Posts Tagged ‘karma’

Flexible Focus #48: The Principle of Initiative

by William Reed on April 7, 2011

“With a brain in my head, and feet in my shoes, I can steer myself any direction I choose.” ~Dr. Seuss

What you see is what you get

One of the central insights of the Mandala Chart is that the world we see is actually the world as we see it, not a fixed reality to which we must succumb. While we share the same space, we do not see or experience it in the same way. Things do not look, feel, or taste the same when you are in love, as they do when you are broken hearted, because your heart and your mind are the lens and filter through which you see the world. Reality is subjective, but pliable. What you see is what you get. We are all co-creators of our world.

Your disposition determines whether you see the world in a positive light or cast a pall of darkness. This creates the quality of your experience, and it influences the experience of others with whom you share that space. In this way, some people  have the power to brighten a room and make others feel good, while others can sap the energy from the place itself.

That is why we choose the company of some people over others, choose to live in a certain city or work in a particular place. Sometimes the people we spend time with and the places we inhabit drain our energy instead. When that happens, we can succumb to it, get away from it, or choose to make a change from our own initiative.

Be proactive at the Edge

Interesting things happen at the edges. This is where we enter new territory, where you get the cross-fertilization of ideas, where cultures meet and discoveries happen. An edge is not just the outer limit of something; an edge is also an interface to something else.

The Mandala Chart also represents an edge, a bridge to a new way of seeing the world. That alone gives you an edge, compared to someone who is stuck in their perceptions. The word for edge in Japanese is 縁 (en), which is also used to mean connection, and in Buddhism it is the bridge between cause and effect.

When the West first encountered Eastern thinking in India, some people had the impression that the tone of the religion and culture was fatalistic, based on the misinterpretation of karma as some kind of predetermined destiny or fate. However, the word karma is better translated as work, or the action you take at the edge, which intervenes with and changes the direction of previous causes, leading to effects which are anything but predetermined.

A saying has it that there are three types of people, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened? Think of this as people who live at the edge, people who live away from the edge, and people who have lost their edge.

The Mandala Chart Principle of Initiative is about being proactive at the edge, being a player rather than a spectator. How you experience the game depends a great deal on whether you are out on the soccer pitch or sitting in the spectator stands.

The more you see how much there is to be done, and how much you are able to do, the less sense it makes to worry or fret over circumstances. What sense does it make to wring your hands, when you can go to work on your plan?

Pygmalion Effect

Pygmalion was a sculptor from Cyprus in Greek mythology who fell in love with a female statue he had carved of ivory. In the story his love brings the statue to life. The Pygmalion Effect is the name given to a seminal study in the psychology of education, in which it was discovered that students frequently performed to the level of expectations of their teacher, regardless of their abilities. It is also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy.

To paraphrase Henry Ford, whether you think you can or cannot, you will prove yourself right. And many people in the world of Positive Psychology would agree. The challenge is that it isn’t always easy to believe that things will work out, when negative circumstances are staring you in the face. The key is, don’t stare back!

Realizing that the world is as we see it gives you a fundamental change in perspective. You can use the Mandala Chart as a lens to change your focus, see deeper or farther, and select that which you want to focus on, so that circumstances become your servant, rather than the other way around. You don’t want to end up a slave of circumstance.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Many cultures have stories involving the pursuit of happiness, often symbolized as the Bluebird of Happiness, for its bright and happy associations, and for its elusive flighty quality. These stories start with a search far and wide for the elusive bluebird, and end with the realization that happiness was within them right from the start.

Variations on this theme abound, from the story of the Prodigal Son to the Wizard of Oz, in which there is no place like home. These stories are parables, metaphors for our journey, not advice to stay put and bloom where you were planted. Regarding the pursuit of happiness, Abraham Lincoln said it best, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” That was good enough for him, and it is good enough for you and me.

With the music in your heart, you have a good place to start.

Flexible Focus #18: Engage visual thinking

by William Reed on September 9, 2010

In the art of flexible focus, dimension is more important than sequence. To emphasize this point I have selected for review eight of the Mandala Charts which have been featured in earlier articles in this series. Like a card deck that can be shuffled to create new combinations, these Mandala templates can be reshuffled and reviewed for a new perspective. In a world where change is constant, this is one way to stay on top of the wave.

