Mind sauna

When I finish divinqing I always feel like I’ve had a great workout and it can take a while to come back to reality, although that is always slightly different after a session. If you’ve every put your body through something physically intense the next couple of days you feel it and can wonder if it was worth it. But people say ‘no pain no gain’ and while I think this is sort of true for divinqing it’s important to feel safe and ready to ‘do down the rabbit hole’.

So here are a few divinqing guidelines I have been playing with, and anyone who has participated is welcome to comment, or even if you haven’t and would like to inquire more please do:

1: We all have a unique perspective on the world, however, we are often more critical of others perspectives. GUIDELINE – it takes time to understand what shapes our perspective – and it is constantly changing so divinqing is never a finished process. Sometimes it is less about being right or wrong but about understanding how, why and where did this idea come from. How do I know what I know? How do I know what I don’t know? Warm down tip: try stretching one idea at a time.

2: There are more than two sides to things: One of the habits of thinking about anything is usually setting up a two-sided argument. GUIDELINE – when encountering a two sided idea about anything be curious about the effect of that on what people are able to know about themselves, or others. Try shifting the focus of a debate onto the assumptions behind the debate. What supports these assumptions? How do they impact on people’s lives now and in the past? Warm down tip – hold these conversations or debates lightly and not for too long.

3: There are perspectives and ideas that remain hidden. Perhaps this is one of the more challenging workouts. It’s important to know that ignorance is not just the absence of knowledge, that there are ways of building the truth and making some forms of knowing invisible or not worthy of value. GUIDELINE – if you are absolutely certain of something, look for what support you to be certain, be willing to put all knowledge into question, even things you think might be proven to be true. Warm down tip – skip through something familiar to you and notice how you came to know that concept, idea, value, belief.

4: The world is complex, and sometimes the issues and concerns can seem overwhelming and too hard to fix. Sometimes people expect that taking it seriously means you have to commit to a life of shouting, protesting and getting people to see what you see. GUIDELINE: Have fun with the contradictions, play with your own awareness of the irony in the world, find others who are also hinting at the same ideas, and create small networks of support. A good sign you are getting there is finding the incongruity and noticing the strange irony that might appear. Sometimes humour is a good way to open people up to an ‘aha I hadn’t thought of that’ moment. Warm down tip – laugh at yourself!

5: Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest obstacles to ‘thinking outside the box’ – or even knowing where the box is! GUIDELINE: Like rock climbing tackle stuff that is challenging but doesn’t feel impossible. Exploring challenging ideas isn’t always about getting to the top. Warm down tip – work on finding your balance point around fear of difference. Listen and recognise your own vulnerability and make friends with it.

So happy training, my favourite warm down is watching science fiction or comedy that gets me thinking. See you at our next boot camp – ready to bust Plato’s cave right open. Or light some fires in there and cast some new patterns on the walls.

 

 

Help! I broke my brain

I’ve played sport all my life. When I push my body it hurts. I feel my muscles burn, I sweat and I breath faster. It’s also known that this is the only way to improve the functioning of some of our bodies systems, especially the cardiovascular. Schools even have subjects like PE and sport-science that focus on the knowledge that explains and teaches how to develop and train the body. Some schools even do tests of physical fitness – you know the ones – like the beep test, 12-minute run, that sort of thing. Not everyone likes being tested, but you can test yourself and get a bit of a comparison if you want to. Some people really go for it and I’ve seen students cheer their classmates on as they get to the line and turn, clearly struggling, then collapsing. Others just bail at the first sign of discomfort, and there are always a few who seem to always miss the test. That is diversity at work and it’s great.

Some schools even do tests of physical fitness – you know the ones – like the beep test, 12-minute run, that sort of thing. Not everyone likes being tested, but you can test yourself and get a bit of a comparison if you want to. Some people really go for it and I’ve seen students cheer their classmates on as they get to the line and turn, clearly struggling, then collapsing. Others just bail at the first sign of discomfort, and there are always a few who seem to always miss the test. That’s diversity at work and it’s great.

But what about ideas, thinking-fitness? How do we know and recognise when we get out of our comfort zone? Do schools provide a variety of ways to do this, develop different kinds of fitness? I’m sure they do to some degree, but sometimes I wonder if the kinds of exercises schools use are ones from the 1950’s. Sure, they’ll get you so far but they’ll mainly work big muscle groups in one way (I’m over generalising).

