News

The following are announcements and commentary from the institute regarding issues in the news and new developments at the institute. The commentary represents the opinions of individuals in the institute and this is identified in the by line.

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