Tag Archives: Living Attentively

Becoming an Explorer of the World

CSC_1057

‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.’

W.B. Yeats

As Yeats so rightly said, the world is full of magic things, yet we usually pass by these amazing things everyday, without so much as a second thought.

Day in, day out, we see people, places, trees, plants, flowers, discarded objects, new buildings, and experience smells, colours, sounds……Life bombards us from all directions, every waking second of our lives.

But the ways in which our human languages name, label, and categorise the world around us, and the ways that our brains limit that world further still by loading assumptions, pre-conceptions, and judgements on top of the languages that we use to define it, usually stop us from seeing these parts of life as amazing.

And, due to this automatic organising and defining that our language and our mind does on our behalf, we end up taking so much of our day-to-day world for granted.

Not only this, but these processes that allow us to ‘quickly’ make sense of our world, actually prevent us from getting to know life in-depth, even when we do choose to study a part of life, or decide to give something more attention.

However, we can change this by becoming explorers of the world, and consciously choosing to stop being just mere ‘passersby’.

To begin exploring the world, here are a few guidelines that we can follow to get ourselves out of our heads and into-the-world. We can use these guidelines to either briefly alter, and deepen, our perception of something, or we can use them to guide us in a longer study of something that intrigues or interests us.

Preparing yourself to explore:

– Approach the world with a child-like sense of wonder.

– Try to see with ‘fresh new eyes’ as though you are seeing everything for the ‘first’ time – or pretend that you are an alien visiting from another world, and that everything here is new to you.

– Hold a positive and friendly attitude throughout your explorations, as though you are meeting a new friend.

Exploring with your senses:

– Touch, smell, feel, gaze, search, explore. Use your senses to look for the tiniest details that you can find.

– Dwell on those details for a while, and the follow them with your fingers or your eyes to see where else they lead you.

– When exploring with your senses consciously try to forget everything that you think you already know (such as names, categories, facts, theories) and instead direct your attention to exactly what it is that your senses are experiencing in the present moment.

– Use curiosity to sustain your attention and to sustain your explorations. By fueling our observations curiosity can help us to constantly search for details that we haven’t yet noticed.

Reflecting:

– Close your eyes for a minute or two and try to recreate your sensory experiences in your mind as exactly as you can, as though you are playing back a DVD of your experience.

– If you notice that you can’t remember things, then use this as a starting point for your next set of observations.

Contemplating:

– Instead of getting up close and using your senses to observe details, spend some time standing or sitting at a slight distance and behold the subject of your exploration from afar.

– Give it your full attention, but in a gentle, non-specific way. Open yourself to just spending quiet time being in its presence.

The end is only a new beginning…

So, now return to the subject of your exploration and start all over again. Keep exploring and returning to it until you are so intimately acquainted that it begins to feel as though you are meeting an old friend, not just another thing-in-the-world.

For a more detailed account on how to become an explorer of the world, then check out my new book –  First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively

Guest Blog Post for Schumacher College

Below is a guest post that I wrote for the Schumacher College blog. To view the original click here.

‘First Steps to Seeing’ a new book by Emma Kidd

Submitted by mark.wallace on Tue, 23/06/2015 – 16:18

During the MSc in Holistic Science I was led towards, and able to experience, what was no less than a different way of being human. This way of being involved bringing a new quality of attention to the world, and to everything in it. In the first module of the MSc, we learnt to give life, and the life of our senses, our full attention; and were encouraged to notice the ways in which our minds constantly try to organise and define the world we see. By putting both of these techniques into practise I was able to alter my way of being in such a way that everything I rested my gaze upon suddenly seemed to burst to life. And then, with sustained effort and study, over time I realised that – by using practices taught on the MSc, such as Goethean Science and Phenomenology – I was able to see and to wholly understand the life of the world on its own terms, as though it were speaking directly to me.

Discovering, and experiencing, this new way of being for myself completely turned my world upside down. Up until starting the MSc, nobody had ever told me that there was more to seeing than meets the eye! Nor that, with sustained effort and focus, I could learn directly from the world itself, without turning to text-books or expert opinions; and that in doing so I could experience the world as being far more alive, full of meaning and character than is possible through absorbing abstract information, facts and theories alone.

This new way of being, seeing, and knowing – which the MSc in Holistic Science led me towards – has transformed my life to such an extent that I have dedicated the past two years of my life to writing a book about it. ‘First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively‘ is down-to-earth and practical by nature, aiming to lead the reader directly into experiencing this way of being from the very start. The introduction opens with an exercise in sensory perception, and an invitation to slow down from the hectic pace of everyday life. On the MSc, Henri Bortoft used to say that perception can only begin when we slow down, and slowness is a theme that is carried throughout the book.

