The importance of mindful conversations

The knowledge of early philosophers ranged far and wide, covering fields from biology to ethics, from politics to physics. With increasing production of knowledge, facilitated by the web, technology and a greater educated class and increasing cultural exchanges, it became harder to know everything under the sun. Over time it became clear that individuals could not keep abreast of all knowledge and we gradually learnt to specialize in one or more areas. With our specialization our thinking has become more fragmented and our ability to think wholly has been made more difficult.

At work we are more likely to be specialists in our field making it harder and harder to link different fragments of knowledge that lies scattered across sub disciplines within any organisation. Simplistic tools may be honoured as a way of addressing these problems, but often at the expense of complexity that require context and connection. It is much easier to attempt to incorporate procedures or tools rather than exploring the real complexities of these issue in a transdisciplinarian way.

A skilfully hosted group Dialogue or Council is one powerful transdiscilpinary approach of dealing with complexity within organisations, recognising the lived experience and subjectivity of each person in context, in a network of relationships, in an ecology. A Transdiscilpinary approach is meta-paradigmatic- opening many perspectives at once. This enables us to understand not only the content of various approaches to issues, but their underlying assumptions or paradigms, and how those paradigms shape the inquiry. A trans disciplinary approach offers opportunities to questions ones own assumptions. It is in the exchange with different perspectives that our own perspectives become most clearly elucidated and articulated.

Renowned Systems thinker, Social scientist and anthropologist Gregory Bateson believed great creativity emerges out of this interaction of multiple perspectives. The creative process has been defined as seeing “a single idea in two habitually incompatible frames of reference”. The existence of a multiplicity of perspectives, at times mutually opposed, can therefore be transformed into an opportunity for creativity, if we accept the possibility of multiple ways of knowing, that there is more than one perspective that has something to offer and no one perspective has the monopoly, and recognise the possibility that the perspectives can co-exist and also be brought together to develop creative integrations.

Skilfully hosted Dialogue encourages groups and individuals to effectively participate in the unfolding of meaning – a creative interaction that allows new insights and unexpected ideas to emerge from the encounter. Quantum physicist David Bohm believed that through persistent dialogue a radically new state of mind could emerge, “a concrete alteration that penetrates the core of a person’s experience and has the potential to communicate itself directly”

In Dialogue there is a shedding of agendas that allows for a co-creative flowing interaction, in which it is possible for something new to emerge. Dialogue can be described as a practice that awakens the desire for, and provides the means to, expand consciousness of each other and access untapped wisdom beyond our own worldview or paradigms. The mere presence of the other in Dialogue helps us to break up our own bias and narrowness and offers deep self-understanding. Openness is naturally initiated, bringing our prejudgments to the surface. The process often highlights the limitation of one’s own framework of thinking which then allows one to go beyond one’s own previous possibilities.

Transformation on the soles of our feet

How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are.  How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk. (Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, “The Walk”, October 1967).

In a world where it is easy to be overwhelmed by technology and complexity I am often made to feel it is no longer enough to solve all our problems by a simple walk in the wilderness. But I know, from experience, that this is the case. It is through my relationship with nature that I learn everything one needs to know. When walking there is a sense of timelessness, of total absorption. We are lost in its rhythm, to its power, its motion and flow and through this we naturally access the true essence of ourselves and Nature – the creative living force that binds all beings together.

Walking in the wilderness has become my spirituality, my religion, my god and I feel incredibly lucky to know that I can quickly renew these connections and transform my mind with a simple walk in the wild. In her book Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit describes walking as “an active presence of body and mind”. It naturally creates a state in which the mind, body and universe align, “as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.” For me it’s a feeling of completeness and wholeness that emerges without any artifice or techniques or practices.

After many years of wilderness wandering I intuitively know when its time to put my boots on and retreat back into the bosom of nature – peacefully walking my way back to those latent primordial rhythms to retrieve some hidden wisdom. I know its time when a lack of self trust creeps back into life, feelings become overwhelmed by the complexities of modern living. These feelings are often combined with a lack of joy, little self-love and less self-acceptance. Yet trusting in the healing power of the Nature, I prepare my intentions and venture out, with a pack on my back and open heart into wild and sacred places. It’s that easy!

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