In the summer of 2010, I went on a three week trip to the Kalihari desert in Botswana. I was part of a small group of NLP modellers visiting a community of the San People, commonly known here as the Kalihari Bushmen. We were able to spend some time with the San on a reservation they were able to visit for short periods of traditional living, sadly they were not able to live off the land continually because of government restrictions.
My purpose for being there was to learn about both the San, and myself, using the methodology of modelling subjective experience and distilling it down into the most significant distinctions to enable myself and others to make use of what I was noticing purposefully.
In two articles I am sharing the two models I developed, today I am looking at Graceful Action. I developed this model by observing and exploring with the San in three contexts – jewellery making, tracking, and community music making.
This is a model with four equally important components, they are all needed for Graceful Action to arise. This model can be used for Graceful Action within yourself, with someone else, or in a community or universal sense.
The first component is being in harmony. This requires listening, sensing, and attuning to yourself or others, to be able to come alongside and to blend with, resulting in harmony.
The second component is having strength. This requires knowing yourself and your own mind, being aware of your needs and preferences, and being able to support yourself. Its about having a strong core from which to relate to your experience and to others.
The third component is rhythm. This is about being able to sense the rhythm of what is happening, and keeping pace, as well as being able to weave in different rhythms and lead. It about being able to stay in step and work within the tempo, both internally and with others. Its about knowing when to slow down and when to speed up, and how to maintain a constancy of rhythm to maintain momentum.
The fourth component is flexibility. This is about being able to bend without breaking, to go with things, to be spontaneous and yet continuous, to morph with ease between different positions and postures. Flexibility can be quite beautiful to observe, there is a dignity to it.
In the San community, I found that when I distilled down what I was noticing into its essential elements, it was a blend and balance of harmony, strength, rhythm and flexibility which led to the graceful action I observed. All are needed, the proportions will depend on the situation.
One example is the way the community made music. Sat around the fire at the end of the day, a community member would begin a song. If others felt moved to join in, they did. From this different rhythms, harmonies and melodies would interweave, with a spontaneity and liveliness that was breath-taking. However, sometimes, someone started a song that did not resonate. Then, people did not join in. The song would die away. It was not a big deal, someone else would try another song. It was an organic, communal process that worked intuitively, with no discussion or over-thinking. It called for a tuning in to others and to the moment, and from there Graceful Action arose.
This was mirrored in my experience of watching tracking (such as it was with several westeners clumping along observing!). The San could merge into the environment, have a stillness, a strength to hold their position or to move as needed. Their movement had a rhythm and a harmony to it, and yet they could change tempo and direction in a flash, with great flexibility.
In daily life we do different things, in different contexts. To do them gracefully, we can employ the same characteristics, we can find a harmony, a rhythm, a strength and a flexibility that can lead to being graceful, however strong the adversity and challenge we face. The current turmoil of today's politics calls us to do this, moment to moment, to preserve our own well-being, and to find gracious ways forward.