Years ago I might have said ‘I am never one to back away from an argument’, especially when the subject is one I am passionate about or I at least have a modicum of knowledge of. I cringe now as I recall, from many years ago, arguing the toss with someone over an interpretation of a religious passage. A passage I had no authority to interpret and bugger-all experience to speak from. The arrogance and ignorance of youth!! This was a long time ago and that gives me a bit of comfort…surely things have changed!
And I can honestly say yes to that, things have changed, three decades have passed and not only I have grown wrinkled and grey but on reflection, I would say a slow quiet revolution has taken place.
Lately, I was reflecting on this mysterious change that has overtaken me, I was curious about how such a revolution can occur without my knowing!
Before I say more I want to share a little reflection. Years ago every Saturday morning I would drive my racing-red Mazda MX5 from Ealing to Highgate. It was lowered and sported super low profile tires, so driving over even the lowest speed-bump at speed caused an almighty row.
Approaching from the North Circular I would drive down through East Finchley and finally Highgate Hill and park close to the Heath. One particular Saturday, top-down as usual, I was approaching the huge speed-bump about two thirds the way down instead of scraping the bottom of my very low car, this particular time I slowed right down, I noticed the feeling of the car dipping at the front and then rise just as got to the bump and as I proceeded over the “bump” (more like small mountain) it didn’t scrape! Not a peep…Hallelujah! What is important to note is here is the feeling in the body that I experienced, I felt that dip and rise and, as if for the first time, it kind made “bodily-sense” to me.
A while later that morning, sitting with a friend, I recalled this, and I recalled just how it seemed to happen by itself, it wasn’t like I had thought it through and decided to do that, it was a spontaneous occurrence. The next Saturday the same thing happened and over the weeks a new habit was born. My car was overjoyed and I felt that this must be what wisdom surely is?
This was my first experience of this kind of wisdom, the kind of changes that takes place as if by themselves, it’s like a new possibility occurs and I find myself taking it. Later I look back and I can see the “wisdom” of it.
In Ken Wilber’s integral philosophy he places great emphasis on what he terms “transcend and include”. The philosopher Gene Gendlin use the term “versioning” to describe something related. What Wilber is meaning by “transcend and include” is if we want to develop as a human being, the path leads us towards greater inclusivity. By including more of what we are not, we expand. Another way to think about this is to recognise how our living, our personality, is extremely patterned and biassed. On realising this we can consciously seek to include that which is outside of our regular living. We realise the benefit of not following the same old thinking, the same old ways of doing things, and seek out that which may feel at least odd, uncomfortable even. We engage with that which usually avoid, we seek out the shadow, and we illuminate the hidden rules we live from (culture). And for Wilber, this approach ultimately leads us to the highest level of consciousness, to the experience of cosmic unity and the non-dual. It’s a bold claim but one he doesn’t make lightly and provides a lot of evidence for it.
Gene Gendlin uses the term versioning (see A Process Model 2017) to describe a very specific event that occurs when we repeatedly sense (in the body) the “same” situation; that is each time we bring attention to it, it versions the sense of the thing, and after repeating this a bodily feeling of the thing as a whole “drops out”. This dropped out “whole” is now an object of consciousness, it is included (in our consciousness) and transcended (it is no longer me). For those who know about Gendlin’s Focusing practice, this will make more sense.
In practical terms, it means if I am feeling bad about a situation (which usually suggests I am feeling somewhat identified or entangled with it, that somehow the situation impinges on me, we might say my sense of self is threatened) then I can version it as a whole, the versioning creates an object of the situation, and I relate to the object, it no longer feels like it’s me that is bad, wrong or scared etc. I have the freedom to engage the situation from this greater perspective, I have transcended the identified level of perception.
This illustrates why I am suggesting Wilber’s Transcend and Include is similar to Gendlin’s versioning, which is the heart of Focusing.
So back to my revolution. What has occurred in me is a deep willingness to include other viewpoints, to work hard to understand how others think and feel about aspects of their living. Instead of simply arguing and telling others how to think, behave etc, I am now deeply curious and interested in how others think etc.
This new tendency had begun several years previously and had became more noticeable about the time I was studying Gendlin’s philosophy. It had taken a few years of intense reading to develop a rudimentary understanding of his philosophical model yet that huge effort to think differently has deeply affected me in ways I could not have foreseen. I am certain it has paved the way for me to concretise this new wisdom in my life, this love of other viewpoints, this wanting to know how you see the world…to feel myself being changed as I come to know how it is for you.
Whilst reading philosophy I discovered one has to almost blindly read the same passage over and over until it starts to make some sense. One has to repeat this many many times to feel the words making a change, making sense of something in our experience. And for me, this willing repetition seems to be the key to developing new ways of living and being. Just like with the speed bump, first, it came to my attention, the feeling of slowing, dipping and rising. Then the next time I approached the speed-bump I repeated the “practice”, the felt movement and the resultant gliding over. Repeating this week after week it became part of my repertoire, just how I drive over speed bumps. Looking more closely we can see a pattern, firstly conscious recognition, then a willingness and commitment to repeat the new thing, and finally a new habit forms and continues by itself.
So this new habit developed in me, this willingness to listen to other viewpoints. And as that developed I came to recognise the tremendous value in so doing, that I am literally changed once I hear you. Once I can put myself in your shoes, to get a sense of your what and you why and so on… then I am forever different, you have expanded me, and for this, I am deeply grateful, this going beyond the regular me is delightful.
So, that’s it, in brief. A revolution that expands me daily. It allows me to include more and more into my experience. Of course, on further reflection, I realise this is another way to think about Gendlin’s Focusing practice, with Focusing, we are setting aside our bias, our set ways of thinking about our life situations, so we can get to know the “more”, that which is already bodily-known yet we are rarely conscious of. Like with the speed bump discovery, that slowing down soon enough saves the car and my ears lots of pain, that was already bodily known (and of course just common sense!), but somehow it has never made its way into my actual living…not until that sunny day on Highgate Hill did something really shift in me, a new wisdom was born and through repetition cemented itself into a lasting habit.
For those interested in learning more about versioning and focusing, perhaps to engage in some felt exploration with me you can get in touch with me on facebook or through my website, www.RobCMatthews.com