A contemplative way of getting out of your way.
The word system is bandied about a lot today, so that it's almost become a cliché. But cliches are born from an initial insight. In this case, it is about the power of organising principles that we tell about ourselves, each other, and the world to cohere us in a common purpose.
A lot of the things that we need to do today don't make sense if you are the only one doing them. A system can help to order the world, so that we see our choices as part of something much larger. Granted, the “larger” unfolding on Earth today is bigger than any system that we could have built. Nonetheless, for me a system that allows me to get to the essence of my life, derive meaning from it, identify my people, and understand what my place is, is an essential act.
Building durable systems is, a reliable way to find an understanding of ourselves and our role in this life.
In primary school they offered this very sage advice, yet it didn’t really stick. Someone believed the power of repeatable patterns and thought, “We need to make sure kids the get this! We’ll empower an entire generation to reach their fullest expression through the habit of building systems e.g good habits.
So they rolled the TV out onto an unsuspecting classroom, to play a informercial style videotape with 80's production values about how should we develop good habits like eating healthy and getting our homework done on time (a message that was deemed irrelevant by my psyche at the time).
What they should have said to get that crucial lesson across was something like, “Every person you believe in today got that way by regularly doing things that helped them to understand the world, whether they felt like it in the moment or not.”
But since they didn’t say that, and no other message about how to be a compassionate and caring person got through to me either, I was a pretty useless person for many moons.
A system for making sense.
Since the world is complex and our understanding of it is well… less complex.
Anyone you can think of who seems to really have it together probably isn’t in a superior state. They don’t have a god like power that is otherworldly. More likely, they’ve put systems in place that compensate for the glitches that are present in each and everyone of us. A person that’s supported by systems can focus on what it’s good at, while the systems handle the rest.
Similar to riding in a car, the vehicle does most of the work and allows you to open up to the gifts that you were here to explore. The good news here is regardless of where you find yourself in this moment there is still time to carefully craft your very own sort of vehicle, to carry you safely through the difficulties of modern life. One that you can leverage, and gently steer it, and make gradual, compounding progress over time.
There are all manner of ways to achieve a more compassionate takes on systemising yourself these days. There are a raft of holistic frameworks that exist from the living world in Permaculture, to our inner world in the divination text of the I-Ching or more recently the Gene Keys, to our info-matic world in Getting Things Done or the Zettelkasten.
Whilst, none of these systems will suit all needs, if we look at the essence of these systems in their purest forms they offer us two vital rituals:
1. Principles - A set of organising principles to ground ourselves. To provide a map and the compass with which to journey.
2. Processing - A way of contemplating what has been, what could be better.
Clearing a way.
As a fairly recent convert to working with systems (only took me a few decades) as opposed to against them, I can attest to the pure overwhelm and frustration that confront us when thinking about implementing any type of system.
So, consider this an invocation for an incremental approach, since there is the significant business of removing those bottlenecks that are already occupying a well worn space in our lives. Small steps taken lightly, so to speak.
If I were to do it all again, I would begin at the end. This is not being clever for clever's sake, but something that I have found to be true. As the one item that has consistently survived any friction is the processing ritual or what I like to call ‘The Clearing’.
Since there is technically, no further work to be done, there is an opportunity to concentrate and meditate and what has been, which is a more reliable guide than what may come in the future. A good place to start is by finding some quiet time and defining a period of time, let’s say a week or a month in the past.
It is a space to relax and ask both hard and soft questions.
By hard and soft this isn’t a categorisation between difficult or easy but instead means a tangible or hard circumstance (What got your attention? What was hard?) and the softer or intangible overtures or themes (Am I feeling fear?)
During this we may notice that we became caught in the sway of shifting priorities, swings, or indecisiveness at higher levels. This is handy to know and an important point to raise. Since, the modern world changing whims and putting out small fires in the moment.
But usually—mostly—the things left that stay with us are the fears. There is no pleasant way to confront them, but confront them we must.
Another way to look at any processing, reviewing or clearing is as a valve of compassion: many of the things you thought you needed to do will be left undone without noticeable consequences.
It may offer the opportunity to cut some weight. “Goodbye, heavy friends. Maybe someone else will give you the attention you need.”
Thanks for being here,