So much of our experience of physical spaces, services, and professionals is based on subtle and inexplicable elements. Our culture fails to provide a vocabulary for this field where we communicate and experience the world. A vocabulary for the elements that impact our experience allows us to be conscious in our communication.
Inner meaning comes from feeling cared about, engaged, valued, competent, and authentic. The meaning of an action or creation is something that is personal. Your beliefs and your experiences determine what meaning you give to your life.
The world around you is imbued with symbolic meaning. However, we rarely stop to ask what is the meaning behind that which we experience. The avalanche of information that has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe leaves little room for paying attention. But the information itself is not the meaning. As the tools of technology become the medium of our communication and our experience, the path back to meaning requires that we — our bodies and feeling selves — become the vessels that sense meaning.
Discomfort as Opportunity
Your discomfort, and problems that cause you discomfort, are invitations to pay greater attention. Whether you can’t figure out the proper location for your most treasured piece of furniture, or you realize that you are unable to be creative in your studio, whenever there is discomfort, something is asking to be addressed. We live in a culture that avoids discomfort through medication, denial, and distraction. Most of us are not prepared to confidently face and deal with the obstacles that are invitations.
For nearly every person there is at least one place where we swerve from aligned communication and presentation. The swerve causes the self-sabotage of your message. It can often limit your professionalism in the presentation of your work. The swerve tends to be the result of fear and the need to avoid some place of inner discomfort. Often, there is an unresolved childhood experience that needs to be identified, included and healed. The mental, emotional, physical or spiritual trauma you carry prevents us from fully engaging. Until the areas of self-sabotage are explored, you will continue to swerve from clear and powerful presentation in the world.
Common examples of “swerves” are:
There are numerous ways you can sabotage your message. The reasons you sabotage your own goals include:
- A fear of the discomfort you might feel if you are honest about the incongruities of your message
- An unwillingness to experience your message or service from a client or customer’s viewpoint
- A reluctance to change, whether that change involves the editing of a space, the evolution of a message, or the improvement of a service
- The inability to tolerate confusion or uncertainty about how to present your work
- An aversion to sharing yourself, or your projects with the world
Self-sabotage happens when you are avoiding, ignoring, or being dishonest. It can take the form of incoherence, sloppiness, thoughtlessness, over-personalization, depersonalization or chaos.
Invitation vs. Manipulation
Selling or marketing your idea, service or product is much less painful when you are offering your creation to the world as an invitation. If you are not congruent with your purpose and how you express that purpose in the world, then your message becomes more of a manipulation than an honest communication. I often speak about the commodification of compassion. How do you remain competitive and active in the marketplace while humanizing your experience there?
We live in an age where image has replaced text as the dominant mode of communication. Yet, we have no vocabulary for, or literacy in, what we are viewing. If you rely upon the visual information you receive, without assessing the nature of that information, you become a target rather than an active participant in communication. The imagery you see does not necessarily equal the meaning of what you sense.
Often, words make your experience real. Possession of a vocabulary allows you to gain awareness of that which, without words, can remain amorphous. You can’t name, change, or care for what you don’t know exists.
Engagement & Presence
In our culture, entertainment has replaced presence. In a world selling distraction, the path back to meaningful engagement can be elusive. The belief that you need to be louder and make more of a splash than your competitors misses the basic fact that many people are longing for and seeking opportunities for peace, a sense of safety, genuine communication, and memorable engagement.
Time & Space
Healing and the evolution of consciousness happen within the context of time and space. At the same time, the human inclination is to avoid pain and to split from distress. The endless exponential increase of world crises make the inclination to split even greater. Yet, the awareness of your body, feelings, and sensory experience is where creative solutions and true change exist. Living in your body, in time and space, invites you to heal.
We need to go deep. We need to slow down, pay attention, and be aware of our internal experience and the external factors involved in our experience. Physical places and spaces that invite us to shift our attention and to be more present are acutely needed.
