Connect, Create, Collaborate

“The Sad Hulk,” by Flickr user Thomas Hawk

I recently attended a week-end workshop on Calm Clarity conducted by Due Quach (pronounced Zway Kwok), a Vietnamese boat refugee who grew up in a drug infested and gang ridden inner city and then went on to: graduate with honors at Harvard, complete a Masters Degree at Wharton, work for one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the country, scour Asia for the most enlightened spiritual sources, and create the Calm Clarity organization which teaches mindful living, learning, and leading to corporations and inner city kids. Yes, I know that’s a mouthful of accomplishments in one long sentence, but Due is a mountain of experience in one short life — all in the service of helping people connect, create, and collaborate in more powerful ways.

When you see chaos and confusion everywhere you look, it’s refreshing to discover an approach that teaches Calm Clarity. Politicians could certainly benefit from Calm Clarity given the reckless rhetoric we hear — totally divorced from reality. Students could certainly benefit from Calm Clarity given the frantic pursuit of the most prestigious schools under the relentless pressure of parents, teachers, and their own expectations. Business leaders could certainly benefit from Calm Clarity given the constantly changing economic conditions, competitive threats, and technological disruptions that they encounter on a daily basis. I’m not sure who wouldn’t benefit from Calm Clarity. I clearly came out of the week-end retreat feeling more centered and at peace.

In the spirit of transparency, let me make a full disclosure. I have known Due for three years and serve on her advisory board. In fact, I have the distinct honor of being the first person to be asked to be a board member. She and I have had many long discussions on curriculum issues, marketing challenges, Board structure, general philosophy, and spiritual possibilities. We met at an Energy’s Way workshop and found that we had many shared interests and beliefs.

So what’s the secret sauce you ask? Well, for starters, the course consists of 10 modules based on the latest scientific research in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics. Each module is designed to teach specific skills and to help you connect to yourself, others, and higher energies; each lesson explores possible applications of those skills for creating new neural and lifestyle pathways; and each experience with Due is a collaborative thrill that gives living testimony to spiritual and scientific integrity.

What struck me in the workshop is the simple, but eloquent, framework for making a profound shift in your life. For me the framework looks like this:

Notice Tune-In Shift
 Brain 1.0 Inner Godzilla Why is THIS happening How can I shift to a higher state
 Brain 2.0 Teen Wolf Why is THIS happening How can I shift to a higher state
 Brain 3.0 Inner Sage Why is THIS happening How can I stay in this state

Let me explain.

Brain 1.0 can be represented comically as our inner Godzilla. In this state we are in fight or flight mode. We are in a state of high stress and fear because we are over-vigilant to perceiving danger and threats all around us. Our survival instincts come into play and we are desperately trying to avoid pain and loss. It is a state of hopelessness, frustration, and anger. When people are in this state, it is because they feel they’ve been so screwed they don’t care about causing pain and suffering to others. Riots and random shootings are examples of Brain 1.0 unleashed. Our primary drive when we are in this state is to protect ourselves and survive even if it involves hurting other people. In Buddhist terms, Brain 1.0 is a state of suffering — the first Noble Truth.

Brain 2.0 can be represented as our Teen Wolf. In this state, we experience ourselves on a never-ending treadmill in pursuit of achievement or pleasure. Achievements take the form of money, status, credentials, grades, power, etc. Pleasure comes from the pursuit of the perfect meal, vacation, sexual experience, etc. Our primary drive is to get whatever we can out of life. It’s a narcissistically compulsive and hyper competitive state in which we feel entitled to win and be on top no matter who we have to climb over. Machiavellian schemers who think the ends justify the means are in Brain 2.0. In Buddhist terms, Brain 2.0 is state of desire — the second Noble Truth.

Brain 3.0 can best be represented as our Inner Sage. In this state, we tend to be more connected to ourselves and to others. We are more creative and collaborative. Innovative ideas flow effortlessly. There is passion for a purpose higher than ourselves. Our primary drive is to serve the greater good even if it involves making personal sacrifices. It is a state of Calm Clarity. In Buddhist terms, Brain 3.0 is a state of non-attachment — the third Noble Truth.

As I have written in previous posts, I believe one big goal in life is to move up whatever scales make sense to you and are aligned with your values. I use scales with all my clients to help them understand where they are, where they want to be, and what their sense is of how to get there. What I have learned in my collaboration with Due is that in order to experience Calm Clarity, you need to move from Brain 1.0 or Brain 2.0 to Brain 3.0.

Moving up the scales and into Brain 3.0 means that you have to:
 1. Notice where you are re: body, mind, and spirit, i.e. WHAT is your current level of functioning, what are you doing, what are you experiencing? Are you in brain 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0? What are you feeling, what do your actions reveal about what’s important to you, what approach are you taking to reach your goals?
 2. Tune-in to what’s going on for you and what’s getting in the way of progress, i.e. WHY are you stuck, numb, frozen, stiff, closed etc.? Why are you feeling so threatened, competitive or compulsive? Why are you running away or fighting? Why are you so addicted to a given pleasure? Why does nothing ever seem to be enough?
 3. Shift into Brain 3.0 so that your focus and energy is at a higher level i.e. HOW to open up to and choose a different path. How do you achieve a state of Calm Clarity? What’s keeping you from being more connected, creative, or collaborative?

In my experience, in order to move up any set of scales, you need to define what success looks like to you; notice what you are thinking, feeling, and doing, tune-in to the reasons for your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and shift your focus to a new way of Being. Only by elevating your level of consciousness and being can you experience higher levels of connection, creativity, and collaboration.

The problem is that you can’t connect, create, or collaborate at the highest levels without Calm Clarity. The deepest connections, the most unique creations, and the most productive collaborations take place in Brain 3.0. Even with the greatest intentions, attempts of individuals and organizations to improve connectedness, creativity, and collaboration usually get de-railed when Brains 1.0 and 2.0 raise their neural, cultural and spiritual heads.

So, why did I write this post? I’ve been trying my whole life (71 years to date) to be connected, creative, and collaborative. Unfortunately, my competitive and compulsive traits have kept me from being as successful as I would have liked to be. As much as I would like to deny it, my inner Godzilla and Teen Wolf keep hijacking my best efforts. And, lord knows, I have made effort. Sadly, I admit that the pursuit of achievement and pleasure on the treadmill of life has made it more difficult for me to reach a state of Calm Clarity and sustain that experience for an extended period of time. Even after 20 years of meditation and qigong, I still struggle. What I learned in the Calm Clarity workshop were some constructs that may ease the path forward with more flow and grace.

Hey, you may want to give it a try.