Tag Archives: Carl Rogers

Mindful Absorption: Fluidity and Mindfulness

Carl Rogers talks about “the fluid nature of the self.” But, how does one achieve such an awareness of the fluid nature of the self? Aside from my recent article, I will expand on a few key elements to this most elusive yet ordinary way of living, hopefully, moving us toward a better understanding of “fluidity” and, “mindfulness” in general.

I think it is extremely important to, in moments of great concentration (of a task, a conversation, a lecture, cleaning the sink) allow yourself to be fully drawn into the situation at hand. The catch is that if you find yourself thinking about how you’re being drawn into the situation, the absorption in the task has ceased to be so. It’s like reading a book and suddenly realizing that you are reading a book. In doing so, you’ve temporarily lost the “story.” When you realize that you are reading a book, you cease to be engrossed in the story or the argument and start to think about other things (sometimes even as you eyes continue “reading”). When you are fully engaged in the book, you lose track of time and, at that moment, you are in the realm of the author. So, the first trick is to permit oneself to “let go” of analysis of the situation and permit oneself to be 100% “into” the situation.

But, I want to clarify that “letting go” does NOT mean recklessly doing whatever you want to do regardless of the consequences. No, not at all. In fact, the opposite. It means “letting go” to the situation in such a way that you are “tuning in” to it more clearly and more in accord with what needs doing or what is being presented to you in the situation. Therefore, the teacher becomes a better listener and speaker, the police officer becomes more attentive to crime, the musician becomes better focused on the production of sound and so on. It is a kind of realistic alchemy for daily living.

Whenever you are having a conversation with someone, you are absorbed in something greater than each individual word that you are saying. Becoming more mindful of what you say and how you say it could help you along your path – “letting go” and “tuning in.” In order to have a conversation, you must enter the flow of the words, while attending to the meaning – you do this automatically, for the most part. Learn to become a better speaker through the control and edification of the words that you use with others. It’s like the old Japanese Butoh-fu poem, “Balance chaos and control, like a calm rider on a stampeding horse.”

For now, and for the sake of “blogging brevity”, I would advise that you do as many things as possible and in the doing of those things, do them well. More than “well”, do them to the very best of your ability. Become mindful of your limits and, if need be, work purposely to change those limits so that they are in accord with where you want them to be instead of where they are by “default.”

I work with a seventy-year-old man who has told me on numerous occasions, that he “doesn’t have a future.” A common reaction to that line might be, “Oh, but you DO have a future. You’ll be around a long time. Don’t worry about it.” However, he is always smiling, attentive and jolly. He is smiling because, more important than having a future, he has a present. Each task he does, each conversation he has, has meaning for him NOW. He does what needs to be done and holds to the purpose of the now. Old age has taught him a lesson. Hopefully, when and if I am his age, I, too, will be as engrossed in the moment as he is. Nonetheless, with those of us, who absolutely must plan for upcoming goals or events in our life, the best way to handle them is with the recollection that what you are doing now is leading you somewhere and it is what you are doing now that is of utmost importance to the quality and control of your life. The question is: Is what you are doing now leading you where you most want to go? If not, you may want to re-evaulate the doing part of your life and change what or how you do things. Change what you are doing now and start leading yourself to the imagined destination that you dream of. Getting there will probably be more fun than arriving, anyway.

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Walking Your Path

“Many paths lie before you.
Some paths highlight quiet sitting in peaceful surroundings.
Some paths highlight sharp action and danger.
Some paths are highly visible to others.
Some paths require many hours of isolation.
Your path is individually designed for you.
You discover it only by walking it.
Looking back, the twists and turns make some sense.
But perhaps not now.
Either is fine.”

David K. Reynolds
from Word Showers

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Effortful Living: Seth Godin on Effort and Luck

Seth Godin has written a nice piece on “effort” and “luck” entitled, “Is Effort a Myth?”. In this article he opens up the popular misperception that a great life comes through luck and not effort. I think (and perhaps Godin would agree with me), that a great life can be built through an awareness of the “lucky” moments that support us coupled with mindful disciplined doses of effort. For Godin, the popular perception of success through luck is misleading us.

Godin writes, “And that’s the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.” In our daily lives we are perpetually lucky. You are here now reading this and lucky to be alive to be able to do so. You are being supported in countless ways throughout the day. Perhaps you are already aware of this or maybe you have forgotten it. Either way, luck abounds in our life, as we maneuver our way to work, back home, to the store and so on. Meanwhile, effort and effortful living, demand action and is not as easy as a reliance on “being lucky.”

