Other Stories

The Mirror and the Lake

A few nights ago, I had a dream about a mirror. Very strange vivid dream in which I was looking for a mirror. And then the next day, as so often seems to happen these days, something related to my dream took place – I met a friend who was carrying six small mirrors. They were beautifully made in a hexagonal form. I told him about my dream and he immediately gave me one of the mirrors. He had just had them made, and he figured that one of them was meant to be for me.
Mirrors are amazing things. They remind people what they look like, and in this case the mirror also reminded me of a story – an old Irish story about a monk called Kevin who set up a monastery called Glendalough in the remote hills of Wicklow. Kevin, or Saint Kevin, as he is known today was a very pious man who believed that the first step in loving God was to love yourself. He didn’t mean for people to be arrogant in any way. He simply meant that you should respect and love yourself, accept yourself as a wonderful creation of God’s love. Once you are able to love yourself, then you can choose to show your love for others through devotion, and finally you can begin to truly love God.
The monastery of Glendalough is in a beautiful setting, surrounded by woods inhabited by the native red squirrels and the bluebells that dance among the trees. Kevin originally went there as a hermit to live alone and to worship God, but slowly stories of his piety attracted many monks and the monastery grew and grew until it became the structure that lies in ruins today, with the round tower acting as a beacon for more pilgrims and travellers in the Wicklow hills.
One of these monks who caused problems was a man called Tomas. Tomas believed himself to be a pious man, but often when night came, he would creep out of the monastery and head for the local tavern where he would drink during the night and engage in rather un-monklike activities.
It wasn’t that Tomas really planned to go out and do these crazy things. It was just that sometimes he forgot himself and slipped out, thinking that it was just this one time and that no harm could possibly come of it. And so he would go out and do things that aren’t really suitable for a person who loves himself or herself.
When the man returned to the monastery, bloated and tired, he would always have to sleep down by the lake because Kevin always locked the monastery at night to ensure that everything was safe and the integrity of the monastery would not be threatened in any way. And when the man awoke by the lake in the bright light of morning, he would realize that he had done it again and be disgusted at what he had done, feel very guilty and head back to the monastery. Sometimes, he even thought of just quitting the monastery because he thought that he couldn’t live up to the goals, but eventually he would always go back – knowing that he might fail again.
Now, Kevin knew all about Tomas’ antics, even though he pretended that he knew nothing at all. Because whatever we do, people always know about them somehow. And there are no real secrets in a monastery. Each part of the monastery eventually is influenced by every other part.
So one morning, Kevin went down to the lake and saw Tomas sleeping there, tossing and turning with guilt in his dreams in the midst of all that fabulous scenery. For Glendalough is a truly beautiful place where even today people take long walks in the mountains and woods and walk from the higher lake to the monastery at the lower lake. Kevin hid himself carefully in a tree where Tomas would be able to hear his voice but wouldn’t be able to see him, and he called out to Tomas who was still sleeping. Kevin spoke in a beautiful soft voice like an angel.
“Tomas, why are you here?”
Tomas heard the strange voice of the angel calling and startled up, thinking he was having a strange dream.
“I must return to the monastery,” he said to himself aloud. “Oh my God, I have done it again. I hate myelf for what I have done.”
But then the angel’s voice came again, “But Tomas, if you return to the monastery without learning to love yourself, you will do this same thing again and again.”
Tomas looked around again to try to see who was calling and realized without a doubt that he was in the presence of an angel.
“So what should I do? Should I leave this monastery?,” he cried, truly upset because he really did want to achieve his goal of being close to God.
The angel said, “If you really want to be close to God, you know that you must do as Kevin has said and learn to love yourself.”
“So what should I do?,” asked Tomas. “I really do want to achieve what I set out to do.”
Then the angel said, “Go to the lake and look at the place where you see yourself in the water.”
For the lower lake of Glendalough is truly a beautiful place, one of those mysterious waters where you the surface of the lake is almost like a mirror in the still cold mornings of the Wicklow hills.
The angel continued, “Go to the lake and gaze upon your own face in the reflection of the mirror of the lake. See and know yourself. Look at yourself and say ‘I accept and love this person.’ And each morning at this hour, return to the lake and once again gaze upon your reflection in the mirror of the lake and learn to love yourself so that you can love others and learn to love God.”
And the monk, Tomas, did just as the angel had said, and he gazed upon his own image in the lake and new understandings came to him. He began to understand and respect the person that he truly was in new ways. And each day as he returned to look upon his face in the mirror of the lake, he began to change his way, to develop a true love and respect for himself, and the more he truly respected and loved himself, the more he was able to devote himself to his true purpose and respond to his true calling.
And as the years went by, Tomas became the abbot of the monastery of Glendalough and was known far and wide for his resourceful wisdom and lore, but above all for his love. And when he was asked for advice by the novice monks, he always replied, look upon yourself every morning in the mirror of the lake and learn to love the face that you see. For when you look upon your face, you can see the greatness of God himself.
And when I told this story to the friend who gave me the gift of the hexagonal mirror, he laughed and said “perhaps you will remember this story when you see this mirror and remember that you have many more sides than the six sides of the hexagon.”

