Finding Courage and Wisdom on the Path to Wholeness
Dear TSJ Friends,
(If you are reading this on your mobile phone, remember to click on the pictoral heading for easier reading!)
I wonder if you ever heard parents or teachers say things like, “Don’t be too sure” or “I wouldn’t be so sure about that if I were you!” If you did, I imagine it had a bit of a sarcastic tone designed to challenge your arrogance or ignorance.
Rest assured today’s musing does not have that tone intended. I am thinking of it as a “hook” for our brains to latch onto when we are prone to react negatively. We want to be open minded when listening to others sharing problems or personal issues, or when facing family, relationship, or organizational challenges, but we forget. Perhaps, when we notice our negativity we can say to ourselves, ” Don’t be too sure.”
Last week I wrote about being willing to “see” our blind spots. By that I did not mean to suggest we need to go looking for our blind spots. We are not likely to find them that way! The reason they are blind spots to us is they hide in plain view to others.
The most likely way to “see” our blind spots is to experience them. When do we do that? When we bump up against them! That is why I suggest that our first step is simply being willing to see them. You have heard the saying, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
I am taking the first step – practicing being willing to see what I need to see with greater clarity and less resistance. I invite you to do the same.
As I understand better where my own spots come from I am perceiving it as less intimidating and more of an adventure to pay attention to them. A new inner vision is key to unleashing our potential. It helps us be students of life and become more compassionate, courageous and kind.
One way to start is to notice your inner resistance when someone says something you disagree with. That is a classic bump that makes us “sit up and take notice.” I had such an experience this week I will share in a moment.
But first I wish to share a bit of background and give credit to an author my amazing stepdaughter recommended. Otto Scharmer, author and senior lecturer at MIT – and much more – refers to our habituated inner responses and processes as “downloading.”
Scharmer writes, “The blind spot is the place from which our attention and intention originates.” (From Theory U- p.5). The reason it is “blind,” of course, is our brain immediately censors and reacts when something does not match our habituated ways of thinking, believing and responding.
So perhaps the first step toward making changes in our lives or families or organization is to observe our own downloads! When we are aware, then we can begin to suspend judgment and be open to listening with heart as well as mind.
With that in mind, allow me to tell you about one of my own bumps with inner blindness this week. Perhaps you will relate to it in some way.
I was having a phone conversation with one of my beloved nieces. We have a trusting relationship that actually began 25 years ago yesterday when my brother married her mom. She was sharing a familiar grief/loss story that happens when you change jobs and leave behind treasured people.
I listened and offered some over rehearsed platitudes and observations. We are dear to each other, but as she continued talking and as I really listened, I learned a poignant lesson.
My own BS (blind spots) had originally interfered with good listening. My brain simply downloaded the same old things. I was gentle but not helpful. She then told me she had been comforted by something Henri Nowen, one of my favorite spiritual writers had written about a similar situation in his life.
Immediately I realized what I had done. I had “downloaded” what was familiar to me but was not at all what she needed! I fell into a more “fix it” mindset. What she actually had to share was inspiring for me as well as for her. I saw her situation from a different perspective. I realized I had not listened deeply and apologized. She was most kind and I shared what I was learning too. She had read last week’s blog so we talked about this being an example.
What is the context in your life where these thoughts could be useful?
I believe watching for our downloads and acknowledging our blindspots, as well as suspending judgment will help us be more creative and compassionate with others and ourselves.
In this way, let’s practice not being so sure! Something that may help us with that is allowing ourselves to wonder. Scharmer speaks of this clearly and I have blogged about it myself. But I want to share this quote from Theory U (pg. 130):
“Only in suspension of judgment can we open ourselves up to wonder. Wonder is about noticing that there is a world beyond our patterns of downloading. Without a capacity to wonder, we will likely remain stuck in the prison of our mental constructs.
…Wonder is one of the greatest gifts that children bring into our lives, for children embody wonder in the purest sense. But to develop this capacity more fully, children need to have it reinforced in their environment.”
I wonder. What downloads might you notice in your life this week?
Solomon urges us to live in a state of wonder while we inhale and exhale God’s love with every breath.