The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Blackberries

Have you ever been blackberrying?

To be fair, most of us have at some stage in our lives. It’s one of those activities that starts out with smudged fingers, and the occasional collision with a thorn. And ends up in a delicious hot crumble back home, garnished with custard, clotted cream or maybe ice cream – or maybe a combination of all three.




Of course if, like me, you really enjoy nature’s seasonal bounty, then you’ll have discovered that in the more public places where brambles dare to grow, there’s always been someone there before you. The lower-lying fruit have all been picked, and now only the smaller ripe ones remain – along with the little unripe cerise, pink and still green bullets. The rich pickings are now out of reach to us mere mortals and are only available to those well over 6ft tall, or the enterprising folk who bring a step ladder to their harvesting.
There’s going to be the need for a more daring approach if we want to go home with a container full of these remaining bigger, juicier fellows. 

More fruit – less husk!


People and Privilege

I'm just really grateful that I'm privileged enough to know some awesome and amazing people. These are the self-same people I've stood on the shoulders of, in order to reach some of the richer fruit higher up the tree I call knowledge.
Of course these wonderful people have facilitated my action; they have enabled me to reach that fruit – because very few people go around permanently with a step ladder to hand, to enable an elevated status for their fruit picking. 

There is an undeniable truth in life that “No Man is an Island” – and we need each other to get the best out of life, for sure. Even the hermit, who has written the definitive book on his status – “The Essence of Hermitry – a Qualitative Analysis” – will need a printer, a publisher, a distributor, some retail outlets, an amazon or two, and a large circle of book-buying buddies. Which is why hermits don’t write books, of course … they just mind their own business.

So, to get back to me, people and privilege – like that –
Why have I used the word Privilege, in this context?
Why do I view the knowing of these people – or indeed any people for that matter – a privilege? Was it because I was born with a silver tongue in my mouth? Am I the son of the richest-ripe-alpha-blackberry that attracts every fruit fly within miles?

No!

I was brutally shy – probably still am, if you rub the veneer down to the quick.
So “Please, Mister … !” was never going to cut any ice with my desire to get a leg-up to the higher echelons of the tree. Doors were always closed, it seemed – except to the privileged few.

And then I took a long hard look at the entire domain I’d labelled up as …


Privilege.

What if’s began to emerge from the mists – and doors began to appear in the walls where no doors had been. I read books and watched videos – for knowledgeable content; I studied closely those successful people who inspired me – first by watching and listening, and then by copying and modelling.

And then I took a leap of faith and resolved to meet, greet, talk with, and ask questions of … those inspiring people.

In taking that leap I became familiar with the other side of Shyness. I made an awesome discovery whilst doing this … I discovered the inspiring people were just as ordinary as I was, and that they too had become familiar with the other side of Shyness.

And here’s the thing:
On the other side of Shyness I found I was holding hands with Privilege.
I hadn’t just found Privilege, it was walking hand in hand with me – little me! Privilege was now my friend, my companion, and I found myself being elevated to pick those rich and juicy blackberries high up on the hill of brambles.

Was I lucky? Was I born with it? – NO!
Had I earned it? Did I embrace it? – YES!

For this, and for the giants on whose shoulders I have stood, and continue to stand, I am eternally grateful. I found my Privilege.



And now, I can enjoy endless crumbles!


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Far Look



“He has given himself up to an influence outside his everyday consciousness, which is none other than his own deeply buried unconscious, whose presence he was never hitherto aware of.”

~ Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do


Focus your eyes at infinity

On a summer’s day, have you ever paused to lie on your back and stare up at the sky, looking way beyond? That’s rather like focussing at infinity. What do you notice happened when you did that?

