognitive download of what has been happening, their difficulties, their thinking and judgements of self. By the end of the session, they are calmer. They are more balanced and more present in what is true for them. Less in their busy head. Then they go out into the world and return a few weeks later so that this pattern can repeat, alongside their mapped pattern of being.

We have talked previously about mindfulness.  My client has a book. They have attended some sessions with a qualified practitioner. My client accepts they are useful, but has found it hard to find the time in their busy world. Irony of ironies.

I tell my client we need to break the coaching pattern.  So I offer the opportunity for them to practice their mindfulness now, without me. They look taken aback. I leave the room.

I return some minutes later.  Already they are calmer.  I invite them to walk with me.  My client sets off out of the building at pace. I walk with them but slightly slower, drawing them back a little. I explain we are going to be mindful walking for just 30 seconds, then talk. Then mindful for thirty seconds, then talk.

We practice paying attention to the physical movement of limbs as we walk. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern. Then we walk noticing how sound and light are around us. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern. Then we walk noticing the sound of footsteps and explore correlation to heartbeat. My client puts their hand on their chest and calibrates. Then we talk about the experience and its relationship to their pattern.  Walking the talk.

Throughout, my client walks more and more slowly. Bit by bit. Finally we pause and notice this.

Returning to the room to end the session, my client is completely different. Their experience as they reflect on the map, still on the table, is more deep, more profound, more embodied. They remain slow.

They have quietened their thinking. They have more awareness. They can see what needs to be done. They know they can achieve mindfulness in many ways in just a few moments. They discover motivation. And… they aren’t bombarding my senses with cognitive verbiage.

A top trumps victory on all fronts.  Tortoise beats hare.

 

the discombobulation of Monday…

patterns

Today I have been discombobulated.

I feel a visit to the Recombobulation unit is required.

Bank Holiday Mondays do this.  A longer weekend, a shorter working week, my internal calendar all askew and confused.  Tomorrow should be Tuesday but it’s Wednesday.

Patterns in our lives, conscious and unconscious – we cannot escape them. Somehow I am conditioned to believe today is Monday, because I have returned to work.

When is a pattern constraining and when is it useful?  The pattern of the week helpfully allows me to unconsciously orient myself, but what do I lose? Do we lose sight of possibilities, tied down by the pattern? Does a pattern that becomes a habit make us lazy, rigid, stuck?  Maybe there are many more unseen patterns in our lives, driving us down certain pathways?

Recombobulate.  Recombobulate. Recombobulate.

Now I’m a Dalek !

non specific selective forgetfulness

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I notice sometimes names escape me.

I’m not referring to a gradual onset of forgetfulness or dementia (I hope) but rather to certain names. Why is that?

At work there are a few people who, every time I meet them I struggle to recall their name. Other people I know less well I have no problem recalling their name, but for some reason it escapes me for a few. Then I notice I can’t remember, so that next time I see them approaching I’m already thinking ‘I can’t remember your name’… and so I can’t.

But it’s not just people. I was listening to some music today in the car and a particular band came on from my playlist. A band I like. A band I listen to on occasion. But I can never recall the names of the tracks.  I don’t have the problem with other music, just some. Why is that?

Actors and actresses too. Some, no matter how good their performance or regardless of the quality of the film, I simply can’t put a name to the face.

Maybe it’s about connection? Emotional or otherwise?

What makes us selectively ‘forget’? And what holds us in that pattern?

the in tray blanket

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In our business, when claiming expenses, we have to post receipts to the relevant finance department. Their office is in a building over the road from mine, so today I wandered over to drop off some receipts in person.

Meanwhile a form with its monochrome content of figures and descriptions, constituting my expense claim, was coursing its way through the invisible veins of our finance system, pausing in a workflow for the arrival of its life affirming sister receipts. Proof of its very right to exist. Its stamp of validity.

I arrived in the office to discover there was an in-tray, on top of  filing cabinet.  A plastic in-tray with a laminated sign, propped up to indicate its purpose in life. ‘Expenses receipts’

I dropped in my receipts, stapled to a copy of my claim form.

I paused.  There is something strangely reassuring about an in-tray.

I’m old enough to remember in-trays and out-trays.  The satisfaction of processing work to empty the in-tray and move it to the out-tray.  Work arriving, often in envelopes, departed in much the same way,dropping into the internal mail system to wend its way to the next person in the work chain, safely enshrined in a manilla envelope, carefully addressed to the next recipient.  As for the pending tray – what the … was that all about?!

In our modern world, much has improved. Much is to be embraced.

This morning though, my brief dalliance with an old friend, the in-tray, led me to reminisce.

For all the joy of the new, we still enjoy hanging on to the familiar sometimes.

We do this in most aspects of our lives.  Fond throw backs to times gone by. Favourites from the past. Comfort blankets that all is well with the world.

This morning, a humble in-tray was my comfort blanket somehow.

Photo: Elky-Lou on Deviant Art