Similar to physical workouts, it’s also a little bit uncomfortable to go beyond what you know or think you know, or to even think in a new way! Diversity Inquiry conversations are like ‘boot camp for thinking’, but sometimes it is hard to know what your baseline fitness is. On Saturday I “divinqed” with a group of year 13 students who showed incredible determination to stay with really challenging ideas about the history of enlightenment and western thinking, their limits and what has been left in the shadows. How our understanding of identity is limited by labels and language that tends to put things into two sides. And how some of the organisations in society, that we just accept as working in people’s best interest, might not actually work for a lot of people.

Divinqing creates doubt, uncertainty and disorientation. Tt can feel like reality is crumbling. I suppose it is like when Morpheus explains The Matrix to Neo the first time, Neo ‘wants out’ because it’s overwhelming. He hangs in there and recognises that, when he is in The Matrix, he can move through it differently, in a similar way as before but he’s able to resist certain programmmes and see the ‘code’ more and more. He pushes his skills through encounters with agents and others and each time he changes. It’s not ignorance that is bliss anymore – or staying in the dark of the cave (to use Plato’s analogy) – but knowing it is not solid or set in stone is the new bliss.

Maybe divinq is a purple pill. It is certainly flexing more than just the mind. Looking forward to working out with this group again soon.

Hairs a thought about bullying

Today pink shirts were hauled out of the depths of wardrobes (or closets) and worn with varying degrees of comfort and style. I heard from someone that a group of boys – maybe 9-10 who wore pink shirts to school today were called names and that no teachers responded or challenged this. That in my books is an epic fail. I also know my 8-year-old daughter (at the same school) has struggled with boys understanding that cutting her hair short does not actually, miraculously turn her into a boy. Actually, I don’t think they believe that either, but she feels pretty down that none of her friends will stick up for her, or the teachers. She also just wants to get on and not make a big deal out of it, but I’m kind of on the edge of going parental supernova. It probably doesn’t help that I am also a counsellor…so I’m going to let her tell me what support she would like. I get to dress up as Wolverine Sunday and do the mud run at the school, I’m tempted to see if the boys are there and to have a chat to them in full character…but I wont…claws sheathed.

My dilemma is I want her to feel safe, happy and accepted for who she is, not the length of her hair. Why is this society still insisting on such strongly defined ways of being correctly male and female – it’s hair! So while pink shirt day points to the idea of femininity being wrong for boys (symbolically indicated by the pink shirt) there is no ‘shirt option’ of the reverse for girls, but hair length is.

So how about a cut your hair short day to go with pink shirt day? Could be a great way for hairdressers to get some training for their apprentices – free cuts in solidarity.

Think Pink

So it’s Pink Shirt Day tomorrow. It occurred to me just how much meaning the colour pink has gained over the years. Wearing a pink shirt tomorrow is replicating the act of solidarity shown by a bunch of mates when their mate had homophobic comments made after he wore a pink shirt.

That’s probably the bit that is missed, the action of solidarity after because I think it is a little unrealistic to think that wearing a pink shirt tomorrow is solidarity, I think symbolic and that’s not quite the same thing. I like the word solidarity – it has ‘solid’ in it….and ‘arity’ but that’s not really a word. To be firm, grounded, real, present…to matter. Because people could wear a pink shirt tomorrow and challenge no-one about mocking people for being gay. Solidarity doesn’t need a shirt it needs action…from everyone…pink or no pink shirt.

Actually, it would be good to destigmatise the colour pink and not have it attached to gender or sexuality, so if anything we need to think where we see and don’t see pink. Let’s put pink in its rightful place, back in nature and not on every single girl’s toy (if there is such a thing) and bit of clothing…toothbrush…hair brush….you get my point.

Talking bull

This week is bullying awareness week, well, unofficially and Pink Shirt Day is Friday 20th May. So how to start a conversation about bullying that hasn’t already been done a thousand times….

There are plenty of bullying stories out there, and stories of people who make a stand it against it. There are lots of ideas on how to stop bullying, and schools put in punishments to make it clear it’s wrong to bully. There are also plenty of groups willing to come in and do a presentation, performance share a personal story to help ‘get the message out’ about how bad bullying is. How is that in spite of all this education, it still happens?