Other Stories

The Two Mirrors

by Lydia Irby 2010
Once upon a time, there were three bears, Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear. They lived in a lovely house in a clearing in the woods. Papa Beau was President of Honey Bear, Inc. and often out of town on business. Mama Brigitte had a very successful home based business. Baby Baji, was a beautiful young lady with a kind heart and a zest for life that was contagious.
One day, when Papa Bear was away on business, Baji asked Mama Bear if she could visit her friend Rachel Rabbit who lived deep in the forest.
“Why of course dear! Have fun and please tell Mrs. Rabbit that carrot cake was fabulous!”
“Thanks Mama!” she replied joyfully and gave her mom a big hug and a quick peck on the cheek. “Love you.”
“Love you too sweetie.”
Baji skipped down the path humming to herself and thinking of a new game she and Rachel might play in the leaves that afternoon. The fall day was delightful. The air was cool and crisp and the autumn leaves swirled in the slight breeze and slowly covered the ground in a blanket of orange, ruby, russet, and gold.
The path to Rachel’s house ran by the creek. Baji glanced into the water and greeted what she thought was another bear. “Hi friend!” Baji stopped to gather a few leaves to press in her memory book and a shiny object caught her eye. She walked closer, bent over and picked up a small gold, case covered with pink and purple rhinestones. “Ooohh!” Baji open the case and looked inside. She recoiled at the sight and almost dropped the little gold case. For inside, she saw a disfigured face with one eye, a nose, and a fringed ear. It was so grotesque she could not look any longer.
“My goodness,” Baji shuddered and thought, “Is this how I really look?” Baji had never really seen her image before. The river was too far away to think that the image was of the person looking into the water. “This is not good.”
So, instead of continuing on to the Rabbit residence, Baji slipped the gold case into her pocket and returned home.
She dragged her feet as she walked and avoided everyone on the way home, ducking behind trees, crossing to the other side of the path to shelter innocent eyes from what she deemed hideous. When she arrived home, she quietly slipped into her room and called “Mama I’m home.” Baji avoided Mama Bear for the rest of the evening.
The next morning, Mama Bear entered Baji Bear’s room to wake her for school. “Good morning Sweet Pea! Time to rise and shine.” Mama Bear bent over the bed to gently rouse Baji.
“Mama, I don’t feel well.” Mama Bear sat on the bed.
“Let me see if you have a temperature,” said Mama Bear as she reached toward Baji’s forehead.
Baji quickly pulled the covers over her head. “Oh Mama! Can’t you just leave me be today?”
“Well there is something going around. And it is Friday. An extra day of rest won’t hurt. Yes, Sweet Pea you may stay home today.”
Baji would not lower the blanket when Mama Bear leaned in for a kiss. Mama Bear gently caressed Baji’s head and left. Baji waited until she knew for certain that Mama Bear was gone before she moved. “How can they love me as ugly as I am? How can anyone care about a troll like me?” Baji began to question not only the basis of her parents’ love but all of her relationships and all the things she had ever been affirmed for. Her confidence plummeted as she wrestled with thoughts that maybe others pitied her and maybe she wasn’t as wonderful as everyone told her she was.
Baji moped in her room all day, half heartedly performing activities that normally thrilled her. Any time she heard Mama Bear’s feet in the hallway, Baji scurried and quickly hid underneath the covers.
“Mama would never understand,” Baji sighed, “She is so beautiful and talented. I don’t think she has ever felt the way I do right now.”
Mama Bear was concerned. She knew Baji wasn’t really sick, but if Baji was pressed to explain her malaise, their fragile relationship would go from terrific to terrible in no time flat. “Well, Beau will be home this evening. I’ll talk to him about this.”
In the meantime, Papa Bear was in the airport looking for gifts to bring home to his special ladies. He looked up and down every aisle in the Meadowlands Gift Shop and then the saw the perfect souvenirs—a beautiful amber and onyx ring for Brigitte and a small gold compact, covered with pink and purple rhinestones for Baji. “Perfect!” He had the clerk wrap them in petal pink paper and he ran to catch his flight.
