Our leadership training focuses on ontological leadership, or leadership as a way of being – rather than as a set of practices, skills or acquired knowledge.
The world we currently live in is designed to produce followers, and mindless consumers. Sheep.
If you would choose to be a shepherd and a leader rather than a sheep, you first need to understand how the trends of history have caused us to move further away from ourselves and from each other…
The Rise Of Agriculture
Early hunter-gatherers were supremely in tuned with their own bodies and the ecosystem, seasonal cycles, etc. in which they found themselves.
Agriculture led to the separation between the human and the world and our present disembodiment.
Modern Industrialism And Post Modern Corporatism
All of our ways of knowing are seen as “unproductive”.
We want to be able to recover our primary body.
To experience the totality of ourselves without judgment…
To rediscover ourselves with in the network of relations with others…
To see nature as subject rather than object…
To heal ourselves, repair our broken relationships and restore a healthy relationship to our world…
Our goal is to embody an idea. To make ourselves greater than ourselves by aligning with that idea, and to dedicate our existence to that idea.
This leadership training can also be broken down into a simple four elements mode.
As we’re talking about the frameworks of this type of embodied or ontological leadership, or leadership as a way of being – we have four basic frameworks that we’re working from.
When we’re looking at embodiment, a good example of this is the story that most people would be familiar with is the idea of Jesus at the Sea Of Galilea where he met Peter and his initial disciples.
He told them “If you come with me, I will make you fishers of men.” Now this is a kind of wild statement. Something that would be crazy for a normal person to say.
“If you follow me and give up your lives, your jobs, your careers and give up everything that you’ve been doing – I will make you fishers of men.”
So we want to think about why they would actually follow him.
My guess is that if we take this outside the context of religion or dogmatic spiritual beliefs, the only reason someone would follow a person who made such a profound, crazy statement when they were strangers would be because of everything he was at the moment he asked.
It would have to have been because of his presence and everything that he embodied and his way of being at the moment he asked them to follow him and become fishers of men.
So that’s what we want to work on. Embodying or being the type of person that will inspire, influence and create the kind of gravitas to pull not everyone, but the RIGHT kind of people towards you to accomplish your mission.
When speaking about ethics, we’re really talking about deep ecology.
This is really just the study of consequences, and we’ll go into further details about this later.
For now – ethics and deep ecology, the study of consequences and cause and effect are extremely important components of leadership.
There’s a word from ancient Pali language – “Tathagata”. The direct translation from Pali to English is “Pathfinder”. This is one of the titles or descriptives given to the historical Buddha.
The Tathagata or the Pathfinder because he was able to lay down or establish the path of practice which billions of people at this point in history have followed.
The train tracks have to be laid and obstacles removed and cars need the way to be paved before they can move forward.
So, we want to develop this idea of becoming a Pathfinder. Not necessarily in an overtly spiritual or overly dogmatic religious sense, but by being a person who can lay the tracks for people to follow and remove the obstacles on the way of those tracks.
Finally, we’ve got execution.
Leadership boils down to results. You’re not really exhibiting effective leadership if you’re not producing good results and one idea that you should keep in mind is that the meaning of your communication is the response that you get.
Now, that may sound unusual but what it really means is that you have your subjective idea of what you mean when you speak or do something, but – that’s not what it really means.
What your communication REALLY means is the result which you get from it.
For example, if I say “I want you to do this” or “I’m happy that you did this” or “I’m disappointed in that” and someone takes it a completely different way – THAT’s what it means.
That’s what your communication means, so you need to be mindful about the way you communicate with others so that the result that you’re getting from your communication is congruent with your intention in communicating.
So, those are the four general, chunked up bird’s eye view frameworks that we’re working from.
We’re going to drill down into other ideas and tenets of leadership in this section.
Briefly, our main model is going to be:
- Internal leadership
- Winning hearts and minds
- Leading people
- Integrated, inter-connected leadership
Internal leadership is an internal process that has a long term focus.
Really we’re focusing on I/we mastery which is characterized by mastery of elements of your own area of expertise.
Whatever you’re good at or whatever you specialize in, you need to be able to MASTER that area.
This involves implementing skills and increasing your capacity to take creative action.
You also need to develop this internal way of being with superior skills in:
- Developing partnerships
- Setting agendas
- Influencing others
Which is related to winning hearts and minds.
This is an external, short-term focused process which involves the application of competencies and skills in new ways or for the first time.
Really what we’re talking about is innovation.
It includes presentation of plans to others and ground floor efforts for the people you’re offering services to.
This requires excellence around:
Integrated, Inter-connected leadership
Finally we want to focus on integrated, inter-connected leadership.