Did you notice the clouds seemed to be coming towards you instead of just floating across your field of vision?
Did you find your eyes blinking more, less or the same?
Did you find the 4th or 5th blinks being much longer – and was it hard to keep your eyes open after blink number 4-5?
Did you find that, as your eyes stayed closed, your breathing got deeper, your thoughts seemed to ‘slow down’, your attention seemed to float, and your neck and shoulders relaxed and became warmer?
And when you opened your eyes again, still looking skywards, did you get an embodied feeling that things felt different, somehow – and yet you couldn’t exactly pinpoint any particular change or difference?

Have you ever looked up at the sky on a starry night when all the stars were twinkling?
Did you notice what happened when you tried to focus on a particular star – how it seemed to grow dimmer and stop twinkling - yet all the ones round about it seemed to become much clearer.
Curiously, if you pointed a telescope at that same star, this effect wouldn’t happen. It is only in our perceptions, however, where these differences seem to take place.


Focus in Sport and Performance

In terms of focus, I’d always approached coaching players from the perspective of watching the target – whether that is a ball, shuttlecock, goal, stumps, pin, pocket, dart board, fence, hoop, jaw, or whatever. It has always been either by taking dead-aim, closely watching with a narrow focus, or a mixture of both.

Until, that is, a good friend introduced me to the book “The Open-Focus® Brain” by Dr Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins. It was whilst reading this fascinating study on the nature of narrow focussed attention and open-focussed attention, that one or two connective light bulbs went on for me.
At that moment, amusingly, I realised there is a lot more to focus than just meets the eye!  And that includes both our physical eyes and also our “Mind's eyes” – which is another way of describing our Mental Focus.


So, what is the relevance of this Mental Focus in our lives?

Well, for me it came down to the contradiction I always encountered when comparing the need for some “amazing powers of concentration” and the fact that when “in flow,” when The Zone is being experienced, then concentration just seems to happen effortlessly.

I concluded that when people are in The Zone then they must concentrate in a different way. Their level of absorption must be 100%, as we know and that doesn’t change in its nature, so their Focus must be what changes to make their concentration different. That was certainly how it was in my experience of The Zone.

The Far Look

Well over forty years ago I read quite a lot of science fiction. There was a particular short story called The Far Look, by Theodore L Thomas, written in 1956. A Google search reveals it is currently described as...

A classic tale about a long and lonely watch on a Lunar station where ... a "wider perspective" (a "far look") on all things is easily achieved.

Essentially, astronauts returning from a duty at the Lunar Station, all had The Far Look, which gave them not just a wider perspective on all things, but also deep powers of perception about life, the universe and everything, much more than everyone back on Earth. All quite regular yet fanciful stuff, although with a good degree of insight on certain matters, especially for 1956.

One of those insights, as I saw it, was all about an open (or broader) focus. Now, at the time I first read it, I merely concluded it was all about the senses and, primarily, the Visual in particular. 

However – what Theodore L Thomas captured in his narrative was an idea that the astronauts, spending time alone ¼ million miles from Earth, gained a transformation in their perceptive powers via their exposure to the vast dimensions of outer space relative to their home planet, the sun, and beyond.

Interestingly, Dr Fehmi’s work on Open Focus® explores the dimensions of our own inner space relative to our mental perspective, and – I’ve discovered – that that perspective changes, broadens slightly, with every exploration!


Links and Connections

Now in terms of Focus, concentration and The Zone, when a person is performing in that particular state of Flow, they do have considerably enhanced powers of perception. They have an effortless awareness characterised by an innate ability to turn up at the right place at the right time and do the right things – which feels as though things are just happening right for them, almost as if directed by some unseen hand, some invisible force.  ** (Wu Wei)

Now as it happens I hold firm to the view that all people are amazing, when freed up enough to demonstrate that to be so. Therefore, in “Far Look” terms, I think that these powers of perception are readily accessible to us all at any time. This way these powers can in no way be described as ‘enhanced’, but rather they are normal – the default setting, if you like.

The difference, in our normal everyday lives, is that we actually DIMINISH our capabilities through diluting our attention, narrowing our mental focus for far too long, filling our conscious mind with unnecessary baggage, and creating – through our own thoughts and imagination – an egocentric world that we regularly convince ourselves as being utterly real.


