Posts filed under Insight

Vision Quest

What was it I came hereto remember? I have been standing on this spot for three days and three nights, waiting. The sun pounded me to my knees, the heat enough to steam me open. At night the moon shakes me and my teeth rattle. I won’t quit though won’t leave here without seeing. What was it that I came here to remember? I have seen with my own eyes visions I know they are true. Last night my grandfather came. He didn’t say anything just took my measure and was gone. He never ever quit on anything. Tough. Me too. Maybe you can only see once everything shimmers and fades? Maybe that’s when you can see what hasn’t happened yet?


© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved

Posted on April 12, 2010 and filed under Insight, Original Vision.

The Way of Dreaming

Imagination is more important than knowledge, Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

-Albert Einstein


In my last post, I outlined The Way of Knowing, or cognition. The second power of the intellect, and the subject of this post, is The Way of Dreaming, commonly known as imagination. In Visionmaking, one way is not superior to the other, despite Einstein's value judgment. They are both held as complimentary faculties, to be stewarded equally.


If cognition is the problem solver, then imagination is the explorer. Imagination is centrally important to Visionmaking because it allows for a different kind of seeing-one that trancends the narrowness and familiarity of convention to explore the vast realm of possibility. This is the terra firma of the artist, scientist, entrepreneur and adventurer. "Imagination is a very high sort of seeing," wrote Emerson.


This capacity to dream has spurred humankind to extend the boundaries of the known world, both outwardly and inwardly. It is the domain of visions, dreams, imagery, metaphor, symbol and stories-what Sir Laurens van der Post termed, "the forgotten language of God."


Author Evelyn Underhill recognized the differentiation between imagination and cognition when she wrote: "...the reasoning powers as such have little initiative. Their province is analytic, not exploratory."


Make no mistake. The Way of Dreaming has its own science, though the forces that govern it may seem as strange to the cognitive frame of reference as quantum theory is to Newtonian physics.


The science of dreaming leaves is constructed through ten domains:


1. Dreams-the guidance that arrives in sleep that provide instruction, premonition and healing.


2. Images-mental representations of people, animals, ideas or things and the ability to render those images visually or orally.


3. Symbols-objects, images or sounds that evoke complex ideas or emotions beyond their plain or superficial interpretation.


4. Creativity-the ability to bring forth meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations which display originality and initiate change.


5. Possibilities-the exploration of potential that something may manifest, may be true, or may take place.


6. Stories-a narrative, either true or fictitious, that is designed to interest, arouse, amuse or instruct.


7. Myth-a body of stories, beliefs or ideas that belong to a people or culture that tell about the ancestors, heroes or supernatural beings and which explain history, natural phenomenon or human behavior.


8. Ritual-ceremonies, rites or procedures that bridge the spiritual and mundane worlds.


9. Art-aesthetically meaningful expressions that stimulate an emotional, physiological, intellectual or spiritual response.


10. Memories-the ability to recall people, places, events and information that ignite the imagination or cause reflection.


The Ways of Knowing and Dreaming provide the Visionmaker with the intellectual faculties to pursue a path of heart and meaning. They are intertwined and constantly collaborating in an extraordinary dialogue about the conversion of possibilities to outcomes.


© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved

Posted on March 19, 2010 and filed under Insight, Original Vision.

The Way of Knowing

"The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge."

–Bertrand Russell


The last post was devoted to identifying the two powers of intellect-cognition and imagination. In this installment, I will cover the function of cognition–The Way of Knowing– from the perspective of the Visionmaker.


The Way of Knowing harnesses the pragmatic and practical aspects of the cognitive mind. These aspects were developed by early man in encounters with the natural world, especially through the agency of survival. Through the survival instinct, humankind developed the capacity to learn what works and what doesn't work in encounters with the natural world.


Cognition helped in providing food and shelter, avoiding peril and in tool development and manufacture. Even today, in our "civilized world," the survival instinct spurs humankind towards being better, faster and smarter. Cognition, through the discipline of learning, assists us to apply knowledge gained to encounters with uncertainty and unfamiliar experience.


