We all build models of the world in our consciousness, and it is hardwired into our beings for survival. Though we are good at building models, we are less good at realizing that we are engaging a model that we have built and that the model can be changed. This lack of awareness leads to some problems with models exceeding their essential goodness.
My Teacher has said many times over the years “Not all models are created equal, some models work better than others. For instance, Euclidean Geometry works for the vast amount of things, but NonEuclidian Geometry proved crucial in Einstein’s theory of general relativity.” I am not a mathematician, and I don’t play one on TV so I wouldn’t know the difference between, Euclidian, Non-Euclidian, Differential, Topography or Algebraic geometry. However, it illustrates the point that there are many models that we create to try and get a handle on this complex world we live in, some work well for some things and others are better suited to handle other things.
Let’s face it we are pretty lazy when it comes to looking at how we view the world choosing to think that the model we use to engage is just the way we are, as opposed to choices we are making to help us interact. For instance, you come home from a day of surviving work or school and everyone is behaving like Martians, they are not behaving and interacting with the model that works best at your place of employment or the particular culture at school. So you think to yourself “why don’t these folks shape up!” When it is you that should change your model. Or another example is the idea of sitting quietly without any distractions seems like complete torture from the standpoint of our over-stimulated world. Once again it is you that needs to change models. Or the idea of playing with your kids seems like it is frivolous. Once again you need to change your model to pretend you are a cowboy, or a princess having tea.
We are running right up against the fact that some models of engaging life just don’t work well in different situations. If you have a job like a Doctor where everything you do is a matter of life or death, you begin to arrange the rest of your activities in the same way or just disregarding things that don’t fit. Which in turn begins to limit what it is that you can engage. Over time that one model of interacting with life will begin to lose its sparkle and will take more and more energy to sustain. Many of you may be nodding your heads right now. Wondering what happened to the wonder that you felt when you were a kid just looking at an ant on the ground or pretending that you were a spaceman or a boxer or when you first did anything new.
As kids we shifted models of engaging life almost mercurially, I use to watch my son and his friends in amazement as they played and pretended, switching models at will without any friction in the system at all. They were spacemen, football players, boxers, doctors, superheroes this all happened within 15 minutes! They had not yet been told that they had to pick one model and stick with it. When I reference Models, I am not taking just different activities done the same way you do everything. I am talking about something larger. A Doctor has to spend may years playing the game of pretending to be a doctor, learning a large set of rules and interactions with patients so that they can help people. This is a large and encompassing world and the models for dealing with all of that information are mindboggling until it is learned. The same goes for a photographer, less encompassing but after working with 250 photographers in Los Angeles in the 8o’s you find each has a different model for dealing with subject, light, and gear that determines how their images look. As with all models they are comprised of choices that you pay attention to and a world grows around them.
Ok, so here are some things that you can do to switch models throughout your day.
1. Start to build some models, slowly at first just pick one and later pick another. Some of the models might be, meditation, physical exercise, creativity, making something with your hands, reading, prayer, taking a walk in nature, listening, free play, creating something artistic, learning something technical, playing music, memorization, If you are a practitioner of The Chinese Internal Arts, Chi Gung, Tai Chi, Pa Kua, Water Boxing, Da Chang, 5 Animal Frolics ( The Chinese arts are all specific models for engaging life). This is just a short list; however, the idea is to engage with life differently than your previous modes of operation. So each of these activities can become a vocation. Let’s say you are going to take a walk in nature, begin pretending that you are a naturalist, really notice the plants, animals and the interaction of the life in the forest; the inquiry into just ten feet can be a life long journey. Or your model of walking in Nature could be broadly taking in all that is around you. Remember you set the rules of engagement and the model changes. These models you build should become old friends that you can engage at a moment’s notice. The important thing is that you don’t have to be an expert in your field you just start learning to engage in a more precise way.
2. Practice turning on and off, the models of thinking. Let’s say you have been at work, and your job is to delegate. Instead of bringing that home to your family come home and serve your family. The idea is to learn to find the off switch. Then “turn on” an entirely different activity, maybe it is your choice just to listen to music so you build a new model that focuses your attention on listening. Or it could be meditation, how would a Buddhist monk engage practice, try some meditation and build a model of watching your mind? The key here is learning to turn off one model of interacting and fully engage a different model. You turn it on then turn it off. When you become more malleable you find something pretty interesting in the switching of models. I won’t ruin it for you just do it and see.
3. Learn to Create balance.While building a few models, that engage you on many different levels. While you are practicing turning on one model of thinking and turning off of the previous model of thinking, you can begin to build the artistry of engaging your life. What I mean by that is learning to create balance. If your current way of interacting with life is very physical, maybe you are a physical trainer or a ski instructor, for instance, learn to engage being still. If your current way of interacting is very mental, think college professor or Doctor (or most careers these days) then create models that encourage you to do something physical. If everything you have been doing is of grave importance, then engage in a model that is just “play” and engage with being unimportant. Each person is unique in what they bring to each of their moments, so the artistry will be in engaging fully in a model that balances out how they interact. Engaging different models can be done over broad swaths of time or within smaller segments of time, however, the idea is to have a few different models that you are building and have access to switching models of thought. Over the years you can start to become pretty proficient in many different things by learning this skill.
Here is the problem that we are looking into here. Models are created to do specific things. Our body/minds are much broader than a single way of interacting with life and when we fall into one way of being we exhaust our talents and life becomes tedious and exhausting. If however, we learn to turn on and off the models of interacting with life, we can be replenished by what we do and feel fuller and more energized in everything we do. Don’t take my word for it. Just try it. Take a broader look at the flux and flow of your days, and look for ways to engage that broaden the scope of what and how you can experience life. Then watch as you shift from one model to the next how differently you feel, how your body/mind relaxes, how you can more easily enjoy the different models you engage. Also, watch as the model that you were using becomes alive and definite in your experience.
An example from my life has been after a long day of taking pictures, lugging lights, processing images, fielding phone calls, scheduling the days ahead I can feel exhausted. When I show up for class and teach or learn Meditation or Tai Chi or Northern Kung Fu and l turn off my working brain, I find what was exhausting was the model of engaging because when I leave I always have more energy and feel lighter in my being. From exhausted to energized. What was the difference? Being able to turn off one model of engaging and turn on a different model that changes the scope of experience. The thing to remember it is not just an activity, I could act like a photographer playing Tai Chi and my model might not shift that much, however, if I stop being a photographer and become a Tai Chi Practitioner I then can start to switch models looking at everything through the lens of Tai Chi.