** Wu Wei

Wu Wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world.
It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awareness, in which - without even trying - we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Decision Making and Thought


The Inside-Out dilemma

One of the constant questions I hear raining down in a regular discussion group I am part of is this:-
“Can we talk some more, and share some more, in the area of decision-making?”

Now although I’ve written extensively on this subject, I’ve not contributed one iota on decision making to our discussion group. I’ve even planned out a small book on the subject of decision making – yet still I am silent at all of our group discussions.Why the reticence, I’m wondering? So much so, that this has now come to the foreground of my considerations as to what, if anything, I can continue to impart to the group on this – or indeed any topic. This is almost bordering on whether I, as a card-carrying maverick, am even a relevant contributor to - or a worthy participant in – the group.

Does this sound like a personal crisis, or just some ego-driven wayward thinking? Well, that’s for YOU to decide!

So, the question is now, in effect, what IS my dilemma? Or, to put it in more everyday speak:
“OK, Buddy, what’s your Problem?”


Well, for starters, there’s more than one dilemma here, to be honest.

The first dilemma is that for me, at a personal level, I gave up turning over endless “WHAT IFs” in my mind some time ago. I took the angst out of my decision making. At some point, while coaching myself elements of sports psychology, NLP, proper breathing, the Zen of performance, and all THAT stuff – I became familiar with the benefits of being single-minded. By the time I took a set of passport photos in a booth in the Post Office in October 2004 and saw a dead man looking back at me, I was already well-versed in making “instant” decisions – especially, and particularly, life-changing ones. So, without a second thought, the very next day I handed in my notice at work … and started on the pathway to where I am today.
Imagine the difficulties, the dilemma, of describing the “how-to” of tying up our shoelaces to the uninitiated, when our own Learning Journey with that every day task was committed to Unconscious Competence many years before.

My second dilemma is that because I am a Coach, initially oriented to the sporting side of things, I cannot un-acknowledge the fact that in sport AND most definitely in any performance, Decision Making is a vast area of relevance anyway.

And when, like me, you are a coach of TEAM sports, there is this realisation that the players in the team, the squad, cannot just ply a furrow of the making of their own Decisions, and dealing with their own Thinking that’s going on behind their own Decision Making. There is the Team Collective to consider, plus also their individual Team Mates. Here, it is a multi-dimensional dilemma!

My Coaching methodology in sport is very clear where Decision Making is concerned. I am driven to allowing each player the FREEDOM to make their own BEST choices … by enabling them to grow an Understanding of what goes into their having THAT Freedom. And I use GROW here because it is something that grows with experience and with having an open mind.
  • There are technical aspects to that Understanding that go to making their technique more consistent. This is a conditioning of their deliverable abilities.
  • There are psychological aspects to that Understanding that go to making their temperament more consistent.
  • This plays out in the grounded-ness of their state of mind, delivered by their Relationship with their Thinking, moment to moment.
  • Team Decision Making, is a blueprint drawn up as part of the set of Game Plans. The more fluid the game – the bigger the picture each player is required to make decisions in.
  • My role is not about telling any player(s) what to think, since that is an impossibility. My role is about guiding them to be able to think Clearly in the Moment, and how that can come about.


The Mayonnaise Jar

I used to do a little presentation to every new intake of county Under 14 cricketers that were coming under my managership for the year. I called it The Mayonnaise Jar, and it involved a large (empty) jar, 4-5 golf balls, some small pebbles, some even smaller stones, some sand, and a couple of bottles of water.

This was a study in metaphor for the young players – and each of these props, the jar and the ingredients, represented LIFE.
The Jar represents ourselves, and the space in the Jar represents the TIME of our Life; the IMPORTANCE to us of the things we do and the things we consider. There is a sliding scale here of Importance, and how we might spend our TIME.

