Another important quality for inquiry is concentration. Individually, we need to be concentrated enough to follow the thread of our experience without distraction. We may experience distractions, but we can return to the thread of our experience to be with the foreground of what is emerging for us. Here’s a small example: Perhaps I am feeling mad about something that happened between me and a colleague at work. I don’t want to think about it, but I return to the feelings, and stay with them until I begin to understand. I am aware I am blaming and angry, and I stay with it and by staying with it, it transforms through my awareness. The anger reminds me of my relationship with my last boss, who was a bully. I see that I am angry because I have been hurt. This process takes tenacity and perseverance, courage and open-heartedness. Sometimes a thread reveals itself over a period of time. I may be angry at my colleague for several days, until I understand what really made me angry, how hurt I was underneath, and in this process the anger diffuses. Because I follow the thread of my inner experience, I learn what I need to talk about and work through with my colleague to keep the relationship on a good footing.
Collectively, it is quite challenging to create the concentration needed to follow a thread. People can be all over the map, bringing many distracting opinions and ideas forward. Sometimes we try to look good in front of others, to make a point, or to be heard. The motivations behind our distractions are numerous and pernicious. Facilitation helps develop and ensure collective concentration in meetings, and a good facilitator can ensure the groups stays on a thread or theme. Another way to create concentration is by collective commitment to stay on topic until everyone has said what they need to, has asked every question, and because of deep listening, the group creates new meaning and understanding.
For example, if we are trying to clarify a strategy about a new product line, there are many elements that have to be perused to understand what the new products need to be. Collective concentration enables us to follow what is emerging and to illuminate what we need to know about the new product line. When something comes up about a different topic, the group notes that the topic is off purpose and quickly returns to the the new product line, continuing to explore until everyone has understood each other’s thinking. It takes dialogic skill, patience, and collective commitment to think together. When a group has leaned to think together, this capability creates an explosion of potentiality, creativity and innovation.
Part 3 of a 3 part series on inquiry