“Most conflicts are based on black and white thinking, the fear of devaluation, and the threat to one’s own (cultural) identity. There is one level, though, the global mindset, on which black is also white.”
I often hear that mindset is everything. This common knowledge is used in various contexts and as a ‘tool’ to reach different goals. “If you just put your mind on it, you can get it” became a standard approach in the personal development business. While it’s a good thing to have that knowledge and skill in one’s individual toolbox, I’m also interested in how humanity can achieve a mindset that brings the whole species forward as a whole. From an Awareness Intelligence perspective, my area of research and practice as a psychologist, it is about how to learn to set our minds for increased (if not maximum) true diversity and inclusiveness; something I consider to be crucial if we want to address a more peaceful world. I have written a lot (also in this collaborative) about Awareness intelligence. In terms of the topic of mindset, the concept of ‘global mindset’ possibly comes closest to what I mean.
Mindset: Where’s your attention?
At its heart, mindset is an attention-based approach to performance and for describing a global mindset, therefore, ‘international attention’ – attention to global strategic issues, attention to international beliefs and issues, can be used. How does international attention occur? In accordance with research, for example, traveling to foreign locations or discussing international issues fosters cosmopolitan thinking and behavior. I’ve experienced that during my international work and life as an expatriate in Japan. At the same time, my work as a psychologist and artist involves a high degree of a growth mindset, which might be positively influencing the development of a global mindset. For example, by expanding my horizon, I could fill in some of the blind spots of a fixed psychological map that all too often results in automatic judgment based on cultural understanding. Having a cultural identity makes people’s life easier; many do rely on cultural notions of categories of people to predict others, rather than considering people as individuals, and they favor people they consider to be members of their group. That provides for the human basic need for stability, respectively a sense of safety. in contrast, some people can overcome fear and enjoy more risky, complex, and elaborate thinking, and who are more willing to reexamine initial notions in light of new information. These are the ones who often are attracted to art, theoretical disciplines, and philosophy. But it can take them a long time to decide. Sometimes too long. Or never!
The development of intercultural sensitivity
Intercultural sensitivity is a helpful model for developing a global mindset. Intercultural sensitivity is high when one can adapt to add new behaviors to be more effective in moving in between cultures. In this model from Milton Bennet (1993), the experience of (cultural) difference is moving from more ethnocentric to more ethnorelative stages as follows:
Denial: “I don’t think there’s any other way.”
Defense: “My way is the best.”
Minimization: “What we have in common is more important.”
Adaptation: “I’m adding new behaviors to be more effective in a cross-cultural environment.”
Integration: “I can move in between cultures.”
Personal development towards a global mindset is a hard process because discrepancies between global and situational meaning cause distress. In fact, most conflict is based on the fear of invalidation, the threat of one’s (cultural) identity. A high degree of self-reflection, fearless self-questioning, and openness to commit to giving up privileges and support unity in diversity is required. In short, tremendous effort is required to reduce the distressful discrepancy between situational and global meanings.
Instructions for global information processing
Views that are limited to narrow social boundaries are inhibiting the development of social networks. Such symptoms and communicative isolation in their most extreme forms are characteristics of autism, a distinctly defined illness since the 1940s. The good news is: People lacking more global information processing can be instructed to improve. Humanity is not ill, but it definitively requires instructions on how to develop higher levels of awareness to connect sincerely with others. Interestingly, the availability of more and more global information (i.e., the Internet) did not increase the state of humanity’s global mindset. Instead of teaching how to justify current political structures, which are always local, we should educate on how to become global citizens who care for all.
A shift from cultural competence to Awareness Intelligence
Global citizenship is not a travel lifestyle, it should rather be an attitude of compassion. Multi-relational ability in the sense of Awareness Intelligence is a precondition for cross-cultural competence but goes beyond as it is culture-neutral. Any travel starts within! Cultural competence can be developed by putting one’s feet in another’s shoes. Awareness Intelligence (see also related articles on www.mathias-sager.com), however, is putting one’s consciousness in another’s soul. This will not only enable us to experience some different walks of life but to learn to qualify all of life’s souls. Real and lasting change comes from the level of mental models that enable awareness. Only if the deep-rooted individual mindsets shift towards forming a regenerated collective of deculturized societal structures, human behavioral patterns will start to change accordingly as well. That’s the utopian world of my dreams, the passion in my teachings, the goal of my art, and my deepest belief that it’s still possible; for the benefit of the individual and the common good alike.
