Stop thinking this December/January

I think. 

Thinking is addictive. 

2020 has been arguably a period of liminality. Previously I have used the transition between the New and Old Year to think. But this year-end, instead of reflecting on the past and thinking about the new year – I will stop thinking and just be in the moment. A core coaching competence is to maintain presence with a client. There is freedom waiting in December/ January this year and its waiting for me. Will I be courageous enough to live in the moment?

I think.

A statement and a doing word.

Over the past few months during Covid-19 lock down, I thought, and I thought a lot. Sometimes getting lost in my thoughts and at other times finding clarity through thinking.

For me, what used to be typical at year end was to start thinking and planning for the next year and revisiting plans for the medium to long term. I would spend time thinking and reflecting on what did I do well, what could I have done better and what will I be doing differently the next year. There was also the busyness of the holidaying season and the inevitable tiredness that followed.

But not this year.

The concept of Liminality was first developed in the early twentieth century by Arnold van Gennep in his book, Rites de Passage, published in 1909. He explores and develops the concept of liminality in the context of rites of passages. The word is also derived from the Latin word “limen” meaning “a threshold”. “In anthropology, liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete. During a rite’s liminal stage, participants ‘stand at the threshold’ between their previous way of structuring their identity, time or community and a new way, which completing the rite establishes.

This Covid-19 period has disrupted lives and ways of being; created disorientation of our identities as humans and communities, and left us with an opaque veil of time as to when this will be “over”. I therefore refer to this Covid-19 period as a period of liminality (“Covid-19 liminal period”).

I will apply an integral theory approach (Wilber, et al, 2008, with the re-orientation of the quadrants by Dr Paddy Pampallis) to explore my perspective from a systemic environment, relationships, thoughts, and behaviours on what it means to just live in the moment this December/January.

The systemic environment of experiencing lockdown and self-isolation during Covid-19 has made me more aware of how much of my time I spend thinking– which made me think – I see the irony and the pun! If I look at our environment through a layered systemic lens, I identify individual, community, national and global layers.

These influence my thinking, my relationships and my behaviours. As I journey through this Covid-19 liminal period and on to the cusp of the Old Year/New Year liminal period I am more aware that I operate in an environment with others. This December/January with the protracted uncertainty of Covid-19 affects how I celebrate the holiday season; I need to be mindful of my choices and circumstances, and act accordingly.

Am I courageous enough to live in this moment and stop thinking?

This year the message of social distancing, of standing at least 1,5 meters apart from each other has made me reflect on my thoughts. “Cogito, ergo sum”, is a philosophical statement by René Descartes, usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am” (The phrase originally appeared in French as je pense, donc je suis in his Discourse on the Method, so as to reach a wider audience than Latin would have allowed).

Without going into a philosophical critique of the statement, I would simply state that some people argue that our thoughts define us as people, whereas others argue that our experiences and actions define who we are as people. There are other interpretations too. I have experienced thoughts as a way of liberating me from the now, and at other times, my thoughts being a prison from which I am trying to escape.

Please understand I am not at all suggesting that we need to be mindless human beings and not think – but what I am proposing, is that we consider bringing in more moments in our days, in our lives for not thinking, for just being in the now. The Covid-19 liminal period has certainly provided many opportunities for noticing or not noticing those moments.

Could I create a “thought distance” like social distance? But what would that distance calculation be? 1,5 kilometres, or 1,5 hours, or, 1,5 nanoseconds or light years between thoughts? This December/ January can I focus on creating that space – of not flowing into a thought pattern and having a thought distance instead?

I am reminded of the words of Eckhart Tolle when he argued that “Not all thinking, and all emotions are of the ego. They turn into ego only when you identify with them and they take you over completely, that is to say, when they become “I”.

Am I courageous enough to live in this moment and stop thinking?

When my environment influences my thinking, how does my behaviour show up? We are taught (in good coaching training) and something we practice as coaches – to be fully present – which is done partly by the quality of the thinking, the timing and the purpose of the thinking.

As a member of ICF (International Coaching Federation), I am referencing the newly amended core competencies in terms of co-creating the relationship with the client, maintain presence which is defined as: “fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.” (The ICF Global Board has approved the revised core competencies to be effect from 2021 – competencies)

To really, live in the moment (Eckhart Tolle). The question I would ask myself “what in me is it that prevents me from living in the moment and allowing my behaviour to reflect this?

This period of dual liminality; Covid-19 and December/January is an opportunity to re-examine the way I used to live and be, and the way I am working towards living and being.

So, I invite myself to be present to myself, to be curious about who I am and, in the process, learn more about myself. To explore what behaviours, actions, healthy body practices I can do differently this December/January. My behaviour is a choice.

Am I courageous enough to live in this moment and stop thinking?

I am inviting myself to be in relation to myself and others differently this December/January. I am curious about how I will be present to the environment in which I find myself, noticing my thoughts, becoming aware of my patterns of behaviour and the impact that this has on my relationships with self and others.

Perhaps more importantly for me, is to have purposeful and engaged conversations with others, without “thinking” so that my presence in relation to the conversation is meaningful. The conversation with myself also needs to be one in which I bring my humanness, my humanity into the conversation with myself – and just be present.

Am I courageous enough to live in this moment and stop thinking?

The poem by Erin Hanson stimulates and challenges me, when she writes.

“There is freedom waiting for you on the breezes of the sky, and you ask, what if I fall, oh but my darling, what if you fly.”

There is freedom waiting in December/January this year and its waiting for me.

I AM courageous enough to live in this moment and find my freedom to fly.

Are you courageous enough to stop thinking this December/January and live in the moment?

Wilber, K., Pattern, T., Leonard, A., & Morelli, M. (2008). Integral Life Practice. Boston: Shambhala Inc.