This is an external process with a long-term focus that brings the focus to ongoing implications of collective and group action.
It’s where learning, practice and mastery come together to create an external process and is quadrant where growth and effectiveness is most noticeable.
Really, this is the air quadrant. This quadrant or element brings transformation.
As a catalyst for dynamic change…
As a ripple effect creating concentric circles…
As a bridge across people’s differences…
With this area, you need to focus on developing excellence around group and process issues. I highly recommend to really get a better idea of this level that you go back and review my video on the evolution of consciousness at earthwaterfireair.com
What we’re talking about here is being in that air quadrant of consciousness.
So, those are the main modules or the main nodes of our framework that we’re using.
We’re trying to develop internal leadership or leadership of yourself, leadership of others and integrated, inter-connected leadership, long-view leadership.
The Buddha On Leadership
Now, as you’ve probably figured out, I’m coming from a South Asian perspective with a lot of my training.
That doesn’t mean it’s the only way to train in the four elements of physical, social, mental and post-personal power. It’s just what I’ve had the most access to because I’ve been living in Asia and South Asia for many years.
So, we’re going to look at what the Buddha a said through the lens of the four elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” – The Buddha
This is opening sentence of the Dhammapada or the sayings of the Buddha.
You’ll hear many things like this in New Thought, manifestation, Secret type of stuff, but I think this is an important quote to think about. It was so important that it was included as the first sentence of the Dhammapada.
The reason this is important is because people follow those who have a purpose that they can identify with.
In his case, the Buddha had a very strong purpose, which was to end suffering – not just for himself but for everybody.
You may know the story that he was raised in his father’s kingdom and was sheltered and never allowed to see death, or suffering and one day he ventured out of the city gates and saw old people, sick people and having never been exposed to death or suffering before in his life he was utterly shocked and set about to find a way to end suffering for all beings.
He gave up EVERYTHING in order to awaken and understand the complex reality of existence.
This vision was the core of his life’s work and created a following that’s still strong today. Which has included billions of people over the last 2,500 years.
He wasn’t selfish in his vision. He took people where he was going and felt genuine interest in their happiness and his vision included everyone.
If we’re examining this through the Earth element – what we really want is a “rock-solid” purpose.
We want that purpose to be not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others around us and to the greatest extent possible, for the benefit of everyone.
“If a man should conquer in battle a thousand and a thousand more, and another should conquer himself, his victory would be the greater victory, because the greatest of victories is the victory over oneself.” – The Buddha
Again, you want to think about this in terms of having a rock-solid purpose that transcends your own existence.
For me, it’s first my wife and daughter.
Then, beyond that and in service of that it’s teaching and training the Four Elements – in order to raise up a new generation of powerful, inspirational, strategic and awakened people.
To counter the rising tides…
To push myself and others against the stream…
And to leave this world a bit better than I found it, in the interest of my child and her future children…
Towards this aim, I’ve dedicated my entire life and existence to the study of fighting, leadership, strategy and meditation.
I’ve travelled around the world and spent every cent I’ve had in the last 20 years on this mission.
This mission has BECOME my existence…
I try to continually upgrade my skills and sharpen my sword, and produce transformational literature like the book you’re reading, beginner to master level training courses at EarthWaterFireAir.com and will soon offer permanent, full-time residential training for those who are truly committed to changing themselves and the world around them.
You want to have a purpose that’s greater than yourself.
That’s greater than your own little personal tragedies or desires and when you come up with a purpose like that and when you’re really, REALLY congruent with that purpose and when you’re really focused on that purpose and you’ve mastered your own skillsets – you create this kind of gravitas or attraction with like-minded people that just naturally pulls the right individuals into your circumference to help you achieve your goals.
If we look at the Buddha’s teaching through the water quadrant, he said:
“If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” – The Buddha
So the water quadrant or element is really about the ability to be in relation or to relate with others.
This is important because no leader can create a movement without first being a role model.
The historical Buddha was a role model in every word, thought and deed. He left everything he knew and dedicated himself to the teachings of the 8 fold path to end suffering.
Ask yourself – Who would you rather follow?
Someone like him or someone who lives in luxury and hypocrisy?
This is the kind of person we want to become.
We want to share our triumphs and failure, our happiness and sadness with people and with as many people as possible.
This quote above shows that you should practice sharing benefits with the people around you.
If you look at my strategy training and check out Jiang Ziya’s Tai Gong Six Secret Teachings, this is a very, very, VERY important component of the Tai Gong Six Secret teachings. This idea of sharing benefits with others.
We can look at it from another angle of creating or engineering a situation wherein people are not dependent on you, but where there is a direct correlation from the benefits they’re able to receive or get and their association with you.