One of our uttermost critical faculties in which lies the power to become aware of the nature of lifetimes is attention. To do the mental work of attending, the working memory needs to be able to allocate sufficient capacity. If we are not able to hold attention to picture life as a whole lifespan, how can we situate anything between the coming and going of life conceptually and as applied to ourselves and others? Do we think and act in full temporal awareness, which means to be aware that time is an illusion, or are we just following the row of events, one after the other, without questioning the more prominent arch of a life? Do we just follow cultural customs and social rules of temporal sequences or do we have an own understanding of the right timing of developments in our life along different possible milestones such as the time we go to school, work, marry, and retire? By following everybody else’s planned schedule, there is the peril of missing one’s making of an own plan. The ability to oversee the whole is critical. To do always the seemingly momentary correct thing that is, however, not validated against an integral perspective, risks to end up in unfulfillment and deep regret.
When one’s worldview expands entirely in a grid of paramount awareness, the energy of a unified field begins to radiate In physics, forces are theorized to be transmitted through so-called fields. Others use, besides the term of the ‘unified field,’ also ‘cosmic consciousness,’ in which the ‘in-here’ and ‘out-there’ meet. Awareness Intelligence can be understood as such a field where life-intelligent consciousness and mentalizing are harmoniously unified. Through unifying our thoughts with the nature of a multiverse, a state of all-inclusive and timeless humanness can be achieved, which lets us witness its power through showers of bliss.
POLLUTED DESIRE FOR LIFE (M. Sager, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 60 cm)
One may find a lot of examples supporting the thesis that things got better, safer, and healthier. However, not being aware of globally increasing wealth inequality, existing heightened levels of hunger, and peaking numbers of refugees in some areas of the world, as well as soaring amounts of prescriptions of antidepressants in many societies, signifies that local perceptions might lack accurate information and understanding. Because what is affordable within reach, is unavailable at another place. What is acceptable for some, is intolerable for others. And what means poverty in this place, passes for luxury elsewhere. While escaping environmental pollution here, more pollution happens there. The growing world population and economy continue to exploit the planet’s resources faster than these can be renewed. Nature gets intoxicated with garbage whose decomposition takes centuries and irreparably contaminates with spurious poison the earthly and universal flow of energy for the generations to come. In developed countries we see today the first generations who are facing decreasing life durations. The life expectancy of a fifty-year-old in a low-income country, which represents the majority of the world population, remained the same as it was thirty years ago. In the last forty-five years, suicide rates have increased by sixty percent worldwide, which indicates a desperate mental climate even in countries of relative wealth. The desire to die usually comes from unfulfilled desires for life. Also most individuals who seem tired of life would decide to live if the necessary psychological support factors such as meaningfulness, purposefulness, and spiritual growth through awareness-intelligent living would seem achievable. All these can be achieved if egoistic group thinking is replaced with the ability to include all and everyone in one’s worldview. We need worldview and human identity that goes beyond the here and now, one that is socio-temporally inclusive of the extra-personal future and, as a result, is intelligently aware.
Excerpt from Awareness intelligence (M. Sager, 2018)
As you know from my blog posts, I combine psycho-philosophical discussions with painted metaphors. The combination of words and images is an opportunity to engage the mind and the soul at the same time. Both intellect and intuition add to the process of holistic (self-)reflection.
I live the teachings I write about as much as I can. I use the conclusions from my research and creative processes to guide me in my quest to become a fitter, kinder, and wiser person. Having a mantra to aid in keeping the focus right is a well-established method in personal development. Our surroundings trigger and remind us constantly and, therefore, influence us very much. In that sense, our clothes are the most proximate environment. I made the experience, that wearing expressive shirts helps to keep me accountable towards myself and increases the commitment towards the outside. I also experienced many interesting connections with others thanks to the food of thought and emotions that are radiated by the shirts.
It’s easy to find decorative, fashionable outfits with commonplace quotes. But it’s more difficult to find original combinations of psychology & art Therefore, I’ve designed my own Psychology & Art T-Shirts and love to wear them on (m)any occasion. Now I make them available to anybody, hoping that the artistic, colorful, and awareness-intelligent messages can inspire others as well.
