“This is the real miracle, that all shapes, all colors, all images of every part of the universe are concentrated in a single point.” — Leonardo Da Vinci
Have you ever noticed how children’s minds jump from one thought to the next without their being a noticeable connection, but come up with a story that the sneeze they just experienced must have caused the rain to start as it happened around the same time? It’s as if you are watching their brain synapses forming as they make connection with their observations, imagination and their experiences.
As adults, we too make connections according to our observations and experiences, but we usually leave out our imagination. Our stressful lives and our fear based thoughts lead us to look at life in a more concrete way, often without much creativity or notion that their may be other connections or possibilities that are not obvious or right in front of us.
Think about it.
• Is your day usually mired with thoughts of what you need to get done, what bills need to get paid, or what child you need to worry about?
• Do you take time to step back from your busy work day or life and simply observe patterns, connections or networks at work or at home?
• How often do you look up at the clouds and look for patterns?
• Are you the sort of person that often makes connections that other people don’t see or are able to make meaning from life’s circumstances?
• Do you have a belief that you are profoundly connected to something much greater and larger?
If you are like most, you may have times when you can see larger connections and patterns, or you feel that profound sense of belonging to something larger, but it is usually when you are on vacation, in a dream-like state, or in a state of worship, not when you are stressed and busy. The problem is that it is exactly when you are busy or need to get a problem solved that it is in your best interest to access your whole brain, be able to see a bigger picture and become a systems thinker.
As Michael Gelb writes in his book, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, Leonardo was the original systems thinker. Leonardo knew that in order to understand anything, you had to look at is as part of a larger system and look for the connections that exist everywhere. He studied how sound and aroma travel through air and the parallels in flowing water. He observed how bones and muscles form and their relationship to movement in humans and animals. He looked at contrast. In his quest to understand beauty, he sketched grotesque people so that he could also understand ugly. He connected what he saw and experienced with his own values and beliefs. He combined and connected disparate patterns to make new patterns.
Leonardo was indeed a genius and you can be too, according to Gelb, by learning CONNESSIONE (interconnectedness) — “A recognition and appreciation for the connectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.”
Here are some tips to get to Connessione:
1. Start with power breaths to move into the Connessione meditation: Turning off the stress response enables better access to whole brain, systems thinking and your ability to connect to the feeling that you belong to something larger.
Set a timer for 20 minutes (make sure the alarm or bell is gentle).
• Breathe in and count 1-2-3.
• Breathe out and count 1-2-3-4-5.
• As you breathe out, allow all thoughts and tension to be released (you can imagine they are flowing out into the wind, down a river or into the earth).
• Bring your awareness to the flow of your breathing.
• Notice the feeling of the air against your nostrils as you inhale and the flow of air leaving your nostrils or your mouth as you exhale.
• Be aware that your breath is your life force.
• You cannot hold onto the breath even if you try.
• In and out.
• Keep your focus on observing the flow of your breathing. If your mind wanders, gently redirect your focus back to the flow of your breathing.
• Do this for the full 20 minutes if you can.
If you do not have time, that is okay, do as much as you can. Just taking the pause to do so, will enable you to connect to yourself, to your life force, to nature and life itself. Try to take time to take at least 7 full breath cycles observing the flow of your breathing intermittently throughout your day.
2. Contemplate wholeness:
Once you have calmed your mind and relaxed your body, you can try contemplating what wholeness means to you. You can:
• Experiment with expressing your concept of wholeness in a drawing or doodle.
• List three situations in which you feel connected to something greater than yourself and your personal worries and concerns.
• List three situations in which you feel disconnected from something greater than yourself.
3. Make dragons:
Gelb writes that one way of developing your Da Vincian powers is by looking for connections everywhere. He asks, for example, for readers to think about the connection between a bullfrog and the internet. He says the frog’s feet are webbed and the internet links you to the world wide web. Get it?
So think about the following and see if you can come up with three or four connections for each and have some fun!
• An ice cream cone and the human eye.
• Mathematics and humor.
• A Mozart concerto and a bottle of wine.
• Ballet and rain.
• Autumn and curly hair.
4. Create a time line:
Gelb says that making a personal time line is a wonderful way to see the big picture of your own life. You may want to get a big sheet of paper and draw the following time lines for your life, including all the events that you deem significant:
• Physical time line: Significant events effecting you physically like illness, childbearing, or growth.
• Mental time line: Key moments of great learning, understanding, or insight.
• Emotional time line: Milestones of love, joy, sorrow or fear.
• Spiritual time line: Experiences of communion, grace, or oneness.
• Global time line: Key events like the fall of the twin towers, or the fall of the Berlin wall.
Once done, close your eyes and imagine your life as a river that stems from the snow crystals of a tall mountain and heading towards your destination, the ocean. Look for levees, dams, rapids, waterfalls or whirlpools. Notice how pure the water is or deep. Is it cold or warm? Does the temperature change in different places? Does any flow underground? How much life is blooming around and where?
Observe the course of your life and use your power of choice to direct the course and quality of the river of your life in the here and now. Take five minutes to write about it.