Effortful living is a choice and, as Godin says, “is totally available, all the time.” There is a great difference between floating through your work day as a mere cog in the system, and owning up to doing what you need to do or doing what you would do through effort. Sometimes, “the path of most resistance,” although the only path that will get us where we need to go, is pushed aside in favor of “taking it easy” or simply dooming our potential by “not caring.”

Godin, in his article, has written a four point “Effort Diet”, which I recommend you pay attention to and enact. He also encourages readers to make their own “diet.” Transformation in one’s life is possible through changing what one does, by developing new habits. Nonetheless, making the plan is one thing, but effortfully enacting it and living through it is immensely difficult. It is the “difficulty” of this purposeful and effortful way of living that make it worth so much more than aimlessly drifting through your day. However, as Godin writes, “This is a hard sell. Diet books that say, “eat less, exercise more,” may work, but they don’t sell many copies.”

Here, are my four additions to Godin’s “effort diet.”

1. Learn a new word everyday for one month and use it in conversations or in your writings. See how the words that you use influence the way that you think about and experience the world.
2. Control your speech and your self-talk. Observe how caught up you are in how you imagine yourself to be.
3. Thank all of the objects and people that are in your life. Treat these objects and people with the utmost respect. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be who you are.
4. For one week, go to work in the frame of mind that what you do greatly impacts not only the organization, but your own ways of being in that organization. This may include working in a way that you haven’t worked before.

On that note, I would like to share with you an aphorism by my friend and mentor, Dr. Corey Anton author of Selfhood and Authenticity:

“Worry About it After You’ve Started: So many people want to fix their lives but don’t know where to start, so they don’t.”

Thank you for your attention.

Please feel free to add to this list or, as Godin suggests, make your own list and, more importantly, enact it, live it, be it.

If you liked this article, you may also be interested in:

Actualizing: A Constructive Living Approach
Constructive Living: Unpublished Texts Series #1
Constructive Living: Unpublished Texts Series #2
While the Coffee Brews: Five Morning Fragments
Living Constructively: Effort
Constructive Living as Lifehack Strategy
To Be That Self Which One Truly Is: Carl Rogers

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Tuning in Silently

signal

I have seen consultation sessions here in Japan where the client/student sit in enclosed silence while the therapist/teacher silently and patiently waits, neither saying a word until the end of the session. Perhaps it is through such silent meditation with another that we can truly penetrate to that internal space beyond spoken language, that beautiful nothingness. That is, when our spoken language fails to meet the expectations of the other due to linguistic barriers, how to we deeply learn from each other? How do we help each other? It seems that the Carl Rogers way of empathic understanding would work very well in this situation and sometimes it may only take a smile and time to sit together to open up the situation and create a comfortable space between self and other.

I think that sometimes listening can be more difficult than expressing. Perhaps listening itself is a form of expression. What does it mean to actively listen to another person without forming our opinions and judgments during their talk? Even though people seem to value the quick response as a valid method of replying, I think we should take a note from the Japanese way of communication and learn to become better listeners. If we look at music, the beauty of electro-acoustic music or environmental recordings is the attention it demands of us. It can be very challenging to engage in the sound of crickets. How does one listen to the uneven sound of the evening rain? How do our environments change when we truly listen?

Recently, I was asked for a method of learning a foreign language. More specifically, I was asked how one can better develop listening skills. One way is to practice the art of “tuning in.” When I am in a public place, I concentrate on all of the conversations taking place around me. Since all of the conversations are in a different language (Japanese), I can become aware of the limits of my listening abilities. I see the family enjoying food across from me and in their conversation with the owner of the restaurant I can observe interaction and lose myself in tuning in to their conversation. There is no ill-intentions in this act, simply the desire to enter into an attuned state of listening. Similarly, the train announcements at the station, the recorded messages on the bus, the radio, a Japanese podcast and so on. When we really tune in to the myriad of sounds around us, we let them enter into us and we eliminate the barrier between our own comprehension and the actual sound of the foreign language. During the state of tuning in, the mind is silent, even though thoughts and recollections of understood vocabulary may drift in and out. The purpose of the exercise is to develop one’s ability to tune in to the sounds and to let them merge with oneself.

All in all, listening promotes empathic understanding of the other and develops concentration skills. Of course, in the example of second-language acquisition, I think it is also very important to balance your listening with a host of other exercises and strategies (self-experimentation as to what methods work the best for you are encouraged). In the case of silent listening, sitting together and creating a language-less space may increase and deepen awareness between you and the other. By simply experiencing the flow of life, the flow of mind, you may come to a richer understanding of the present moment.