“So, the golf balls represent the really important things in our lives, the pebbles are pretty important too, though not as valued as the golf balls. The small stones are the countless everyday activities and necessities, and finally the sand is the small inconsequential stuff – the trivia of our lives if you like.”

I paused here to just let them take in the scenario – the surface level things, and, also whatever they might get a sense of that was running below the surface. This is a study in the narrow-focussed conscious foreground of attention; the wider-focussed, less than conscious background of awareness; how we might play a huge part in the design and architecture of our lives; what parts the “world out there” plays in our decisions; almost right down to the relevance and credence of the myriads of thoughts we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

And the whole pivotal point of this presentation, is about Decision Making.

So, I invited them to consider firstly whether all the ingredients would go into the jar.
The interesting thing here is that the visual assessment tends to make us think that we would never get everything in. Secondly, after gathering their first opinions, I asked whether there was any order in which I should put the various ingredients in. Once again there was an array of different suggestions, yet with the main one being “sand first.”

“OK,” I said. “Now, watch!” And I proceeded to confound their thoughts and considerations.

First, in go all the golf balls; next the pebbles, shaking the jar after all the pebbles were inside; next the small stones, and again shaking the jar to allow all the bigger stuff to settle. Finally, I tipped in all the sand – which always goes easily into the vast amount of space that remains.

“Now, how we fill up our lives with ALL these things, depends on us! YOU are all, already, exceptional cricketers for your age. Amongst the best 250 in the country. You are all here because you love the game of cricket, want to enjoy playing, want to enjoy performing to your possible best in every moment. You have all bought-in to playing Cricket not only at this level, but at all the next ones as well.
However, you can practice endlessly and perform really well – but unless your Cricket is one of the GOLF BALLS in your life, then you won’t be serious enough about it.
In terms of how you spend your time – and how you think about how you spend your time – prioritise the IMPORTANT things and consider them first, above all. Because when you do, LIFE seems to become bigger somehow. And when LIFE is bigger you can get to do so much more in the same amount of time, AND you can still include the Trivial stuff too!
And the other thing is … ,“
I said, as I poured ALL the water into the jar, “You’ll not only have a really full LIFE – you’ll still have time to have a drink with your Mates!”


Thought and Decision-Making

The dilemma with Thought – that part of our Relationship with our Thinking – is that there are three types of effective Thinking. Rather like there were five types of ingredients in The Mayonnaise Jar experiment. These are what I would call:

Conscious Cognitive – Unconscious Intuitive – Heuristic Impulsive.

Conscious Cognitive is slow, methodical, ponderous at times. Here, we are employing our intellect and our learned and acquired knowledge. It is an almost deductive process of consideration.

Unconscious Intuitive is fast, non-linear, analogue in nature, and at times on a level we give completely different labels to – such as Gut Feelings or Wisdom. We are often baffled as to where this thinking has come from, because it is SO very different from Conscious Cognitive.

Heuristic Impulsive is also fast, and yet is both conscious and cognitive. Heuristics are cognitive biases. We have a tendency to apply heuristics when we feel driven – through constraints – to make up our minds QUICKLY. Here we act on Impulse and not Intuition – there is no accompanying Gut Feeling that is present with the impulsive decision.  It is just a cognitive conclusion that we MUST do SOMETHING – and RIGHT NOW.

The key to ALL our Decision Making, to my mind, is to Understand the 3 types of effective Thinking; to realise that we have a propensity to engage in high levels of ineffective thinking; and to practice growing our Understanding by placing it into a frame of LEARNING.

In the frame of Learning, we bring a conscious awareness of noticing to what we are Thinking, what we are Deciding, and what Behaviour (action) ensues from that Decision. As we become more familiar with our interpretations – we are growing our Understanding of how we are harnessing the Power of Thought.