The Way of Knowing includes eight apptitudes:


1. Awareness-the capacity to be watchful, gather information and remain present and alert.


2. Attention-the ability to focus the intellect and to concentrate over a period of time.


3. Probing-to search or explore something in order to expand one's knowledge or understanding.


4. Understanding-the capacity to percieve, interpret, assign meaning and apply knowledge.


5. Reasoning-the power to form conclusions, judgments or to infer through logic.


6. Analysis-the ability to separate something into constituent parts as a means of determining its esential features and their relationships.


7. Judgment-the ability to make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoratively and wisely, especially in matters affecting action, good sense or discretion.


8. Memory-the capacity to retain and recall facts, events, impressions and experiences and to apply recall to new experiences.


"Knowledge is power" goes the 16th century proverb. As a result of the survival instinct and the rise of cognition, human beings have placed a high value on acquiring knowledge and in developing the skill of logical reasoning.


Equally high value should go to imagination, known in Visionmaking as The Way of Dreaming. It will be the subject of the next post.


© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved

Posted on March 16, 2010 and filed under Insight, Original Vision.

Insight: Signs

This the is last in our series on Insight. It concerns paying attention to the Signs around us.


A Visionmaker sees the world quite differently from the average person.  To those who pursue meaning, the universe is not empty, mechanical or random.  It is spirited, living, dynamic, mysterious and meaning-filled. Visionmakers listen deeply to the world around them, recognizing that it is constantly communicating, constantly co-creating. Visionmakers watch and listen intently, tracking meaning as it unfolds through the agency of the natural world.


You could say that Visionmakers are animists, certain that the natural world–both seen and unseen–is spirited. Visionmaking has much in common with shamanism in this respect. A Visionmaker sees that everything has a spirit, a purpose, and is a medium of meaning.  


Traditional people the world over watch the signs in the natural world as communication from helping allies. Those who hold this view remain awake and alert to the presence of helping allies, thankful that the natural world is supporting our pursuit of destiny. To ignore or dismiss such assistance is an act of arrogance and disrespectful. Such pride severs the opportunity to see more.


Allies come in many forms–favorite animals, birds, even people. Dr.  Michael Harner, quoting a Hopi source, illuminates this perspective:


"To the Hopi all life is one–it is the same.  This world where he lives is the human world and in it all the animals, birds, insects, and every living creature, as well as the tree and plants which also have life, appear only in masquerade, or in the forms in which we ordinarily see them. But it is said that all these creatures and these living things that share the spark of life with us humans, surely have other homes where they live in human forms like ourselves. Therefore, all these living things are thought of as human and may sometimes be seen in their own forms even on earth..."


A falling apple stimulates an insight by Isaac Newton that is now known as the theory of gravity. A boiling kettle leads James Watt to a breakthrough called the Newcomen engine. The erratic flight of birds, described in oral tradition, saves an isolated indigenous tribe from the South Asian tsunami. There are signs everywhere. The Visionmaker remains awake to them and thankful for them.



© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved.

Posted on November 20, 2009 and filed under Insight.

Insight: Synchronicity

"There is no such thing as chance; And what to us seems merest accident

Springs from the deepest source of destiny."

–Friedrich von Schiller


This is the sixth in a series of posts on Insight, the ability to expand seeing to catch a glimpse of the invisible.


Synchronicity is commonly defined as "the simultaneous occurrence of casually unrelated events and the belief that the simultaneity has meaning beyond mere coincidence." C.G. Jung asserted that synchronicity is made possible through the collective unconscious, in which all mankind is linked.


Visionmakers understand synchronicity as the surfacing of Destiny's plan to conscious awareness through the medium of surprise. We are surprised to find ourselves in precisely the right place, at the right time, with the right events unfolding.


A poignant example of this occurred several years ago, when Angeles Arrien and I were teaching a course in Minnesota. Two participants in the program, previously strangers, were in a small group discussion where they discovered they had something quite remarkable in common. One woman was the mother of an adopted child. The other woman had put a child up for adoption when she was just a teenager. They were the mothers of the same child.