Looking at this Dhamma through the Fire quadrant the historical Buddha said:
“A jug fills drop by drop.”
A real leader understands that anything you do has to be done consistently with hard work. It’s not going to be useful or successful for you to just no-chalantly half-step or half-commit yourself to things.
You have to commit to the long term…
You have to commit to the long game…
You have to be willing to put in the work necessary to achieve your goals…
Hard work takes patience, which many people lack when it comes to a vision worth following.
They don’t make it clear to themselves and others that it’s going to be challenging.
So you want to be very clear in your own mind that if you’ve got this BIG purpose, this highest and best goal for yourself, it’s not going to be an easy road. It’s not going to be something that you’re going to do overnight and it’s not going to be something that just generally happens quickly or easily.
An interesting parallel to his is James Stockdale, who ran as Ross Perot’s vice presidential running mate years ago.
He had been captured by the Viet Cong and was the senior military leader in captivity and was badly tortured.
He had his arms wrenched from their sockets. His back broken. He permanently disfigured himself and cut his scalp with a razor because he realized that the enemy was going to parade him around as a show trophy.
When they put a cap on him he beat himself in the face with a stool until he was unrecognizable.
A really, really hard guy.
One of the things he talked about is that you can never give up faith that you’re going to be successful in the end but this idea that things are going to be quick or easy is something that you can’t allow yourself to accept, either.
It’s an interesting paradox between these two conflicting beliefs on the timeline.
You have to be committed to the idea that over the long term you’re going to achieve your goals but you have to reject the idea that you’re going to get anything quickly or easily.
“Only a man himself can be master of himself. Who else outside could be his master? When master and servant are one, then there is true help and self-possession.” – The Buddha
The historical Buddha said:
“Change is never painful. Only the resistance to change is painful.”
Leaders are responsible for creating systemic change.
Part of that is learning to see the strengths of those around you and recognizing that it’s part of your job as we talked about before to clear those obstacles on the path
Once you’ve begun laying the path you want to clear out all of the obstacles that are in the way or as many of them as possible and create a situation where people aren’t falling to their weaknesses but you’re playing upon their strengths.
We’ll finish up this overview of leadership by talking about the four foundations of leadership.
The Four Foundations Of Leadership
These four are:
- Being at cause
- Serving a purpose bigger than yourself
Integrity corresponds to the Earth element. Being grounded in your core identity.
When we’re talking about integrity it’s important to mention that being an integral person is a never-ending process.
Integrity allows you to be a whole and complete person and it’s realized by honoring your words to yourself first, and to others.
What a person without integrity is a really dissonant. In Psychology there’s this idea of psychological dissonance where you’ve got two competing beliefs about yourself…
For example – you believe about yourself that you’re not a thief, but you’re stealing something. This creates this kind of psychological tension or psychological dissonance that unravels you over time.
You want to have integrity and be integrated with your words, thoughts and actions. To yourself first – this is the most important, and to others around you.
Authenticity is about the way you relate to other people and the way you relate to yourself as well.
You have to be authentic.
Being and acting consistent with who you believe you are and who you present yourself as to others.
Being authentic allows you to be grounded and direct with yourself and others without using force.
The only way to really be authentic is to be honest about the ways you’re not authentic. To be open and honest about your own faults, weaknesses and shortcomings.
The person who can publicly talk about their shortcomings is who you really “are”.
Working on this is also a never-ending process.
Being At Cause
This represents the fire element or the fire quadrant.
We know that the fire element is causal energy. The Earth element is physical energy, the water element is energy in relation. The fire element is causal energy and the air element is non-dual energy.
Being at cause of your life is a stand that you take for you and for your life.
You want to be at cause of everything in your life and take that as a position for you and your life and act from that position in every moment.
What that really means is that you accept responsibility for everything that happens to you and everything that you do and everything that you create.
Whether it’s positive or negative. Whether it’s good or bad.
You accept that you are cause of everything in your life. Even if it’s not your fault. Even if you didn’t fail. Even if you aren’t’ to blame or didn’t do it.
At some point you set in motion a chain of events that led to that situation.
This is not meant to be some kind of “ultimate truth”. What it is is just a way of thinking or a position of thinking from which you stand to view and deal with life.
When you decide to be at cause it means that you give up the right to assign cause to any circumstance, to others, or anything else – which leaves you helpless at their effect.
When you’re at cause and moving away from being at the effect of the environment, people around you, situations, and problems – you really forfeit your right to blame anybody or anything else.
Serving A Purpose Bigger Than Yourself
Serving a higher purpose corresponds to non-duality.
This is THE source of power in leading effectively.
Being used for a purpose that’s greater than yourself creates the kind of power that replaces force.
