Life and spirituality journal

14 February 2020: Complexity vs. scale

Currently reading “Making Things Work” by Yaneer Bar-Yam and noticing just how much we face the trade-off between large scale behaviour and fine scale complexity in how groups and organisations are set-up.

“When parts are acting independently, the fine scale behaviour is more more complex. When they are working together, the fine scale complexity is much smaller, but the behaviour is on a larger scale. This means that complexity is always a trade-off, more complex at a large scale means simpler at a fine scale” – From Making Things Work. 

6 February 2020: Edge of the known

Came to the realisation during lunch with my friend Lorenzo, the mathematician/physicist/computer-scientist, that quantum physics and the practice of science more generally can be a sort of spiritual practice. Because such enquiry can take the practitioner to the very edge of the known — towards a feeling of deep connection with the wider world beyond the confines of the ego-centric self. I suppose many roads can lead to the same place. Indeed, many spiritual and philosophical traditions have described such understanding by different names: Advaita (non-duality) in Vedanta, Tai Ji (supreme ultimate) in Chinese philosophy, Anatta (no-self) in Buddhism, Schopenhauer’s Will and Nietzsche’s Primordial Unity. I believe that music and art too can take us to a similar depth of feeling and understanding.

5 February 2020: Self-proclaimed Gurus

Just finished listening to Russell Brand interview Byron Katie on his podcast, UndertheSkin. I was appalled by how new age gurus such as Katie claim to be “enlightened” and in effect deny the biological-cultural force of the human ego. And, how the ego can pull us ALL towards suffering. People like Byron Katie who put themselves on pedestals concern me a great deal. Because by not acknowledging how the complexity of life in modernity can so very easily create ego-based suffering, they run the risk of disempowering others. Disempowering them by pedalling the idea that “enlightenment” is some pinnacle to be reached in a far off place accessible to a select few. Enlightenment (if there is such a thing) is more a path, rather than a destination.

Much credit to Russel for his spiritual honesty and for his willingness to share his own struggles. Doing great work mate!

30 January 2020: Street smart

Reflection of the day: What do a Zen master and a mafia don have in common? Both are not ‘suckers’ prone to naivety. Both are frequently considered to be ‘stupid’ by pseudo-intellectual types (the real suckers or whom Taleb refers to as  IYIs – intellectual yet idiots).

26 January 2020: Self-work

life and spiritualityA great day of inspiring discussions with my good friend and fellow coach, Bertrand Beauregard, currently visiting London. Time and time again we come back to the realisation that the path of coach/therapist involves a real commitment to deeply exploring the practitioner’s own inner-self. This, then becomes the fertile ground for supporting others in their lives.

And, no catch-up is complete without a jamming session!

23 January 2020: The nature of love

Love between romantic partners can only be enduring to the extent that each does not try to control the other. To make them conform to some idea of what you wish them to be. And, control is a subtle thing that can hide behind even the most mundane of comments or actions. For, it is the intention and spirit with which we engage with our partners that is primary. Each person belongs to herself in the same way that the clouds and the moon belong to themselves. 

You do not cling to one another as to commit mutual strangulation.You are not each other’s chattels, and you must trust your partner to allow full freedom to be the being that he and she is” – Alan Watts, In my own way (1972)

19 January 2020: Artisanal life

The independent / artisanal life is not so much about what you do, as it is about doing whatever YOU want to do. Society may sell the sterile “safety” of big corporate bureaucracies, but this comes with huge cost to human wellbeing . Intellectual and creative freedom is priceless.

25 October 2019: Reason

Just finished the hugely insightful Enigma of Reason (2017) by the pioneering psychologists, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber.

life and spiritualityKey takeaways — Reason is lazy and biased towards our OWN ideas (myside bias) and against ideas we oppose. Raises the importance of:

(i) Dialogic approach, discussion, debate
(ii) introspection

Authors make a compelling case that convincing others is the proper, evolutionary domain of reasoning, highlighting the lower effectiveness of solitary reasoning. In my mind, this makes deeper self-awareness and self-understanding even more necessary as we are pre-disposed to being lazy when evaluating our own minds.  

Reason understood as a tool for social interaction and social consumption also explains why reasoning can drive people towards decisions that are easier to JUSTIFY, whether or not they are otherwise good decisions. Just think of corporate, cover-your-ass environments, where the “safe” option for which you are least likely to get fired is typically favoured over more creative alternatives. A problem made worse by empty suits with no skin-in-the-game being in managerial positions.