Objects & Third Dimensional Experience
In the relationships between objects, planes, spaces, qualities of light, contrasts of textures, and patterns of experience — in the place of context and what is happening around you — you are invited to step more deeply into an experience of being here. Through deepening your experience of what causes you discomfort, longing, and confusion, you come to dwell more fully in your body. As you face major life transitions and climate disruption, the external world invites you to learn how to die well, to let go of your attachments. How do you show up to the world that is unfolding without judgment, without making others wrong?
Your biology designed you to thrive on the edge between safety or predictability, and that which, in its novelty, promotes curiosity and growth. For each of us the location of that edge differs. However, in today’s world we have fewer and fewer experiences of safety for our nervous systems, emotional selves or social selves. When you are able to feel mastery, you are able to feel safe. In this state you can be interested and inspired. You can be kind.
Emotional health involves healing from childhood wounds and culturally ingrained lenses of perception. The wounds you carry prevent you being fully present in your thoughts and heart, which diminishes your ability to make aligned choices. When you are receptive you have cognitive flexibility and the capacity for playfulness, imagination, and risk-taking. In the trauma loop you have no choice. You experience the world through the lens of your past. Whatever the cause, traumatic events that cause damage to neurological functioning, parasympathetic functioning, overall homeostasis and self-regulation limit your capacity for creativity.
The Nervous System
Your body contains three brains: your gut, your heart, and your brain. The nervous system connects these different brains, allowing them to work in harmony, when permitted. Rather than living as custodians of the well-being of our nervous systems, we tend to overload ourselves with caffeine and other forms of over-stimulation. We need the opportunity to decompress in order to allow our three brains to work in harmony, so that they may be the conduits of wisdom, insight, and creative inspiration.
In psychological theory there is a situation called a “double bind situation” where a child is forced into the impossible situation of having to make a choice; a choice where it is impossible to remain aligned with what the child feels and knows while experiencing any love or connection. In order to have some kind of bond the child splits from what his or her own internal sensing registers so as not to experience conflict. From an early age most children experience some version of this inner splitting. We learn how to ignore what we sense and what we know something to feel like, be, or mean, because the world around us is ignoring or negating our version of experience. When you reclaim the knowledge that you really are impacted by what surrounds you, and that there is significance to your interaction with objects, spaces and places, you invite great healing.
Human biology predisposes you to seek pattern and to notice where there is disruption in a pattern. You tend to feel more relaxed in places of visual harmony and in predictable experiences. When you experience incongruity between a practitioner’s intention and his or her behavior, or between a business’s brand identity and its service, you make an unconscious choice either to pay attention to the incongruity (or break in the pattern), or to ignore it.
When something is legible it is clear enough to “read.” Whether this is a physical space and its use, the entrance to a building, the purpose of a service, or the intention of a business, we want what we are offered to be legible. Legible spaces become meaningful spaces. They allow your expectations of spaces to align with your experience of those spaces.
The innovator is sensitive. The innovator pays attention to what is not happening, or what could be improved upon. Being sensitive can be painful. Yet, within sensitivity lies the perception of issues, themes, needs, solutions, and truths that are unavailable when one is not paying deep attention. The sensitive attention to detail is what is required for problem solving, whether in design or healing work, and whether working on a large or a small-scale.
The lack of a sensitive relationship to each other and where we live, or to thoughtful design, coupled with the absence of feeling competent and connected, cause us to ignore opportunities to re-engage.
Creativity includes the act of original thought or creation, not simply the act of making something. The innovative nature of creativity includes the ability to step into what is unknown. Creativity is nurtured by imagination, trust, skill, receptivity, openness, curiosity, commitment, the capacity to focus, and a tolerance for ambiguity. When we are creative and want to share our solutions and contributions, the challenge is to effectively communicate what we have to offer. This form of communication differs from marketing which seeks to generate a desire or need for a product.