Through the links below you can download the Mandala Charts, as well as reference the articles in this series where they first appeared. Each one contains a visual image in the central frame which was selected as a visual anchor for the central theme. These images resonate powerfully with the sub-themes, and can stimulate new images by association.

The images can help you recall and recreate new ideas around the central theme, as well as serve as a connecting bridge between the surrounding sub-themes. Images keep your Mandala interesting and alive, and if you print them out, you can also sketch images of your own inside the surrounding frames to enhance the key words, phrases, and text which you will add.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

8 Fields of Life (From Flexible Focus #3: The Principle of Interdependence)

Happily interwoven?…or a tangled mess?

The image of a Celtic Knot is a powerful icon of the 8 dimensions of life interwoven in perfect balance. The weave of the knot is loose enough that each dimension is distinct, and yet each strand crosses through every other. Look at this knot as you consider each of the 8 fields of your life, and ask yourself if they are in balance. Which fields need more time, care, or attention?

Mandala on Health (From Flexible Focus #4: The 8 Frames of Life: Health)

Radiantly connected?…or bent out of shape?

The image of a radiant tropical sun symbolizes the radiant quality of health. It includes what you eat, how you move, your attitude, and your relationships. It makes no sense to sacrifice your health for the sake of profit or convenience. Consider all of the factors that contribute to your health, and you will have many leverage points to improve it. Are you neglecting one or more of these factors in your life?

Refocus Your Business (From Flexible Focus #11: The Principle of Comprehensiveness)

Focus on the spaces between…and the possibilities therein

The optical illusion of flashing dots is a reminder of how we need to look closely to see what is really there. If you keep your eyes open you will discover many opportunities to make improvements. It is not enough to make a living. You must also make a life. Business and work can easily dominate your life, occupying an unreasonable amount of time and energy. The irony is that working harder is not always working better. If your work does not support your mission and identity, it will create conflict and sap your energy. Look for better, smarter ways to work. Find ways to work with others to accomplish more than you can by yourself.

Empowerment Mandala (From Flexible Focus #10: Become the Change)

Are you receiving fish?…or learning how to fish?

The image shows the moment of catching a fish, not asking for one. Empowerment is the ability to fish and fend for yourself. It is the opposite of entitlement, which is expecting others to fish for you. Constant preoccupation with receiving confines creativity. It is better to build momentum through action, than to succumb to inertia through passivity. To quote Dr. Seuss, with brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

Magic of Mindset (From Flexible Focus #9: The Magic of Mindset)

Rabbit or duck illusion…and mental perception?

This image appears to be a rabbit, until you shift your focus and it appears to be a duck! It is a reminder that mindset is truly magic. The way you look at things determines what you see. Life tends to live up to our expectations as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t be taken in by first impressions, because things and people are not often as they seem. Both positive and negative judgments can be contagious. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude, and you will attract people of like mind.

Opportunities for Engagement (From Flexible Focus #12: The 8 Frames of Life: Business)

Keep your ideas flowing…Keep your passion high

The image of a fountain of ideas spiraling from an open mind is enhanced by the color of red for passion. The flow of ideas is a measure of your interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm. Keep it strong by looking for new ways to engage with people in your work and private pursuits. Business is a dynamic process, and you are better off being an active player than a passive spectator. Look at the Mandala and ask yourself, where are there opportunities for greater engagement?

Decision Mandala (From Flexible Focus #16: The Decision Trap)

Learn from others…with a better perspective

The image of question marks lost in a labyrinth shows the difficulty of making decisions in complex circumstances. Many of life’s challenges do not lend themselves to simple logic. Sometimes it is best to lift yourself out of the labyrinth and seek wisdom from a higher perspective. Well selected quotes can provide that perspective, but the inspiration of a quote depends on timing and its relevance to the problem at hand. Working with the Mandala chart you will find that eight quotes can be better than one.

Karma Connections (From Flexible Focus #15: Karma and Connections)

Act, action, performance…not fate or consequences

The image shows the interplay of opposites, the balance of yin and yang. It also shows the dynamics of interaction. The more actively you engage in the game, the more opportunities you have to take advantage of critical moments. The pitch on which you play is where you are here and now. When you see that negative words and thoughts lead to negative results, it is easier to leave them behind. Karma is a dynamic and ongoing process. Your actions are the script for your life.