Being used for something bigger than yourself is the source of serene passion or charisma necessary to lead and develop others as leaders and it’s the source of persistence when the going gets tough.
All leaders have to be heroes. Heroes are just normal people who are serving a bigger purpose than themselves.
What we really mean is being committed in a way that shapes your very being and your action so that they’re always in the service of something bigger than yourself.
Something beyond a direct personal payoff.
As you act upon this, your actions create something which other people can also be committed to and have the sense that THEIR lives are about something bigger than themselves.
This is the core of leadership.
All of us have to make a personal choice to be a hero or not and to go beyond the way we find ourselves being.
Not everyone will choose this path and that’s ok.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. ‘I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” – Man And Superman By George Bernard Shaw
Leadership is a context that uses you towards some greater purpose.
It’s not about employing “technique” or strategies of leadership like other people will teach.
It’s just being and doing as natural self-expression when you’re aligned with that greater purpose.
The Purpose Of The Leader
So, what’s the real purpose of an ontological leader or a person who takes leadership as a way of being and has this BIG idea or BIG mission or BIG goal that they’re committed to?
Defining The Purpose Of The Group
Without a meaningful and clear purpose, it’s impossible to develop a high level of morale and motivation in any group.
People need to know the purpose of what they’re doing.
Without leaders, who would believe in the purpose, communicate it, follow it and make sure the members work in accordance with it?
Motivation and productivity die off or are never given birth to without the leader.
Leaders define the values and principles that leaders and members will stick to when making decisions.
The values that they define must be clear and easy to understand.
They must appeal to people in the group.
They must help make people’s decision making easier and more responsible. They must be cross-culturally meaningful.
The leaders should also have a clear view of the group’s citizenship.
This is how the group will act as a responsible member or society in the same away an individual citizen would.
Group citizenship is really the application of Buddhist right view and Right company to groups instead of individuals.
The Leader’s Character
The leader’s main purpose is to:
- Clarify the purpose of the group
- To define the values of the group
- To build faith inside of the group
- To make right decisions for the advancement of the group of the group’s ultimate goals.
So, leadership is not some overly complex thing. It’s not something that you need to read a million books about. It’s not something that you need to take millions of classes of workshops on.
This is what you do as a leader. You create a big goal. You clarify the purpose of the group. You define the values of the group. You build buy in inside of the group and you try to make right decisions about big picture issues.
A leader with character and integrity makes the best type.
This is different from “technical skill”.
Again, we’re focused on leadership as a way of being, so we’re not focused on technical skills.
We’re focused on character and integrity and the ability to motivate people.
Buddhism offers a list of 7 character traits of an ideal person that you should strive for if you want to lead with character:
Understanding principles and causes – Leaders should be able to identify the causes of problems and the principles that should be applied to solving them.
Understanding objectives and results – Leaders should know the meaning and objectives of the principles they live and work by. They should understand the work they’re setting out to do. They should understand the reasons behind their actions. They should have an idea about what will happen in the future as a result of their actions and whether these results will be good or bad.
So this will bring us back to the idea of complex inter-dependency, deep ecology, and systems thinking.
Leaders also need to understand themselves. They should know their strengths, aptitudes, abilities and virtues and be able to correct and improve themselves. They should also be aware of their personal weaknesses and the weaknesses of the group
A great leader should understand moderation. They should practice moderation in speech, work and action. They shouldn’t undertake useless action just to satisfy their egos or for self-serving purposes. They should only commit to actions which benefit the organization for which they are responsible.
A good leader understand the seasons and the efficient use of time. They know the proper time for actions – what should be done and how, and then they perform these actions efficiently.
A great leader understands the groups – Groups have rules and regulations and culture and traditions. The individuals in the group have needs that should be dealt with and served well. Good leaders know that not only their own character but the character of their group and they understand their responsibility for understand tier responsibility for nurturing those characters.
A great leader understands people – they should be able to know the differences between individuals and should know how to relate to people well, what can be learned from them and how they should be criticized, praised and rained.
We’ve said earlier that internal leadership – this leadership of yourself is really the Earth element or quadrant of leadership.
We want to explore that in more detail.
The main emphasis for internal leadership is on correct action.
That includes right view and recognizing that a thing is only useful if it leads to right actin.
“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability or by the thought – ‘this contemplative is our teacher’. When you know for yourself that ‘These qualities are unskillful. These qualities are blameworthy. These qualities are criticized by the wise. These qualities, when adopted and carried out lead to harm and to suffering’ – then you should abandon them. . .” – The Buddha
It takes the right view to lead to right action
When you know that a view or action leads to harm and suffering you need to eliminate that view and not do that action.
