Posts Tagged ‘interdependence’

Growing into Interdependence

In the Flexible Focus Series we looked at the first principle of the Mandala Chart, Interdependence. That article looked at the 3 stages of growth, from dependence, to independence, to interdependence, and six steps to continuous improvement which can facilitate this growth process.

Once you begin to grow through Interdependence, a whole new set of factors come into play which enable you to cultivate and strengthen your relationships with other people, and with the universe itself.

To a small child the world revives around the self in a state of dependence. The baby cries when unhappy, and like magic mother takes care of all needs. This is a natural and healthy way for a baby to grow. However, in some people although the physical growth process continues, psychologically they remain needy and dependent, creating all kinds of problems for themselves and others.

At some stage before or after the age of 20, we come to seek independence. This is an important stage of growth, and essential to survival. However, it is also possible to become stuck in the appealing misconception that everything that happens depends on you. This is the world of the lone wolf entrepreneur, the rebel, the self-made man, and the independent woman. It can wear you down and end in a state of total exhaustion. Like Atlas trying to carry the entire world on his shoulders, in the end the burden is to great to bear.

Ultimately, and according to Carl Jung usually before or after the age of 50, you grow to seek interdependence. This is a more mature state, but unlike the two previous stages, there is no limit or limitation to the degree of connectivity you can have to the universe you live in. It is as limitless and inexhaustible as the universe itself.

That being said, the challenge is how you go about proactively and creatively cultivating this connectivity.

The Interface Connection

The character for 縁 (en) means interface, connection, and karma. It is often used to express a lucky meeting of people, an auspicious mingling of minds that produces blessings and benefits for those who become connected. It is often considered to be serendipitous, unsought but extremely lucky, and somehow meant to happen. You can have this connection with people, ideas, and places. It is a wonderful thing to experience, and one of the great mysteries of life.

While it happens through seemingly coincidental events, in fact synchronicity is deeply connected below the surface of awareness, and is not as accidental as it appears. It is possible to facilitate this process of positive change through mindful living, and paying attention to eight important factors in the interface connection.

  • Attitude. Our experience and even what we see or do not see is conditioned to a large degree by what how we look at things. This has been proved in psychology experiments such as the Invisible Gorilla Experiment, which shows how people not only overlook the obvious, but even completely miss the totally outrageous when it stares them in the face. It is also well known that a positive disposition will make you happy, whereas a gloomy outlook casts a pall over everything and everyone. You find what you look for, so it only makes sense to cultivate a positive attitude.
  • Gratitude.  When you become aware of interdependence there is a dawning awareness that all of the things that you have, all the things that you have become, depend in some important way on the help you received from other people. You didn’t do it all by yourself, and therefore it is only natural to appreciate and show your gratitude, not only in your heart by in your words and deeds. Find deeper ways to show your appreciation, and you will deepen your connection to other people.
  • Association.  Of all of the people who can help you grow and increase your connectivity, it is the great teachers in your life who can create the most change. You most likely will not find them in school, though there are lucky exceptions. One reason why you are more likely to find a great teacher outside of school is that you have to seek them out, and the awareness and desire to fill the gap in your knowledge and skills is also an important part of interdependence. Choose carefully the people that you spend your time with, as they can either buoy you up or drag you down. Energy is what guides the relationship, so keep your energy positive and alive.
  • Communication.  Many self-proclaimed great communicators are in fact poor listeners. So anxious to convey their own message, they forget to find out whether or in what way the other person might care. It is important to catch the atmosphere and mood of the people you are with, whether it is a small group or a large audience. A good way to gauge this is to ask great questions. Not only will you learn more, but good questions will open up hearts and minds. Once the flow of communication is there, you can enhance it wonderfully with the art of telling a story. This is what keeps people there, and makes them want to come back for more.
  • Collaboration.  The notion of accumulating resources is based on the independent mentality, storing up for the future so that you will have enough for yourself. The interdependent mentality thinks differently. Rather than adding resources, it jumps to a new level by multiplying resources, matching your own resources with those of another through collaboration. However, it is vitally important to choose the right collaboration partner. If you have something good, many people will be attracted to it, but not all of them have the best intentions. If you have money, beware the gold diggers. If you have talent, beware the agents and producers. Work with people whose resources complement but do not compete with yours. The real test of a good collaboration is that all parties are essential to the partnership. Otherwise they will suck out of you what they can, and then leave the relationship which never existed in the first place, no matter how friendly the early approach may have been.
  • Spaces.  Pay attention to ambience, the power of the place and the way it influences the people in it. Of course the place itself can be transformed by the energy of the people present. Ambience is enhanced through the five senses, plus the sixth sense of intuition. A space is like a stage, which can be set with lighting, color, and furniture, and enhanced through music, food, plants, even pets. It is a small universe that responds and creates response. A highly enjoyable way to increase your connectivity. Develop your own sense of presence so that you can be the master of the space wherever you travel.
  • Words.  The power of words is magic. Words can captivate, entrance, enrage, or engage. The power of the Word is recognized in all religions, and is the driving force of culture. Choose your words and phrases in such a way to enhance and reinforce your relationships, as well as remember your experiences. Words can be expressed in multiple dimensions. The tone and quality of the voice carries words when spoken or sung. There is the power of the written word in literature, and the transformational effect of brush calligraphy in art. Words are a wonderful bridge to the world.
  • Anchors.  We anchor our experiences in various ways, through imagery, metaphors, anecdotes, emotions. Those which are well anchored can be triggered through the smallest of reminders, a scent, a melody, a phrase. When you are centered you have more impact in your communication. It is as if you words have more weight, more substance, greater power to spread and take root. Anchors can be reinforced by going back to relive, revive, and remember your experiences. This is the power of a diary, and one of the driving forces behind social media.