I think some of the reason is we go looking for a kind of person or action that we can identify. But is there such a thing as ‘a bully’ does this type of person actually exist? Because I get a bit confused when I talk with people about ‘bullies’. If I ask a range of people about a student from parents, teachers, friends, coaches I get different responses – I never have everyone say ‘yeah they are a bully 100%. So one shift I think needs to happen is to look at bullying not IN people – but BETWEEN people. Anyone can bully or be bullied, there is no ‘type’. You can also be bully and bullied at the same time, which is perhaps why it gets a little confusing.

Another thing I find interesting is the idea that people grow up and grow out of being bullies, I’m not so sure about that. Adults bully that’s a fact, our family violence statistics back that up. Family violence is about control and the use of fear to maintain that control. Bullying is similar. Anyone can bully because everyone feels vulnerable, scared and powerless at times. Bullying is a form of social event – no – I don’t mean it’s something to promote, but people form connections. People make sense of themselves and others through these actions, they give entry into groups. If we look at it this way then anyone can become involved because everyone needs to feel connected, a sense of belonging.

One good example is mocking, put downs, teasing. Humour and laughing are something all of us enjoy. The thing about humour is in order for it to work there has to be some form of shame attached – otherwise it doesn’t work. Friends can sometimes do this with each other. If someone has to say ‘naaaaa jokes’ to convince you that you shouldn’t be offended then it’s likely to have been intended to shame, hurt or humiliate.

Bullying and humour can be an uncomfortable fit. Both can pick on difference, or a sense of wrongness about that difference, this is something we all need to challenge. Laughing together at circumstances or even ourselves is good and healthy. Humour can help us understand the strange ways we are expected to be in the world based on our gender, culture, age, sexuality or functioning. But pointing and laughing at someone is not joining with them in a sense of understanding, it’s alienating and isolating.

I guess my challenge is to groups of friends. How do you respect each other’s differences when having a laugh? How do you laugh in public together-including in digital spaces? Is someone potentially getting their way of being in the world made wrong in the moment? How can you in that moment shift what you do to create a safer more respectful and ethical form of action? Because while you might not be doing the action that gets defined as bullying, your response will either be part of the acceptance and normalising of that or it will challenge it. I’m also interested in challenging homophobic put downs and harassment. Even if it’s amongst friends it can hurt but making it unsafe to be gay or transgendered. Sexuality and gender are unique human qualities we all want others to value. Feeling safe in who we are as people is a fundamental human need.

And just for the record, I think the worst examples of bullying are from adults not young people. It’s also why I love animals, they are just straight up about how they feel about you and they don’t really care about what their friends think if they are friends with another species.

What does true diversity look like?

The following tweet turned up in my feed from Susie Sirman, from Alberta, Canada, a self-confessed “high school science and art teacher, learning coach, edtech enthusiast, busy mom and a terrible choice to follow on Twitter.” So I followed her. But anyway, her tweet:

I like the model (further tweets between us revealed it isn’t hers) and I agree with it to an extent. Simply putting different people in the same room isn’t useful, but I think it is, unfortunately, what inclusion is about currently. It isn’t, however, diversity.

So I wondered, using this model, what diversity would look like and, just out of interest, how it might differ from assimilation. I changed the colours of the dots for aesthetic reasons as you’ll see below. And here’s what I came up with:

diversity_model_key

Assimilation is when “different” people are included as long as they take on the “colour” of the majority, ie. beliefs, values, behaviour etc., in order to be accepted. This is often the result of our current model of inclusion.

True diversity, however, is when all parties are able to learn about each other’s similarities and differences — or uniqueness and commonality — and, as such, colours blend, creating a new set of values, beliefs and behaviours, unique to the group. As a result, the colour of the group — or its culture — also changes.

This post originally appeared on www.philippatston.com

Sign of the times

I came across two media posts today about sign language. The first was regarding technology translating sign language into English (although I suppose it would have to just be English), and a feature on a chef in Christchurch who managed to find an employer open to functional diversity. It was interesting to hear that staff he worked with had started to learn sign language. Now that shouldn’t be shocking, it is an official language here but actually how often do we see sign language represented as a way of communicating?

Schools offer languages and part of me is curious to know how many offer sign language as an option. I know there is a form of international sign language, and wonder why this isn’t compulsory for everyone! Think about it if you needed to talk to someone in a different language, or you had a group with multiple languages, signing would be a simple and easy way to communicate quickly.

