Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Thursday 10 May 2007

Wisdom Mind

It was a rainy afternoon, somewhere in 1972 when a friend presented me with a book full of beautiful - almost mystical - photos of nature and verses of ancient Chinese wisdom. I did not understand a word in the beginning. But until today my fascination stayed. Somehow the verses look like a glimpse into the ultimate truth. At the same time they seem to make so little practical sense. Especially as they are so contrary to the mainstream mindset of the seventies and eighties: “through our interventions we can (re)construct society”. Does this old book make sense when we talk about sustainable development, positive change, communication and learning? I think so. In letting go the idea of control, new opportunities arise. As a manager, I learned that an output based management style is more effective than one based on input. Isn’t it the same for education? As a consultant, I learned that a good doctor, when his patient asks him for an aspirin, doesn’t immediately give it. Let alone, blames him for being sick. He starts asking questions: how he eats, sleeps etc. Likewise a good consultant ‘dances’ with the client. Listen:

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done.
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

Tao Te Ching, 48

In the end, is stimulating new joint ventures towards sustainability between actors from private sector and civil society not far more powerful, than taxes, regulations and subsidies? Are protected areas, run by local communities in most cases not more effective, than those run by state bureaucracies? Aren’t people who are so busy with conservation projects, that they have no time for planning, let alone for reflection, not less effective than people who look at conservation with a ‘beginners’ mind? For me, I learned from this verse that the mindset we have, is decisive for the success of what we do or leave undone.

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