The visual images in each of these Mandala charts help you to engage visual thinking. Visit them often.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

Flexible Focus #15: Karma and Connections

by William Reed on August 19, 2010

Karma is a word which has entered the English language, but is often misused to mean fate (as in cause and effect), when the actual meaning of Karma is to act, action, performance. Karma can also be the seeds and the fruits of action.

A useful way of thinking about Karma is the way we inter-act with and re-act to our world. The Mandala Chart gives us some ways in which we can better gauge the process, and work to create good Karma for ourselves and others.

The Yin-Yang symbol shows the interaction of phenomena, and the interplay of opposites which creates our world. The key message is that you reap as you sow. Therefore if we want to achieve positive results, it makes sense to think, speak, and act positively.

This is a challenge. It takes patience and perspective, because you cannot cheat the process. If you are too attached to the results, then you may be tempted to seek shortcuts, and short work produces short results. Attachment is based on inflexible focus. It takes a flexible point of view and to see all sides of a problem, and come up with creative solutions.

Karma, Connections, and Chaos Theory

There is also collective Karma, which is often thought of as collective fate, but more constructively can be interpreted as collective action. Global warming, the skidding economy, religious rivalry, these are issues that have an impact on the very environment we live in. They are so immense that it seems you cannot do much about them as an individual.

Isolated effort against vast forces seems putting a drop in the ocean. However, the good  actions that you perform have a cumulative effect on you and your personal environment, as well as a positive influence on others. You can change, even if the world around you does not.

Moreover, things are connected in ways that are not always obvious. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (540~480 BC) said that, a hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.

James Burke, the science historian and creator-host of the popular BBC series Connections, showed throughout the series how things and people which seem totally unrelated are often connected by only a few degrees of separation. Napoleon may seem an odd companion for computers, but Burke traces the path of influence from Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, to the French soldiers discovery of Middle Eastern carpets, which triggered a fashion boom for such carpets in France, and a new technology for weaving them quickly on a loom that used cards with holes punched in them to block and pass the colored woven strands and control the intricate patterns, which spawned the punch-card tabulator invented for the purpose of automating the US census, which then led to the use of keypunch cards for early computers and data processing, and the rest is history.

Edward Lorenz, father of the Chaos theory and the butterfly effect, as an MIT Meteorologist in 1972 raised the possibility that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil might trigger a tornado in Texas. While the mathematics may be well beyond the average person, Chaos Theory remains a powerful metaphor for the hidden connections in our world.

How can you apply the Butterfly Effect?

Even when the connections are not obvious, it is possible to take small actions which use the butterfly effect to create good Karma. Here are 8 things which you can do to have a more positive effect.

  1. Don’t make a bad situation worse. How you respond to things can turn the situation around.
  2. Recognize your responsibility. You contribute to and participate in making the situation what it is.
  3. Engage in possibility thinking. Your ideas are a powerful force as a co-creator.
  4. Plant positive seeds. Perform small acts of kindness. Take the extra step.
  5. Engage in powerful rituals. The habits and routines which you perform on a regular basis can build your bank of resources.
  6. Find ways to leverage and multiply. Consider what factors make the biggest difference.
  7. Learn lessons vicariously. You don’t have to repeat other’s mistakes, you can learn from their experience.
  8. Remember that Karma means action. Good Karma is the result of actions in the present, not just consequences from the past.

I have prepared a Mandala Chart for Karma Connections, which you can download as a PDF, and use to develop your own butterfly effect.

Despite our best efforts to remain positive, there are times when Collective Karma or Karmic consequences can bear hard on us. There is a way to remain resilient, and lessen the effects of stress, if you apply a simple principle. The strength of a chain is measured in its weakest link. If you bear the loads of life with narrow and inflexible focus, then eventually your chain will feel the strain and may break. The strength of a net is its power to be flexible, to absorb and distribute the load, and also to cast it off. Think of the resilience and power of a tennis racquet to send the ball with speed and precision.

It all depends on how fully and positively you engage. The Yin-Yang symbol is a symbol for full engagement, resembling two question marks in a reflective embrace. Curiosity is a driving force for flexible focus. You can use this image to constantly search for ways to engage more positively and more powerfully in your life.

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.