Decision Making & Discernment

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Life is full of decisions!
From small daily choices to significant life-shaping decisions, we are constantly faced with the need to make decisions, choose, shape our path…

 


Saying ‘yes’ to one thing, tends to mean we are saying ‘no’ to something else…We can’t take all paths when standing at a crossroads… Knowing this can make us feel challenged, perhaps overwhelmed, by how we can make the decisions that are right for us, at any given time. 

However we can learn to know ourselves, our thinking patterns and recurring feelings, and develop skills and understandings in making sound decisions. We can learn to discern our way through; that is, sift our options thoughtfully and come to sense of greater clarity and certainty. 

HOW WE GO ABOUT DECIDING
The following statements suggest common ways we approach decision-making. Participants chose a couple that most resonated with them and commented on them; why they thought it was so, if they thought it was helpful, if it was effective for them and why or why not…

I sometimes lie awake at night trying to make decisions.
I make (good) decisions in the shower.
I put off making decisions for as long as possible.
I like to make decisions quickly and get on with things.
A spontaneous decision tends to be a good one for me.
I like to talk to several people to help me make decisions.
I have a go-to person I talk to about decisions.
I often listen to other perspectives but then make up my own mind.
I feel comfortable when the decision lies with somebody else.
I like being the one to lead with decisions.
I go with a gut feeling when making decisions.
I have a strong sense of intuition about my decisions.
I can get in touch with my feelings when making decisions.
I can think my way to sound decisions.
I take a long time to decide about things, including small things.
My decisions have to reflect all of my values.
I weigh up pros and cons as part of the process for decision making.
I feel relieved when I’ve finally managed to make a decision.
I worry about how others will feel about my decisions.
I worry about how others will react to my decisions.

THE ENNEAGRAM
A useful tool for understanding our approach to decision making is The Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a tool for understanding personality and supporting self-understanding and growth. Understanding one’s own personality and one’s motivations, energy, drives and modes of operation facilitates self-awareness and wellbeing. When we are able to understand our personality type, we can use this wisdom to help us with various aspects of our life, including how we make decisions. Accessing the wisdom of The Enneagram, and our particular personality type, can enable us to make well-founded decisions, whether small or big.

Attached is the handout about this:

Decision Making and the Enneagram

Illustrations and some information on this handout is sourced from this website:

Decision making

 

WRITING OUR WAY TO KNOWING
Many people find journalling a helpful way of clarifying their thoughts and feelings. Often we can write our way to a new truth or insight.
Participants were invited to spend 20 minutes, out in the sunshine, engaged in writing. We discussed and made use of a technique known as Proprioceptive Writing. 

Proprioceptive writing is writing only for yourself, in your own words, without consideration of audience. It helps you become aware of everything that goes on in your mind – pictures, feelings and ideas – of which you might not usually be aware. Writing this way enables you to listen to yourself calmly and reflect on your recorded thoughts.

The concept of proprioceptive writing was originally developed by American author and educator Linda Trichter Metcalf. This summary is based on journalist and writing coach Wies Enthoven’s work. (Flow magazine, mini course 03)

Attached are the notes about Proprioceptive Writing with details of how to set up your writing session, how to get started, what to consider along the way and useful questions for reflecting on your writing session. 

Proprioceptive Writing

 

WAYS TO PAY ATTENTION
When we are making decision and learning to discern the rightness of it for ourselves, it can be useful to pay attention to our life in some particular ways

Here are  two approaches that you may find useful:

  1. Parker Palmer (Let Your Life Speak) suggests we pay attention to ‘way opening’ and ‘way closing’.

When you choose a course of action, make a decision, try to move in a certain direction – what happens? What comes back at you from the world? Does the way seem to open, allow you to move forward? Or does ‘way close’ – a door slam in your face, a direction get thwarted or have you feel like you’re pushing against the grain?

 Way opening and way closing can be clues to whether you’re operating ‘with the grain of the universe’.

  1. Saint Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises) suggests we pay attention to feelings/experiences of ‘consolation’ and ‘desolation’

When you choose a course of action, make a decision, try to move in a certain direction – what happens in your spirit?

  • ‘Consolation’ is an experience of rightness, peace, assuredness.
  • ‘Desolation’ is an experience of agitation, unease, heaviness.

