Seek – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Most of the time we are looking for something. From a lost key to a new career. Seeking. I know I am often seeking. To seek: a verb meaning to attempt to find something.

Seek illustration

Here are some definitions. To start with an example of seeking: “they came to seek shelter from biting winter winds”. To seek includes the idea of looking to find. Or seeking might be articulated as an: attempt or desire to obtain or achieve something. For example: “the new regime sought his extradition”. We might go further, seeking means to ask for something from someone, e.g. “he sought help from the police”.

The seeking process implies two things. A seeker and the sought. Subject and object. But, there is more to it than that. Between the seeker and the sought, in the gap inbetween, is the seeking, the finding, the obtaining, the asking. The quality of the seeking.

Finding, obtaining and asking are the quality requirements for the seeker to find the sought.

Now, generally speaking, we do not think about all of this. When I am looking for something I do not consciously hold in my head: “I am the seeker wishing to find, obtain or ask for the sought”. I just go and seek. Maybe that is why I often don’t find what I am looking for? Maybe I could be more precise in my seeking? Maybe it would help?

Problems abound in any seeking process. Here are a few questions which regularly arise.

  • Who is the seeker? Is this clear?
  • What is being sought? Is there one thing or many?
  • Do all the seekers agree on what is being sought?
  • How is the process of finding, obtaining and asking being organised?
  • What is the process?

Here are two short examples which may help to make a case for some qualities of seeking.

Example 1. They had set out but had no idea of what the destination looked like. All of them were fearful of what they might find but they had not talked about their fears. There was an iron leader, and his direction of travel had emerged as a consequence of past failures.

Example 2. They had all agreed on the destination, means and route and how they would know when they arrived. The various tasks which the journey suggested had been allocated to members of the team and there had been debate over who was prepared to do what. 

Who found the South Pole?

When you have finished the story give the following questions a little thought:

  • How is the story meaningful to you?
  • How is this meaning relevant to your life?
  • What value does this relevance have in terms of how you may change?
  • What Insight follows from the sense of value to change?
  • How will you change?

Of course, it is good to think, how will you know if your change has worked?

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Point – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Often there is a discrete moment or point when things change and future events tip over into a new circumstance. Sometimes we can see this coming and sometimes it is a surprise.

Here is a story.

Point illustration

There is a point to things. A point. Notice the focus on the singular.

The four children were making their way home from school in group-security.

“Never walk home alone”, Nathan’s mother had emphasised weeks ago. And continued to emphasise on a near daily basis. FFS, he was 14! Not a kid anymore. Not so small as to be easily swiped by some paedo.

Nevertheless, the four were four and were in a certain unspoken agreement that walking together was the way to go.

The school was in a leafy borough, post-war lime trees lined the streets, making the pavement sticky with resin at certain times of the year. The slight resistance of the sole of the shoe lifting from the paving slab was an early sign that unintended or wickedly planned stumbles would be rewarded with unsightly, gummy blemishes on hands, elbows and any other extremity which made contact with the ground. The walk had other perils, more usual than the vague challenges provided by trees. Traffic at times was crazy. Some kids seemed to have lifts who took the challenges of gaming to the streets, psychopathically trying to bury the noses of their pimped-up Peugeot’s into the passing throng of students tramping home. Road crossings could be crowded as the change in the lights was impatiently awaited. These were choke points. Convergence zones where masses were penned in ranks, waiting to be released on the green light, like a broken pack of pool balls, to the variable directions, speeds and clusters people adopt as they disperse. There was one particular such point.

Nathan did not like this point. It was on his mind each day on the journey in. “The point” he called it. The Point was what all his small gang called it. Parents referred to is as: ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

It had probably emerged by chance or accident. A desire on the part of the local council not to demolish a line of good, low-cost terraced housing in an area where house prices were beginning to make home ownership impossible for those of modest means.