You can download a CONNECTION MANDALA which summarizes these ideas as a reminder and a gauge of your level of connectivity through Interdependence.

Editor’s Note: The image (provided by www.toyouke.co.jp) depicts character for 縁 (en, connection), painted by William Reed on a charcoal egg.

Flexible Focus #30: The 8 frames of life: Home

by William Reed on December 2, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Considering the number of songs with home lyrics that long for home, are coming home, or are homeward bound, there is something deep in our psyche that tells us there is no place like home.

Home is the 4th in the 8 Frames of Life of the Mandala Chart, Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Character, Study, Leisure, and a critical pillar for life-work balance.

Yet, broken homes, dysfunctional families, domestic violence, and broken hearts are pandemic in our society, an outward reflection of an inner conflict.

The Mandala Chart is a comprehensive compass for life, and provides helpful perspectives on themes surrounding our Home.

Ecology in a Möbius Strip

The Möbius Strip is a 3-dimensional seamless strip of paper turned in on itself, with only one surface. A Möbius Strip Video by Robert Krampf shows a simple experiment, in which you can prove to yourself this remarkable phenomenon by drawing an unbroken line on the surface of the Möbius Strip with a crayon, until you return to the same place. He also shows that even when you cut the Möbius Strip down the line which you have just drawn, you still have a single seamless loop. It remains whole even after you cut it in half!

The Möbius Strip has featured and fascinated people since its discovery in ancient times, and is a perennial symbol in topology and popular culture. It is also the shape of the universal recycling symbol.

It represents an energy loop, a self-sustaining energy system, which contains the core principle for making homes, relationships, and families work. James Redfield explores this in depth in his bestselling book The Celestine Prophecy. His exploration of energy dynamics occurs in what he describes as the Fourth Insight, that when humans are cut off from the self-sustaining energy systems of the universe, they compete for energy by psychologically stealing or sponging it from other people. This unconscious competition is the source of all human conflict. Redfield compares humans to broken circles seeking a connection. The healthiest connection is when two broken circles join to form a figure 8, in effect a Möbius Strip.

It could also be a symbol for the ecology of a happy home, in which we are not energy drainers, but energy gainers.

Where do you call home?

In today’s mobile society, the place you call home may not be the place you were born. Traditionally, when people were more tied to territory, the proverbial wisdom was bloom where you are planted. However, the view of the Mandala Chart is based on flexible focus, and is closer to the Zen proverb, be master of the moment (zuisho ni nushi to naru). This means to be at home wherever you are, in your body, where you live, in this time of history, on this earth. A person who is engaged, connected, and skilled at navigation can be at home anywhere.

There is a part of our brain called the hippocampus, which acts as both filter and connector for our long-term memory and spatial navigation in the outside world. London Taxi drivers are famous for their knowledge of streets and spatial navigation, and they have been found to have a larger than average hippocampus, possibly through extensive training and experience in navigation. They know how to find their way home.

Neuroscientists studying depression, dementia, and disorientation have found it associated with atrophy in the hippocampus. James W, Jefferson, M.D., a senior scientist at the Madison Institute of Medicine and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, wrote an article in Geriatric Times called, My Hippocampus is Bigger than Yours, which looks at the hippocampus’ role in memory and depression. He describes the Greek word for hippocampus as a creature with the forequarters of a horse, and the hindquarters of a fish or dolphin, what we know as a seahorse. The hippocampus in the brain was named as the seahorse of the brain because of its remarkable resemblance to a seahorse in shape.

We have referred often in this series to the processes of engagement, connection, and opportunity. The Mandala Chart is a navigational compass to facilitate the process, and the more actively you use it, the more likely you are to engage your hippocampus, keeping it healthy, vital, and alive. Likewise, if you let yourself drift you risk the consequences of an idle hippocampus. Here the folk wisdom applies, use it or lose it!

We are family

Of course a home is nothing without a family. We don’t live in isolation, but rather as interdependent beings, in various kinds of families.