“When you know for yourself that ‘these qualities are skillful. These qualities are blameless. These qualities are praised by the wise. These qualities when adopted and carried out lead to welfare and to happiness’ – then you should enter and remain in them.” – The Buddha
Right view has two main parts:
- The decision making process
- The 3 marks of existence
“As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of views arises in him: The view that I have a self arises in him as true and established, or the view that I have no self. . . Or the view it is precisely by means of self that I perceive self… Or the view that it is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self. .. Or the view that it is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises in him as true and established, or else he has a view like this: This self of mine – the knower that is sensitive here and there to the ripening of good and bad actions – is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change and will endure as long as eternity. This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of vies, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair. He is not freed, I tell you from suffering and stress.
The well instructed disciple of the noble ones… discerns what ideas are fit for attention and what aides are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention and attends instead to ideas fit for attention he attends appropriately: This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts and practices” – The Buddha
The other thing that we want to talk about is correct action.
A good leader is one who has the right views and who makes the right decisions and takes the right actions.
Effective leadership is based on having the right intentions and motivations.
It should be beneficial to you and everyone affected by it.
So again we’re back to this idea of deep ecology.
The leader should consider the wellbeing of self and others.
The Basis Of Systems Thinking
The first thing to mention is change and interdependence (pratityasamutpada).
There’s dependent origination.
Everything depends on something else for its origination or inception…
Everything is tangled in this net of complex interdependency…
This is, because that is. Or A exist because B exists and A’s existence is contingent upon B’s existence and vice versa…
This is not because that is not…
This ceases to be, because that ceases to be…
Everything is in this process or state of complex interdependency and the origins of everything are dependent upon other things as well.
The Theravada tradition records as a fundamental axiom the principle that a single cause doesn’t give rise to either a single result or several results. Nor do several causes give rise to just one result. But rather, several causes give rise to several results.
Anicca is the idea of impermanence.
All conditioned existence – without exception is temporary or in a constant state of flux.
Whatever is subject to origination is subject to cessation. Or whatever has a beginning also has an end.
All formations are impermanent.
Interaction processing, processing interaction is all that exists.
We can’t hold on to fixed goals and objectives thinking these will lead to a permanent positive state…
We must be fluid as a leader and dynamic and have presence of mind…
We must realize that every goal is a moving target…
How does cause and effect interact?
As a holistic, air-external view of the world.
If you don’t understand that air external view of the world, I recommend watching the evolution of consciousness training.
Systemic thinking requires a focused, unfettered mind or you become disturbed and inefficient and you cannot see reality.
We must understand that any decision we make creates change.
There will be uncountable reactions to that change. Some good, some bad.
Normal people can’t see all possible outcomes of a decision. This is why motivation and intention are so important.
Leaders who have the right intention and thoroughly think about the ramifications of their decisions will make fewer mistakes.
This is the quality of actions you and your group take as a result of decisions based on right view.
Before taking any action, you should consider their affects upon you and others.
Action initiated by groups can accomplish things an individual can’t, but it can also affect multiple individual members, individually.
We want to be present and aware and think about the ramifications of your decisions are and the consequences of your decisions and actions.
By just being aware of that and thinking about that, you’ll make fewer mistakes.
Clinging, Thirst, Desire
This is the root cause of unhappiness. Desire.
It’s the cause of negative thoughts and actions.
When you reduce your clinging and desire, your relationships with people and world around you and your own life will improve.
People prefer to deal with someone interested in them, rather than someone interested only in themselves.
Most people try to impose their ideas and convince the other person of their own excellence without showing any real interest in the other person.
You’ve probably experienced this, where you’re talking to someone and you realize that they’re not really listening to you – they’re just waiting for their turn to speak.
When making decisions there are some important questions you have to ask.
- Is the result of this decision beneficial for my group?
- Is the result of this decision beneficial for anyone else who will be affected?
- What is my motivation/intention?
- Am I motivated by selfishness or creating benefits for others?
All of this 4 step process, or these 4 questions will help you with internal leadership tremendously.
Great leaders recognize both their influence and others, and others influence on them and their organization.
The goal is to look at an issue from many perspectives:
- Short term
- Long term
- From the point of view of all stakeholders
And to use hat expanded view to make the right decisions
Now that we’ve talked about internal leadership, let’s shift our focus to executive leadership.
To be an effective leader of other people, you need to focus on the BIG, crazy goal.
You want no more than 1 BIG goal.
Every sub-goal that you have should ensure the success of the BIG goal.
The BIG goal also has to have a clear finish line. From x to y by WHEN?
We need to focus attention and action on the measurable steps.