Now, as a cyclist I have been communicating through hand signals for years and it is satisfying to have someone understand you in a short series of gestures rather than the messy vocal stuff that I often want to say but usually try and keep in my head. So I reckon signing has to be one of the most useful skills anyone could have actually. Think about all the places where you can’t have a conversation or want to communicate something across a room. Heck rugby for a start could do with some signing, how many times does the hooker put a hand to their ear at the start of a lineout to try and hear what the call is! Players could communicate instantly across the field. Not so sure about underwater hockey and water polo though, might look like everyone is just waving at you.

So perhaps if you are looking to learn a language pick sign language and if your school isn’t offering it, ask why not? Or better yet if you have someone at your school who is using sign language just give it a go, for a start there is nothing hard about smiling, putting your hand up to say ‘Hi’. Check out the New Zealand Sign Language Online site.

I’m going to be spending some time there – adding to my cycling vocabulary.

Earth Day a bit craycray

Did you celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd of April? I think I did but I wasn’t sure how to. I could go online and get lots of ideas about how to do my part to look after the planet, or see how the way we live impacts on the environment, or how technology can save us and make it all better.

So I am officially confused by Earth Day and I am ok with that. Because I think my confusion keeps my mind open to why we even need an Earth Day and to keep asking questions about the future of the planet and EVERYTHING on it.

How do other species celebrate earth day? Be good to include them in the picture. I have one idea that is a bit weird. What if those gazillionaires instead of taking their holidays in pristine untouched beautiful parts of the world got a ‘Matrix Moment’ – as sort of ‘welcome to the desert of the real’ and someone flicks the switch on their view to see the open cast mining and the people scrambling around in the mud searching for small fragments to sell for enough money to stay alive for another day, or perhaps the deforestation of jungle and the displacement of endangered species for the growth of the palm oil industry so important for cosmetics (now that Whale hunting is kind of unfashionable).

Maybe we all need a similar reality check when we crave the next iPhone and ask why there might be suicide nets on the outside of the building where they are made. I like what Morpheus says in The Matrix when Neo realised how much the real world sucks: ‘I didn’t say it would be easy I just said it would be the truth’.

My Earth Day wake up truth is we are still addicted to stuff we don’t really need, and the real price that is being paid by species that get turned into handbags, shoes and lose their habitat for human consumption.

That is why I think many people prefer The Blue Pill.

Knee jerk reactions

I remember my Mum telling me how they used to make the girls at school kneel down to check the length of their skirts. That was in the 1950’s and times have changed – or have they?

When I read about Henderson High School enforcing the knee length uniform rule I was transported back in time for a moment. If skirts are such a problem and knees are such a distraction then why not just get rid of skirts all together?

I suspect schools want to put their fingers in their ears and go ‘nanananana I can’t hear you’ if someone tries to point out the teenagers are sexual beings. So I make a plea to young people in schools of all genders, if your school does not have choice available ask why not? Start a conversation with your health teacher about how guys and girls are similar rather than different. Challenge statements from teachers that say ‘all guys or all girls’ are like that.

Why are schools so determined to keep boys and girls so clearly defined through uniforms? What might happen if students all wore the same thing? What if ALL schools had the same uniform?! Now that is a question schools probably want to skirt around.

Group dynamics

Yesterday I remembered how useful it is to have a group if you want to have a group discussion.It’s interesting noticing how arriving at a venue for a workshop or presentation first, can be a little weird. My theory is that less than 5 it’s way too intensely personal and at 8-10 it’s starting to feel ‘groupy’.

It kind of got me thinking what it’s like to be in a class of 20-30, how young people in schools become familiar with ways of sitting in groups or ‘put into groups’, left out of groups. Like standing in lines – being in groups is a bit of weird thing anyway. However a group of 7 means individual participation is magnified and what surprised me was how in spite of this awareness people kept offering their thoughts, observations and taking that focussed energy and dispersing it, sharing it around and refracting it through stories or laughter.

By the time we’d munched our way through hot chips, discussed our favourite movies and books and watched Katherine Schulz talk about being wrong the number 7 had grown in size and presence, the depth and complexity of diversity was not just a topic of conversation it was being lived in the moment in a swirling mass of whiteboard scribbles, punctuated by plenty of giggles.