Clematis: iPhone

Clematis: iPhone

“Clearly we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles…. the ultimate source of all these problems is in thought itself, the very thing of which our civilization is most proud, and therefore the one thing that is "hidden" because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our own individual lives and in the life of society."

(David Bohm)

I recently read of a cardiac surgeon who said that 95 per cent of his post-operative patients simply returned to the lifestyle that ‘broke their hearts’.

It’s not an unusual pattern.

In my business, I wonder how many coaching clients or participants on leadership and development programs suffer the same fate as they return to their organisations? Troublesome patterns of power, relationship and identity are resilient and resistant. What is required for people to work with the deeper organisational dynamics they encounter?

As David Bohm says, ultimately, we find ourselves subject to patterns of thought that easily remain hidden, unseen, and continue to structure our lives unless we deliberately bring them into our attention.

As we search for some for the ‘deeper causes of our troubles’; the intolerance and fragmentation in our societies and ecologies, it is thinking that brings form to nations, economies, political parties, organisations, groups, cultures, laws and rules. As our thinking defines and exaggerates our differences, the underlying structures of thought become invisible and, forgetting that our similarities easily outweigh our differences, we move towards conflict and break each others’ hearts.

The images I made on my iPhone, of the trailing flowers over a gateway in our garden, were a brief exploration of the beauty and aesthetics of structure. Daily photography and creativity, taking time to stop, stare and attentively appreciate my surroundings has been a discipline that I adopted about a year ago, after my encounter with ‘burnout’.

It has been a confusing period of recovery and adjustment but the experience has left me sensitised and curious, reflexively asking deeper questions about the mostly opaque assumptions and patterns that inform our work and business lives.

One of those assumptions is that we’re not supposed to stop and stare at the flowers.

There isn’t time.

Yet I have become ever more determined to pause, to stare into the patterns of thought that deeply influence my brief time on this planet. It feels like a radical act.

There are no surprises. My everyday assumptions are mostly based on the fear that I will not be ‘OK’ and manifest themselves in unspoken mantras: work hard, be perfect, fit in, be original, hurry up, and, there isn’t time…

Yet time spent in reflection, individually and collectively, gazing gently into the patterns of our thought is essential if we are to shift the lifestyles that will ultimately break us.

We face ecological and social collapse; the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Let’s take the time. Let’s be radical.

Let’s stop and stare.


Take a look at David Bohm’s ‘On Dialogue’ for a fabulous consideration of how we think and impact it has on us. Alternatively, download a copy of ‘Dialogue - a proposal’ by David Bohm, Donald Factor and Peter Garret.

Mark Edwards’ ‘Hard Rain’ project brings the consequences of how we think to life visually. It is both beautiful and deeply disturbing.

I’ve been reading Nicholas Mirzoeff’s ‘How to See the World’ which helps us to understand more of how visual media can change things.

Steve Marshall7 Comments