The leverage points are:
- Different for every BIG goal
- Something that leads to the goal
- Something we can influence
- Something that we can make reasonable predictions about
Keep track publicly of the metrics on your measurable steps.
A simple leaderboard, Gantt chart, etc. will work fine.
This tracking should be visible to EVERYONE in your group or all supporters.
It shows both the steps and the objective measurements of the steps and tells us immediately if we are winning or losing on the BIG goal and the sub-goals.
As an executive, we also need to create accountability.
Regularly report on commitments form the last week/meeting, etc.
Regularly review the leaderboard.
Make new commitments for the coming week/meeting
Doing this consistently tells us immediately if we are winning or losing on the BIG idea and sub-ideas.
As we’ve said previously, ethics are an important part of natural leadership or leadership as a way of being and can be understood simply using a four elements model.
So, for example:
Earth corresponds to internal personal power…
Water corresponds to external group power…
Fire corresponds to internal group power…
Air corresponds to external personal power…
I use this model in general when teaching, and at the most obvious level, teach fighting, leadership, strategy and meditation.
But I also teach the model for debate, for drilling down into specific elements or quadrants (like 4 elements of boxing, 4 elements in meditation, 4 elements in strategy, etc.).
The reason I use the model is because I think it’s useful, and it’s scalable.
You can chunk up to the highest levels of abstraction or drill down to the minutest details, and the model can still be applied, and can still be used to quickly and easily understand both minute and abstract ideas, phenomena, processes, etc.
Applying the 4 Quadrants/4 Elements Model To Ethics And Morality
We can also use this model when talking about what’s right/not right, ok or not ok to do, and in order to help us clarify our own objectives and more rationally make our decisions.
Morality in general, and ethics more specifically – are a mess.
So much so that the ideas I layed out in the first chapter are worth repeating again.
They don’t translate cross culturally, and they never function well as universal constants.
Let’s look at the model again:
As we mentioned – we can break these 4 quadrants (of life, of processes, of phenomena) down into:
- Internal personal
- Internal group
- External personal
- External group
When we’re evaluating a decision that we have to make, or any kind of action that we may have to take, we can quickly run the math against this model.
First, we have to think about:
- Whether the decision or action will result in positive or negative outcomes in the internal-personal quadrant (for example, will it cause you to have a better, or worse self-image, or feel good, better, bad or worse about ourselves)
- Will the decision or action create gain or loss for us in the external-group quadrant? For example – will this positively or negatively affect the group(s) we’re a part of, such as our family, social group, business community, etc.
- Will the decision or action create gain or loss for us in the internal-group quadrant – For example – creating a strategic imbalance which is out of our favor?
- Will the decision or action create benefit or disadvantage for us in the external-personal quadrant? Will it positively or negatively affect the way we are in relation to the world around us?
We then have to consider the two following qualifications:
- Decisions or actions which create gain/loss in the internal quadrants can be called useful or not useful.
- Decisions or actions which create gain/loss in the external quadrants can be called noble or ignoble.
Therefore, when qualifying your decisions or actions, you can run them against a simple prioritized evaluation, going from the greatest good to the worst bad:
- Useful and noble
- Useless and noble
- Useful and ignoble
- Useless and ignoble
Using this type of model can allow us to quickly and easily process our decision making.
Again – A model of reality is not reality…
The purpose of using a model like this is to allow you some flexibility in thought and to not be bound up by dogmatic ideas which are neither useful nor noble – depending on the situation in which you might find yourself.
The model is also not an absolute, and doesn’t need to be absolutely adhered to.
But – in situations where you have competing subjective or cultural values and you’ve reached an impasse in making decisions – a 4 elements decision making model can be useful in individuals and the group gaining clarity, and building consensus towards a desired or necessary result, rather than staying gridlocked in analysis paralysis brought on by subjective ethics and cultural morality.
Buddha’s 4 Watches Of the Night
It’s important to first clarify this, because many people have misconceptions about the Buddha.
A Buddha is not someone who reaches some kind of spooky, disembodied state
He is fully embodied and remembers all of his past existence.
He feels and lives through them as if he were living through them again.
To become the Buddha, Siddhatta had to experience everything he had ever been through – the unconscious, composed of unremembered, unlived, unintegrated experience has to be made conscious and then exhausted.
While he was sitting under the Bodhi tree before he became the Buddha or became self-awakened, Siddhattta went through these different stages or watches of the night, so we’ll talk about those a bit.
It’s also important to mention that you can take these ideas in different ways.
It might be useful to take it as something that’s objectively true.
It might be useful for you to take it as something that’s allegorical or symbolic of something else that happened – of another process or symbols and story of a specific type of process that he went through.
It depends on your own orientation and where you’re at yourself, how you want to look at this
The First Watch
In the Buddhacarita, the Buddha reflected on his first watch.