Constructive Creativity


In this post, I will again dive into the work of mental health professional Carl R. Rogers from his essay, “Toward a Theory of Creativity.” I will try to provide you with an adequate understanding of his work via my understanding of the text. If you have read Rogers and wish to comment on his ideas of creativity, be my guest, the conversation is yours.

Social Need and Creative Process

We live in an age where the roles of active-creator and passive-receiver are changing. With various social media sites and free software applications, one can produce movies, which can be uploaded or share beautiful photographs for free with others. There is a social need to create lest we sink into actless consumerism. The reading of books can change our ways of perceiving the world and the active creation of books or essays can also greatly affect us in myriad ways. Us humans seem to find ourselves in our creations, the vortex of creativity arises from us, comes into us and colors our world.

The “creative process” as Rogers defines it can be broken down into two parts. The first is that there must be “an observable product of creation.” That is to say, the musician, instead of rehearsing the song only in the confines of the body’s interior, brings it out through the fingers or through the voice. The designer fashions a table or a draft of the table on paper. “Creativity” enters the picture when we examine the tools and the product of the imagination as it exists in reality in accord with other actual creations that exist in the world. That is, we recognize the once-occurrence of the piece of art or of the live speaker’s speech as novel, as something authentic, as something coming from the true part of one’s self and not from a false space.

Actualization and Inner Conditions

Human, the incomplete animal, tends toward actualization. The painter leaving the painting half-finished may be haunted by the forgotten project that could have been. The musician sets a goal of completing an album or of crafting a stellar live show. In doing this, the person moves into the realm of the creative, of actualizing an imagined work and breathing life into it, animating it. Moreover, there seems to be a tendency for us to want to perform to our potential. To be caught in a job that you don’t like may mean quitting the job or it may mean to more fully utilize your potential on the job. In either way, the lagging feeling that you are not doing in accord with your potential may usher in and pester the imagination, sometimes fruitfully and other times not. However, where there is “open-ness” to the situation and to and with others, the results of one’s creative endeavors may flourish with felicity.

The inner conditions, which promote creativity include “extensionality,” “an inner locus of evaluation” and “the ability to play.” Extensionality is Rogers’ term for this “open-ness” to reality. It is to be fluid, to bend and sway with one’s life situations and learn from them. The internal locus of evaluation is the recognition that only one can truly judge oneself and one’s own performance. That is, for example, after performing a concert, the musician needs to be able to fairly examine the performance and try to come to see it an a balanced way. Moreover, there should be the ability to play with the materials at hand, to brainstorm to create without evaulation, to let what wants to emerge, come out and develop under your guiding hand.

The Creative Act

But, what about the creative act? What happens in the play known as “the creative act?” Think about your favorite musician and what that musician seeks to create, what that musician seeks to construct. Maybe, if you are like me, you find yourself listening to Austrian experimental guitar music. What exactly did this experimental guitarist/composer wish to bring to life? Whatever it is, perhaps you can sense the essence of the piece, the images that stir in your mind, the blurry outlines becoming crisp, the image becoming clearer and clearer upon closer listening.

When we listen to that musician, we become aware that we have entered that musician’s world, that the “I” of that musician is communicating with our very own “I.” Similarly, what makes a certain film stick with us. What gives a marvelous film, its marvelous qualities. Whose vision is the film? When we watch a David Lynch film, even if we don’t know that it is a David Lynch film, we can tell by the way the characters interact, by the music, by the atmosphere…We can sense the “I” of Lynch himself through the fantasy world of cinema.

Factors for Considering Constructive Creativity

In closing, for Rogers there are roughly four factors that foster constructive creativity. The first, “individual as unconditional worth,” sees the individual as a once-occurrent event, an ever-changing worlding moment. The second factor wishes to alleviate any forms of external evaluation. That is, the school teacher would have to stop comparing grades for grades only work to block the creative process of the student by pitting student against student, student against parent, student against teacher or student versus self. The third factor is empathic understanding of the other, an acceptance of the other as he or she is, which promotes a willingness to share and to express. The fourth and final factor would be allowing the other person complete symbolic expression. In this way, the person may write a poem about a specific traumatizing situation instead of reacting violently toward a real flesh-and-blood other. Or, the writer may write about a powerful experience, that is, expressing it through a symbolic medium. This is freeing.

Thank you very much for reading. Have a creative and productive day.

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Carl Rogers: The Good Life (a condensation)

I’ve been obsessing over Carl Rogers these days and would like to briefly outline techniques for enacting and engaging in “the good life” as drawn out in his piece “A Therapist’s View of the Good Life.”

