Poetics of psychology

Psychology is the unfolding of the questions we ask ourselves in the underbelly of our own spirit, revealing the raw traits of a human kind, at the interplay of all things magic, in between silence and those fleeting gestures, gently gushing from the pupils.

In those moments, I feel most alive.

You got a a lotta room brah

Reading a book in my car and a guy is trying to parallel park behind me. dude’s got alot of room to work with, like 5 cars length, but after an initial bad lean he struggles to slide in as though its a tight space, so he bumps my car three times in the process. not sure if he knows im in the car, i get get out to examine the challenged fellow. i tell him “you hit me 3 times, you got a lot of room to work with bra,” gesturing to the space he has. he gets out, apologizes and asks if there’s any damage. i said, “na no worries, but you got a lotta room brah.”

When does it become timeless?

And then you wake up and realize that everyone has their own distinct relationship with time. And time flies when trust is present.

Trust emerges with wisdom: knowing yourself and the nature of our sensations, emotions, and thoughts. It’s a process and while discomfort may arise, courage is the cure.

And naturally trust flourishes in our selves and relationships through the alignment of mind, body, and soul.

music of mindfulness

How to do nothing and create change

Deferring action is equally important as deliberate action. This is the essence of Zen and Tao teachings which suggest the value of non-action: to simply allow the natural order of things to take shape. It’s not apathy or avoidance, nor is it acting prematurely. It’s a balance of attention, trusting the process, and having awareness of the dynamic range and greater flow of life. In music, when and how one hits the strings is what produces the emotional connection and sense of rhythm. Timing is everything and empty spaces in between notes support the musical experience.

1. Look at the big picture

In Gestalt Psychology, it is said that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s the classic example of the vase and two faces present side-by-side, and focusing on one tends to block the other from view.

Fixating on one event in isolation doesn’t bring value nor the full truth. It’s like having a big beautiful garden and focusing on one small area to pluck weeds. Every day going back to that same area just out of habit or some irrational fear. The practice of mindfulness is about letting go and shifting our attention to the larger context of “a garden,” acknowledging its ecosystem and nurturing its growth.

2. Slow down to reflect

In a loving relationship, it’s the ongoing ebb and flow, giving and receiving, the conversation unfolding naturally and unforced. And at some point maybe you’re asked to watch a movie or join an activity that you may not want to do. Would you argue or just go with it? The latter tends to be more appreciated.

If the reflex is to argue, you can take a moment to quietly examine and ask yourself, “is it worth it?” and consider deferring the argument, a simple advice from Marshall Goldsmith, world renown executive coach. It’s not far from the wisdom of Lao Zi, “By letting go all gets done.”

3. Bet on your strengths

Being a professional means fully inhabiting your passion and strength with a blend of self-awareness and raw hustle.

Being a professional means inhabiting your passion and strength with a blend of self-awareness and raw hustle. It’s not muscling your way to the spotlight with clever gimmicks or fines. It’s devotion to a craft and fully embracing the many rhythms of change.

Self-awareness is not a goal. It’s the capacity to observe and discern what comes natural to you. Not all of us is a Michael Phelps. We all have different talents and flow zones. Billionaire Warren Buffet calls it our circle of competence, where the majority of our time and energy should be spent.

Being self-aware means knowing your flow zone inside and out and the kind of people it attracts. It’s knowing how to stretch one’s limits and turn flaws into strengths.

Acting on what we’re good at is equally valuable as not acting on our shortcomings. Some call this the 80-20 rule, where 80% of your time is spent on things you actually care about, and 20% on things you’re willing to accept. It’s a conscious choice.

4. Let talent speak for itself

Phil Jackson, the acclaimed Zen master of basketball, is known to mold star players into championship teams, winning Eleven NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He is known for his focus on fundamentals and using unconventional techniques like meditation and practice drills in pitch dark to foster one breathe on mind. Jackson’s story inspires responsive over reactive leadership.

In Jackson’s book Eleven Rings, Rick Fox, Lakers’ forward, reflects on Jackson’s approach to coaching as a three step act:

“During the first twenty or thirty games of each season he’d sit back and let the characters reveal themselves. Most coaches come into a season with an idea of what they’re going to do and impose that on the players.” he explains. “But I always felt Phil came to the table with an open mind. ‘Let’s see how each individual expresses himself. Let’s see how the group responds under fire and whether it’s capable of solving problems.’ He never appeared too concerned about the team at that point. Never any panic. Never overanalyzing anything because that would be premature.

Act 2 would take place during the twenty or thirty games of the middle of the season. That’s when he would nurture the team, when guys were starting to get bored, Phil would spend more time with each of us then. He’d give us books. I always felt that he drove me the hardest during that time.”

Then during the last twenty or thirty games leading up to the playoffs, act 3 would begin and, according to Fox, Phil’s whole demeanor would change – the way he looks, talks, and moves his body – as if he was saying “this is my time.” He’d restrict media access to the team and let them focus on their game. Fox continues:

“Phil gave us new confidence and an identity we didn’t have before. But he would also take the pressure off of us and put it on himself. He would turn the whole city against him. And everyone would get upset at him and wouldn’t be thinking about us.”

Jackson’s job as a coach was to provide a safe sanctuary for players to take refuge amidst the many possible distractions, keeping their minds sharp and in the zone.

By letting go all gets done.

