According to Buddhist teaching, we all go through life with blinders on. We might be hiking along a forest road coming to a shack, one of those inviting oases, and we spot a rope rolled beside the entrance, but we mistake it for a snake. This provokes thoughts associated with that perception. We know that there are working tools like ropes used by foresters but start to ask whether there are also snakes. Concern about our safety in the face of dangerous animals in the woods arises. Should we avoid the area, and should we protect and arm ourselves? We spin a web of thoughts that are not necessarily based on the first sight of the thing initially interpreted falsely. Further distortions of thoughts follow, and all combines into creating a biased view. Having gotten the idea that forest huts are infected by dangerous animals like snakes, it impacts our behavior overall. We pay attention to this seemingly looming danger and see even more evidence that our fear is justified. We might stop taking walks in the woods and approaching shacks at all. The initial misperceptions got hardened, which impacts how and what data we collect. The vicious circle is perfect.
“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.
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)
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://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.
Awareness is needed to realign the structures that hold us prisoners of organic existence with the non-structural wholeness of unbound consciousness. We need awareness for living a wholly human life that is inspired by divine consciousness and lived through the practical use of our biological organism. The mind is the intellectual capability that builds on the undifferentiated consciousness that can be understood as a general receptivity triggering potential thought. Awareness is like the hinge between consciousness and thought; it has both the qualities of the divine consciousness and the thoughts it generates. Therefore, human awareness is both the holy spirit of the soul and the self-generated thoughts of the mind that includes ‘thinking about thinking.’ The degree of knowledge about and the way of applying this foundation of human agency is what makes Awareness Intelligence. It is the ability to be aware of and about one’s awareness.
Excerpt from Awareness Intelligence (M. Sager, 2019)