It sounds like almost like a Life’s Worth of Work …

Yet, if we engage with this frame of Learning, the outcome enhances our Life SO MUCH that it is Worth the Work.
  • Our Decision Making becomes clearer, lighter, uncluttered
  • We seem to have far more time on our hands to take on work and complete tasks
  • Our Learning of New Things becomes effortless
  • There is an ease to our everyday living, regardless of what the world throws at us
  • The interference of Ego and Wayward Thinking is far less prevalent, and we return to being Grounded much sooner
  • We recognise ineffective thinking for what it REALLY is
  • We notice that we are acting far less on Impulse
  • We trust in the wisdom of our Intuition
  • We are Single-Minded and in a state of Equilibrium
  • We are living in a state of Effortless Wellbeing – or Wu Wei.
All of the above, are inextricably linked with seeing and living from the Inside-Out nature of reality.


Conclusion

The Mayonnaise Jar experiment engages the participants in the 3 Types of effective thinking. It engages the participants in calibrating the most important things of value to them in their lives (the Golf Balls) – and then placing them in the correct order of priority in terms of their focus and attention.

To be fair, it is an experiment I should go back to, dust off and polish up, and then present out to the world once again.

Perhaps I should present it to the fellow-members of my regular discussion group?
Dare I be maverick enough to risk that?

Decisions – Decisions!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Balancing Our Lives



Kuzushi

Today began with watching a video from a good friend in which he talked about the principal of Kuzushi, or breaking balance, in martial arts.

So, what is it, you may well ask?
It is a Japanese term for unbalancing an opponent in martial arts. As such, it is refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of putting an opponent to a position, where his stability, hence the ability to regain uncompromised balance for attacking is destroyed. (Wikipaedia)

I then read a fascinating article on Kuzushi, here:
http://judoinfo.com/kuzushi/ - however there was an interesting section of that article that I am going to paraphrase now because it rather sums up part of our human frailty, our relationship with our thinking, and other areas of my working life!


Getting in Our Own Way

Most people do a fine job of getting mentally off-balance by tripping over the metaphorical paving stones of their lives with monotonous regularity.

When we have an awareness of the Inside-Out nature of Reality, life becomes a whole heap simpler and easier. We understand how everything that we experience is constructed – on the INSIDE - from our perceptual predictions, and conclusions, which are nothing more than an entire THOUGHT PROCESS in action!

The illusion that catches us out – every time – is that we have been, since a very young age, guided to see the world on the OUTSIDE and believe that everything out there is REALLY happening to us. This is the very real illusion of the Outside-In nature of Reality!

There is a third factor at play here – otherwise the Inside-Outers would spend their lives in a state of perpetual enlightenment! And that third factor is this:-

Our HUMAN FRAILTY

Even if we DO have an understanding of Inside-Out, we will still get caught out in moments of Human Frailty!

And there is a quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that points us towards what is happening in these moments.

“We are not Human Beings having a Spiritual Experience.
We are Spiritual Beings having a Human Experience.”

However, the good thing about our having an Understanding of the Inside-Out nature of Reality is that even with our human frailties, we can return to a place of mental Groundedness in a much more quick and timely way – rather akin to “HITTING the mind’s RESET BUTTON!”

During the period of complete re-alignment of my Inner Life, at the end of 2016, I staged – and won – a pitched battle with my Ego. Since that time, I have only once succumbed to Ego peddling his Outside-In wares. And, after some soul-searching, I vowed then that I would confront Ego every time from then on - rather than take a softer and more benign approach. As I saw it, my life is far too short to wait for things to settle down and return to a ground.


** Dan Millman


Feeling the Imbalance

One way to view our relationship with our Thinking is to be aware that our Personal Self, (our EGO) is looking to catch us out at every opportunity that we give that part; when our guard is down, when we are vulnerable, when we are FRAIL.

This is when our relationship with our Thinking is in a place of IMBALANCE.

Ego recognises and thrives on IMBALANCE, sometimes even on any degree of imbalance – no matter how small. Yet, at these moments, our greater self can also recognise – by feeling in the body – that there is IMBALANCE. This, for me, is the trigger to confront.