Reflecting the nature of myself, the book is very eclectic, in style and in content – partly academic, part personal development work-book, and partly biographical; and chapters are independently dedicated to setting the content in a personal, an interpersonal and a professional context. Therefore, it makes for a rich and interesting read whether you are looking to develop your own way of seeing; to explore the way you relate to other people; or to examine the way you see at work

 First Steps to Seeing is now available to purchase online as a paperback and an e-book.

Guest Article for Network of Wellbeing

Below is a guest article that I wrote for the wonderful Network of Wellbeing, a not-for-profit organisation based in the UK which works to support the development of wellbeing on a local and global scale, both with individuals and communities. The original article was posted on the 9th July 2015 and can be viewed here.

Living Attentively: The Bread and Butter of Wellbeing

By Florence Guest Posts,  Personal Development ,  0 Comments

In this guest post independent researcher Emma Kidd reflects on the importance of being present and giving attention to our sensory experiences. Emma explains how this practice can offer a foundational step towards a strong sense of personal wellbeing. Emma, a Schumacher College graduate, has recently published a book on this topic entitled, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively.

Photo credit: Emma Kidd

Italian Bread

Being attentive

Whilst exploring my own experiences of life, and studying human experience through science and philosophy, I have come to understand that it is not only ‘what’ we do that increases our sense of wellbeing, but also ‘how’ we arebeing when we are doing something. This is equally important whether we are engaged in a simple daily act of, for example, eating an amazing piece of home-baked bread with local butter lavishly spread on top, or whether we are engrossed in more complex tasks, involving thinking, speaking or working.

For instance, to experience a feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction whilst eating – which can contribute to a broader sense of wellbeing – it is not enough to just carry out the act of eating food; we can go a step further and give our attention to our sensory experience whilst we are eating.

We might think that carrying out the act of eating would automatically draw our attention tothe experience of eating. However, unfortunately this is often not the case. One of the reasons for this is that, in everyday life, our attention tends to be automatically drawn away from our sensory experience, and redirected towards a persistent stream of thoughts which pour into our awareness every waking moment of the day.

On an average day, instead of noticing our sensory experience during daily actions, our attention usually gets transferred to whatever our mind believes to be ‘more important’, such as reviewing our agenda for the day ahead, rehearsing difficult conversations, or fretting about the fact that our partner left their wet towel on the bathroom floor yet again.

This preoccupation with our thoughts then often leads us to spend our everyday lives in a kind of comatose state; a way of being which zones out from the world, either obsessing over the past or becoming fixated with the future. This stops us from paying attention to our experience of life in the present moment.

Living in the moment

However, we can change this at any moment by consciously bringing our attention back to our sensory experience. An everyday event such as eating breakfast, which is often ruled by monotony and constrained by our hectic schedules, is a particularly great opportunity to practice stepping out of this ‘automatic’ way of being.

Whilst eating breakfast we will usually only be vaguely aware of what the bread tasted like or the fact that our cornflakes crunched as we chewed them, and we end up left with a hazy blur of experiences that our mind bundles into one event and labels it ‘eating breakfast’. However, as a result of intentionally paying full attention to the flavours, textures and forms with our senses whilst we are eating, we can allow our attention to focus on one experience at a time, and we therefore open ourselves to a much more satisfying encounter.

First Steps Front Cover

A path towards living attentively

Paying full attention to our own, or to other people’s, living experience of the world also allows us to become more fully aware of life, in terms of itself. Though it is not necessarily possible to be fully attentive at all times, consciously bringing yourself back to living attentively on a regular basis can be extremely beneficial.

If we scale up this way of being attentive and apply it to broader aspects of living, such as personal or societal challenges, the deeper form of ‘living knowledge’ which emerges makes it possible for us to approach life with a more detailed, dynamic and authentic understanding of the challenges we are facing – which, in turn, organically informs us how to best proceed.

Today, in the twenty-first century, we are confronted with a rapidly changing world full of social, economic and environmental uncertainties, and each of these does bring a myriad of challenges to our wellbeing. As we are all inherently connected to this changing world, if we wish to create the best possible conditions to thrive, we must develop an inner capacity to respond and adapt to life in new, creative and innovative ways.

In my new book, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively, I offer a series of ‘stepping stones’ that help us develop the capacity to live life with full attention – to live attentively – and to thrive. These steps are delivered through a combination of personal stories, professional case-studies and practical exercises that are all related to everyday life. The intention of the book is to enable us to put the process of living attentively into action, straight away – no matter where we are, or what we are doing.

