SUMMARY: We seem to be in an age where the potential of the human brain is being explored by both theologians and behavioural scientists. Neuroscience offers more sophisticated ways of measuring whole brain activity which was not possible in the past. On the theological front, people like Richard Rohr (a Franciscan priest and international author) devotes his organization to developing the whole mind through spiritual contemplation. Perhaps the biggest enemy of ‘whole mind or whole brain problem solving’ is the bombardment of time saving electronic devices that do the thinking for us. So many solutions are provided for us at the flick of a switch. Zoom has now joined the party during the Covid19 invasion. We talk to a face and voice rather than the whole person. Another major barrier to using our whole mind or brain power is ‘the belief that thinking will waste time’ rather than save time. Nancy Kline advocates creating a socio-emotional environment where the human brain can operate optimally and people are given ‘space’ to get their whole brain into action. Yet, regardless of the evidence that thinking saves time rather than wastes time, the natural human reaction is to do it as quickly as possible and not waste time thinking about it. Reflection, contemplation, meditation, and silence are foreign intruders. A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink, Nancy Kline, Richard Rohr, and many others are telling us to give more space for whole mind development. Both Psychology and Theology are giving us the same message. Are we listening? Or have the routines, time pressures and human reaction for quick-fix robbed us of our whole mindedness?
What is Whole Mindedness in action?
The human brain has infinite capacity to learn adapt and change. It is the potential master of most human problems, provided it is given the opportunity to function more completely. This is not the place to attempt to summarize the work that’s been done on the potential of the human brain. But simply acknowledging the reality of this potential is a good start in getting your whole brain power to start working better. Your estimated fifteen thousand billion synaptic connections are available. How do we get more of them into action?
A chief executive – let’s call him DN – who I admired and liked, once said to me “our job is to get the job done. If people don’t want to do it, we need find others who do want to do it.” On another occasion at a lunch table he said to me, “Why are you concerned about better management of change? I have no problem with it. I explain to staff what they need to do and why, and they do it.” Now he was a particularly successful chief executive. Staff loved and admired him. He didn’t have problems with managing change. Why? I had worked with him and for him for many years and was curious to find out how he went about managing changes. I talked to his staff and colleagues and it was true. He went about his communication and thinking in such a way that change seemed to come about pretty smoothly. But he could not describe “how” he went about the process. Yet he was, I believe, a person who used his “whole mind”. His background was project engineering and he was an immaculate planner and problem solver. He was a clear and rational thinker of the first order. Perhaps with a background of project engineering he had learned to think before acting. In using his whole “rational” faculty, he also knew that he had some people on his staff who were more creative and imaginative than he was so he tapped into the ideas of others with interest and respect. Behind his sometimes “gruff” and “get up and go” attitude, he quite naturally, valued the ideas and information from others – not with blind acceptance, but always with interest and curiosity. It was as though he always “expected” good ideas and information from others.
Now, if I had asked DN to tell me about how he believed communication and relationships helped him to manage change successfully, I would have said something like “I haven’t got a clue. But, obviously, without the communication and relationships in place, there can be no sustainable and effective changes.” Of all the chief executives I have known and with whom I have worked, he was probably the most “natural” leader of others in that he just went about his relating to staff and communicating with them which motivated them to do a good job or equip themselves to do so. If you worked for DN, you just wanted to get it right or learn how to get it right. There was something about DN’s approach that generated this kind of “wanting to” and “wanting to do it right”. He brought both his “rational” and “relational” faculties together to get his whole mind to work and the whole mind of others to work as well. Sadly, he is no longer with us. If I had taken the trouble when he was alive to draw out of him what he did and said that was so different, I believe the work I have done and what I have written would have been the better for it. Yet if one observed some of his rough tough ways of communicating, one would not have seen all the “right” and “perfect” interactive patterns in the way he communicated.
Four human qualities of “whole mindedness” could be attributed to him. Tenacity, respect for others, humility and integrity. Take any of these four human qualities away and I doubt if he would have got it right in bringing about successful changes. Remove tenacity, respect for others, humility and integrity, and we are left with little more than an effective and efficient robot doing and saying the “right” things..
How do we get to use the ‘whole mind’ we have been given?
It seems that this massive brain that we have is not being used as well as it could be used. We are all far too busy with our routines, survival, deliberate conscious activities. The untapped brain power we have is simply left unused. Both Psychologists and Theologians want us to tap into this vast brain power potential.
I have attempted below to list what seem to me to be attitudes which simulate ‘whole mindedness’ and attitudes which inhibit ‘whole mindedness’:
Whole Mind Attitudes
Whole Mind Inhibiters
|1. Willingness to take on new unfamiliar activity or interest which seems completely foreign to you.
2. Stopping all conscious mind activity and being only aware of the silence and your breathing.
3. Applying new thinking disciplines which require one to use more parts of the brain; the JPS cycle does this as does Caroline Leaf’s five-step process.
4. Writing down what spontaneously comes to mind without examining or analysing it for ‘correctness’.
5. Getting into discussions which are foreign to your interests and areas of confidence.
6. Replaying past events and allowing your subconscious to give new meaning to what is gone and forgotten.
7. Asking yourself and exploring difficult questions about past events or what you have read- just for the fun of it.
8. Pausing long enough to allow ‘context’ and ‘relationship’ issues and pressures to enter the stage.
9. Focus and attention to the less “measurable” – such as one’s values of respect for others, tenacity, humility and integrity.
10. Belief in the value and potential of others to succeed.
|1. Following the same routines every day and avoiding any changes in the way things or done or where they are placed.
2. Keeping your mind filled with ‘always something to do’.
3. Using only those approaches to thinking and communicating with which you are familiar.
4. Reluctant to write what is on your mind until it is perfectly “correct” and “clear”.
5. Working only in groups which fit in with your views or which you “like”.
6. Refusing to reflect on past activity and telling yourself “the past is gone; there is no point in reflecting on it”.
7. Avoiding all discussion or talk which explores new ideas or new questions or new ways of thinking about things.
8. Moving directly into the purely rational or standard practice at hand with no time to ‘waste’ on context and relationship issues.
9. Focus of all conscious effort on the measurable with no time spent on the less “measurable”.
10. A belief that few can be trusted to do things properly.
How well did DN measure up on the right hand column? From my observation of him over about twenty five years he would have been rarely guilty of any of these 10 attributes. I can’t comment confidently on his ‘whole mind attitudes’, although there was evidence of 5, 8, 9 and 10. How do you see yourself on these two lists? Whole mindedness can be developed. There is overwhelming neuroscience evidence for this.
Coordinator of JPS developments
 Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and originator of Centre for Action and Contemplation  Nancy Kline, More Time to Think, Caswell, 2015  Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind, Riverhead Books, 2006  Carolyn Leaf, Switch on Your Brain, Baker Books. 2013