I have recently started thinking about thinking, and more specifically, where does our way of thinking come from? It seems, that across boarders and geographical boundaries, our western culture has spread far enough to make sure we all think along similar lines. Of course, we don’t think the same things, we don’t even think the same ways, yet the rules guiding our thoughts appear to be very similar across the planet. These rules are so deeply embedded in us, they are so unconscious that we are not even aware of using them, or letting them rule our thinking. So, what are they, and where did they come from??
Since the beginning of time, different roles have been given to the unconscious in different cultures. Of course, all this changed with the advent of one coke sniffing therapist from Vienna, and suddenly the unconscious was bad, very bad indeed. Add another 80 years, and suddenly, we are told that the unconscious decides things for us a few milliseconds before we are consciously aware of it. Damn, does that mean that evil thing is now also running my life…RATS! Add another 5 years, and more research appears suggesting the opposite…that the unconscious only decides things for us in simple motor tests…phew! saved by the bell there. But hold on, there is another piece of research that might just blow your mind….
Over the last few years, I have made it a personal habit to look for new ways of doing things in strange places. This has led me, among other places, to the very interesting world of improvisational theatre, to learn about the way they codify and utilize their understanding of human interaction. Recently, I have noticed a tendency of some business publications to follow their own advice (look for innovation in places other than your business field!), and interview at least one “non-business” person. In the last issue of Harvard Business Review, this person was Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer and author of 2 books. How could a choreographer possibly know something about business and change that could positively change the way we work?
For some time, the personal development market and science have stood at opposite sides of a line, throwing stones at each other. While one claims and celebrates the power of the mind and personal power, the other one tries to define what is objectively possible and what is not possible. As such, many people will choose one of both extremes, where usually the scientific extreme is much harsher than the other one. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Blink”, claims that snap judgments can many times be better than long, deliberated decisions, when scientists call this humbug. So, what is what here?
The guard of a zen master in one of the most esteemed monasteries passed away. Once this happened, the zen master started looking for a replacement throughout the country, and several men applied. Once they had all gathered in the monastery, the zen master explained the following:”I am looking for a new guard. I will give all of you one test, a problem, and whoever solves it first will become the new guard”.
The notion of trance is often times very closely linked to that of hypnosis. People think that the only time they go into a trance is when they have somebody dangling a pocket watch in front of their nose. Furthermore, a chicken like state is also commonly associated with trance…All this could not be further from the truth. “Trance may be understood as a matter of functionality and efficiency ~ to economize consciousness resource usage” (Wikipedia). In fact, we are in some sort of trance all the time, and all we do is change between the trances we live through our day…
For some time now I have been reading Impro by Keith Johnstone, which is a book about the art of improvisation in the theater. Written in the 70s, this book is not only very entertaining, but also offers deep insights into human interaction and the human condition. Among many other topics, Johnstone mentions what is known as “Mask” acting. Masks form important part in pageants, rituals, ceremonies and festivals. They are used to embody an important tradition to the people, and form a central part in many religious ceremonies. For Johnstone, masks represent another way of activating creative resources within his students, and more than that, they get into the experience of trance.