I see paying full attention to life as the ‘bread and butter’ of wellbeing; it is the internal prerequisite to getting the most out of life – both as a cognitive tool which can increase personal satisfaction and wellbeing, and also as the most fundamental skill involved in getting to know the world ‘as it is’, and in context.

By living attentively we can improve the ways in which we engage in our everyday tasks; we can more accurately get to know the subjects of our world, our work or our studies; and learn to be more sensitive and authentic in our interactions with other people, and with the world around us. In this way, living attentively can not only expand our own sense of wellbeing, but can also help us begin to see more possibilities for supporting others in the world to ‘be well’. And we can start putting this attentive way of being into practise with even the smallest of everyday acts, such as eating a piece of bread and butter.

Biography

Emma Kidd is an educator, writer, independent researcher and consultant. Her practice is centred around leading living inquiries into how we can co-create a happy, healthy, and peaceful world. She works with educational charities, third sector organisations and businesses. Emma has a Masters degree from Schumacher College, UK, where she specialised in Phenomenology and the work of Henri Bortoft.

You can visit Emma’s website athttp://www.sensinglife.net

The Discipline of Language – A newsletter from the Royal Bank of Canada, 1964

“Confucius summed up the need for right choice when he said: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone” and as a consequence morals, art, justice and the business of life deteriorate, and “the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”

I was recently fortunate enough to have been sent a link to an excellent piece of writing, one which discusses the virtues and dangers associated with the act of saying – in thought, pen or word – exactly what it is that one means to say. 

This very astute piece of writing takes a rather unlikely form – it is a newsletter from the Royal Bank of Canada, written in 1964. The newsletter begins as follows:

“THERE IS MAGIC in words properly used, and to give them this magic is the purpose of discipline of language.”

Whilst I was writing First Steps to Seeing I felt it an obligation, to myself, to my teachers, and to the reader to spend a great deal of effort on making sure that I was being as clear as I possibly could, both in my choice, and use, of words. I attempted to say what was meant, and to mean what was said. Therefore, this beautifully written and wonderfully clear demonstration of ‘saying what one means’ resonated with me deeply. If followed carefully, I believe that it might well serve as practical guide for those who wish to write, or speak, more clearly.

The newsletter can be accessed via the website of the Royal Bank of Canada RBC Newsletter 1964.

First Book Review for First Steps to Seeing: by Simon Robinson

This is an excerpt from First Steps to Seeing‘s first ever book review! The review is from my wonderful friend, colleague and fellow aficionado in a dynamic way of seeing, Simon Robinson – editor of Transition Conciousness and co-author of the wonderful new book Holonomics.

Simon has been been supporting and encouraging my philosophical work on exploring and understanding a dynamic way of seeing, almost from the very beginning. So it is with great pleasure that I share with you his reflections on First Steps to Seeing – and with much gratitude that he is the first person to review it. To see the original book review on Transition Consciousness click here.

BOOK REVIEW: FIRST STEPS TO SEEING BY EMMA KIDD

July 6, 2015 · by Simon · in Reviews. ·

If I were only to say that I have been looking forward to reading First Steps to Seeing: A Path to Living Attentively you may not quite realise how much. So I thought I would first start this review by mentioning that I first had the pleasure to meet Emma at Schumacher College in 2009, just after I started my masters degree in Holistic Science and just after Emma had graduated, also in Holistic Science, the year before.

henri-bortoft

Photo credit: Emma Kidd

In fact, I think I may have first heard of Emma I believe before meeting her, since Henri Bortoft, who was giving the first week of lectures on wholeness, did in fact quote from Emma’s dissertation in one of our classes. This is the quote:

A phenomenological inquiry, as conducted with Goethean methodology, is a form of dynamic engagement with the world – dynamical doing by dynamical seeing; it allows you to see the whole within the parts and brings the world to expression.”

In bringing a phenomenon to expression, perceived qualities have to be expressed, but also simultaneously expressed to be perceived; as if the phenomenon is an active subject that reaches out to us. This calls for a hermeneutic understanding of expression as a reciprocal dynamic process, with perception and expression being intrinsically related.

To read the rest of the original post click here – Book review

Seeing Our Work As A Gift

Toucan

Photo credit: E. Kidd

Sitting at my tiny desk, looking out of the window at my small backyard, I have a rather large question looming before me; now that I have finished taking time out to write my first book, First Steps to Seeing, what should I do with my life? I learnt years ago that working just to earn money is not enough for me. I don’t want a job, I want a life, and a livelihood, that I love. And to complicate matters even further, not only do I want to do what I love, I want my work to contribute towards making a positive difference in the world.

