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The Child – An Audio Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

THE CHILD

The Child

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? Can you set them free? 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’ has connotations for us. 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?

Feel free to listen to the story several time and 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.

I would be really pleased to receive your comments and thoughts.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Summing up the Quartet

By Simon Bell

The need for Mindful Stories

The need for Mindful Stories

I really hope you have enjoyed reading the Mindful Stories. Maybe you found them challenging too?

You may be asking yourself; “What are the stories for and what are they intended to do?”

Well, in my experience there are lots of triggers which can lead people to want to make use of the stories but at a general level, if you have difficult issues in your personal, professional or group/ team lives, working with the Mindful Stories can help you by providing you with creative thinking spaces to reflect back upon your actual experiences.

This process of assisted meditation can open up all kinds of new avenues of opportunity. Just by working by yourself with a story. 

If you would like facilitation with reflective learning processes, the Bayswater Institute has Mindful Story Master Classes, Workshops, Open Readings and personal coaching that can help you navigate your way from difficult places to greater clarity.

But this blog began by querying what the Mindful Stories are and what do they do?

For my suggestions, read on…

Over the past four weeks I have been sharing a quartet of stories, one a week. Prior to this I had been distributing stories on LinkedIn but, over the last month the stories have been presented in the pattern intended by my method. Less random and more an intended sequence. 

To understand the pattern, you will have been very persistent and patient and read the blogs of the two weeks prior to the last quartet. Just in case you have not done that, or you have forgotten, let’s recap.

Six weeks ago, I described the primary method for interpreting the Mindful Stories, the MRVIA method. About this I said:

“Meaning, Relevance, Value, Insight and Action or MRVIA.

This is a learning cycle of sorts with action feeding back into the review of meaning. … The idea is that the five stages provide a journey into depth and out again”.

Then, five weeks ago I set out the quartet cycle for the stories. I said:

“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.”

For the last four weeks, I have been presenting you with a story a week. The stories were: Look, Point, Seek and New Normal.

  • Look was intended for you to ponder Me and Myself
  • Point was more about Me and My World
  • Seek really focused on the issues and potentials of My Group and My World
  • New Normal related to My Group and Me

Each story is written to be read addressing tasks. Some stories address many tasks, but all have at least two.

  • Task One, the presenting task, is all about a thing that can be done, is done or has been done.
  • The second Task is about the subliminal behind Task One and the doing it usually involves and requires.

Most people and organisations spend almost all their time dealing with Task 1. I like to think of Task 1 as being synonymous with the weather. Most of us focus on the weather. It is important to be weather-wise, but Task 2 is more like Climate. Dealing with the weather without thinking about the deep climatic issues which govern and control it can be thought of as being a little short sighted. 

You can read any of the stories at face value, as Task 1 or, you can read them and look for the Second Task. Looking for the Task 2 may well help you to deal with an issue or potential in your life (or the life of your group) which is deeper, more complicated, more important but hidden by the bustle of Task 1. Task 2 is often subliminal.

The seeking for Task 2 is a major intention behind the Mindful Stories and an intention for you to carry forward into your daily life.

I very much welcome your thoughts and correspondence about the Stories and would love to talk to you about how they might be used in your situation.

Not convinced? Well, hearing is believing maybe.

Starting next week, I will be presenting another quartet, but as audio files for you to listen to. All you have to do is click on the post on LinkedIn. This will take you to the Bayswater Institute news feed. From here you can access the audio file of the story, listen to it and then review it with the MRVIA process.

So, from the 10th June 2019, an audio recording of a Mindful Story will be appearing weekly on the Bayswater Institute homepage under our ‘News’ feed. I hope you find them interesting.

I am intrigued to hear from you. Your reflections about each of the stories. I look forward to your thoughtful comments and questions.

Simon Bell, CEO of the Bayswater Institute – simon.bell@bayswaterinst.org

All Artwork © Rachel Furze

Taking normal for granted? A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

NEW NORMAL

New Normal illustration

It had been blowing for days on end. The wind had been raging for so long now no one could remember quite when it began. Unusual? Certainly. An emergency? What would an emergency for lengthy periods of wind mean? What would it mean in terms of the reasons for it and what would it mean in terms of the lives impacted? These are braided questions.
“Just the new normal”, Ken at the corner shop had suggested in his deep, jovial voice. “No need to worry, we still get the dog-food delivery!”
Trying to reassure her, he added with a wink:
“We’re not going to run out of bread and milk in the near future Jenny”.
He did not say anything about the regular shortages in fresh veg, paper, cooking oil, potatoes. Fruit. The list went on. She did not think it wise to spoil his optimistic mood. She had smiled uncertainly as he helped her with her bag and then took time to open and close the shop door for her, lest it whip from her hand as she angled her body out into the wind-blown street. Some-how his easy kindness and smiling assurances were not convincing.
As she laboured up the hill towards her small semi, she realised just how tired she was of the wind. It was constant and inescapable. Moaning around her house, slamming the doors, making it impossible to open windows, it was a constant presence but a symptom of what?
The dog was not keen either. Walks were short and sometimes plain dangerous. Falling branches had claimed many lives and falling trees a lot more. Not that there were too many trees around her bit of town anymore. Even so, getting from A to B was a nightmare. Recreational walking was a hazard. Her dog was not happy and nor was she. Who was?
It had been months ago that the TV news had noted the dip in the jet-stream. She had not even known what the jet-stream was until then. In conversations with her neighbours it appeared that there was to be a threat of a prolonged period of gales. Of course people had begun talking about the windy autumn and some said it was the windiest on record. But, the older members of the community poo poo’d the idea. It had been much windier in 1987 they said. But surely that was not right?
It had begun innocently enough. Certainly, the leaves had come down early and in great abundance causing all kinds of issues on road and rail but, you expected winds in the autumn. But then, there had been no let up. Days of high winds had turned into weeks. Autumn came and went; winter began and now the winds howled with a new ferocity. Snow and sleet made all kinds of event impossible. Winter fairs and sports events were cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Visits from friends and family were scratched from the calendar and still the wind keened and wailed.
Now it was Spring and ‘new normal’ just about summed it up. Winter receded but as the warmth began to build a new threat emerged in the form of a protracted heat wave. The inverse of an Indian Summer. Summer before summer. And the wind showed no sign of abatement. The gales continued and this brought to the public mind a new challenge. Tempests and heat. An evil combination. New words and phrases were appearing on the news. Gone were “flood” and “tree-loss”. The new vocabulary included; “desertification”, “massive soil-erosion”, “dust-bowl”. Was this new normal too?
Turning on her television and clicking the volume up to combat the never-ceasing racket from outside, Jenny settled down to try to take her mind of things. Outside the wind continued to howl and moan, a mindless cypher of the change inherent and emergent from the human achievement. A kind of marker of a unique inflection point. The moment had come and gone five months earlier without fanfare or even much notice, other than comments from a few worried looking scientists whose dire prognoses did not make it onto the prime-time news.
But the die was cast and ‘he who sows the wind’… as they say.
A consequence emergent from complex interactions, each of them as unremarkable as the fluttering of a butterfly wing but the outcome scaled and geared on a spring of titanic, possibly civilisation-breaking inevitability.

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

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.