Visionmakers remain alert to synchronous events.  They announce that a larger system of Destiny is unfolding and that individual paths are converging for heightened learning and to serve a greater purpose. Synchronicity is seen as a direct intervention of Destiny for the purpose of transformation.


The world is more mysterious than we can fathom or depict. There are greater forces at work in our lives than the ego. Insight can be gathered in multiple ways if we are awake to the assistance that is always available to those who seek it.


© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.


Posted on November 18, 2009 and filed under Insight.

Remembering The Ancestors

This past week, I was teaching the principles and practices of effective collaboration at the Boeing Company. It was a great class. The second day of the program happened to fall on Veterans Day, or as it is called in Canada, Remembrance Day. At 11:00 AM, our program adjourned for observances.


One of the course participants, Dave, is a retired Air Force officer, a 26-year service veteran. He led the observance by providing some background on Veterans Day, its history and its importance.  He talked about those that had inspired him, family members that had served in foreign campaigns and then he invited others to share their memories and acknowledgements. Most of the class participants shared about their gratitude to someone in their family or community who had served their country.


It was a deeply touching, co-created ceremony.


As I was listening to people share about their memories and experiences, it brought to mind a conversation with Percy, a man I met in South Africa. He was a Sangoma, a healer of the Xhosa tribe.


Percy was a participant in a workshop on reconciliation that I was honored to attend. At one point, he rose to address the other people in the group.  We had been discussing the issues of honor and respect. Percy talked about the decline of honor and respect in his culture. That the ancestors were no longer acknowledged and honored was the root cause of sickness in society, he said.


That got me thinking. We have so few rituals of remembrance of the ancestors in our culture. Perhaps we think of loved ones lost at holidays or anniversaries. But other than Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, when do we pay tribute to the ones that have gone before us, the ones with so much to teach?


Percy is right. Our society is currently challenged by the very conditions that our ancestors can most teach us about: the ways of honor, respect, personal responsibility, flexibility, discipline, foregiveness and compassion.


Every day should be Remembrance Day, an opportunity to remember our ancestors...and ask for their continued support.

Posted on November 15, 2009 and filed under Insight.

Insight: Intuition

"Modern man's besetting temptation is to sacrifice his direct perceptions and spontaneous feelings to his reasoned reflections; to prefer in all circumstances the verdict of his intellect to that of his immediate intuitions." -Aldous Huxley  

We return to our examination of Insight, the second step in the Cycle of Visionmaking after Reflection.


In previous posts, I outlined the seven portals of Insight: body wisdom, unfoldment, assumptions, intuition, atmosphere, synchronicity and signs. These portals enable a Visionmaker to see the invisible because they focus the heart on a set of distinctions that assist discernment. As every Visionmaker knows, the heart is an organ of vision.


The fourth portal that Visionmakers peer through is intuition. Intuition is defined as "a direct perception of truth, immediate apprehension, keen or quick insight." Who would not take the direct, immediate and fastest way to truth if they could manage it?


And yet, in the dominant culture, intuition is often demeaned as feminine and anti-logical, even occult. Those that require deductive reasoning or conventional proof before they will consider the validity of something dismiss it. As though reasoning were the only way to apprehend the world!


The legendary film director, Ingmar Bergman suggests that intuition and reason must work together: "I make all my decisions on intuition. I throw a spear into the darkness. That is intuition. Then I must send an army into the darkness to find the spear. That is intellect."


The Visionmaker sees intuition as the heart's direct experience of meaning, before it can be recognized by consciousness. Meaning is not simply a product of the intellect. Rather it forms and shapes the intellect by providing the content of consciousness. The heart is able to reach into that content and perceive truth immediately.


Open, clear, strong and full, the Four-Chambered Heart has the acuity of a precision lens. Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle put it elegantly:


"It is the heart that sees

Before the head can see."


© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.





Posted on October 27, 2009 and filed under Insight, Original Vision.

The Desert

I have returned from the Four-Fold Way 12-Day Intensive program with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment for the work of Visionmaking.  

