We can always question ourselves and ask if we are really sure enough about the validity of what we think. This can be paralysing. I have been there and still often find myself there. But what I also realised is that sometimes I need to pause questioning and take a stance to enable myself to take a step.
Too often, I fall into the trap of questioning every new insight I have and asking myself if that insight goes deep enough. Every insight is still biased through my cultural coding, my upbringing, my context, etc. Yet by the very nature of being human we will never reach a place of ‘pure’ unbiased understanding. So we need to strike a balance between self-critical reflection and believing that we found some ground that is solid enough to step on and move forward.
It’s like the metaphor of crossing a river on foot. We make a careful step to check if the next stone is stable enough to step on or not. If it is, we make the step and then check which direction we can go from there. If we get stuck, we move a few steps back. But if we never trust the stability of the next stone, we will not move at all. And yes, sometimes we might fall into the water but that’s ok. We can pick ourselves up and start again.
That is what is meant by having a strong ideas but holding them lightly.
What helped me become more confident to take steps is my embodiment work as it gives me another way of knowing whether to move forward or not. The endless loops of questioning everything are mainly encouraged by the thoughts in my head. Sensing with the whole of my being whether a step is possible is a much better way to keep moving.
I am re-watching the two conversations between Nora Bateson and Dave Snowden on ‘When meaning looses its meaning’ (Session 1, Session 2) together with a group of friends who are both interested in Nora’s and Dave’s work. We are having fabulous discussions after watching bits of the conversations. While Nora and Dave try hard to agree with each other, of course they have their differences. And these differences are somehow reflected in my own thinking about how to be and act in the world, which I’m expressing in my weekly emails – particularly the dilemma of if/when/how to act. In very strongly simplified terms, Nora advocates for broad, open, purposeless spaces to make connections and relationships that will then sprout into change in whatever way, while Dave sees the possibility of catalysing certain attractors and shifting certain constraints in a more intentional / purposeful way so that new, more desirable things emerge (he calls this ‘nudging’ the system). While it is more obvious with Dave, both have an idea of how a more desirable world would look like: more people would accept that ecological and complexity thinking are better ways to engage with the world than industrial linear thinking. Both, Nora and Dave, take a stance, which allows them to become thought leaders.
Would love to read your reflections on this.
PS: I’m not 100% sure what the difference is between ‘taking a stance’ and ‘taking a stand’. Even English native speakers could not really explain it to me consistently.
From Philip Shepherd’s Embodiment Manifesto:
When your thinking cuts itself off from the body, it is cutting itself from your living reality. The body holds the deepest currents of your being, and those currents are informed by and participant [sic] in the life of the world around you – the being of the world. The vast, subtle intelligence of the body is akin to and attuned to the vast, subtle intelligence of nature, from which it was born. By distancing the center of your thinking from all that, you commit yourself to a kind of alienation that makes you feel like a spectator on the events that surround you. Furthermore, you start managing from on high what you cannot experience, because head-centric thinking is keen to create structures of control, systemization, judgment and acquisition. But being out of touch and off balance yourself, you can only seed more imbalance with every willful, managerial impulse – even when your impulses spring from an agenda that seeks to improve things. The desire to behave ethically, if coming from a place of disconnected reason, will necessarily focus on amending how your behavior affects the material world; and because disconnected reason tacitly expresses a contempt for the body, it will overlook the problem of how your relationship with the body affects your behavior.
Why have I added this to my paper museum? This is one of these examples where different people come from different directions but end up with the same conclusions. Philip says if we do things - even if well-intended ones - from the head, we will recreate a world that puts the head in the centre. Nora Bateson says the same: if we don’t change the premises that underpin our institutions, the institutions will recreate themselves.
Steaming nature - my own photo from a morning run earlier this year in the Netherlands.