Sunday, 27 January 2013

Now, Listen Here

There are all sorts of work shops and self-help books for people who find themselves lost for words in social situations, but the people I really wish would get help are the ones who won't shut up.

Recently, as just one example of many, I went to a small dinner gathering where I knew only the hosts - lovely people.  Most of the other guests seemed lovely too, but I can't say for sure. One woman dominated the evening so comprehensively there was no chance to get to know anyone else.  She talked about herself virtually non-stop.

She was oblivious to the discomfort and boredom around her, the restless body language, the glazed eyes, the failed attempts at diversion.  By evening's end, my mouth was locked in a rictus of feigned interest that bordered on cramp.

Some people somehow have never developed to the point where they take an interest in other people's lives.    Experts say one of the really negative things about this is that they don't learn things.  They remain where they are.  Listening is what takes you into another person's world and expands your own.

These people must have a lack of curiosity and maybe had poor role models.

Another psychologist points out that, these days many people may not be getting any conversation modelling at the dinner table at all. She said "we don't sit down and pass the conversation around the table with our families any more".  "It's like a social skill we no longer use".  And email and social media she says are one-way broadcasts.

"You are just trying to get across your message in your own way and in your own time.  And you're not really being mindful of the other".

Conversation is definitely a collaboration, not a performance.  With conversation skills the most important one by far is the skill of listening.  Long after people have forgotten what we talked about, what they will remember is how we made them feel.

It takes two to have a conversation - something we often forget!

“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.”
~~ Agatha Christie

"When I'm in a bad mood, I don't listen".
~~ Cathy Freeman

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney November 2012.  Two sculptures - Wind driven installation of 222 bamboo 'bird-scarers' tuned to D Minor as a reflection on 222 lives lost in the Bali bombings and the Mirador highlighting the complex relationship between man and nature.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Cloud Watching

When we pause to look up from our earthbound scurrying, we will see that the skies offer an ever-changing drama.

Clouds shift and flow and move: the sky is never the same two seconds in a row.

As the sun moves, so the colours change and the interplay between the wind, the temperature and the sun create spectacles of infinite variety.

Clouds will form themselves into fantastic shapes, even for a second appearing to resemble an object from our world: a rabbit, a saucepan, a dragon or a heart.

Then they are gone, ever-changing, formless yet with form, solid yet fluid at once.

Clouds are natures poetry.

"Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty and live life with your head in the clouds"

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky"
~~ Rabindranath Tagore

When I was visiting my friend in Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2012 the sky often put on a display like the photo above.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Be Like Water

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
~~ Lao Tzu

There’s a concept in Taoism, “wei wu wei”, which is often translated as “action without action” or “effortless doing”. I prefer to think of it more in the sense of “action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort”.

This is an important concept, because effortless action is a way to not only achieve focus in a world of chaos, but to be effective without stress, to respond to any situation with economy of effort and action, and to pursue our passions while beating procrastination.

Think for a moment of times when you've struggled to work, and instead procrastinated by heading for your distractions — email, social networks, blog reading, games, whatever your flavour might be. I am very guilty of these distractions!

This struggle is often a losing battle for most of us. We fight against it, but only win occasionally.
According to Lao Tzu effortless action is an easier way to find focus and beat procrastination.


An appropriate mental image is that of water, which seems naturally effortless in its action. It isn't necessarily still, nor is it passive, but it flows naturally around obstacles and always gets to where it’s going.

This is effortless action. It uses gravity and the natural contours of its landscape, instead of forcing things. Water can never be anything but effortless, and yet it is quietly powerful.

"We must learn to position ourselves effortlessly within each moment, rather than stumbling through time. We can either escape from the moment or stay with it as it unfolds and do something good with it."

And this is exactly right. Are you trying to escape the moment, fleeing from it and struggling against it? Or are you inhabiting the moment effortlessly?

"Simply stay at the center of the circle."
~~ Tao Te Ching

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
~~ Lao Tzu

I took this photo in Norway in July 2010, it shows how effortless and powerful water can be.