It was a wonderful experience to spend time in the Sonoran desert. It was unseasonably hot and I arrived with a cold. But the hypnotic rhythm of the land-medium to slow-produced a natural altered state. Just the right environment to pause, reflect and envision the next stage of the journey of meaning.


The spirits of land and place, what the Greeks called 'genus loci', were especially palpable at dawn and dusk. Those are the times of the day when the veil between the worlds is thin and you can catch a glimpse of the future.


For Visionmakers, it is important to take regular breaks from outer action to reflect on all that has unfolded and to re-dream the journey forward. This allows access to the Cycle of Visionmaking, which begins with practices of reflection; the gathering of insight; the projection of foresight; the harnessing of wisdom; and the making of purposeful action.


This is how we re-vision our world and ensure that we make steady progress on the path of purpose and meaning. Seeing is the Visionmaker's way. In the Sonoran desert it is possible to see a preferred future uninhibited by the past.


This week, I will return to the practices of Insight with a post on Intuition.


© Patrick O’Neill 2008. All rights reserved.

Posted on October 26, 2009 and filed under Insight, Original Vision.

Insight: Assumptions

"Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision."



The third portal of Insight is Assumptions.


Assumptions are the stories, beliefs, opinions and assessments that we have formed from the past and that we project onto the present and the future. Every Visionmaker knows this material is a trap for vision. As the filmmaker Wim Wenders observed: "The more opinions you have, the less you see."


Visionmakers are far too curious to take the world for granted and at face value. They are constantly striving to overthrow the oppressive filters of convention in order to see the world directly, originally.


When vision becomes fixed on a static set of coordinates, we become lulled into a state of certainty that leads us directly to the status quo. Insight comes from our ability to overturn this conditioning and see for ourselves. 


To gather insight by seeing beyond our assumptions and beliefs, we must slow down. Slowing things down allows us to reflect and examine how and what we see. Visionmakers use The Four Humble Questions to to put the breaks on their certainties and gather insight:


•  "What if how I see this person, situation or event is not right?"


•  "What if the opposite of how I see things is actually right?"


• "What if what I am seeing is only partly right?"


•  "What if it is just right for me and not a shared truth?"


The Four Humble Questions have the power to interrupt patterns of haste, pride and righteousness that interfere with the ability to gain direct insight. Behind our assumptions are worlds of information-context, content, and nuance that remain largely unrecognized and unexplored.


Visionmakers recognize that conventional vision, and what is available to the trained eye, are often worlds apart. As Rabbi Solomon Ibn Gabirol, the 11th Century Spanish poet, philosopher and moralist, suggests, "The question of a wise man is half the answer."


Visionmakers see their that own assumptions are often the barrier to vision. They ask "the questions of a wise man" in service to a higher prize than being right: Insight.


 Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved

Posted on October 7, 2009 and filed under Insight.

The Seven Portals of Insight

"There is a way between voice and presence Where information flows.

In disciplined silence it opens.

With wandering talk it closes.



The next series of posts will explore Insight. Insight is the capacity to gather the fruits of reflection and apply its guidance to vision.


The organ of vision, as we have said, is the heart. By aligning the eyes with the heart, the Visionmaker breaks the constraints of conditioning and learns to see the ancient instructions encoded there for a singular path of heart and meaning.


Few people ever see clearly enough to move past their assumptions, opinions, inherited beliefs and cultural conditioning. The status quo controls vision and locks us into patterns of perception.


The vision of the heart has the strength to break the bonds of conventional seeing and cut through superficiality, complexity, even darkness. It has the power to see the truth.


There are seven major portals of insight that enable the Visionmaker to see the invisible, or access the flow of information "between voice and presence." These are:


  • body wisdom
  • unfoldment
  • assumptions
  • intuition
  • atmosphere
  • synchronicity
  • signs
A portal is an entrance, gate or means of access. Over the next few weeks, we will be entering each to explore the respective distinctions that assist in the expansion of seeing and the development of discernment.
© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved
Posted on September 20, 2009 and filed under Insight.