“There was I so and so. That was my name. Deceased from there I came here.” – the Buddha
In this way he remembers thousands of births, as though living them over and over again.
It’s important to mention that this can be looked at a few different ways.
You can be looking at literal previous lives, but that’s even a little bit difficult to explain correctly because what the historical Buddha taught wasn’t something like Hindu transmigration of the soul.
What he said is that consciousness is formed from the 5 aggregates of corporeality and he specifically said that every moment you are born and every moment you die again.
So, you can think of this in more than one way.
As previous existences where the volition of those previous characters carried on into new forms, or you can think about this in terms of your own life as the arising and passing away of your own consciousness from moment to moment and remembering all of those thousands of births and deaths and rebirths again and again throughout just the course of this day.
The Buddha’s path to enlightenment involved bringing his buried memories of his current and former existence into complete awareness as if he were living them again.
He experienced things that had already occurred but he experienced them as if they were happening for the first time.
Because his previous experience was incomplete it left a residue in the form of kamma, he now had to return to his past with an openness to the totality of what he had been through.
This had two profound effects:
- This destroyed any idea of a continuous, inherent self.
- The totality of his trajectory was so big, so chaotic, so self-contradicting and so endless that to try and find any single and coherent’ “person” was pointless.
The more he remembered the more he lost any feeling of his difference or separation from other suffering beings.
He had been through everything that every human who as ever lived has gone through.
To a great extent, so probably have you.
We’re floating on a cosmic sea of always changing experiences with no hope of ever finding sure footing on any dry land of self.
This realization created the unbounded love, empathy and compassion that he held for others.
The Second Watch
In the second watch, Siddhatta looked into his own consciousness and saw the world appear to him like it was reflected in a spotless mirror.
He saw how beings endure the constant flux of arising and passing away according to their kamma and that there is no escape and no peace.
Nowhere, from the top to the bottom of existence is there any resting place, security or any escape from impermanence, suffering and death.
The Third Watch
During the third watch his remembering deepened again.
He recalled thing he already knew in his mind but had been unable to acknowledge.
He saw that –
“Living beings wear themselves out in vain. Over and over again they are born, the age, die, pass on to a new life and re-arise. What’s more, greed and dark delusion obscure their sight and they are blind from birth. Greatly apprehensive they don’t know how to get out of this great mass of ill.”
Like all of us, Siddhatta already knew this on some deep, unacknowledged level but now, during this third watch it rises to the surface.
The Fourth Watch
During the fourth watch Siddhatta realized the ancient, inborn knowledge of kamma (cause and effect) and non-self that he had been suppressing.
He saw how everything that happens in accordance with beings actions – including all physical and mental phenomena
Including the ideas of a permanent personality or “self” we carry around and take for granted as being real.
This led him to realize from the summit of the world downward he could detected no self anywhere.
He realized that clinging to existence because of a supposed self that needs to be protected is groundless, fruitless and not based in any reality.
Previous Samattha and Atman Based Training
Siddhatta’s spiritual training before becoming the Buddha involved disembodiment and a move away from experience as a human being.
His two main teachers, Arada Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra taught practices to ascend embodiment and enter into ethereal trances.
In his later journey with 5 renunciates, Siddhatta tried to disembody by annihilating his body through extreme ascetic practices.
Finally he realized he was going the wrong way.
That “transcendence” is really always the ego’s game.
The same old game of forgetting, ignoring and repressing.
At this stage he begins to become fully embodied to fully come to accept the ramifications of his own existence.
Return To The Body
“But the awakened and knowing say: ‘body am I entirely, and nothing else’ and soul is only a word for something about the body.
Behind your thoughts and feeling my brother, there stands a might ruler. An unknown sage – whose name is self.
In your body he dwells. He is your body.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The Buddha Eats
If you’re familiar with the story, the Buddha had been sitting and practicing these extreme self-mortification methods – trying to destroy the body in hopes of liberating some kind of permanent sprit or soul which he later realized didn’t exist.
Later, a cow tending girl came by and saw him and took pity upon him and gave him milk which he drank.
This was almost a betrayal of his former practices.
When he took that milk and ate and sustained his body, this showed that caring for the body was essential to spiritual development.
During the time just previous to his awakening, as he was sitting under the Bodhi tree the demon Mara came in the story to tempt him and tempted him in many different ways.
Finally, he asked him who would bear witness that he was worthy of awakening. That he was worthy of Buddhahood.
You can see this sometimes in Buddha statues or images.
What he did is touch the ground with one hand and said to the demon “The Earth is my witness.”.
We also use the Earth element as an allegory for physical power or gross power or the body in general.