But this is a subtle thing, and it’s not just to do with whether a decision makes you happy or whether it’s easy or affirmed by those around you. It’s a deeper movement of the spirit. A decision can be painful and involve doubt or difficulty, and yet at a deeper level you know you ‘must’ do it, or it’s ‘right’ – the consolation isn’t at the surface. Likewise, a decision can seem superficially right and well-approved, and yet leave you feeling ‘desolate’ at a deeper level.
Learning to get in touch with and trust these deeper dynamics of the spirit, enables us to discern our own path with great confidence. 

Dinner Questions

From time to time, our Kalchaino gathering is over dinner. 

To facilitate scintillating dinner conversation, we put a bunch of questions into a basket which people drew out. You could choose to answer, start a conversation or pass it on to someone else to answer…
Whether people shared answers aloud to particular questions or not, it was acknowledged that simply hearing the questions and asking ourselves the questions internally was important. We were prompted to pay attention to our lives in new ways and consider our experiences from different perspectives. 

Dinner Questions – July 7, 2019

What is something you have stopped this year that has changed your daily life?

What is something you have started this year that has changed your daily life?

Describe a seemingly small moment recently that has stayed in your memory and makes you smile...

Describe an unexpected conversation you have had recently. What was interesting to you about it?

If you were listing the things that enable you to thrive in life, what would they be? Share one or two…

What activity takes up most of your time at present? How is this for you?

What thinking pattern takes up most of your mind at this time? How is this for you? 

What aspect of your personality do you like and find works well for you? Because…

Is there an aspect of your personality you would like to moderate? Because…

Describe someone who has had a significant influence on you and how this has shaped you.

What is a decision you have made recently, big or small, that has improved your wellbeing?

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Self Understanding, Self Growth (part two)

Today’s session followed on from our previous gathering, where we explored self understanding through the use of the personality tool – The Enneagram. This tool invites an insightful understanding of self and our way of being in the world. It is very in-depth and has many layers to explore. In this session we explored the triads of The Enneagram .

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The Enneagram is divided into three groups of three, called the triads. Each triad has a primary intelligence; a primary space from which we operate, from which we make sense of the world and from which we react and make decisions. Within each triad are three of the nine Enneagram types. 

 

The triads reveal the principal ways we perceive the world. Recognising our triad gives us a deeper understanding of how we usually operate in the world, what we could do less of, and what we could do more of. The other two triads show us where our blindspots or weaknesses may be. Understanding all three is a helpful way of expanding our self-awareness and understanding of others.

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Participants began by using a body outline to note their own observations. They were invited to mark head, heart and gut centres and note when they were aware of operating from these spaces, when they were aware of  their everyday reactions as thoughts (head), feelings (heart), or senses (gut)…


We discussed instances of decision making and how we approached the process of making decisions we know are right for us. Participants tried to identify the involvement of their head, heart and gut in the process.

 

 

Whilst we may be able to communicate better with people in our own triad, relationships with people from other triads can help bring elements of our personality into balance. One of the Enneagram’s goals is to teach us to observe and harmonise all three centres within us.

When our head, heart and gut centres are aligned, we will feel more whole, centered and balanced. It will be easier to function fully and creatively in our daily life.

The Enneagram’s emphasis on growth invites us towards true, deep integration where we can comfortably access the intelligence of all triads and visit the spaces of each of the nine types with ease. This enables us to always see fresh perspectives, make sense of the world more fully, relate more wholly and feel more at ease in any situation.

Further notes from the session are attached, including a list of resources for further personal research. These notes are only a brief overview of a detailed subject.

Kalchaino – Enneagram – head, heart, gut

Self Understanding, Self Growth (part one)

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Perhaps the most significant journey, for all humans to make, is the journey into self awareness, the journey of growth towards inner freedom and wholeness.

There are many metaphors and descriptors for this journey; darkness to light, sleeping to waking, unawareness to enlightenment. Many images help us too, such as images of climbing mountains or reaching tree tops, images of paths, roads, bridges, tunnels and staircases.

 

There are also many, many tools for assisting us on this journey of personal growth.
An ancient, tried and tested tool is The Enneagram.
Today’s gathering was a workshop about The Enneagram.
Participants were introduced to the tool and its usefulness and given the opportunity to consider how it might be applied to them and assist them in their understanding of themselves and their way of being in the world.