For various reasons, both personal and ethical, I have forgone most of the accoutrements of a modern, western lifestyle, such as owning a car, a house, buying new clothes or gadgets, and going on regular holidays. Instead, I either walk or use public transport, I live with my family, mostly buy second-hand clothes and spend my vacations staying in the homes of my friends.

This change in lifestyle has decoupled me from the common, pressing need to be tied to a ‘9 ‘til 5’ job, or a guaranteed monthly salary, and means that I currently find myself profiting from a resource which is far more valuable, fleeting and finite than money; this resource is time. With my current schedule almost completely clear, I have time in abundance. This time is giving me the space and the opportunity to press the reset button on my life, and in so doing, I am finding that my attention is drawn to the unknown path ahead of me as if it were a fresh, new canvass – completely empty yet bulging with unseen possibilities, daring me to bring forth creations and ways of working that are not only new, but also different.

As I feel my way into the depths of this creative potential I am finding myself confronted with the tension between doing what I love, and doing what I feel would be of most help to the world. These two options, at least initially, seem fundamentally incompatible when held together, yet lacking when considered alone. On the one hand, I am naturally drawn towards ‘helping’ people, but I am also aware of how complex the world is, and the way in which reactive ‘help’ can often be misguided. On the other hand, I am intuitively led towards creative pursuits, such as writing and photography, which allow me to bring beauty into the world and, in return, nourish me during the process.

When I lean back from my immediate environment to contemplate the social, cultural and environmental destruction that is currently occurring throughout the world, the thought that I should be devoting myself to what I love – regardless of what is occurring around me – seems utterly absurd. Even as I write, as we continue push the ecological and ideological boundaries of what is humanly possible, war torn countries, communities and families are being ripped apart and the planet is unmistakably being destroyed.

In the face of this destruction, selflessly abandoning all interest in what brings me to life and devoting myself to a worthy social or environmental cause appears to be ‘the’ answer (and I do have great admiration for those who do so). However, I am very aware  of the way in which this approach can create an inequality between the individual and the world, one which elevates life-above-oneself. I have tried this approach of abandoning the self in favour of the world, and maybe I just wasn’t very good at it, but experience has taught me that I can not fully give myself to the world when I neglect my own needs, whether physical, emotional or mental, no matter how much I believe in the worthiness of the cause.

On the other hand, doing work that I love for no other end than to satisfy and enliven myself just seems to follow our current damaging consumer culture, which elevates the importance of the individual and creates a hierarchy of self-above-all-others. However, I believe a third possibility – or a middle path –  does exist, one which neither excludes nor elevates the importance of self or the world; this third possibility is the approach of seeing our work as a gift.

Successful gift giving is an art form, one which considers the giver and receiver to be on equal terms. The art of giving a gift requires us to notice, to pay attention and to be responsive to the needs and wishes of the receiver. However, it is also a very personal gesture, one which respects our individuality, our wishes and inevitably takes our own needs and capabilities into account. And the actual gift that we give is only part of the process; we also give the receiver the thought, time, love and attention that is necessarily involved in the contemplation, and the giving, of the gift.

In terms of satisfaction, gift giving is a circular (or hermeneutic) process – when we give a gift we offer the receiver something that we hope will be of value and meaning to them, and in the process we derive meaning from giving that which we wish to give.

To approach, to see and to create our work as a gift we must first take time to notice the world around us, to really see life as it is. We must then give the same level of attention to ourselves, to see ourselves as we are, noticing what inner resources we have to give and what kind of engagement we most derive meaning from or feel enlivened by. This information, or these ingredients, can then be mixed together to create our work, our gift. Similarly to a baking a cake or a loaf of bread, when combined these ingredients, which are derived from noticing and being attentive to both ourselves and the world, can come together to create an idea, a project or an organisation that is far more than just the sum of its parts.

Seeing our work as a gift values the self and the world, on equal terms, and aims to meaningfully satisfy both. In taking the time to notice not only what we think the world needs or wants, but also to notice what we would most like to give, or feel most able to give, we are respecting and honoring ourselves and the world.

Therefore, in response to my own question of what to do with my ‘post-book’ life, I will begin from the position of seeing my work as a gift. As the case studies in Chapter 8 of First Steps to Seeing demonstrate – such as The Nature Institute, Hiut Denim Co., the ‘Learning in Depth’ educational initiative, and the economic development work of Manfred Max-Neef – by seeing our work as a gift, and dwelling in the space between the self and the other, we are best placed to work and to act upon our hearts’ desires, with love and integrity, whilst simultaneously answering the call from a world which is unarguably in need of our help.

First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively will be released on the 18th June and is now available to pre-order as an e-book  or in paperback