Posts Tagged ‘juggling’

Flexible Focus #67: A-Chart vs B-Chart

by William Reed on September 1, 2011

In this series we have introduced two levels of focus for the Mandala Chart, the 9 frame A-Chart 3X3 Matrix and the 64 frame B-Chart 8X8 Matrix, developed by Matsumura Yasuo, the founder of the Mandala Chart Method. You might compare them to two different levels of magnification in a telescope or a microscope, where the shift of focus instantly transports you to a new world. Only in this case the same lens can take you to either the microscopic or the telescopic view, in any mindscape you can imagine.

Moreover, like the longitude and latitude lines we impose on the earth for navigation, the Chart can help you get your bearings and understand the relationship of the parts to the whole. Without this you are like a mariner set adrift at sea without compass, map, or sextant. No wonder so many people are lost in life.

The difference with the Mandala Chart is that instead of a GPS (Global Positioning System), it serves as an LPS (Life Positioning System).

Lessons in Flexible Focus

Most people have great difficulty with flexible focus, perhaps because they lack such a tool. The history of civilization is filled with fascinating examples of people who were unable to see or appreciate new points of view. Sadly, the response has all too often been destructive, leading on a mass scale to war and genocide at one extreme, and intolerance and redundancy at the other.

Racism clings to a single and arbitrary view of other people, as if to say that one frame in the square is right, and all of the others are wrong. The only perceptions that are allowed in this limited view are those which reinforce the bigotry. The two sides are reduced to a black and white view that allows no room for color. Against that background read the fascinating research, Genetic Studies Show that Race is Not a Scientific Concept. The genes which affect our external appearance amount to a mere 0.01%. Under the skin we are 99.99% the same.

While hindsight is 20/20, foresight appears to be almost legally blind, particularly among experts and people at the top of their field. This has been true in the fast evolving world of computers, where people have made some embarrassingly short-sighted predictions, such as the Chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation saying in 1977 that,

“There is no reason that anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer in the invention of radio, was thought by some to be mentally unstable for suggesting that voice could be transmitted through the air over great distances. Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962 saying that,

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

Read some of the laughable bad predictions experts have made in the past. And yet predictably even ten years from now people will laugh at what today passes for common sense. So it has always been.

Why Stop at 64 Frames?

Clearly the Universe doesn’t stop at 64, so why should the Mandala Chart stop there? Theoretically you can drill down forever, but you will find that the deeper you go the more you return to the 3X3 Matrix view at that level. Mentally, it is similar to the process of juggling. It is easy to toss one ball between two hands, but more of a challenge to toss two three balls between the right and left hand. Only a handful of professional jugglers can to juggle as many as many as 8 or 9 balls at a time. Apparently in juggling the human limit breaks down quickly past the number 8.

The I Ching, or ancient Chinese Book of Changes, also starts with 8 Trigrams, which are combined into 64 Hexagrams, reflecting the same structure of the Mandala Chart. Wealth Dynamics, which is based in part on the I Ching, is also based on 8 Wealth Profiles, which combine into 64 possible partnership patterns. And of course the Mandala itself stems from the Buddhist description of consciousness, using the same number of frames. Apparently as in juggling, our consciousness reaches its limits past that number, and tends to revert back to the simpler Matrix view when pushed past the limit.

A-Chart eMandala

B-Chart eMandala

There are also time limits in working with the Mandala Chart. An A-Chart can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to fill out carefully, and a B-Chart Mandala can take up to 90 minutes. Beyond that it becomes impractical from the time management perspective. Nevertheless, in contrast to the unidimensional view of inflexible focus, a 2×2 Matrix or 3×3 Matrix already has 4 to 8 more degrees of freedom, and is well worth taking the time to explore.

As an exercise in expanding your awareness of the many dimensions to a task, try taking the time to complete a B-Chart Mandala. A good place to start is with the Template for a 100 Year Life Span. It is easier to do when the subject is you.

Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance

by William Reed on March 10, 2011

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all.

Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to do give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying.

The juggling pattern

In a previous article in this series we looked at the question, Are Goals Traps or Opportunities? That article looked at four approaches to goals: distracted pursuit, single-minded focus, stepladder thinking, and flexible focus. When you attempt to juggle the elements with anything other than flexible focus, you tend to drop all of the balls.

Juggling is an excellent metaphor for Life Balance, as taught by Michael J. Gelb in his book, More Balls than Hands: Juggling Your Way to Success by Learning to Love Your Mistakes. A good juggler can easily juggle 3 balls with two hands, and a professional can juggle 4 or even 5 balls. However, in life we must juggle far more factors than this, in eight fields of life: health, business, finances, home, society, personal, study, and leisure. This is our challenge.

And yet think about how many things are juggled already in perfect balance without any effort or interference on our part! Your breathing, blood circulation, digestion, sleeping cycles, a vast number of habits and actions we perform without conscious thought or effort. And in the greater scheme of things, the coming and going of the seasons and cycles of nature, the movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, all of these things are juggled by forces beyond our imagination or control. There is peace of mind in appreciating the process.

A better understanding of balance

A simplistic view of balance is that of equal weights on a scale, like the scales of Lady Justice, dating from ancient Greek and Roman times. While this may be the goal of common law, it is precisely the effort to make everything equal which confounds us in the process of Life Balance. The process is far too dynamic to be able to measure in this way.

Nor is it a matter of trying to please everybody, or do everything. In Japanese, the word happō bijin (八方美人) refers to a person who smiles equally insincerely to everybody. Politicians sometimes fall into this trap, promising all things to all people, and delivering on none.

What metaphors then can help us gain a better understanding of balance, one which is both beautiful and practical? The core metaphor for the Mandala Chart is the zoom lens of flexible focus, through which you can see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once. Through the articles in this series, hopefully by now you have had plenty of practice in flexible focus.

Another metaphor which illustrates the process in an appealing manner is that in the art of Alexander Calder (1989~1976), inventor of the mobile and a pioneer in the art of moving sculpture. It is best if you can see a Calder mobile up close, but there are plenty of Calder art images online to give you the idea. In addition to being asymmetrical and 3-dimensional, they are in constant motion.

Each element able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with the other elements in its universe. It must not be just a fleeting moment but a physical bond between the varying events in life.

~Alexander Calder

It would be hard to find a better poetic description of flexible focus.

Soft focus and a calm center

At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center. It is in the central frame of the Mandala Chart, the seat of meditation, where you free yourself from the distraction of forces pulling from the outside, yet maintain your awareness and control. You can see it in the eyes of a Buddha statue, soft focus which is all seeing.

In addition to meditation, you can cultivate flexible focus by calm and deep breathing, such as done in the slow movements of Tai Chi Chuan. A compelling image used in this art is that the number of breaths you draw in your lifetime is fixed. Hence calm and deep breathing leads to long life, while quick and shallow breaths can shorten your life. So what is your hurry?