Knowledge Management in Academia LO20356
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 14:35:17 -0600

Replying to LO20340:

>David E. Birren writes in LO20326:

>>...snip... I've found that when the ego gets out of the
>>way the rest of the mind can do amazing things with its storehouse of
>>information. If this is of interest, I can share my own process for
>>letting go of conscious control and opening up to intuitive knowing.

Winfried Deijmann replied:

>Dave, and fellow LO'ers;
>Together with an IT-consultant I am working on an article about how to
>integrate intuition and feelings in Knowledge Management. So I am really
>interested in the kind of process you describe.
>Please share your insights with us. [snip]

Thanks for the invitation. I hope it isn't too long.

This describes a model I use to understand the process of integrating the
conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. It's based on the Greek myth
of Charon, the person who takes people across the river Styx to the
Underworld. I hope the metaphor makes sense.

The process requires a strong respect for ignorance and the value of
not-doing (a Taoist concept), which are subjects I've written about in my
earlier time on the LO list. The basic idea is that knowledge is always
limited - there is always more to the situation than the ego-based
conscious mind can see, and the more one can get the ego out of the way
the better one can understand what's happening and what needs to be done
(or not done).

When I go to bed at night I collect up my "stuff" - the full range of the
day's experience - and hand it off to the riverman (the archetypal
equivalent to Charon). I don't generally identify specific experiences,
although if something in particular is on my mind it helps to consciously
hand it over. The riverman then loads it on his raft and takes it across
the river (my internal Styx) to the sub/unconscious Underworld. There the
pieces get sorted out and put together with whatever other elements of
experience they go with. There they stay, blending in with whatever it is
the mind does (this process is inherently invisible and I have no need to
bring it into the open), and some time later I get insights, like water
that bubbles up through vents in the earth, or plants that grow
spontaneously. If I "know" what to do with them, I bring them into
conscious play; if not, I note them and leave them for another time when
they make more sense. I call that "soak time" and have found it very
useful in preventing me from doing stupid things or making bad decisions.

I also do this during the day when I find myself tempted to act on fresh
information. I make the handoff, give the boat a push to help it along,
and wait on the riverbank for feedback. Sometimes nothing comes back, but
the act of letting go and acknowledging that my perceptions are limited
generally helps me avoid making serious mistakes. Of course, I often
forget to do it, and sometimes the consequences encourage me to remember
in the future.

That's the general model. There are certain skills that help this along,
and they arise from cultivating mindfulness.

To be mindful is to see reality, know it for what it is, and behave
accordingly. The more mindful one is, the more deeply one sees into
what's happening in the present moment, and the more likely it is that
one's behavior will be appropriate to the situation. This involves
getting the ego out of the way. I've learned that not only do insight and
intuition depend on mindfulness, but the ability to be mindful also
depends on how well-rooted one's insights (intuition) are. Which is to
say, if I'm actively thinking, the ego - with its many forms of delusion -
is in control and my ability to see things clearly is limited; but if I'm
open to intuition based on mindful awareness, I'm more likely to see the
situation for what it really is and respond appropriately.

As the ego's dominance decreases, the self comes into balance and there is
more space for the unconscious to do what it does best - intuit, or see
clearly. A relationship develops between the two that uses the dynamic I
outlined above and results in both sides of the mind doing their jobs
cooperatively, rather than in competition. Two attitudes are particularly
helpful: equanimity (acceptance of the situation) and non-attachment
(letting go of judgments, opinions, outcomes, etc.). They are conscious
tools for counteracting the tendency to impose my will on the situation
and thereby enable me to see it more clearly.

The conscious ("left-brain") mind can't hold very much at any one time,
but is very quick, powerful and persuasive; it uses linear processes to
organize, clarify and put things into categories. In contrast, the
unconscious ("right brain") mind knows everything, but is slow, shy and
can't tell time; it uses subtle organic processes to form new
relationships among its existing "inventory" along with the input it gets
from the conscious mind. This process creates new knowledge, which is fed
back and forth between the two areas of the mind in a continuing cycle of

If the conscious mind is working for the ego, it probably isn't paying
much attention to the unconscious, with the result that much knowledge is
unavailable for use, and much more knowledge never develops. With mindful
awareness, the conscious mind can respond adaptively to changing
circumstances and continually adjust the size and dominance of the ego.
This allows it to work for the "team" (the whole person) and use both
linear and non-linear ways of knowing.

The prerequisite for all this seems to be to let go of conscious control
and ego-based attachments and aversions. Unless this happens, the
conscious mind continues to dominate the scene, and the unconscious, which
doesn't have the "muscle" of the ego behind it, just sits in the
background and makes paper dolls.

This isn't the whole picture, and it isn't well organized. In fact,
trying to describe it is a good example of the difficulty of integrating
left- and right-brain functions. I hope it makes some sense. I'm so
close to it that I probably can't see where it doesn't, and I welcome any
feedback, especially questions that reveal incompleteness or
inconsistency, and suggestions for better paradigms and metaphors.

Winfried's question was about integrating intuition and feelings. I
suggest that feelings play several key roles in perception: as inputs, as
intermediate processes, and as indicators that something important is
happening. Because they are so changeable and tend not to take much
information into account, I don't include them with intuition as a
reliable way of knowing. But because they reveal so much, they are
valuable objects of awareness, experiences that offer much learning


*	David E. Birren
	Organizational Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Beauty is a heart that generates love and a mind that is open. - Thich Nhat Hanh

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