By way of introduction, leaders shared how The Enneagram had been significant in their lives. Anecdotes expressed how it enabled them to see their motivations and actions more clearly and name the falsities and truth of themselves. It freed them to operate differently and more honestly. It explained them to themselves and gave a sense of there being others who also thought and felt as they did and experienced life from their particular perspective. It showed that there were multiple ways of being whole and well in the world – not just one right way, and thus there were multiple ways of choosing helpful or unhelpful actions. It also showed that the same actions can come from very different motivations and likewise the same actions might be healthy or unhealthy for different personality types. It enabled greater self understanding as well as more genuine understanding and compassion towards others. 

The Enneagram is a rich tool that bears much more in-depth exploration, if you are interested in truly understanding yourself and giving yourself a deeper perspective on your way of being in the world.
It is a tool that enables you to gain insight into ways you can grow into a healthy, whole human, living from a place of inner freedom and open-hearted spaciousness.

Attached are the summative notes that were used at the workshop, including the link to a website with detailed information for further exploration. 

Kalchaino – Enneagram Notes

 

 

Welcoming Guests

Part One

Today at our gathering, participants began with paper and pencils and were invited to draw, in response to the following suggestions…
Picture a guest house…perhaps it’s a B&B…or a holiday house… design it however you like…
Choose any location for this guest house… suburbs, coast, countryside…wherever you like…but locate in a place that is transient…there are people coming and going pretty often…

Now picture the guests… Who is arriving each day? What are they like? What do the bring? Do they have a lot of baggage? What expressions are on their faces? 

As the owner of the guest house you are obliged to let everyone stay…it’s your livelihood… but how do these arrivals effect you? Who irritates? Who is enlivening? Who is amusing? Who is annoying? Who is demanding? Who is undemanding but deserves some attention?

When finished with drawing, people shared their illustrations…what kind of guest house they had drawn, what kinds of guests were coming or going…

We then shared this poem:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably,
s/he may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought,
the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 رومی محمد الدینجلال
Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī

 

Participants then reflected on how the words of the poem interacted with their artwork, now that they see the Guest House as being themselves. IF the guest are our emotions, arriving unexpectedly, uninvited from day to day, how do we interact with them? Are we welcoming of all guests? 

We wondered about the ways we name the different ‘guests’ that arrive in us each day, how we react and respond to them, how we greet these guests, deal with them, speak with them, manage their demands…
What have been our reactions to these guests in the past week or so?

Shut them in the back room? Close the door? Ignore? Welcome openly? Shake off? Distract yourself with them?

We discussed what it might mean to welcome all guests?
Why would we welcome anger or grief or meanness?

What do we usually hear as strategies for navigating so called negative emotions?
What it might it feel like to greet them? Serve them? Entertain them?
What does honouring each mean?
What does the line ‘meet them at the door laughing’ open up as an image?
What might each guest offer? Teach? Guide us towards?

Part Two

From an extensive selection of photographs of doors, participants chose a door that appealed to them, for any reason.
They then looked at the photos again, and let one choose them…

In pairs, we studied the photos in more depth and asked:
What do you notice? What wasn’t obvious at first? What was your initial reasons for choosing it? What details seem important? 

Now Imagine one door is the door to your inner world. Your inner world is your place of constant thoughts, feelings, memories, consciousness…

If this first photo is a door to your inner world, what does it suggest to you and how do you respond to that?
How often do you open it? How often do you go through it? How do you pay attention to what is behind it or beyond it?

Now Imagine the second door is the door to your inner room. Your inner room is a metaphor for your deepest interior, your contemplative space… the inner place that is beneath the inner world of thoughts and feelings.
How often do you open this door? How often do you go through it? How do you pay attention to what is behind it or beyond it?

Consider – the inner room is the place of ultimate hospitality to self, where we are beneath the constant chatter of our inner world and held in a deeper reality. To come our from this inner room into ourselves and into the world enables us to live with a different kind of energy. We can experience a truer sense of identity, a whole different way of sourcing ourselves. Our awareness of our own inner room can enable a different kind of responsiveness to all that arrives in us as ‘guests.’

 

Gathering

The word ‘gathering’ is used in a range of contexts, both for describing visible actions as well as less visible states of being. Birds gather materials for their nests, their homes; and many species gather together to roost over night. Humans, being complex creatures, also have many ways of gathering. 

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Gathering Ourselves

When we feel ‘gathered’ ourselves, we feel well and whole, centered and grounded. We feel we know who we are and what we are about. We tend to feel at ease.
It can be helpful for us to know what it is we do to enable this feeling of gatheredness. What do we do to ‘gather’ ourselves?

