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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beyond Either/Or

As I often do before beginning a post, I took a look at entries in my blog droppings notebook for an idea of what to write about. I noticed several of the nascent ideas I'd jotted down posed either/or notions to explore. For example, after a recent conversation I'd written the following: "When reacting to conflict, which do people default to? Going with the flow or pushing back?"

Though posing that particular either/or could be fruitful (as could others I'd captured), it also occurred to me I'd succumbed to a little binary trap. So I went back through my notebook and tried changing any either/or I found there so that each had at least one additional alternative. Don't laugh - an hour zoomed by; it was much harder than I imagined it would be. And though I was not wholly successful and didn't finish the exercise, it raised some good questions for me, and hopefully for you.

How often do we trap ourselves in either/or land when trying to problem solve or understand our world? How often do we trap, or try to trap, others in an either/or land we create? Given how many inescapable either/ors bombard us (odd/even, man/woman, left/right, etc.), how do we stay mindful enough to escape unhelpful either/or thinking and recognize there is often a third (or more) way? 


  1. Pat, For me it's often trying to go by a third way which is often the "middle way". I attempt (not always successfully) to combine the options into a third way which takes elements of the left/right options into a synthesis of both. The world never presents itself in black and white to me ,therefore I try to adjust my options accordingly.


  2. Peter; I try (and like you, I'm not always unsuccesful) to sometimes find a "middle" way too. But isn't there even more than that? Aren't there more than three ways? I'm not talking about just the left/right way politics issue either. Thanks for your always perceptive comments.

  3. Pat,Actually, I wasn't thinking at all of politics.I hope I'm not getting too metaphysical here, but I was thinking of the "middle way"in a Zen like sense.It is a way that is in accord with the environment(location,time,circumstances,etc)when one is mindful. Since the environment is always changing, so are one's options.For me the options of the "middle way" are always in a state of flux,constantly presenting new alternatives as my situation changes moment to moment.The practice of developing mindfulness is at least for me, the key to finding those limitless options.