In one section of Nathan’s commute was a hundred metres of steep descent. Shortly after a pizza and kebab outlet, the main road did an acute turn to the left, a snake curve, the road bending round the line of terraced houses. To allow pedestrians to avoid following the loop in the road, at the ‘elbow’ in the road was a crossing point with the pavement on the far side buffing up to a metal fence. The pavement was narrow, the fence marking the edge of the steep fall. The road curved around the line of houses to continue on its way ten metres below. The metal fence and row of housing was punctured by a narrow stairway which took the pedestrians directly down to the lower road as it swept back. The stairway was steep and descended to another narrow pavement. This was “The Point”. Steep descent, choke point crossing, narrow, steep stairway, narrow pavement, busy road.

Trudging home in the evening was never a problem. The line of children straggled out on the rising slope and the stairway and fence were wearily and slowly navigated. No, ‘The Point’ was at its worrying worst on the helter skelter morning tumble down the falling slope and the exuberant challenge of ‘getting down the stairs first’. This was when ‘The Point’ would prove to be singular indeed.

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Look – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

To look is one thing but to see is another. Do we always see what we are looking for or at?

Look illustration

She closed her eyes and looked.

In all her years of seeing she had never looked quite like this. This was seeing.

The ‘accident’ was now over ten years ago, and she was resigned if not reconciled with the state of affairs. The impairment to her vision had been absolute. The ophthalmologist had been kind and empathetic but quite definite in her assessment. 100% sight loss and not a chance of recovery. The diagnosis was certain. And so, began a new life.

With any kind of set-back there are stages. The psychologist had talked her through them and emphasised her need to see them coming, know when they arrive and realise that they are not for ever. That conversation had ended badly. How dare the mind-nanny presume to place her unique circumstance into a framework! A bloody ‘model’ which fits all kinds of horror. A model where some stupid sod of an expert could say in a condescending tone: “Ah yes, you are at stage 3 of the 7-fold model of grief”. Sod off!

But there had been a process and she did see the pattern emerge. The period of denial was acute and painful. If this, if that, if only for god’s sake the other. None of it mattered and denial felt like a physical impalement, excoriating her from the inside out. In time the anger set in. Fury, rage at the injustice of an uncaring universe set out to make her less and less and less. She would not accept it. She could not. Her rage left her exhausted and a trail of broken friendships. Then she had begun to try to negotiate. She was not stupid, and she was not poor. She had a good mind, money and a determined will to put this right. Surely there were things that could be done. She would see another ophthalmologist, she would see 20 if she had to. She would find the one who could help her. There had to be a deal which could be drawn from the system to allow her to begin to regain all that she had lost. All that had been so cruelly taken from her. Months passed; the answer was always the same. The damage done had been irreparable and no reconstructive surgery had any chance of making a difference. There was nothing to reconstruct too. There was not a plan B or C or D. There was only weary and depressing plan A. Live with it. Tears, misery and then, tipping on the gradient towards the darkness, which was her daily life, depression. Deep as the ocean, remorseless as the unlit world she now lived in, unendurable nothingness. Only her most resilient friends and family now remained. The hopelessness was almost complete, and suicide was too good for her. Too much of an effort. To wish oneself dead is to make an affirmation of a willed position. She was beyond that. All she wanted was not to want anything anymore. End.

Damn that bloody model. The day came when there was a twist, no not that defintite, maybe a twistet! A slight movement from the quiescent emptiness of depression. She had the radio on and listened half-heartedly (was there still a whole heart beating in there?) to a programme about consciousness. The great mystery of it. There were three evolutions. The evolution of the physical world, the evolution of life and the evolution of consciousness. The expert being interviewed said that science had a good grip on 1, a starting position on 2 but not a clue about 3. The void consciousness emerged from and filled. This intrigued her. The unknowability of its morphology and its ubiquity to all people. The only way we know is to be conscious. To be intrigued by anything was a foreign feeling for her. She had not felt a passing interest in anything in six months. It struck her. She was conscious. She was.

She began to make the journey back to life and her means was the search for and the understanding of consciousness. She read audio books about it, listened to pod casts and engaged in chat groups (one of her few remaining friends set up a speech app on her iPad). The more she studied the more she pulled away from the bottom and began to float upwards towards what? Light? How does that work?

But it did and her work on consciousness, from the inside out, began to give her more and more pleasure.