To explore this, it can be helpful to wonder about the opposite state, to ask
“What is our experience of feeling UNgathered? ”
Often we use expressions like ‘I’m all over the shop’ or ‘I’m feeling scattered.’
Once again the birds capture this:
(Kate Knupp, Twigseeds, 2008)

Participants used words and sketches to show what feeling ungathered and gathered can be like for them. Conversing about our artworks showed that we all have experiences of these states of being.
Feeling ungathered includes feeling messy, chaotic, reactive, overwhelmed, buzzy, cluttered and cranky! Some of us are aware that we might take it out on others a little, mostly unintentionally of course! Others of us tend to withdraw and become less available to others.
When we are feeling gathered, we feel sorted, calm, spacious, more positively connected to others, more at ease, more able to respond to daily living, more able to enjoy leisure time and more able to enjoy and manage life.

We also talked about how we are often aware of the contrasting states in other people we know in work/uni/community contexts- we tend to prefer to avoid the scatty, unpredictable types and feel attracted to people who seem to have an inner calm and steadiness about them. 

Regathering ourselves

The capacity to regather ourselves is important to foster. We are more able to live well, relate well, feel well when we are gathered. That is, we are more able to be optimistic, hopeful, self-caring, energised and more able to be authentic and integrated in the world beyond. To be human is to experience both states and everything in between. As much as we might like to be in a perpetual state of zen-like calm, it is not how daily life plays out. We cannot actually avoid difficulties and stress – but we can have healthy ways to navigate life’s challenges and return ourselves to a place of feeling gathered.
We can learn ways to ‘pull ourselves together.’
From a centered place, we can engage positively with all that surrounds us.

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So a helpful question to ask is:
What brings us back to centre/meaning/ground/rest/ease from places of distraction,  overwhelm, scatteredness or fragmentation?

Mark Nepo calls regathering ‘The Practice of Return’
The Practice of Return
You can read Nepo’s thoughts about this via the above link.

We discussed our personal practices of return; the ways we have learnt to restore our own sense of wellbeing. Strategies included getting more sleep, having a change of scene, going for a walk, meditating, doing some art, writing in a journal, being in nature. We agreed that learning to catch ourselves becoming scattered was important and reminding ourselves to listen to what we needed helped us.
We also talked about further practices of return we might like to foster. 
 

Gathering in Community

A significant aspect of our wellbeing is our sense of connection to others, our sense of belonging to community. As well as having personal practices of return, we often need each other to help us find our way through a challenge and into a place of ease. We can do some things for ourselves and yet often we need the companionship and encouragement of others along the way.
We opened up some conversation about how gathering as community can be a powerful practice of return.  There’s something about the collective energy of intentional gathering which enables/fosters our capacity to ‘return’.

There is some interesting info coming out of  USA about the gathering together of groups of ‘millennials’. ‘How We Gather’ is a movement focused on understanding what the millennial generation is seeking personally and communally and ways that this generation find it meaningful to gather.
https://www.howwegather.org/

In conversation, we considered the participants’ sense of what millennials seek, what they and others are searching for, and what and how they are finding it.

The following story, told by Mark Nepo, captures something noteworthy about the difference between recognising someone/having an acquaintance and knowing another more personally, vulnerably, truthfully in ways that are significant for our sense of connectedness with others. 

Life Around the Fire

My neighbour and I wave to each other through the trees, though we don’t even know each other’s name. After a snowstorm, we worm our way out. I admit it’s comforting to see another in the open, leaning on his shovel, his breath clouding as he looks again to the sky. There’s something primal in knowing that we each have a fire we huddle around. I love clearing the path to our door and leaving the light on.

But if my fire should go out, would he let me in? And for how long? This is a uniquely human dilemma. We struggle with it every time we look away from the homeless. Different cultures have different ways of holding the question. The Balinese leave food on their steps for the kind stranger they’ve yet to meet. The Connecticut Yankee trains his daughter in etiquette and social registry. This is still different from the Holocaust survivor who leaves the door open for an angel he’s never seen while guarding against every noise. I lean on my shovel in the snow and my neighbour waves back. For which I am glad. And today, I don’t feel the need to know his name or story. Yet isn’t it in the steps between our friendly wave and our life around the fire that the work of real community waits?

~Mark Nepo~

 

 

Being Gathered
As well as gathering ourselves and gathering in community, many people have a sense of being gathered, of their lives being held by Something or Someone larger than they, of being energised by an energy beyond themselves. Maybe we call this God; maybe we have others words or images.
When we are attune to this, our lives can have a richer quality, we can have a deeper sense of ourselves, we see the way our life and all its threads are connected and we have a sense of the meaning of things. We experience ourselves as held.