17 October 2019: Human connection

Is modern life too “Anonymous-transactional”? A problem related to scale, tech and connectivity. Our total number of daily interactions (emails, calls etc.) can be huge, but the average time spent per person tiny. Different to hunter-gatherer or village communities, where one would expect a large number of interactions with a small group. Allowing a chance to form deeper, more meaningful human connections. 

16 October 2019: We are not automata

Psychiatry and much of psychology still operate from the mechanistic view of the human as an isolated automata. Assuming that what is wrong has arisen independently within the person and disregarding environmental factors. This is truly a tragedy.

15 October 2019: Being the author of your life

life and spiritualityWe can so easily get stuck living the scripts handed to us by others – whether our parents, peers or wider society. There is nothing more liberating than becoming the author of your own story. Of your own unique path in life.

And, it is fear and hidden conditioned beliefs that stop you. The often non-conscious feeling that you are ‘not allowed’ to deviate from some script of how you feel you ‘should’ be. Only by looking into your mind and the nature of its (hidden) fear can you hope to break free. Only by challenging the non-conscious narrative that is at play can you have real authorship of your life.

Artwork by Douglas Gordon

10 October 2019: Whose got THE answer?

In the opaque realms of human behaviour (mind + body) and socio-economic interaction (group behaviour), the more someone claims to have THE answer, the more suspicious you should be of them. It is better to say “I am not sure” rather than to create a false narrative. Complexity and causal opacity are very real.

3 October 2019: What is life about?

Life is about problem solving, but life itself is not a problem to be solved.

9 September 2019: Creativity deficit

This chart from Rory Sutherland’s latest book, Alchemy, sums up the deficit of creative thinking in large organisations. “It is much easier to be fired for being illogical than for being unimaginative”

life and spirituality

16 August 2019: Life and spirituality

I find this quote by the artist Lee Krasner to be true of so much in life:

“You can have giant physical size with no statement on it and vice versa. You can have a tiny painting which is monumental in scale.” 

12 May 2019: Programmed?

Seeing this art-piece made me think of how we can so easily get locked in doing soul-destroying work. How we can keep ourselves stuck in situations of psychological pain and constant stress, as we chase externally “programmed” ideas of successOur human conditioning may be strong, but it is not final. We have the ability to break free. We have the ability to actively choose different paths that serves us better. But, we have to find the courage within ourselves to do so!

Artwork: “Can’t help myself” by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Displayed at La Biennale di Venezia 2019

Seeing this art-piece made me think of how we can so easily get locked in doing soul-destroying work. How we can keep ourselves stuck in situations of psychological pain and constant stress, as we chase externally “programmed” ideas of #success. Ideas of success constantly pinned to achievements that are outside of us, when true success comes from within. Our human conditioning may be strong, but it is not final. We have the ability to break free. We have the ability to actively choose different paths that serves us better. But, we have to find the courage within ourselves to do so!Artwork: “Can’t help myself” by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Displayed at La Biennale di Venezia 2019#executivecoaching #lifecoaching #career #mindfulness

Geplaatst door Harsha Perera op Zondag 12 mei 2019

 

16 August 2018: Falling over

life and spiritualityBeing busy and constantly “doing” might seem like the answer. Indeed, that is the default state of modernism. But, doing too much can be like running whilst carrying a pile of 50 books. It’s not a very good idea.

Sometimes, you need to slow down and take a step back. If you do not allow yourself the time to focus on what really matters to you, chances are that you will keep running (and falling over) for somebody else. 

Artwork by Yinka Shonibare

 

9 August 2018: Letter from Anna Freud

I believe these  words by Anna Freud, written for an aspiring psychotherapist, to be true for coaching and every other field concerning human development.

“Dear John

You asked me what I consider essential personal qualities in a future psychoanalyst. The answer is comparatively simple. If you want to be a real psychoanalyst you have to have a great love of the truth, scientific truth as well as personal truth, and you have to place this appreciation of the truth higher than any discomfort at meeting unpleasant facts, whether they belong to the world outside or to your own inner person.

Further, I think that a psychoanalyst should have interests beyond the limits of the medical field in facts that belong to sociology, religion, literature and history, otherwise his outlook on his patient will remain too narrow. This point contains the necessary preparation beyond the requirements made on candidates of psychoanalysis in the institutes. You ought to be a great reader and become acquainted wth the literature of many countries and cultures. In the great literature figures you will find people who know at least as much of human nature as the psychiatrists and psychologists try to do.

Does that answer your question?

Yours sincerely

Anna Freud