In this working she was not. Not in the sense of being herself. A self. She was a broad plain of receptance. An ocean of acceptance. A surface on which the waves of incoming data played and danced. Sure, for most people one of those data sources was sight, the visual field. But there was so much more to it. Sound, taste and touch. Feel, heat and odour. These all came to rest in her ocean of consciousness. And then there was the numinous. The inner world of emotion, thoughts and conceptions. The eternal sea of meanings and emergences. The brightly lit uplands of received ideas. Blending all that she was conscious of; past, present and vision of future; her world was full to brimming and this told outward as she gathered to her minds of similar inclination. She, the broken self was gone. She the emergent field of conscious intention was in place.

And so, one day following many weeks and months of study, she sat in her accustomed place, closed her eyes and looked.

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

The Mindful Stories Cycle: methods and mindsets – 2. The Quartet

By Simon Bell

2. The Quartet

In my previous blog I described the primary cycle for your reading of the Mindful Stories – Meaning, Relevance, Value, Insight and Action or MRVIA. In this blog I want to talk about the wider cycle which this cycle of thinking occurs within.

MRVIA is intended to be a relevant approach for considering any Mindful Stories but the stories themselves are specifically intended to attend to the subliminal issues contained in four realities, The Quartet, which we all find ourselves in. The Quartet refers to:

Me and Myself

Me and My World

My Group and My World

My Group and Me

I have written stories which attend to issues in for each of the domains of The Quartet.

The stories are stories and can be used for any purpose which a story is appropriate for but, the specific intention behind them is to resonate with one of the four realities set out in The Quartet.

Here is a sense of the intended dynamic.

We are all multifaceted creatures with multiple roles. We are ourselves in and for ourselves. To deny this is to deny our being. We can nurture this being or we can deny and/ or abuse it but my preference is for nurture. Stories for Me and Myself are to do with this sense of nurture, of peace with ourselves.

In our individuality we experience our world, both the natural and the artificial. This world is our palette of colour and our canvas for expression. We work in this context but also this context works on us. The stories in the second part of The Quartet are intended to convey areas for pondering in our expression and engaging.

Out in the world of our experience we meet others who are similarly engaged. Who are contextualising their meanings in the world and doing the things that they have to do. We meet them in this context and we share as we contextualise our collective experiences together.

But the group is where we manage our expectations of others, where we ponder our true role to the collective and realise our value to the collective.

The intention of the wider cycle, The Quartet, is to provide fictions for the assessment and consideration of Meaning, Relevance, Value, Insight and Action. As we use the stories as safe spaces and mirrors for conjecture there is an opportunity to move from being relatively unaware of self, world and group to a deeper and more sustained sense of being truly self and GroupAware.

Over the next four weeks I will post four blogs: Look, Point, Seek and New Normal. They represent the four elements of The Quartet and can be seen as opening up multiple areas of mindful consideration of your being, engaging, contextualising and managing. Each can be considered in MRVIA terms and also as position fictions for each of the elements of The Quartet.

I welcome your comments on the reading and the thinking that may emerge.

The Mindful Stories Cycle: methods and mindsets – 1. MRVIA

By Simon Bell

1. MRVIA

If you have been reading the Mindful Stories on the Bayswater Institute web page you will already have a good idea about the primary process involved. The stories are presented, with a picture from the Artist Rachel Furze, and then you are encouraged to consider the story from five points of view, each one working on the previous and taking you into depth and then to action. The process is:

  • To consider the main meaning the story has for you. I assume that as you read or listen to a story you will detect many levels and forms of meaning but I ask you to consider just one as being primary or main. Seeking meaning you draw the contents of the fiction into your consciousness and in that process find some kind of a fit or resonance.
  • Following this you review the relevance of this core meaning seeking deeper connection
  • This leads to you assessing the personal value which this meaning conveys to you
  • And in turn, this may reveal personal insights from the review of the value.
  • Finally, you can think about what actions you might take as a consequence.
  • Meaning, Relevance, Value, Insight and Action or MRVIA.