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After sharing Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Praying’ (below) we talked about the ways we might pay attention and so have silence and spaciousness in our lives. We considered our personal sense of being gathered in by something/Someone beyond ourselves. We wondered together about the search for the sacred and its importance and centrality to life. 

 

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver

Words To Live By

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Just one word
Words are rich in their capacity to convey multiple meanings and to carry more than simply a definition. They can be meaningful to us for their association, their possibility, their inspiration. Words can be a resource for us as we learn to discern decisions and shape our lives.  Today’s theme had a focus on words and how a few words, when carefully chosen, can carry much meaning and energy for our lives.

We began our gathering today by sharing around the circle just one word or short phrase that we felt captured something about where we were in this moment; since our last gathering, in the light of the start of a new year, about what lay ahead, or just for this particular day…

Words shared included: content, busy-fun-new, full, one-at-a-time, curious, cresting, changes, today-is-quiet…

We let these words simple be in the space, without comment or discussion…we shared some silence together…

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The word ‘Ambition’
We recalled previous gatherings where we have talked about the way in which we choose to shape our lives and the invitation to live vocationally rather than in a highly planned way. At the beginning of a year, it can be helpful to remind ourselves of what this looks like or means for us individually.

The pressure is often to live a very planned life – in which we tick off the list of supposedly highly regarded pre-determined achievements (career, mortgage, superannuation, family) and within these things to have five and ten year goals measured against performance indicators. Often this is characterised as having appropriate and commendable ambition and a right and mature outlook on life.

However, is it not worth asking whether this is the only way to live life and what other ways there may be?

David Whyte, poet and philosopher, has reflected on the deeper, layered meaning of many different words, in his book ‘Consolations’. His reflection on the word ‘Ambition’ is rich and provocative. Here is the link to the handout: Ambition

After some quiet time by ourselves we regathered to discuss this handout. We explored questions such as: What struck you? What was confusing? What don’t you get? What makes sense to you? What sounds scary or freeing? Did particular phrases appeal or repel? What do you make of these ideas?

A dynamic discussion ensued in which there was general agreement that these thoughts really challenged the view that ambition was highly admirable and desirable. We explored the idea that there is a fuller, more wholistic, more spacious and potentially more adventurous way to approach a life that is deeply worth living.

Charisms in Community
For centuries, communities around the world have had charisms, significant words, that describe and inspire their way of life. This is particularly true monastic communities or other intentional communal groups. Charisms are deeper than goals and values but aim to capture a way of being in the world that is both invitational and responsive. For example, Benedictine communities have the charisms:  The Northumbrian community have the words: Vulnerability and Availability. Our own Benedictus community has the charisms: Hospitality, Silence, Discernment, Reconciliation, and Adventure. 

Charisms are unifying for a community. They capture what we offer as well as to what we aspire. They become something to which people can be true but in a dynamic of responsiveness rather than fixedness.

Individual Charisms
Individually we can also choose words in this way. It can be a way for us to both name what is significant to us as well as what we are inspired by. It can help us name our truest qualities as well as our wholehearted hope. Charisms can help us measure our way of living in terms of its congruence with our deepest, truest selves.

Many, many words can be charisms. There are no right and wrong – there are just some words that speak more to us that others. And it can be different for each individual.
Some examples were placed in the centre:

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Participants were invited to take some time to reflect on words that carried meaning for them and to create an artwork around these. It was suggested that this was just an initial exploration and that it could take much more time for a word or two to really settle into us and ‘our’ words. We chatted about how it was helpful to decide on a few words – that too many is cumbersome, one might not be enough but sometimes one word can capture a lot. For example, the one word ‘Pilgrimage’ captures many layers of meaning and is sufficient in itself as a charism. For other people, a few words have energy.

Here are the artworks that people created, as at least a starting point for this process:

Conclusion
Instead of living by the rules that are determined externally to us, this process invites us to discover ways to live by a rule of life. A rule of life is a way of living that is from within us, from a deeper place, and thus becomes more authentic and rich throughout our lives. Charisms offer a way to live by a deep truth rather than a regime of goals. Having some significant words to return to can be a resource for us, helping us peel back to the core of what matters to us. We can use our charisms as a way to make decisions about what feels truly right for us in our choices. Charisms can give shape to the way we live our lives, both in the everyday and in the bigger picture.