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More on Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery and Eurythmy

Click here to learn a free Exercise: Dynamic discoveries in Systems Thinking with the Lemniscate 

In Part 3, Personal Mastery, from the The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook you can read: "Enthusiasm for Personal Mastery is growing fast. So fast that there is an urgent need for useful means to 'teach' it.

That's exactly what I do in my special designed workshop Motion, Notion and Communication. Since 1990 I facilitate creative interventions that translate artistic 'flow'-experiences to business reality and leadership skills).

In the part from the same paragraph about 'A conversation with ourself' the authors explain that personal mastery is about 'creative tension'. You can read: "......Tension automatically seeks for 'relaxation', to a solution, and the most natural solution for this tension is to make certain that reality and our wishes come as close together as possible. It is as if reality and our vision are connected with a small elastic."

What I do is literally create the experience of tension in all kind of different qualities like empathy, openness, concentration, inner silence, mindfulness,'being in the here and now', etc.. With my methodology I teach certain movements that can mirror a desired quality in body and limbs expression and in a persons 'radiation'. The interesting thing is that from the moment someone really experiences a quality like 'openness' it will show in his/her visible movements. Robert Fritz says: "Not the vision is important, what the vision DOES!" Deijmann extends his phrase like this: "Not the movement is important, but what the movement does".

Mastery becomes mastery only by exercising. After a period of some weeks and good exercising the preferred expressive qualities become a kind of good habit; it becomes a more natural part of the personality. One client called it a "very modern, western form of Tai Chi". I have to emphasize though, that these exercises are originated in Eurythmy, a western Art of Movement.

I designed movement exercises that e.g. work like stressbusters and rebalances breathing through some simple movements with your arms and body, but also exercises that accelerate the learningcurve for Systems Thinking and System Dynamics.

There is an increasing number of CEO's who have put his exercises into daily use. They do these exercises for instance right after they have traveled a long distance and right before they go into negotiation meetings. The exercises sharpen their senses and give them the necessary thoughtfulness, concentration and 'flow' in just a couple of minutes.

Systems Thinking and flow

Links, stabilizing -, destabilizing loops, shrinking and expanding loops, etc. are elements necessary for systems thinking. I make people walk systems! And while walking (e.g. a lemniscate, double loops, spirals, expanding circles, etc.) I make them anticipate on small changes in tempo or direction, like in trafficflows. What they develop is a kind of 'anticipating consciousness' or 'self-transcending knowledge'. Main objective: learn people to think in motions/movements.

When the topic 'self organizing systems' is on the agenda of a team, I fill these kind of abstract containerconcepts with individual experience by creating a self organizing system on site. A team walks certain patterns or loops (circles, spirals, lemniscates, pentagrams etc. in different tempo, with a specific rhythm (often in connection with a poem) that reflects in its content the idea of 'self organizing'. In debriefing sessions parallels and analogies are found to everyday business reality which gives this daily praxis a deeper meaning.

A good systemsthinker is somebody who has a simultaneous awareness of four levels:

  • events,
  • behavioral patterns,
  • systems and
  • mental models

    (Kemeny, Goodman and Karash in paragraph 16 from the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook)

Through the type of artistic movement exercises discussed here, people develop the inner faculties and abilities to be able to do so.

Nowadays there are artists that immediately draw or paint the characteristics from a keynote speech during a seminar or conference; I visualize (with help of participants) specific topics in movements.

An example:

When David Hurst, author of 'Crises and Renewa'l was in Holland to promote his book at Nijenrode University, he facilitated a one hour workshop in which a group of participants walked Hurst's pentagram model. The group visualized his concept of 'boxes and bubbles' by walking the pentagram with five persons. We visualized the invisible abstract dynamics that are hidden in his model. For both participants and audience it was an exciting experience to actually 'see' the connection between the 'boxes' and the 'bubbles'.

There are dozens more examples like on teamlearning, communication, dialogue, etc..

Another example

A Statement: The significance of the lemniscate as an archetype is undervalued in Systems Thinking

The setting is a large room where a group of say 12 people can walk around freely in circles, as a group and solo with enough room to spread their arms wide.

People wear lose fitting cloths, no shoes and laptops are not needed [ :-) ]

I ask the readers to realize that I can only describe fragments of a total concept. So I wont explain here a complete exercise, but I'll try to give you an example you can experiment on by yourself.

Dynamic discoveries in Systems Thinking with the Lemniscate

(more lemniscates)

It would be best if you follow the instructions below, but I can't guarantee you success, because I have never done this before in this way (through e-mail). So you are a kind of guinea pig. But..... the exercises are absolute safe.

I have inserted some gif-images to support my writings.

To do the exercise, you need enough room to walk the pattern of the lemniscate, in a hall or where-ever.

  • Imagine the lemniscate as a pattern on the floor. The imaginary lemniscate should have a length of about 10 feet and a width of about 3.5 feet.
  • After you have walked the lemniscate several times (don't look at the floor, because there is nothing other there than your feet [ :-) ] ) you should be able to walk it "technically". Then walk the lemniscate and try to forget the mental picture in your head; just walk the pattern, not too quick, not too slow, but in a tempo that feels okay for you and enjoy the flow.
  • While walking, you follow -as we say here in Holland- your nose, like the toytrain you used to play with.
  • While you walked the pattern your arms didn't have anything else to do, but "hang around". The next step in the exercise includes your arms.
  • Now you need a tennisball, or an orange or an apple, whatever you have at hand, and take it in your left hand.
  • Stretch your left arm and walk the lemniscate-pattern again a couple of times. Enjoy the flow and try to see what the ball shows you.
  • What I will describe next, I normally let people discover as 'AHA's by themselves. In this case I'll explain it to you.
  • If you start to walk the lemniscate from the cross in the middle 'A' ...