This is a learning cycle of sorts with action feeding back into the review of meaning. MRVIA can be layered onto many of the main learning cycle processes available to you in the literature. The idea is that the five stages provide a journey into depth and out again:

Beginning with a sense of a personal connect to the story. This is the meaning behind the words. This will be highly subjective to each reader. Following this, and accompanying it in many cases is a willingness to go deeper, seeing how the story connects to your existing worldview. This is the inner relevance of this meaning to you. Again, sequentially or in some cases consecutively, you will get a sense of going deeper still, thinking about how this relevance resonates to your existing value system and how this system relates back to the relevance identified. The connection between Meaning, Relevance and Value is subtle and often braided but tends to a deeper and deeper connect to the main item in the story.

Following on, the intention is to arrive at some form of insight. How does the fiction idea you are pondering relate to your life, your reality and your needs? Does there emerge a sense of a key to action? Does a tumbler fall into place in your consciousness?

Finally, for the first cycle, what does this mean in terms of future actions? What is the necessary response which may take you to a new place and a new you? Any action should lead spontaneously for a search for the inner meaning of the action. This stimulates a further turning of the cycle.

The Meaning, Relevance, Value, Insight, Action cycle is the primary cycle in the Mindful Stories. But, this five-fold approach is set within a wider system of consciousness and I will talk more about that in a later blog.

In the meantime, take a look at the stories in the collection on the BI site and try the MRVIA cycle for yourself.

I would be interested to have your reflections on the outcome.

Success – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Success is a huge factor in so much of our self-appreciation. Are we a success? How do we know when we are, and does it matter when we fail? The world can be harsh. What do we do with harshness and with our fragility in the face of attrition? Read on.

Success Illustration

James is a success. He is intelligent, married with three children and holds down an academic post at a good University. His wife works part-time now as the children are attending universities and there is time to focus on making additional money; “now that the kids are out and away”. Income is greater than expenditure and there is a pension pot building up nicely. James is good at his job. Not crazy good but good enough to be safe and, as I have already said, a success.

But, how do we judge or measure success in the academy?

Well it is a bit of a movable feast. Early on, back in the 1990’s when the sector was just learning about ideas like ‘impact’ and ‘performance’ measurement, success was judged by pretty random measures in line with teaching, research and administration. But that was before metrics took off and education became a business. James sometimes thinks back to those days with a degree of nostalgia. Of course, the system was open to abuse. Academics could and did have a very nice life. Lots of time for reading books, doing unpaid research and travelling to distance places on nebulous and unclear ‘visiting professor’ tickets. All of that changed over the 2000’s. At that time, he experienced the ratcheting up of the assessment of academics via the comparative measurement of the qualities of their work. Committees of compliant scholars began figuring out league tables of relative academic value. This took some doing but once the sector applied its vast talents to the exercise it proved remarkably creative at the task. The lengthy process of assessing comparative value meant that every academic output was weighed in scales.

In this brave new measured world getting journal papers published is ‘worth’ more than writing books. Getting published in some journals is worth more than getting published in others (measured by the ‘impact factor’). Under this system chapters in books are worth very little, conference papers are worth almost nothing and non-refereed articles (articles in journals where the submitted article is not subject to the review of peers) are worth less than nothing. This is Metrics Measurement Land and in this strange and multiply assessed country money too is graded. With quantum complexity some euro is worth more than other euro, some pounds worth more than other pounds, some dollars are worth more than other dollars. Research Grant pounds are good but research grant pounds from some Research Centres are ‘very good’. Money from charities is ‘so so’ but money from consultancy agencies is really not worth having even if you have a lot of it. In this singular world some apparently good things are, counter-intuitively, to be avoided.

Survival is key. James has a story which he walks through with himself and others when they listen. He tells himself that he is in a jungle and he is learning to identify the ‘big beasts’ that can hurt him. He is learning to distinguish between a harmless grass snake and a poisonous viper. What are the jungle survival techniques? Well, acceptance and avoidance are essential. For example, administrative duties are to be avoided at all costs as these take time that could be allocated to research grant writing or producing ‘good’ journal articles. Admin tends to be given to a newly evolving ‘support-class’ of academics. And, teaching is important but an encumbrance in the same way. Reading and thinking is strictly to be done in one’s own time and should not interfere with the day job. To live in the jungle, one needs focus and constant vigilance.

Things have changed a lot since the 1990’s.

