Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yoga-nomics: Shallow Bowl Solutions

So, once upon a time, in a far off galaxy, I was studying for my MBA degree in Rochester, NY. Most of the study was interesting and I was absorbed in the world of finance, accounting and economics in order to bring more humanity to health care. Unfortunately, the world took a right turn just as I earned my degree, and hasn't come back.

One of the more interesting people there was a Professor William Gavett. In one lecture he put the drawings on the board (it was a long time ago) and pointed to the image on the left saying this is how most of us view most decisions. That is, there are a lot of wrong solutions to a problem, indicated by the rapid drop off to the left and right, but only one discrete point of the correct decision. The implications are astounding for most situations; whether at work or at home, we wrangle and debate to reach this one ultimate decision point, burning untold brain cells and creating all sorts of dysfunctional relationships!

However, consider the image on the right, he baited us. What if the decision space was more like a shallow bowl where there are many correct decisions within close proximity and with very little variance? Well, after considering this, my perspective was changed quite a bit. What would it mean if most situations had a whole raft of possible outcomes that were in fact fairly similar...

Now if we are talking about a solution that requires pinpoint accuracy, say making an incision on me to remove something that shouldn't be in me, then I want the decision to be precise. But aren't most decisions we are involved in more like selecting a meal? All are nutritious and satisfying, but decisions are more about personal preferences and style than substance.

The implication for me has been to be more tolerant of other points of view when making decisions and keep the shallow bowl in mind. After all, how badly can we mess up if so many solutions are so close to being right on...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Circle Around the Zero

I was invited to lunch yesterday at a local meditation center to talk about the recent 10 day silent retreat two of my regular yoga students had. What a delight! The food is always great there and the setting is one of the most conducive to inward looking in the Berkshires.

Of course, there is always the problem of talking about silence, but soon we were immersed in exploring together various aspects of the retreat. One person referred to "coming to zero" as a way of indicating a different way of being she experienced. I mentioned the following poem and sent it off to her when I returned home.

The Circle Around the Zero

A lover doesn't figure the odds.

He figures he came clean from God

as a gift without a reason,

so he gives without cause

or calculation or limit.

A conventionally religious person

behaves a certain way

to achieve salvation.

A lover gambles everything, the self,

the circle around the zero! He or she

cuts and throws it all away.

This is beyond

any religion.

Lovers do not require from God any proof,

or any text, nor do they knock on a door

to make sure this is the right street.

They run,

and they run.

~ Rumi

For me it captures the unrestrained quality of being that draws me back over and over. Also, it has a 'gonzo' all or nothing texture that I find necessary to see clearly. When we hold onto our set ideas, no matter how noble or valid or venerable, the timelessness of Truth is obscured.