Sometimes a word will get stuck in my mind for a long time, occupying my attention. It sticks out a bit like a loose and squeaky floorboard in a hallway you always walk down. Except rather than being annoying, these words serve as points of inquiry into their meaning and my relationship with them.
In 2005, the word stuck in my head was ‘strategic’. This word contributed to my decision to go to Sweden. In the last few months in the UK this year, I felt I could really let go of that word as I received confirmation from others that I was able to be strategic, and demonstrating a ‘late-strategist’ action-logic (for more info on this framework, go here.
I currently have three words stuck in my head, and have done for about 6 months now. This short piece is to explain what they are, and what my thoughts are. Perhaps these words mean something to you too?
The word tone means so much to me now. This is because of awareness of my own tone of voice, and how changing tone is a very effective way to shift energy, dynamics and the relationships with others. Additionally, I now use the word ‘tone’ to mean the ‘vibe’ of meetings, groups, products or even spaces.
Starting to learn Mandarin (a very tonal language), and the desire to sing have partially extended my understanding and conscious use of tone. My mum taking offence at my tone of voice in discussions with her as a teenager is probable a major learning point too. And, this understanding extends beyond just me, but to also consider the tone of lots of people.
On the grossest level, chanting together (e.g. Tibetan monks, or as part of yoga practice) can create a shared tone. And, some spiritual traditions are very specific about the use of tone and its power to enlighten. Football supporters around the world would probably have a similar experience during matches, but the experience evoked by shouts of ‘you fat bastard’ may be slightly different to ‘om shanti, shanti…’ Or, the tonality of language can be used to distinguish between different regional dialects.
Tone for me is also a doorway into exploring subtle energies. That is, vibrations and sensations that are not-so-obvious to most of us most of the time. Familiar experiences of subtle energies may be the hairs raising on the back of your neck, the electric rush of sexual attraction, or the burning in legs after strenuous exercise. There are many layers of subtlety, and in some meditative practices you are invited to sharpen your awareness and investigate them down to the atomic level. After all, matter is comprised of waves and harmonics of subatomic vibrations in energy fields.
I have been thinking about this word for a year or so now. At the gross level, it is because I am conscious of the degree to which I have good posture when sitting or standing. And because meditation usually supports good posture (and clear thinking / not thinking) through encouraging you to have a straight back.
But the meaning of this word extends beyond the physical and into the metaphysical. ‘Posture’ evokes questions about how I relate to space, to others, and the universe. Think of atlas holding the world on his shoulder, Rodin’s thinker hunched over, Obama standing in front of a massive crowd, or Buddha sitting cross-legged. These ‘postures’ imply a state of mind and relationship with people and experience. This may be a posture of inquiry and curiousity, contempt, peace or violence.
My exploration of this word extends to being more aware my relationship to others and experience physically, psychologically, and spiritually. In physical contexts, it means I often play with where I sit, and how I face and relate to others that I am meeting. Even seeking to move positions (in my chair, between chairs, within the space) during meetings and conversations to see what difference it makes.
I remember first thinking about this word freshly when at the Integral Sustainability week in Boulder in 2006. We were doing ‘Integral Life Practice’ (an integration of the best of yoga, tai chi, meditation and strength training), and I really noticed how important the transitions were between poses. Every move between moves was done really consciously and it made all the difference to the experience.
This word has come to mean a lot to me:
We in transition to a new world, and towards a more sustainable society
I really notice my state and where my attention is between activities e.g. between meditation, then exercise, then breakfast in the mornings. Or between leading a workshop then breaking for lunch.
My main learning so far has been about the intent and consciousness with which you move between one activity and another. It is so easy to turn off and be unconscious, losing all the goodness and focus of the previous activity. With meditation, this can be so extreme as to not take anything from the meditation into your daily life.
The tone of this post is to offer and inquire, the posture in relationship to you as the reader is seeing if you want to walk alongside me in this inquiry, and the transition I am hoping is from a superficial understanding of travel, life and our collective journey to one that is more aware.
So, sorry, I have not concluding thoughts, perhaps just an expanded awareness in which the thoughts occur ; )