The trip to Brazil is over. The plane has landed and I’ve returned home, but the real journey has just begun. Brazil was an opening – a door of possibility. Towards the end of the trip Otto showed a map of where we were on the ‘U’ of our GNH/Global Well-being Lab and we were still very near to the top. The top of the U process is where we observe and sense into the surroundings and begin to notice what is actually occurring in the world around us. We start to open our eyes and ears, wake up to see from as many perspectives as possible – finding ‘a new right answer’ in each way of seeing.
My biggest take-away from the journey or a highlight (one of so many) was one of the mindfulness sessions with Tho Ha Vinh, the coordinator at the GNH Applied Centre in Bhutan. The session was the morning after a semi-sleepless night (we arrived in Santarem by plane at around 3am to a beautiful – yet cricket infested – hotel) set poolside with a gorgeous view of one of the rivers of the great Amazonia region.
In one of the first mornings of the trip Tho had mentioned the concept of becoming aware of awareness itself – aware of our attention. After days of moving from one community to the next, practicing mindfulness in the morning and then moving out to see and take in new sights and people, Tho took our journey to a whole new light. He framed our mindfulness sessions and put them into context giving us a deeper understanding of what mindfulness or meditation practice had to do with GNH/going beyond GDP and why this was so important to the GNH Applied Centre – why it is at the very heart of GNH in practice.
Tho explained: in English we say “pay attention,” in French they say, “lend attention,” and in German they say, “offer attention.” Pay, lend and offer are all forms of economic interaction. When we give something attention we give it value. Marketing is used to catch people’s attention. When something has no attention, it has no means. He noted that Attention is the ultimate form of currency. Examples would be things like google or facebook – when we give them attention, we give them value. He made it clear that attention becomes something that we seem to have little control over – we get distracted easily and give our attention away. However, we can intentionally RE-direct our awareness and reclaim where we put our attention. He shared that when we concentrate our attention so deeply, we can fall in love. He related that thought to falling in love: When we do, we typically find it hard to pay attention to anything else. But, when we do give our attention that deeply, we gain insight and understanding. When we reclaim our attention, we can focus it where we want to, we can balance our thoughts and we can recognize what is truly infinite within us. When we recognize what is truly infinite – we don’t have as great a need to accumulate more and more external, material resources – that which is finite in the world.
The talk touched me deeply and is still rolling in me. Excerpts keep shining through – like when he related awareness to the sun and talked about the process of actually reclaiming our awareness (I really hope Andrew – the awesome film/photo documenter person – got it all on tape). It was one of those moments that even as it was happening, I knew I would take with me and cherish. Despite the fact that I have listened to many dharma talks, mindfulness practitioners/gurus etc, this one touched me at my core and will continue to affect the way that I operate on a daily basis.
Otto took it one step further towards the end of the trip. In some ways this seemed to be the greatest learning that I re-learned… Otto showed a diagram I had seen before showing the levels of listening and how they can be practiced on micro, meso, macro and mundo levels. As we move out of ourselves, to become aware of awareness itself on an individual level, as Tho described, we move to a place of being able to sense into what is truly wanting to emerge, we can have generative listening interpersonally, we can suspend judgement and we can begin to see and act from the whole by operating from a different place of awareness.
WHEW (so deep!)! For me, Tho and Otto helped to shift the theoretical concepts into practice. If I can become more conscious of my actions and begin to re-direct my attention, it will have a ripple affect in my conversations. Interpersonally, I can listen from a place of openness and suspend my judgement, in turn affecting others. In a group setting, we can move to a place of sensing the collective needs/wants of the group. My inspiration and the challenge is, as Otto suggests, to scale this reflective awareness at an institutional and global level.
There are two take-away examples that came to my mind…
a) I learned somewhere that we only have 40 minute classes for students because that’s the length of a child’s attention span. I wonder what would happen if we tried to cultivate a child’s attention rather than trying to stuff in as much information as possible into those 40 minutes and then shuffling them to the next class – encouraging their short attention span and inability to focus.
b) I thought about when we use a ‘company’ credit card. Many times we say “It’s ok, I’m charging it to the company card” or “I’ll let the company pick up the tab for this one.” Our internal institutional consciousness (the part of us that associates with our institution/place of work etc.) is in some ways set to auto-pilot. We don’t always hold ourselves accountable for our actions as an institution or global social system (hence creating large scale pollution or damage to our global ecosystem).
So, what would happen if we became more aware of awareness itself? If we re-focused our attention and awakened to the possibilities?
That said, the trip was filled with IMMENSE contradictions (as is life) and clearly, I am still in a turbulent place of figuring out what in the WORLD just happened for the last week! There is so much more – some more tangible like boat rides, sleeping in hammocks on the boat and some more philosophical… I will keep writing/sharing photos of the trip… as was this post, the trip was an incredible opening to a deep learning journey.