When Beau arrived home, he was surprised by how quiet and dark the normally lively house was. Inside he saw Brigitte cooking a marvelous meal of roasted winter vegetables, and the delectable scent could be detected from 20 paces. He was glad to be back. “Girls, I’m home!” Papa Bear called.
Normally by now, Baji would have knocked him over with an enthusiastic greeting.
“Hi honey.” Brigitte greeted him sweetly. “I am so glad you are home safely.”
“Hello love,” he replied and greeted her with a kiss. “Have I missed much? And where is Baji?”
“Funny you should ask. She wasn’t herself today so I let her stay home from school. She has been moping around here all day and hiding from her shadow. That is not like her. Maybe she’ll tell you what is bothering her.”
“Sure, I’ll go check on her. But first I have a little something for you.” Papa Bear reached into his satchel and pulled out the smaller of the petal pink packages. He placed it both hands, bowed slightly and offered the gift to his wife. “For my queen.”
Brigitte opened it carefully, not wanting to rip the delicate paper. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, she opened the box. The amber and onyx ring sparkled brilliantly in the twilit kitchen. “It is beautiful. I had been admiring one like this in a magazine. Thank you darling!”
“Glad you like it dear. Now off to see Baji.” Papa Bear walked down the hallway towards Baji’s room, his familiar footsteps catching her by surprise. She had been listening at the door and was so busy trying to see Mama Bear’s ring that she forgot that her appearance might be upsetting to Papa Bear.
“Baji, my baby bear, I’ve missed you.”
Baji ran into her father’s arms, forgetting the hurtful images burned into her mind’s eye the previous day.
“Papa! Papa! You’re home!” She snuggled his warm neck and then remembered that she was hiding her face and pulled away abruptly.
“What is the matter Princess?”
“Oh nothing.”
“Hey, I have something for you”.
He pulled out the second petal pink package, held it in the palm of his hand, waiting for her to accept his gift. Baji, unlike her mother, opened the package quickly, ripping the paper and tossing it to the side. She opened the box, and when she saw the compact from her Papa, she froze.
“Go on, open it.” Papa Bear encouraged Baji to open the compact. It was like she was afraid to see the image she tried so hard to forget.
“Papa, am I pretty?”
“Baji, you are very pretty. Words cannot describe how beautiful you are inside and out.”
“Papa, do you love me?”
“Baji, of course I love you. I’ve loved you before I ever saw you and I love you more every day.”
“Papa, will you always love me?”
“Honey bear, I will love you until the end of time and nothing will ever change the way I feel about you.”
“Even if I wasn’t…pretty?” Baji asked haltingly.
“Yes Sweet Pea. Even if you had only one eye, a big nose, and a fringed ear.” Papa teased.
“Then it is true! I am ugly and you and Mama Bear have only been nice to me because you have to!” She pulled away and ran to the far corner of her room and wept. Mama Bear came quietly from the kitchen and listened as Papa Bear tried to console Baji.
“Baji baby. Come here and sit on my lap.” Baji slowly came and sat on Papa Bear’s lap and dried her tears. “Sshhh. It’s okay honey. Baji, honey, tell me– what makes you think you have one eye, a large nose and a fringed ear?”
“THIS.” She held out the case she found in the woods on the way to the Rabbit residence. Papa Bear opened it and Baji turned away. She did not see that Papa Bear too had one eye, a large nose, and a fringed ear for the mirror in the compact Baji found was broken.
Now Papa and Mama Bear understood the sudden change in Baji’s behavior.
“Baji, Sweet Pea, let me show you something.” Mama Bear sat on the bed next to Baji.
“I don’t want to look.” Baji tried to sound resolute in her decision but there was a hint that she might be convinced otherwise.
“Close your eyes and when I count to three, we will all look inside together.” Everyone closed their eyes and Mama Bear slowly opened the compact. Then she counted, “One — two– three!” and at that, three pairs of eyes opened slowly.
Baji gasped with glee. “How lovely! Baji saw her undistorted reflection in the mirror given to her by Papa Bear. “I really am pretty.”
“Yes Baji, you really are.”
And from that day forward, Baji saw herself as her father saw her, beautiful.
How is your self image preventing you from truly living?