    ....with the ball in your left hand, you will discover that in one part of the lemniscate the ball is on the inside and in the other part, the ball is outside the lemniscate, and so on.

  • While walking the pattern, dynamics are visualized that can't be seen on a static picture namely the dynamic of the lemniscate. If you move an object (the ball) along this pattern, the object position shifts from 'inside' to 'outside'. The crossjunction 'A' in the middle is -so to speak- the transitionpoint/moment.

BTW: To walk a circle this way shows a different dynamic. Either the object (ball) is inside all the time or it is 'outside'. depending on the direction you walk or the hand that carries the object. Try, and you will discover that it feels different.

"So what?!" you might ask at this point.

My answer could be: "So nothing, because so far a mechanical construction or a robot could also perform this. But in the next steps of this exercise it does make a difference whether a machine or a human being performs it".

I assume here that you know the difference between centripetal forces and centrifugal forces. Centripetal forces "push" and centrifugal forces "pull". Machines can't feel, but you, as a human being, can feel what it is like to push or to pull, or to be pushed or to be pulled, or to move in your own tempo. (Yes please, make any association you like.)

  • Now walk the lemniscate again several times, with the ball. When the ball is outside, you must try and FEEL as if your are pulled out, and when you cross the junction 'A' you must try to FEEL as if you are pushed in, or better: surpressed. Note that it is important that you try as long as necessary until you really feel the differences physically between suppression and being pulled out, and that it shows in your physical body and arm-gestures. Imagining it with your fantasy is not enough. (Don't walk too fast please!!!!)
  • After walking a while in a tempo that is not too fast, (feel the flow) you might discover that the whole thing reaches the quality of rhythmical breathing: One moment your awareness is directed towards the world around you, the next moment you are concentrating on the space close around you, and so on. A while you are opening up and awake, then you feel "dim" and "on your own". First you expand, than you contract, etc.

What makes the difference?

The difference is made by the shifts in awareness YOU make at the transitionpoint/moment ('A') with your consciousness, and only IF you make them. And in this exercise, consciousness is not only concentrating with your brain, but also "awaring with your feelings".

  • As a next step try to walk the lemniscate (including the different types of awarenesses) say 10 times. Within these ten times, try to balance out the 'pushing' and 'pulling' feeling from "strong difference between the two extremes" towards an equilibrium between them. (Here you are really on your own, because you just have to try all kinds of variations until you grasp 'it'. It is all about experience and experiment remember!)
  • Once you have felt and sensed the qualities I hope you will be able to experience, the verbs "re-inforcing" and "balancing", "drifting", "escalating", etc. will have become extended notions. The notions become richer. For you, they have become words with a feeling, they are no longer abstractions. It is the same difference as looking at a picture of a complete stranger or at the picture of your partner-for-life.



The drawings I refer to in the next part, are taken from Gene Bellinger's website; more specific: his article on Archetypes: http://www.outsights.com/systems/arch/arch.htm. I can really recommend his website for basic and indepth information on Systems Thinking and System Dynamics.

If you take a look now at the following graphic.....

.....and follow the lines, as if you were walking the lemniscate and include in your observation the same 'pulling' and 'pushing' sensation you had while walking the lemniscate, you will still be looking at the same pixels, but it will make a deeper impression on you ...... I hope.

(I am really having a hard time now to find the right words that describe what I would like you to understand)

You can also try to imagine what happens when two, three or ten people walk these patterns at the same time.

What's the point?

The whole point in these exercitions is, that it is important that people learn to think in movements, to also feel and sense the dynamics while creating and studying these dynamic systems. The same dynamics can be 'seen' as a transparent layer over all occurrences and processes.

The theory behind all this is that when one grasps the essentials of the systems in pure motions, extended with emotional tensions, it will be easier to "see" the same dynamics in real life. It also works in opposite direction; the dynamic systems extracted from reality will describe the nature of that reality more truthfully.

The use of the lemniscate as the symbol for the infinite rhythmic flow between two poles adds in my opinion another dimension to the field of Systems Thinking and might even bring it to a higher level of understanding of our world and being.

Taking the detour of movement-exercises like mine is IMHO important to free the systems from their abstractness and help newcomers in this field to quicker understand its essence.

Please consider my efforts as in progress.

I welcome your experiences, questions, comments, and advice and please be as honest as possible. Also if you think it's complete nonsense. e-mail: deijmann@dialoog.net.

I am convinced that artistic approaches and artistic interventions will become more and more important for organizational learning in the years to come, because only through the arts we will be able to connect competence to performance, leadership to management, spirituality to everyday practice. The currently accepted 'mainstream' approaches are reaching their limits.........

It is my intention to be an ambassador for the 'arts as a transformative inspiration source'.

You find a minor contribution of mine in the latest Fifth Discipline Fieldbook ' The Dance of Change '.

A practical Training Dynamic Judgement Building is found here

Want to contact me? click here!

To see how the lemniscate helps to understand the relation with explicite knowledge, tacit knowledge and self-ranscending knowledge: click here!

To read a paper on Problem Solving with help of the lemniscate: click here!

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(Just for the fun of it!)