I’d like to thank you for being a subscriber of www.mathias-sager.com and a loyal fan of mathias sager – Psychology & Art!!! It is my pleasure to offer you some of the more recent original art highlights printed on T-Shirts. Now for 30% less until the end of May 2021.
Express Awareness Intelligence and add color and awareness to style up your daily adventures! 🙂
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How to Synchronize, Increase the Frequency, and Sustain the Rhythm of the Dance of Life
Humans like stability to feel safe, and they seek preservation of their identity, whether it be good or bad. In the short-term, though, people often also do not like repetition as it leads them to boredom. In a time paced rapidly by ever shorter business cycles, everything tends to become judged as boring by the declining attention span of the consumer mind. In contrast, as to the creating mind, education and professional practice training are considered successful if one has learned to tolerate the monotonous tasks of the streamlined information and production processes as input to the modern economic societies. That’s how many forgot the excitement of rhythm and surprising improvisations of a freely lived life.
Like evenly-timed rhythms such as four-quarter times are often interpreted through triple step dances (for example, two quick steps and one slow step), it is the shift from the balance of even patterns to the harmony of three that introduces a higher level of human experience. Having three entities combines both brevity and rhythm with having the smallest amount of information to create a pattern. To overcome the avoidance of change caused by the monotonous evenness of commercial mainstream and its resulting addiction to stability, we are well-advised to hear the rhythm of the dance of life in all three the past, the present, and the future.
Therefore, the three steps of the dance of life can be seen as follows:
• Step 1: SYNCHRONIZING THE RHYTHM – Guidance by the past of universal unity
• Step 2: INCREASING THE FREQUENCY OF THE RHYTHM – Attendance to the present without fear
• Step 3: SUSTAINING THE RHYTHM – Abundance through service to the future of all
Step 1: SYNCHRONIZATION OF THE RHYTHM –Guided by the past of universal unity
Most people are not able to not have to belong, respectively are not able to belong to everybody, so they will belong to certain/specific groups. Group thinking often inhibits critical thinking. However, experiences of togetherness also reveal the motives for unity that involve rhythmic, synchronous movements like marching and dancing. To march or dance together to the same rhythm creates intense feelings of unity and fosters a willingness to sacrifice one’s life for one’s mates. Again, this bears risks and opportunities: Applied to an exclusive group, this is the essence of the birth of radical ideologies and religions; However, when extended to all of humanity, true spirituality opens up.
Step 2: INCREASING THE FREQUENCY OF THE RHYTHM – Attending to the present without fear
The ego always fears to lose, why others are seen as threats. This attention to the fear of loss eventually is missing for the attendance of inspiration and love. Because of the fear of losing one’s identity, change becomes the ultimate threat. However, on the dance floor of life, many people dance, and the music will change all the time. So, we should not get angry and fearful when the rhythm is changing again. However, we also shouldn’t necessarily let the music played by others let us dictate our pace. It’s best to choose the music that reflects our natural rhythm so that we can pace ourselves in our journeys of personal development. It’s exciting to meet new people. Meeting strangers creates high levels of synchronized rhythmic activities in the brain. Therefore, let’s enjoy social arousal from novel encounters; the more exciting and less frightening they are perceived, the higher is the frequency of the neuronal dance in your brain.
Step 3: SUSTAINING THE RHYTHM – Abundance through service to the future of all
The commitment to live life in a sustainable rhythm, without greed, without unnecessary selfishness, helps to avoid depressive thoughts of loss, burnout, despair, and getting stiff in the ability to dance smoothly. If we change the rhythm from an attitude of “getting what’s in for us” to one which services the others, it’s possible to create a different cadence in life, a rhythm of an all-new quality. We think our life with birth and death is different than anything else as we consider it not to follow a recurring rhythm. That’s why we mistakenly don’t dance through life. On the other hand, we run as straight and fast as possible in one direction, completely denying the possibility that there is no other place than the here and now to go. Shouldn’t we joyfully embrace life as an endless and abundant dance of collective consciousness to which we can contribute as an equal part (not as less nor as more)?
