Sense & Opportunity
The other day I was having a conversation with my partner about a video I saw over ten years ago in which a cockroach was secured into a wheeled mechanical rover, controlled by a small ball which rotated when the roach walked across it. Essentially the roach was in a kind of car a few feet off of the ground. In this video the roach piloted this craft about the halls where the experiment took place.
Back then it was just a cool video, but as I was talking with my partner I began to wonder something. Would a roach stuck in a vehicle like this for an extended period of time continue to behave like a roach? With a new perspective of the world, and a "new body", would the roach continue to do the same old roach things, or would its larger mechanical form necessitate a new way of behaving and therefore being?
After all we are simply a combination of our senses and our opportunities, evolutionarily speaking. Let me break down what I mean by that.
When I say Sense I mean our ability to sense, and our senses themselves.
And when I say opportunity I mean our ability to exercise those senses.
Creatures which live permanently in areas of constant darkness do not need eyes or sight in the same way that we have eyes and sight. In other words, their opportunity to utilize eyes and sight is for all purposes zero, and therefore they have no need for that particular sense. If they once had eyes/sight, they may now have vestigial organs and/or be blind. Over a vast length of time, if they lived in an area with the opportunity to use sight they would necessarily develop that sense.
Sense and opportunity are linked, as I just described. Each affords the other. When we have the opportunity to sense, our senses develop. When we sense, we have the ability to move into new opportunities.
In situations where we have the ability to make use of our senses and have expanded opportunity we tend to rise to the occasion. Many organisms can problem solve, and make use of tools, for example, when given the opportunity to if they have the physical ability to manipulate them. Even single celled organisms have to make use of things like cilia, and do so to a great degree in their environments.
As humans, our opportunity is the harbinger of new senses. Through the luck of evolution we are uniquely capable of expanding our own opportunities in ways that other organisms can't.
With our minds and our hands (i.e. our ability to craft what we imagine), we have found ways to train our senses, correct our senses, amplify our senses, create new senses, and use them in ways that enhance our lives and empower ourselves. My own eyes are seated behind panes of glass curved in a certain way as I type this, otherwise I wouldn't be able to!
When we are working with our clients, it all comes down to these two basic things, Sense & Opportunity.
We help our clients enhance their senses, such as the ability to come into contact with their experience in more workable ways. We sometimes help them engage in their physical senses as well, in order to improve their quality of life.
We also help them come into contact with new opportunities. Our clients take on the task of curiosity and wonder. They must dive into their own history to identify what matters to them in their lives. They experiment and learn. They engage with their own ability to choose and to act. To operate what is essentially an organic machine, in the service of their values, and in spite of barriers that come from within and without. All to hopefully, and intentionally, become something greater.
With expanded sense & opportunity come expanded, vital living.
As clinicians we need to engage in both of these processes. If you have been feeling stuck in your work with certain clients ask yourself if you have been promoting growth in both Sense and Opportunity. When I find myself stuck I usually notice that I have been putting a lot of effort in promoting opportunity, but not sense. In order to be most effective we must promote both.
Some common Sensing skills are everything that comes along with mindfulness processes:
- The ability to notice, name, describe,
- The ability to hold gently, hold firmly,
- The ability to step back from, and step toward,
- The ability to extend compassion to others and the self
- The ability to notice the difference.
Some common Opportunity skills are those things that involve experimentation:
- The ability to exercise willingness
- The ability to deliberately, move to a place of risk
- The ability to practice, and to repeat that practice
- The ability to make space within
In your work what kinds of sensory promotion do you engage in? What kind of opportunity promotion? Have you noticed your work leaning to the promotion of one more than the other? How would someone you work with benefit from increased sensing ability? How would they benefit from increased opportunity?