Flexible Focus #57: Unlocking the Box of Perception

by William Reed on June 9, 2011

A recurring theme in the Mandala Chart is the use of frames for flexible focus. We have looked specifically at themes such as Finding Focus in the Frames, and Inside the Lines. One of the benefits of flexible focus is mental health and resilience.

We refer to a frame of reference, the belief system or perspective which frames our perception and values. Reframing is a core concept in psychology, both in the ability to reinterpret a problem as an opportunity, or the ability to listen to differing opinions with an open mind. It is one of the principles behind meditation and hypnosis, where silence and suggestion reframe the way we see and experience the world. Reframing is what moves our mind in art and in advertising.

Leonardo DaVinci frequently would draw the same object from at least 3 different perspectives. We should not be so quick to think that our current perspective is the only one. This folly is magnified when we try to impose our limited point of view on others, whether it is through education, propaganda, or persuasion.

Reframing is the shift in perception when our eyes play tricks on us, such as with optical illusions. It is the magic behind the magic eye and other stereograms, where 3D images are embedded inside a 2D image, sharply revealing themselves when you look at the picture with eyes slightly crossed or through special glasses.

All of this can be great fun. It is also used by some optometrists as a means of exercising lazy eyes, reducing eye strain. The importance and effectiveness of exercising your eyes is supported by the Bates Method and other approaches to improving vision. There are even yoga exercises for the eyes.

Making the Mental Leap

Scientists, artists, and inventors develop the ability to change perspective in visualizing solutions and solving problems. In business and training, creativity is encouraged through games that help the group achieve a new perspective. A great compendium of such games can be found in Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo.

What the Mandala Chart can add to this potent brew is the ability to be both creative and orderly in the frames. We have seen in the article on Assessing Your Situation with a Mandala SWOT Analysis how it can add new dimensions going beyond the 2×2 matrix.

Here is an additional way that you can use the Mandala Chart to multiply your mental powers.

Start with a 3×3 Mandala Chart, fill in the surrounding frames, and leave the central frame empty. This is used to capture insights you gain by cross-matching the ideas in the 8 surrounding frames. You could also write out your ideas on 8 notecards and arrange them in a box formation, leaving the central area free. Label your ideas A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, in the manner of the Mandala Chart, but instead of viewing them in a static arrangement, see what else you can discover when you combine them in creative ways.

You can look at rows, columns, or opposites on any axis. You can move cards to new positions and get a new perspective. Substitute new ideas for a potentially limitless range of perspectives, but always within the 3×3 framework. It is the blend of spontaneity and discipline which sparks your creativity. Create a new card for any hybrid idea that comes from mixing and matching elements in the square, but instead of putting the new idea in the middle, set it aside to leave the central frame open for additional offspring of your ideas.

Try to create at least 8 new ideas from this mental cross-pollination, and you will get a sense of the power of the process. Just as in nature, some matches are better than others. Not all combinations work, at least until you are able to make the mental leap and find a new perspective.

Remember that each idea looks different in the light of another idea. Extend this to the art of creative conversation and collaboration, and you truly have a magic key to unlock the box and discover the infinite idea treasures within.

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