In that sense, let’s overcome avoidance and become guided and attentive dancers for abundance. To live from unity, in love, and for service to all is the ability to synchronize the rhythm and dance the dance of life. This was, once again, another analogy for describing the socio-temporal rhythmic system of the universe on which Awareness Intelligence (see www.mathias-sager.com) is based.
SOULFIRE’S FLAMES (M. Sager, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 120 cm)
Consciousness and awareness
In English, there is a differentiation between consciousness and (self-)awareness. Consciousness commonly means the ability to perceive one’s body and environment. Awareness, on the other hand, is the recognition of that consciousness, which includes the understanding of one’s ability to self-reflect on one’s existence.
Thinking, thinking about thinking (self-reflection), emotions caused by thinking, and the control of emotions through self-reflection
THE ANALOGY OF THE FIRE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Consciousness is the source of our soul’s fire, and awareness is its fuel. Firing energy as the fundamental element of consciousness is the nature of life itself; it exists everywhere and in all of us. It just has to be inflamed. The body does not produce consciousness. Awareness, however, is bound to our existence here on earth. Awareness-generated thoughts are the heat and light of the soulfire’s flames.
Flames of poisonous thoughts come from the impure fuel of ignorance. We cannot stop the inflammatory nature of our consciousness, nor is it desirable. What matters, however, is what fuel is burned, whether it is intelligent reflective consciousness or not; Perceptual awareness alone, however highly praised meditation, is not intelligent, but reactive and detached from the whole.
The quality of thinking is determined by the level of reflective awareness from which it arises. Thus, our thoughts and the resulting feelings are in our control. Through the right self-reflection and appropriate conclusions, the perceptual consciousness and corresponding thoughts can be kept pure as meant by nature itself. In this sense, consciousness directly affects our cognitive abilities and, whenever we think, our state of mind, as well as the emotions that follow the quality of thinking. We can also think of emotions as the smoke created by the flames of poisonous thoughts. Impure thoughts generate uncomfortable emotions, such as dark smoke produced by heavy fuel with, for example, a high degree of moisture, while positive and bright emotions arise from thoughts of awareness-intelligent purity and composition.
Our thinking does not have to be emotionally controlled and potentially confusing, as the flames of thought are not defined by the smoke of emotions, but are generated by a holistic, healthy, and sacred reflective awareness, which emulates universal intelligence and therefore can be called Awareness Intelligence.
Single-mindedness is praised and rewarded everywhere in science as well as in business and private matters. If integrating more aspects of life into one’s lifestyle, one is considered unfocused and not knowing what he/she wants. People typically educate and develop in clearly predefined, straight career paths, and socially common and therefore accepted ways in which people all too often assume a tunnel view on life so they can be put into one-themed, clearly labeled boxes.
The Last Universalist
As French Henri Poincare described so well “Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.” In the context of understanding life and its signification for human existence overall, some dots undoubtedly remain unconnected. Henri Poincare who died in 1912, is considered the ‘The Last Universalist’ in mathematics since he mastered all the disciplines at once. If today’s specialized scientific fields work in silos and are hindering inter-disciplinary cooperation, it might indeed be the case that a lot of knowledge is not brought into a more meaningful context and does not result into a house of wisdom that benefits and protects all humanity in a broader sense.
Missing systematic management of the mind
Project and productivity management skills to organize business processes are taught everywhere and on all levels of the education system. Surprisingly, the same diligence is not applied to the mental world. How can we think about our thinking and improve it for our own and others’ well-being? How can we critically check our awareness to make sure we don’t miss any essential aspects? The answers to these questions determine how we care for the world, and yet they are not discussed systematically enough in school. To quote the Buddha, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” I think it is overdue to build wholesome human attitudes, which is to think more and in different ways about how we develop and use awareness.
The benefit of mental triathlons
Awareness Intelligence is like a mental triathlon, or a triptych in art. It is not just one focus of mind, but a threefold set of socio-temporal perspectives that form a person’s worldview (for more on socio-temporal mental schemas see the Awareness Intelligence literature on https://www.mathias-sager.com/tag/awareness-intelligence/). It is to be hoped that one-sided extremism evolves into inherently diverse lifestyles. We need monks who are not only wise, but fit and socially engaging. We need physically fit intellectuals who care, and intellectual and kind sportspersons. We need leaders who serve on the ground of honest servant leadership style based on what’s healthy for human beings. And, we need real, fair competition that rewards not only the smart, but especially the kind.