James has seen the system change and has learned to survive. He is not really aware of it but he lives with a degree of background fear most of the time. His university jungle is a managerialist nightmare of constant mini-evaluation, rule by algorithm and overt bullying heavily disguised as assessment. He would love to be at a kinder place but there would still be the background pressure to achieve.

He does not think of his life as being governed by fear. Rather, if he were to reflect upon it, he might think of it as being habituated to pressure and measurement. Part of his success is that he is reasonably good at giving the ‘system’ what it wants. He makes ‘OK’ money and he publishes in ‘OK’ journals. He is ‘OK’ in the eyes of his line-manager (a term unknown in academia when he started in the 1970’s) but he knows that he could do better. His success is tinged with a constant awareness that he is not ever really ‘safe’. The jungle is in constant flux and is full of new traps and new predators that emerge to threaten him. His colleagues, the group he runs with, are also his competition. To be successful, everyone is encouraged to bray about success. If success is not current it is best to hide in the long grass. He is beset with worries, real and (much worse) imagined. His research may fail, his papers may not publish, his university management may change and become still more hostile. He lives with a constant and gnawing background of anxiety. He has learned to hide his failure, not to trust his colleagues, to be ever vigilant and to watch for every opportunity to reinforce his position. He does it rather well. After all, James is a success.

When you have finished the story think:

  • How is the story meaningful to you? What meaning do you find here?
  • How is this meaning relevant to your life?
  • What value does this relevance have in terms of how you may change?
  • What Insight follows from the sense of value to change?
  • How will you change?
  • How will you know if you change has worked?

Artwork © Rachel Furze

New – The Mindful Stories Workshop

In solitude or with others, some things are too difficult to be dealt with directly. Sometimes we need to find a way to address underlying issues by circuitous means. My starting point is two-fold. It can be summed up by the two following sentences:
We are needful of harmony with each other.
We are needful of peace with ourselves.

    • By ‘needful of harmony with each other’ I refer to the quality of the relationship we have with the others who come into and move out of our lives.
    • By “needful of peace with ourselves” I refer to the quality of our self-knowing.
    • By use of the Mindful Stories you and your team can address issues which are often beyond easy solution.

Mindful meeting with Self – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Encounter

O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!
– Robert Burns 

Encounter Illustration

It was on a windy day in late October that I met myself for the first and last time. 

I was head-down against a leaf-spinning wind, trudging down a city street by a market place and happened to glance briefly into the welcoming cinnamon-scented depths of a coffee house. This is when I saw myself sitting on one of the window stools.

My foot paused mid-step, hovered and descended in haste to meet the rising pavement and, in a movement of surprising grace, twisted around to the right, taking the rest of me with it, my body the prisoner of my foot and my foot my eyes. They were fixed upon the coffee house window, caught initially by curiosity but subsequently captivated.

I stood motionless in the street, the noisy market drama around me a total camouflage, gazing at the profile visible through the glass. 

We are always gathered around the centre of the flux of our being. We are so used to assuming our being in the world and yet not ever self-encountering. Of all the people who we are aware of we are our greatest surprise. We never meet ourselves and yet our friends, family and occasional acquaintances come across us every day. We never see the world with us in it. We may occasionally be provided with a story of our doings or overhear someone else talking about our clever moments or silly indulgences, but we never encounter ourselves. We leave it to everyone else to find us and make their minds up about us. We live in our shadow, voyeurs of our doings. We are the absence in the world which we inhabit but on the day I am describing all of that briefly but conclusively shifted. 

Stationary outcrop of stillness in the swirling market chaos of pots and pans, dog food and flowers, dirty hair and onions, I stood a spectator on such a well-known, but little understood me. My first feeling, after the shock was: “I am so small!”. 

And there I sat, reflection distorted by shop glass, casting back off my shadowy outline the images of other passer’s by, not at all interested in the consumers of coffee, there I sat. So many instant changes came in my perception whilst I battled with shock, ego-vertigo, disorientation and curiosity. Aware of myself, the object of my gaze and the confusion of my mind. Impressions. My hair loss is so obvious. My stomach sag so unflattering. How long have my shoulders scooped forward? And, why has no-one told me about the comic-cut of my beard by rear-profile? 

In a yo-yo of concentration, I took me in and was baffled by the experience. 