He renounced practices that involved renunciation of the body and discovered the way back to full embodiment.
He began to develop Vipassana which is the meditation method he developed which is grounded in sensation, senses, experiences feelings and emotions, etc. With methods for letting go of the objectification or the nominalization of thought.
Having begun to clearly see the body, and mental and physical states as they arise and pass away, you can begin directing those states and their energy…
Energy At Cause And Effect
Let’s get into the meat of our leadership practice and begin talking about energy at cause and effect and being at cause in every situation in which you find yourself and the differences between being at cause and being at effect
The body you have will be the type of leader you are.
The way you shape yourself will cause people to move towards you, away from you, against you or to not care about you.
However, the body can be shaped to created leadership presence.
To be a great leader you have to develop practices that will move you out of your head and into your body.
“My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive. Alive to the depth of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.” – D.H. Lawrence
The result of good body coordination is the ability to move your mission forward.
The practice of body centered leadership involves:
If we think about this in terms of our four elements model, we know that grounding is earth, engaging is water or being in relation, we know that extending is fire moving forward or being at cause and blending is air or non-duality.
When you’re at cause, your energy – whether physical, social, mental or post-personal energy is expansive and moving outward.
When your energy is at effect, you’re imploded and sinking inward.
In order to begin controlling and directing our energies, we need a useful model of psycho-physical energy that we can begin working with…
The Four Fold Body
Moving toward our practice module, we want you to consider the idea of a fourfold body.
The different elements of that body are going to be the physical body, interpersonal body, the causal body and the non-dual body.
As we’re going through this material in the practice we’re going to be having you train with the Kasina meditation protocols and some physical practices to help you integrate this material into your psycho-physical complex more rapidly and to personalize this and be able to access these different states and be able to put yourself at cause in these different aspects of the body as you need to and as necessity arises.
We’ll train with the Kasina meditation protocols.
The Physical Body
The physical body deals with posture. We want to let go of all tension because tension drains energy.
We want to think of this with the analogy of the wire.
If you imagine a copper wire, if you can see in your mind’s eye a copper wire and imagine you’re holding that at shoulder width –
You’ve got one end held in one hand and the other end being held by the other hand.
If you’re thinking about increasing the energy that moves along this copper wire, there are basically 2 ways that you can do this.
The first is that you can increase the source of external input. You can attach a bigger battery. Attach more juice to the wire.
The problem with this is that it’s finite and it isn’t scalable.
There’s a limit to how big of a battery you can attach.
However, the other way that you can increase the flow of electricity along this wire is to decrease the resistance along the wire.
That’s what we really want to focus on, because leadership requires energy.
So we want to decrease the resistance in your body to the flow of the flow the four elements or gross, subtle, causal and non-dual energy.
The Interpersonal Body
Eventually, there’s a type of boundary dissolution between our body and “other”.
The more we become aware of our own bodies, the more we uncover a world of connections with other people.
The posture for training the interpersonal body is one of equipoise…
It’s rooted in the ground and balanced.
The Causal Body
The posture is that all movements must be conscious and you must be able to stand still with no ticks, scratches or twitches.
The Non-Dual Body
The posture is just to be present.
Not in the future and not in the past.
To a great extent we’ll combine all four of these in our training, but we’ll separate them out into specific exercises for each element.
We’ll do specific categories of exercises for each element as well, by focusing on 4 specific energy “centers”.
The Four Great Energy Machines
Before we begin training, we should talk about the four great energy machines.
It’s very important that I be clear that this is just a framework.
It’s not a physical reality. I’m not saying that there are these things really existing in your body.
The question we want you to ask yourself is “is it a useful framework?”
If so, then you should use it. If you decide it’s not useful, you should abandon it.
In the graphic you can see the framework of these four energy centers in and around the body.
Just around the navel we’ve got the Earth energy machine.
This is going to turn clockwise to absorb earth energy and counter-clockwise to use or expel Earth energy.
In the chest, around the heart region we’ve got the Water energy machine. Again, it turns clockwise to absorb Water energy and counter-clockwise to use or expel Water energy.
In the center of the forehead, just between the eyebrows we’ve got the Fire energy machine. Similarly, it turns clockwise to collect Fire energy a counter-clockwise to expel Fire energy.
Finally, just behind us and surrounding us like a bubble, so, we’ve got the Air energy machine. This is something you want to envision as surrounding or engulfing our body like a bubble. As it spins clockwise it collects Air energy, and as it spins counter-clockwise it expels or give you access to use that Air energy.
Note: The training of posture, sound, visualization and energy that goes into this component of my training is really too complex to put into text. If you’re interested in learning more about this, you can check out my Kasina Meditation System.