Horizontal integration for more relevance
For a more harmonious and wholesome lifestyle it is to hope that personality is understood to not only develop vertically (i.e., into a specialization in one field), but horizontally (i.e., integrating multiple fields) to become aware of broader contexts, interdependencies, and connections across everything and all that is relevant.
You get an understanding and compassionate ear here, but the most significant benefit lies in permitting me to offend you. First of all, if I didn’t dare to offend, I couldn’t be honest. Being offended offers a real-world check outside of one’s comfort zone. Second, if I solely entertained you, I’d waste your time distracting from the real work to be done. I will, however, offend you with substance, so you can accomplish getting very clear on your worldview / identity: Who are you really beyond social conditioning? What would you stand for if you had the self-confidence to overcome social pressure? Why are you here as a complete human being beyond economic considerations? Also, the feeling of being offended is a warning indicator that is showing you where to look within yourself for unresolved issues.
I may offend people, but I also make it easy for them to forgive me. You’re not alone; my content and approaches contain wisdom that offends quite everyone. I love people in general (not only the proximate ones who flatter me), and that’s why I care to offend you too. To be genuinely kind means to have the courage to offend. Of course, people like sugar. But shall I, therefore, feed them with more of what is not suitable for health? I’ve learned that if I love myself, I have the courage to allow me to get offended (which doesn’t mean to let me abuse, though).
If we feel offended without being able to forgive the offender, we actually say to disagree with the Right of Freedom of Expression. By instilling more fear, people become more susceptible to being offended without the willingness to forgive. And that’s how the freedom of expression gets strategically undermined by authoritarian systems. Today people are brought to be offended by others just breathing (we can even see it by people wearing masks;-)). It’s more important than ever to stand up for the right to offend, which is implicitly part of the Right of Freedom of Expression. So, have the courage to use the right to offend “sacred” symbols (who says they are sacred?), offend emotions and feelings, offend countries, governments, organizations, as well as political parties, religions, and traditions, and cultures.
Living in a comfort-seeking and fear-based materialistic society, my humanistic approach rejecting salvation-seeking from extrospection is offending people, of course. For me, however, respecting people doesn’t mean accepting their illnesses, victim roles, and unfulfilled potential.If we respected such unhealthy limitations, we’d offend humanity (and life, or god, as you like) as a whole. Indeed, many people live life in the offense to life itself as they put material goods over life. Yes, we justify our physical survival (which in our society doesn’t have much to do with survival rather than with a decadent luxury lifestyle) by not assuming responsibility for the many who suffer hunger, exploitation, and abuse.
I deliberately combine the science of psychology, the wisdom of philosophy and the intuition of art. Art is often very well suited to insulting people, challenging them and opening them up to creative and self-reflective thinking. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to offend or hurt someone who doesn’t care. This is the reason why people often have no interest in the artistic (or spiritual).
Group thinking inhibits critical thinking in favor of a wider human community. For example, religions proclaim to spread unconditional love and the universal truth of their respective God, but feel offended by other religions that believe in another God, who in turn should represent the same unconditional love and absolute truth according to these others. That’s the big lie of hypocrites on both sides. Such belief systems do base on exclusivity to offer fearful people the seeming security of belonging, which, however, they nevertheless never experience (therefore their defensive attitude). But there is a more inclusive way to feel more satisfyingly human. Learn to love truly! Love is the opposite of fear. If you’ve learned to get offended, you’ve learned to love. Love is hard to offend; a heart full of love doesn’t get irritated and offended irrevocably; it doesn’t see the world in terms of threats against one’s ego-assumed superiority, advantages, and privileges over others. Instead, strongminds who dare to seek being offended, not for hate but growth purposes, can find what humans actually are looking for: actualizing themselves through meaningful change toward their best self (which can’t be measured by material success alone, to make that clear once more).
You may have enough “friends” who will tell you what you want to hear and who are happy that you are unsuccessful (because it justifies their own stagnation). If I can’t offend you, I haven’t done my work of serving you decisively. With this in mind, thank you for allowing us to offend each other, not with style, but with substance for learning opportunities for our personal growth, individually and as a human collective.