In an ordinary lifetime we are who we are and yet we are never party to the experience of ourselves. We transmit, we do not receive. But this was my confused state as the recipient of a warm and breathing presentment of myself. This was like no mirror made, like no photograph or video recording. By these means we are mediated to a flat image of predictable record. Here I was with the unmediated me as I intended it. 

Buffeted by the wind,
in cold October clarity.
I looked at the me of I;
and had no notion of what or why. 

My horror would have been to see me look up and consider me, I realized immediately that this would have been too much, too vivid, too raw. Had I seen me, rigid, frozen in loss, this could not have been contained in the multiverse of consciousness. Something somewhere would have broken and split. The occasion never arose. 

Me in the café seemed happy to ponder the cup in hand and review the passing of the life within the impervious glass walls. 

How long did I stand there? I was there for as long as it took me to watch me finish the Americano and leave. That’s all, that’s how long it was. How long? A life-spiral of time. However long it takes a man to rise, smile, say farewell to a barista, open a door and walk away. How long can that be? 30 seconds or a continent of grains of sand draining through an hour glass, the aperture a needles width. Fixed in the hubbub of the street and deaf to every bit of it, time was as meaningless to me as the ocean is to a fish. 

And what did I see? 

This is the nub of this story. I saw a man walk out of a coffee shop. But when that man is you what is the quality of the watching and what are the implications for he who sees’? If we are always gathered around some kind of a centre of ourselves in life, what happens at death? When the self and the idea of self come apart. During life, the sane understanding is that we are one in and of ourselves. We are not two or any kind of plurality. We exist as a single and undivided entity of unity. A noun. Or that is what I thought. That, I began to see, was the unconscious conceit I accepted in my complacency. How is it to find yourself the audience to yourself? The spectator on you? The world extends to unknown frontiers in all directions, a desert of fullness and, if you look closely, you may find that you are within it. Look long and hard enough and you may just find yourself in there looking back. The dynamic verb rather than the static noun. 

This must have been a one off, an anomaly. A moment of insanity which the world of sanity will eventually gently but firmly heal. Even so, the impression is made, the door to other experience has been opened just for a moment and there are consequences. There have to be consequences. We will each have our own sensibilities and have our own experiences, but these are mine.

Seeing me in my world, observing myself has rendered me unable to resist the nudge to look and look for the face staring back. I am just another person and pretty unremarkable. I am the process of me and, seen from me, I am just one more identity, unremarkable as the rest but remarkably, like the rest, able to process all that is not me.

I am invisible to most people. Certainly, I move (but not quite as I thought I moved), I interact with others and I respond to them but, generally, the world goes on alongside me without any reference to me. 

I am not the centre of anyone’s world.
I have no centre to my own. 

Like a child allowed on the bus for the first time by themselves, I find me vulnerable and fragile. 

As I watched me disappear into the crowd of shoppers, I had no desire or capacity to follow. This was not possible. I watched my head gradually pass from view among all the other heads. I was left in place until I was lost to view. Lost to sight and lost in the leaf strewn, windy wildness of the October day.  

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Fake News, Paradigm of Fear & Sustainability

Fake News, Paradigm of Fear & Sustainability: Research Report on Climate Fear(s)

Abstract:

News manipulation is now a much-discussed reality of 21st century media ethics. Daniel Khaneman has identified that people have a tendency to respond to complex issues in a problematic manner – often making use of instincts (System 1 or S1) in knee jerk responses when a more rational (Systems 2 or S2) approach might be more appropriate. Simply put, human beings have a flawed process for problem structuring. In research carried out between 2015-16 with people engaged in and concerned with climate change, a series of interviews were undertaken concerning public attitudes to fear as a major force in the climate change debate.The results have paved the way to describing a process – the “paradigm of fear,” whereby fear can be weaponised in order to promote knee jerk responses to complex issues. The results of the research were published in a book (Formations of Terror) and a comic (Project Fear)* but lasting questions remain to be addressed: Is fear weaponised by lobbyists in order to promote public response? If fear is weaponised to prompt populations to change, is such action ethical and responsible? Do climate change activists have a responsibility to orientate arguments to the rational and reflective rather than the instinctive and automatic? Describing the formations of terror as a device for fear management, this paper explores the ways in which fear can and is used by all sides in the climate change debate and raises questions about the ethics of social manipulation for even the best of causes.

