Both Mindful & Aware of Both/And. So No “Buts” nor Either/ors

1 Comment December 16, 2011 / Posted in Mindfulness


One of Mary Lore’s practices in her book Managing Thought is to remove the “But” from one’s conversations and replace it with “and.” Begin to listen to yourself and others. Catch yourself and begin to replace your “but” with “and.” It opens the conversation to possibilities as opposed to cutting them off. The gift of a good improv artist is that they leave an ending line as something that a member of their ensemble can build upon. With “and” the possibilities are endless. With “but” the limits become all confining.

A dear friend and Kaizen sensi, Toni Davies, shares from time to time the writings of Tom Lane, a close associate for many years in continuous improvement. Here are some wonderful reflections from Tom’s blog over this holiday and Christmas season:


Where do you fall on a spectrum of “both/and” thinking on one side, and “either/or” thinking on the other side. Any initial reactions to that? I find myself almost always on the “both/and” side of that question. And I find that conversations with “either/or” people are not very productive or enjoyable. It seems to be some kind of fundamental difference in how we humans deal with the world.
In the “both/and” world, there is this constant realization that two or more different actions/beliefs/possibilities can exist at the same time. It is totally possible that we are both encoded by nature to certain things and socialized to many other things. It is possible that both evolution and some spiritual intervention both happened in our development. That we humans can be both heartless about some things and very compassionate about other things. The both/and world allows for the enormous complexity of what life seems to be about. It is the world of gray. It is the world of no easy answers. It is the world of “maybe”.
On the other hand, the world of “either/or’, seems to be a world of black and white. (I must confess that I am speculating since I have not lived in this world) It is the world of being with me or against me. It is the world of nice and neat contrasts. I think that the reason I have not spent much time here is that, I have too often seen both sides of the situation. Either/or thinking only sees one side. My side is right and your side is wrong. It is the thinking of people who need lots of control in their living. To allow even the possibility of two seemingly contradicting ideas to hold a position of validity, seems absurd to “either/or” thinkers. It just does not compute.
There is only debate with the “either/or” thinkers and no chance for dialogue. To dialogue is to recognize the complexity and nuance of life and that nothing stands on its own as the ‘TRUTH”. But to the either/or folks, their truth is the only truth and no other can stand with it. To even allow another possibility to stand the same ground, is to put into question the absolute quality and validity of their view of the world. The either/or world is a world of needing lots of control. It seems to live by a ‘might makes right’ mentality.
And, if you are on the both/and world, you can see this process and understand how it has some validity in the world. There are some things that seem absolute (like we die) and there is value in some of that. And you also see how so many things are simply in the grey area. For people who want to know for certain, grey is not a good place. It is hard to find their clarity of “rightness”. Most of life, in my view, is in the grey. But, I can also see how some can define the world totally differently and see it as only black and white. And I can also see how they can not see that. Tlane 12/15/11

The picture above was painted by Joe Flynn, a dear friend, I met at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine founded back in the mid-90’s by Rauni Prittinen-King and cardiologist Dr Mimi Guaraneri, the 2011 Bravewell Leadership Award recipient. Joe came to group support since the late 90’s when Kaye, his wife, was a patient. Joe is a living example of “both/and.”

Joe is home from hospice and has been under the care of his caregiver, Lupe, and Joe’s team of caregivers. Joe is both alive and he is dying. I’ve had the pleasure before Thanksgiving and last Thursday to sit with him in the late afternoon and early evening and talk about life and all things of appreciation and gratitude. At Thanksgiving his 3 sons and their families gathered to celebrate with Joe. When I called the next day, some of the grandchildren were saying good bye and on their way home in other cities. Joe is both living and dying.

Joe would put it: ” We’re all dying. So I’m either alive or dead. As long as I am here, breathing; I am alive!

Joe is both a philosopher and an artist. You become a philosopher when dealing as a negotiator which he did for Kaiser in Oakland for over 30 years. You become a philosopher when you and your best friend with your dates leave the bar at the Coconut Grove on November 28th, 1942 because you’re not being served.You become a philosopher when your bomber is shot down over Romania. You become a philosopher when your best friend is also shot down and doesn’t get home. You become a philosopher when the citizens of the country help you and several hundred other Prisoners of War travel a few hundred miles to escape into Turkey.

You become an artist because it allows you to express yourself. You become an artist because it is something you do for yourself and your philosopher doesn’t care what other people think. Your creativity allows you share your art because each year for over 30 years you create a Christmas painting that becomes the front of your Christmas card “Exclusively for Family and Friends.”

The philosopher allows family into your art studio and has them choose any of your paintings to take with them. The studio is emptied. The philosopher aware than being almost blind doesn’t allow the artist to be so the studio closes. The philosopher knows the artist spirit is alive and hears of a teacher who helps the blind and near blind paint.

What you see above is Joe’s painting as he told me, every stroke by his hand. His teacher mixed the colors according to his directions. She then over many months verbally directed where he needed to paint. Her voice directed Joe’s hand with the pressure and length of the stroke needed.

Matt Crisci has a collection of Joe’s cards. The idea was to tell Joe’s story with each card as a chapter. Matt also had same idea for Mary Clark whose Christmas poems spanned more than 50 years. It looks like both Joe’s and Mary’s books will not be written. The anniversary of Mary’s death will be this coming Monday, December 19th. The San Diego Natural History Museum has a beautiful memorial to Mary, both written, in picture and mainly with the video of her reading one of her poems.

Matt, however, was able to share the life of one of our group in his book: Papa Cado. You can read two chapters.

So I am both honored and blessed to have people like Joe, Mary, Papa Cado, Matt, Tom, Toni and Mary in my life. They remind me both to be mindful and grateful for the gift of life.

It is with the heart one sees rightly

It is with the heart one sees rightly

1 Comment... What do you think? Subscribe via RSS
  1. ozzie gontang said on December 30th, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Joe died on the day he commemorated for over 40 years: Christmas Day: 2011.

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