In portraying Kobe Bryant’s path to greatness, Jackson writes, “I admired Kobe’s intense desire to win, but he still had a lot to learn about teamwork and self-sacrifice. Though he was a brilliant passer, his first instinct was to penetrate off the dribble and drunk over whoever was in his way. Like many young players, he forced the action rather than letting the game come to him.”

5. Learn to accept

While I feel confident to present a case on non-action, I have to admit my own perfectionism while writing this. I hate being too wordy, explicit, or overly polished. They are the weeds in my garden and sometimes I pay too much attention to them. Flow is a delicate balance that confronts the nuances of language and my flaw is clear as day. Nonetheless, the whole process is contained like tending to a garden.

Self-restraint and seeing the big picture are central to emotional intelligence. Essentially, to be conscious of our inner happenings without judgment or the need to react, which promotes choice and learning. In the words of neurologist Peter Levine, simply “tracking sensations” and just noticing what arises. It is this foundational awareness that allows one to readily adapt and take the right action in the right time. Timing is everything and in the sweet and simple words of my girlfriend, “Good timing is happy time.”


Substance of attention

Attention: social media is where it’s at. It’s not a good or bad thing, and it’s not the source of attention either. The source of attention, that’s a worthy curiosity, from which everything else takes root. The way is not to focus on outward appearances but dive directly into the inner substance of here and now. Choice is the fiber of attention. You can either look at someone and judge them based on their political correctness and how many followers they have on Instagram; or you can suspend judgment, look at someone human-to-human, and instantly get a sense of their story, strengths, and superpowers. The latter tends to be more interesting.

You can wrinkle your forehead and thumb into a screen or you can relish at how the sun falls on your shoulders as heat cascades to your fingertips – the raw process that life directly has on you. Or how the skin breathes and heart beats itself into being. It’s a simple process of noticing, or mindfulness, that has shown to relieve stress and activate brain development.

Discovering your life purpose means unveiling the mind so your being can shine.

OK but what does that have to do with the creation of wealth and abundance? After all, that’s what drives us. Well what if wealth is the ongoing flow of attracting people and situations that match your natural calling? Knowing your inner substance is to discover your full potential. Discovering your life purpose means unveiling the mind so your being can shine. As the famed Neurologist Antonio Damasio once said, “We use our minds not to discover facts but to hide them.”

To truly savor and cultivate flow is to fully appreciate what makes you different, what makes our time precious and rich with opportunity. I’d rather be present and muse with a friend, eye to eye, in real time than to zoom and scroll. Zoom and scroll can be there and often is, but it doesn’t have to be consuming.

Winning on social media or a political debate doesn’t mean you win at life. Winning at life means having courage to be self-aware, to reinvent oneself, to seek and adventure into the unknown and actively dialogueing with people who are unlike you, which often leads to a diversity of thought in the ways that we pay attention.


Presence and politics: an inside job

Voting doesn’t necessarily mean being in touch with reality. And not voting doesn’t mean not caring.

No matter who wins the election this year, there is work to be done. No politician is going to save you from your worries or make you a better person. Transformation is an inside job. It’s the molding of a mission and the best bet is with inner clarity. It’s not the absence of chaos or conflict but a simple alignment between words and actions.

The question is do you trust yourself enough to let go?

It’s not about shaping clever debate tactics or sniffing for a better ignorance package. Ignorance is not bliss. Innocence is. Innocence to simply be at play between gut and reason. And you don’t have to explain yourself. The future is now and it’s not shaped by overthinkers.

Transformation means being present so the right action can occur in the right time. And every moment is the right time to be present. Any kind of meaningful action begins with an embodied awareness, like when you reach for the door knob, feeling its cool moisture, turning the ball til it clicks open. You step inside the room and you’re asked to say what’s in your heart, from the tip of your tongue to the base of your spine, the grooves in your ears to your pelvis aligned.

Laugh at yourself every time you enter a room. And we all have built-in lie detectors. I’ve noticed my test is how courage and playfulness arise in one’s tone and language. Courage means acting on love. The courage to let go and drop into the inner worlds of the body, to guide and activate flow within, and trust that you’re not alone on well being. The question is do you trust yourself enough to let go?

Though sometimes it may begin with pain, self-awareness doesn’t begin with a plan. It begins with the silence of slow blinking eyelids, The moments between the ribs. To have direct awareness of the mind and body is at the core of stress management and witnessing the dynamic flow emerging in all of our relationships. Being with the body as a whole. Not by avoiding discomfort or reacting to constant thought. Oh the tyranny of monkey mind. The body wants to know the nature of its being. Let it be and lives will change.


Puppy is present

My friend drops off his puppy, a beautiful black Labrador mix. I take her for a walk and while she hurries in an escapade of smells in the grass, I begin to open up to her. I told her that I feel dull and weary today and that I’m no stranger to this, a kind of rhythm that I’ve grown to know. The vulnerability is all over my body and speech and my care to belong is bare. She then pulls on the leash and yanks my arm, giving me the felt sense that the universe is a field of many forces, a bunch of pushes and pulls, with varying degrees within each, and the multiplicity of such events going on simultaneously. While the ego wants to control it all into a certain fashion, the key is to allow it all to be and play on the balance of instinct and reason, moment-by-moment. Staying in the moment is the source of balance and strength.

The puppy is present.