The family for some is a source of love and protection, for others it can be a source of conflict and frustration. In either case, your family has an inestimable effect on the quality of your life. This is why Home is one of the eight fundamental areas of life on the Mandala Chart.

Regardless of your family or lifestyle, things are likely to go better if the members of the family care about and support each other. However, even blood relatives are born with different personalities, and the differences can be a source of delight or of conflict, depending on the degree of understanding and acceptance in the family.

One approach that can facilitate understanding is to look at Temperament and Personality Types. An excellent book on this subject is Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, and the sequel Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.

You can even take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter test online, and gain immediate feedback and insights into your own character and that of others around you. This test looks at the four main temperaments, Guardian, Rational, Idealist, and Artisan, and the supporting materials offer advice on how this affects relationships in families, careers, and schooling. The test has been taken by more than 40 million people, and is used widely by corporations, colleges, coaches, and consultants worldwide. It can give you one perspective that can facilitate understanding and acceptance of our differences. As a reminder of the key points, download the WE ARE FAMILY Mandala.

Personality differences aside, we are connected to each other, in present, past, and future. The message is plain. Just listen to Sister Sledge, We Are Family

Flexible Focus #3: The Principle of Interdependence

by William Reed on May 27, 2010

Want a shortcut to improve your life? Change the way you see and engage with your world.

Things are not always as they seem. What you thought was a snake in the grass turns out to be a rope. A person you dislike says something good about you, and you suddenly see them in a better light. A flexible mind is free of fixed perceptions.

The sand under your feet can be material for a sand castle, or for a silicon chip. A cup becomes a cup if you use it to drink with. To another person it might be a pencil holder, or even a weapon. We experience things less by what they are, than by how we see them.

Abraham Lincoln said that, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. When you are dealt a wild card, you decide what it will be. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet that, there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

There are 3 ways to engage with the world, each reflecting a different level of maturity. The same process applies to the development of individuals, organizations and nations.

Dependence is where you take your instructions from others, and depend on others for your material needs. Outside influences largely determine how you think, feel, and decide. It is the state in which we are born, and in which some remain.

Independence is where you feed and fend for yourself, and strive to break free from the controlling influence of others. It is the creed of self-reliance, the striving to be captain of your own life. It is also a state of limited freedom, a gilded cage.

Interdependence is where you realize and cultivate the power of connection, and strive for synergy through the power of relationships. Knowing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, you thrive by working for the good of others.

The progression from dependence to interdependence comes with growth and maturity. It is also possible to stagnate or regress, causing things to get worse. The cure for this is continuous improvement, for which the Mandala Chart gives you a map and a method.

Six steps to continuous improvement

  1. Give to others without expecting reward in return: While many people believe in give and take, this results in relationships tied to temporary transactions. A different perspective is giving without strings attached, knowing that givers gain. This results in long-lasting and rewarding relationships. There are many ways to extend a helping hand, if not through money or tangible resources, then through your time, expertise, and many small acts of kindness. Lighting the candle for others does not diminish your own flame.
  2. Maintain standards for the common good: Seek to act in a way that does not harm or inconvenience others. You can practice this in daily life simply by following rules that have been set for the common good. See that your lifestyle is one of health and sustainability (LOHAS). Behave in a way that is considerate of others. Some of these standards are set by law, others are dictated by common sense. You can also set higher standards for yourself that go beyond the minimum.
  3. Acknowledge and accept your current condition: Nobody is blessed with the best in all areas of their life. You may be financially secure, but not in good health. You may be happy at home, but miserable at work. Misery loves company, so you will find no lack of people wanting to pull you down to their level. However bad your current condition, complaining is likely to make it worse. You have to truly face and understand your condition before you can plan ways to improve it.
  4. Strive for continuous improvement: The power of continuous improvement is similar to the power of compound interest, which Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe. Don’t underestimate the results that you can achieve over time, nor the power of neglect over time. There is nothing in the world that cannot be improved, as long as you have the mindset to make things better. Though it may take time for outer results to appear, the best part is that you yourself will improve in the process.
  5. Be calm and act without confusion or haste: A Japanese proverb says that the hurried beggar stays empty handed. You might say that the beggar mentality is self-reinforcing. One thing people who rise above their circumstances have in common is a calm and steady commitment to improve.
  6. Polish yourself through practice: There are three kinds of people in life: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. You can live your life as a spectator or as a player. The best way to improve as a player is to practice. Continuous improvement is a verb.

In Eastern thought the word karma refers to the actions which actively shape our past, present, and future experience. Like the Celtic Knot, our world is closely woven and interconnected. It is through action that we engage more deeply in that connection. The rules of engagement are that if you engage in a positive manner, you get positive results in return.

Download a Mandala Chart showing the 8 fundamental areas of life. Ask yourself in your life, if they are happily interwoven, or a tangled mess? In future articles we will look at the 8 frames of life, and how to gain comprehensive life/work balance.