Simon Bell, United Kingdom

[Sen. Ed. Note: Bell prefers the title: “Fake News, Fear, Sustainability and the Paradigm of Fear: The Weaponization of Fear as a Lever for the Good?” ]

Much of this paper is drawn from and builds upon an earlier book. The fuller version of this paper is to be found in Bell, S. 2017. Formations of Terror. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars

*For more info: https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/operation-project-fear-the-open-university-uk pp. 91-107

How can we be heard above the noise? A Mindful Story

How can we be heard above the noise?

By Simon Bell

At a time when the background noise of advocates shouting or braying seems to fill all space, it is hard to feel that we are heard. Here is a Mindful Story which may provide a clue or two about being heard. 

Heard Illustration

As with previous blogs, find time in your day to read and think. You will need about 20 minutes. 

I suggest that you place the story in a mindful setting. So, settle down in a comfortable place and take a few seconds to control your breathing, focusing on the in-breath and the out-breath. Give this a couple of minutes. 

When you feel calm and your breathing is steady, read the story and look at the picture, let them into your mind. When you feel ready, look at the questions which follow: 

Heard

He was really dreading the meeting. It was a humiliation and a reprimand in camouflage. They had assembled three ‘Senior colleagues’ to ‘help him’ in his challenging task. Read this as meaning, three Seniors had been called away from their very-important-business in order to sort out the mess which he had been thought to be capable of sorting out himself. This was not good for his career prospects, morale or self-confidence. He felt totally deflated. 

Entering the anonymous meeting room, he found one Senior was already in place. With the presentation of calm confidence he did not feel he said ‘Morning!’ in a bright and cheerful, bushy-tail, Labrador-friendly manner. The Senior barely looked up from his pad. Not a good start.

Over the coming five minutes the two remaining VIPs arrived and took places confronting the position he had taken. It felt like an interview and not one for a promotion. The great ones talked among themselves and barely registered his presence. His heart sank further. Finally, the Head of Unit turned up, to ‘Chair’ the meeting. The Chair and potentially the judge and jury.

He was asked to set out the current situation. This felt helpful. He knew the context inside out and was happy to be able to put his side of the situation to them all. He did not want to whine but he felt that he had been put in a terrible situation. Essentially, he was a junior in charge of a herd of highly egotistical cats! No one could be told what to do. Everyone had to be cajoled and stroked into action. It had been the worst six months of his life. He had done his best, but it had not been a fair fight. If he had not been fully understood prior to the meeting he now had the chance to describe his side of things. He spoke into what felt like an unforgiving silence for five minutes or so. As the minutes went by the silence grew into what felt like hostile impatience. He faltered, intimidated by the vacuum of response, the lack of signals of register from his audience, he repeated himself and he gradually wound down. What had begun as a confident outline of a complex situation ended as a rambling waffle. Or that is how it felt.

Silence.

Then one of the Seniors’ looked up, smiled and, following a reflective cough, suggested that he would like to start by saying back to him essentially what he had just said, but from the point of view of the Senior’s understanding. Surprised he nodded, and the Senior began. In his repetition there was no judgement, no leaps to personal assessment; rather a seasoned and diligent reiteration with understanding of the story as told. The waffle and whinge were missing, but the main themes of the story remained.

In the same way that there was no judgement in the review, similarly there was no suggestion of redemption or kindness, no inflection of solution just the balanced and thoughtful understanding of what he had said.

In feeling heard in this way his emotions were suddenly and strangely close to elation and this astounded him. He had no idea why he felt so good, but he had not been judged. He was not saved but nor was he damned. He had been heard and this felt like a new experience to him. To be truly heard. His hell had been taken into another human being’s consciousness, listened to, processed and was now presented back to him, in a question, as an accurate account of the situation.

From this point of view, he knew that what would follow might be tough, might be difficult and might require a lot from him but it would be based on his real situation and his real feelings.

This was enough. More than enough, it was a new beginning.

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story? 

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one. 

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you? 

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

 Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier? 

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you? 

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence? 

Don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

Artwork © Rachel Furze