Lifelet: Photosynthesis

“What is the world according to Skip?” asked Gifford Booth early in our journey together in the TAI Tell course.

“Beats me” I replied trying to generate a little time to think.

“Instead of trying to tell me, why don’t you go to the flip chart and draw me the world according to Skip,” he suggested.

With a fist full of colored markers I drew the following:

World According to Skip

Thus began my Tell interactions.  TAI describes the Tell seminar as:

“In the words of Allen Schoer, creator of The Tell:

“A Tell is a mound, a hill, sometimes with layers of civilization actually built on top of it; and with layers of debris and dirt built on top of that. It’s a potential site of historical activity. There may be buried treasures underneath it.

The Tell is the site to be explored. It’s a place of great promise. It’s a place of infinite resources, great riches.

Each of us is a Tell site waiting to be explored. Each of us is a site of vast and infinite resources. You are a place of great promise with much buried treasure. This is too compelling an invitation to ignore – better to roll up your sleeves and dig in.”

After seeing my diagram, Gifford in his wonderfully supportive presence asked “can you describe your diagram in a single word?”

Without thinking, I blurted out “photosynthesis.”

Gifford asked “what was the thought process that got you from your diagram to photosynthesis?”

What followed was a stream of unconsciousness that flowed out.

I’ve always been a visual thinker which I realized when I started studying NLP.  They talk about the three primary information carrying senses as VAK (Visual Auditory Kinesthetic).  I realized I was primarily a visual thinker and in particular I use Visual Recall as my primary sub-modality.  I am not particularly good at the Visual Creating sub-modality.

In addition, I’ve worked quite hard to develop my synthesis skills after I was attracted to Russ Ackoff‘s description of synthesis.

“To understand “why” questions, you need to use a process of synthesis. Synthesis is the opposite process to analysis:

      1. Identify the system under study and then identify all the systems that the identified system is a part of.
      2. Understand the greater system of systems.
      3. Dis-aggregate the greater system back into the component systems.

Synthesis is about making sense of the whole.”

In drawing the diagram and responding to Gifford’s question I realized that tacitly I’ve been combining these two skills – visual recall and synthesis – into my way of thinking and being.  Photosynthesis nicely captures these two personal values.

In addition, the diagram tries to get at the more traditional meaning of photosynthesis in nature – what it takes to grow a plant.   I’ve focused on a subset of photosynthesis the last ten years – what it takes to grow fine wine.  I learned from Steiner‘s work on biodynamics that what goes on below the ground, particularly in what seems like the most dormant time (winter), is the most productive for the grape vine.  It is what is invisible in our minds that is the roots of our knowledge.  It is the outward manifestation of the green grape leaves and ultimately the fruit that captures our conscious attention.  Yet, the world just hears our words, not what is going on in the depths of our minds.  I like this notion of the Tell as it reminds me what we do all the time in the vineyard which is to look at the deep vine root structures.

Lastly, when I first started meditating, I created my mantra of “moving, flowing, flowering.”  To add a little meaning to the mantra, it is a reminder that before I can create I need to start moving.  Then as I move, I begin to effortlessly get into my Flow.  As the flow starts, I can start to feel myself flowering.  In my mind I go through the stages of the movement of the grape vine from dormant to greening to flowering to grape production.

As I think about this some more, I realize that “photosynthesis” is a natural outgrowth of the key idea I worked with in the Power and Presence seminar – “WAKE UP!” Wake up is a reminder to myself to pay attention and to look around me at the wonders of the world every day.  My natural tendency is to stay inside my head and not pay attention.  Wake Up!

“Thank you” offered Gifford, “that is a lot to absorb.  Now I want you to draw another diagram which we call the North Star.  Lay out a compass rose and label the four major points with your key discoveries from your Tell process.”

Drawing on the above, I used WUKID (Wisdom Understanding Knowledge Information Data) as my organizing principle.  WUKID is my shorthand for my lifelong learning process of moving from gathering data through the learning stages of information, knowledge, and understanding until I can arrive at Wisdom.

WUKID North Star

As I look at this diagram four years later, I am reminded of the digging into my personal TELL mound to unearth and organize these concepts.

Gifford then asked “now take these diagrams and represent them with a single photo and a little bit of text.”

Thanks Gifford.  This feels like yet another example of the “describe the universe and give three examples and you have ten minutes.”

What emerged was:

World according to Skip

More recently, I am experimenting with acrylic abstract painting as a spiritual exercise on my resilience journey. Photosynthesis has taken on yet another new meaning – the synthesis of photography and painting.

Photosynthesis of my two creative joys

Each day I try to take photos with my always available iPhone and I attempt one experimental painting a day.  Both “creative acts” are a way to Wake Up!  As I start gifting my art work to friends, family and colleagues, I pair up my paintings with one of my photos to create a photosynthesis collage.

I love great questions and Gifford’s “what is the world according to Skip?” led to an unfolding journey into my personal Tell.

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