Drawing on the martial arts parallel, it is certainly not easy for Ego to attack our frailty without using a force and movement that makes Ego also vulnerable - to a counter attack.
Learning to take advantage of your Ego's own imbalance requires a finely tuned sense of timing. In order to be at the right place at the right time, you generally have to anticipate Ego’s movements, which is a skill that requires a great deal of self-knowledge and practical experience.
It is a skill akin to applying a form of Kuzushi in our own, mental, Inner Martial Arts.

En Garde!

Another way to apply mental Kuzushi is to force Ego into a weak position.
There are many ways of being that will result in your Ego responding in a predictable way so that you can anticipate it and take advantage of it.

Ego feeds off all the personal stuff. This is a crucial point to remember.

In everyday life, Ego will remind us when we notice that we have been taken advantage of – or have been overlooked. This, you could say, is the “Don’t you know who I am?” factor.

One of my life-long issues, betes-noire if you like, is around queueing. This is the whole thing of “waiting your turn” and then being upstaged by someone who has just arrived, caught the eye of the server, and has pushed in when the server asks, “Who’s next?”
Ego eagerly reminds me, “Stand up for yourself! You’ve dutifully and respectfully waited, and they’ve pushed in and shown NO respect. Tell them – tell them! Don’t just lie down like a meek lamb. You’re better than this! You are worthy of being treated better than a simple nobody!”


Ego and our Values

When we investigate, elicit and catalogue our Values – a great fact-finding exercise of our inner, yet human, self - we need to cultivate an additional awareness.
And this is the thing:- 
It is RIGHT HERE, in the highly personal area of Values, where Ego really thrives and can totally and regularly upset our apple-cart!

For although our main Values can be our greatest drivers and inspirational attributes, they are also HIGHLY PERSONAL. We hold them much nearer to our sense of Identity than say our ability to dance well, or our choice of holiday destination, or the make of car we drive.

Personal is the lingua franca of the Ego.

I’ve already pointed out that RESPECT is a highly placed Value for me, and how I invest far too much of myself, my Identity, into that Value.

Another, for me, in this area is Generosity.
Add Generosity to Respect and I’m slipping towards vulnerable – especially when I hold a door open for someone, usually a lady (since I was taught as a boy to do such chivalrous, good-mannered things.) If I’m thanked or acknowledged, then the NOW moment moves on. If the person sweeps by, nose-in-the-air and with a disdainful curl of the lip, then I’m already bristling. Ego steps in, goading me to react.
 
Another is my sense of Fair Play (a spin-off of Respect). In fact, the whole thing of Fair Play has led me towards some very bad behaviour at times … whenever I am called, or thought of as, A CHEAT. Cheating is an anathema to me – and Fair Play is again very close to my Identity. Being called a Cheat is probably worse than someone insulting my Mother – daft though it may seem.
EGO feeds a lot in and around these high-grade personal Values.


Conclusion

For me, Tenacity and Passion and Respect, are key components of a Warrior Spirit, and will enable me to live with a peaceful heart. The battles and wars are all Inner and all my own.

I have been fortunate, and I have defeated Ego. Occasionally Ego sends out a raiding party, to plunder what he can from my Peace. Most of the time I am aware and comfortable in my vigilance.

And when Ego takes off with a little more spoils than expected … then there is always a new dawn tomorrow. This is when Groundedness returns with further Insights and Understandings, and life returns to a state of equilibrium where everything is in balance once more.

Life goes on, unfolding day by day. With balance in our lives, everything we do and every action we take is remarkably uncluttered! There is an ease to life, and we seem to be aware of so much more space and time to do things!
When we start to get in our own way, then there's clutter at every turn. 


** Dan Millman
Dan Millman’s book, Body Mind Mastery was one of the very first books to accompany me on this journey of discovery. By the time I came to ready Way of the Peaceful Warrior, (see link below) I was already well down the road to a new and permanent perspective.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003LBRISM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1