THE GOOD LIFE: A Process

1. An Increasing Openness to Experience: Your armor has disintegrated and you are more at peace with yourself. You accept yourself as a process, as a living breathing process able to feel your emotions and not hindered by imaginary walls.

2. Increasingly Existential Living: You recognize your once-occurence and the ever-renewing fluidity of the world. You are adaptible and you (as Alan Watts may say) “swing into life” feeding off of your experience and embracing the now-ness of the day.

3. An Increasing Trust in His Organism: You react and trust those reactions as they are congruent with you and with the situation. You trust that your reactions are the most fitting in a given situation given the experience and understanding that you have.

4. The Process of Functioning More Fully: In conjunction with numbers 1-3, you are more engaged in the social, in the creative aspects of life. There is integration and trust. You are aware of your minding of the world and acting in congruence, in harmony with your self.

To Be That Self Which One Truly Is: Carl Rogers

nugunslinger

“To Be That Self Which One Truly Is” is published in Carl Rogers‘s book “On Becoming a Person.”

In this essay he provides guidance for opening oneself up to the process-nature of one’s self while relating it to the question: “What are my goals in life?” That is, how are we to realize these goals? How are we to find and live out purposeful lives?

The Facade

Rogers wishes to move the client away from the facades of being. That is, to peel off the false faces that may haunt one and to accept oneself as one is. To allow oneself to feel one’s feelings instead of pushing them away. However, I don’t think Rogers is asking us to obsessively dwell on our feelings and to live off of them, but simply to let them emerge and be a part of who we are. In Rogers work, I am reminded of the “Constructive Living” approach as written about by David K. Reynolds in which he, too, calls for a more natural approach to dealing with one’s feelings and getting on with doing what needs doing. However, this releasing of the feelings, this acceptance of the feelings may not be comfortable, it may not “feel good.” You may find that you are weak, that you are scared or that you are over-dependent. But, this is part of the process that you are and letting yourself come to be this changing process is a step toward being the self that you truly are.

Away from Oughts

Also, Rogers wishes the client to move away from the “ought” view of oneself. That is, to truly come to see oneself as one is may mean cutting off the expectations that others have of you, the false faces that the others erect for you. In this way, the woman who wants to be a doctor, but has pressure from her family to stay at home all day should come to see the influence of this family-based expectation and move toward being a doctor instead of being the pushed-around self that the family may wish her to be. I think we have all felt the feeling that a certain life situation or a certain job were not right for us or that a new opportunity presented to us should not be taken. Again, moving away from the oughts that others create for us is a step in becoming who one truly is.

In this way, the idea of “self-direction” comes out and is very important for Rogers. That is, the client needs to confront the influences from others, the fake expectations, the oughts and the should, moving away from them and moving toward how one wishes to be and not how others wish one to be. In short, one becomes responsible for the self that one is creating, the process that one is always becoming. Responsibility is not always easy and in fact, moving away from the groups that exercise control over one’s life may be tremendously difficult and dangerous. However, it is only through this acceptance of process-self that the client may undertake a more responsible, free and healthy existence and, in doing so, move toward a more autonomous and honest life.

Complexity and Trust

Moreover, the client should be well aware of the complex nature of his or her self and instead of relishing in the walls of hidden desires, open oneself to the complexity that one is, the labyrinthine self that one never knew one was. In addition, one may come to see the other person as a complex process of becoming as well instead of a fixed static object. That is, a trust in the process-nature of oneself may also open up a newfound view of the other, the other, too, is a process.

In trusting oneself, a new kind of life may emerge, a life not bound by the strict gaze of others. For example, the great filmmaker Stanley Kubrick developed his own way of making films. He moved out from the strict eye of the others and created fresh and honest worlds, worlds rich in character and atmosphere. Also, the renaissance man Vincent Gallo (despite your opinion of him) has branched out in film, composition, performance, modeling, real estate and painting. The reception of his last film “The Brown Bunny” did not stop him from creating new kinds of art, new modes of being.

Listening…Ever Listening

It is important that we listen to ourselves, listen to the true voices that emerge. In the Lacanian world, the voice of the big Other mocks and prods. One needs to truly hear this voice of the big Other, to see the haunting visions for what they are and listen to that other voice, one’s true once-occurent voice. Despite social fragmentation, there are ways in which we can develop ourselves, free ourselves from the threatening parts of ourself that wish to enchain us. One should train one’s ears to listen closely to the movement of the self, to how the self manifests itself and the myriad of tricks that it plays. This may not be easy and this may not be “fun,” but, in the end, it may be absolutely necessary if one wishes to be that self which one truly is.

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