Blog Other

Identifying and Transferring Extra-Curricular Skills to Language Learning

On October 29, I will be doing a presentation at Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan which examines some of our recent research into the potential of NLP for education, in particularly language learning. The title of the presentation is: Identifying and Transferring Extra-Curricular Skills to Language Learning, and as can be identified from the title it draws on NLP ideas of modelling. The theme of the conference is “Realizing Autonomy” for language learners, and strategy development and NLP modelling are clearly powerful resources for understanding areas and helping learners to reach their full potential. You can download the handout for the presentation which draws on many of our learnings from presenting the same research at a conference earlier in the year. The handout is quite extensive (7 pages) as there will probably not be enough time within the presentation to explain the data completely and it is nice to allow the participants to read it later.

Other Stories

The Banker

Virginia Satir was working with a family. The father was a banker who was professionally stuffy. He must have had a degree in it. He wasn’t a bad guy; he was very well-intentioned. He took good care of his family and he was concerned enough to go to therapy. But basically he was a stuffy guy.
The wife was an extreme placater in Virginia’s terminology. For those of you who are not familiar with that, a placater is a person who will agree with anything and apologize for everything. When you say “It’s a beautiful day!” the placater says “Yes, I’m sorry!”
The daughter was an interesting combination of the parents. She thought her father was the bad person and her mother was the groovy person, so she always sided with her mother. However, she acted like her father.
The father’s repeated complaint in the session was that the mother hadn’t done a very good job of raising the daughter, because the daughter was so stubborn.
At one time when he made this complaint, Virginia interrupted what was going on. She turned around and looked at the father and said “You’re a man who has gotten ahead in your life. Is this true?”
“Was all that you have, just given to you? Did your father own the bank and just say ‘Here, you’re president of the bank’?”
“No, no. I worked my way up.”
“So you have some tenacity, don’t you?”
“Well, there is a part of you that has allowed you to be able to get where you are, and to be a good banker. And sometimes you have to refuse people things that you would like to be able to give them, because you know if you did, something bad would happen later on.”
“Well, there’s a part of you that’s been stubborn enough to really protect yourself in very important ways.”
“Well, yes. But, you know, you can’t let this kind of thing get out of control.”
“Now I want you to turn and look at your daughter, and to realize beyond a doubt that you’ve taught her how to be stubborn and how to stand up for herself, and that that is something priceless. This gift that you’ve given to her is something that can’t be bought, and it’s something that may save her life. Imagine how valuable that will be when your daughter goes out on a date with a man who has bad intentions.”

Other Stories

The story of the little hummingbird!

The rainforest of Brazil is a beautifull forest. It is an important forest too, as it keeps the world in an ecological sound balance, providing a.o. the oxigen the humans and animals so desperately need.
One day there is a big fire in the forest and all the animals instinctively flee. And so does the hummingbird. At least…. That is how it looks like.
But if you were to fly over that area, you would see the little hummingbird flying from the fire to a little lake. Diving into the lake, taking a drop of water in his beak and flying back to the fire dropping this drop of water upon the fire.
And over and over again he flies back and forth with this little drop of water in his beak to drop it on the fire.
Another little animal, who from time to time stops to check and look around whether he is still going in the right direction, sees the hummingbird and wonders what it is doing.
At some point both the animals are taking a short rest, and they found themselves on the same spot.
So the little animal looks at the hummingbird saying: I see you flying back and forth. I don’t understand, you could have been out of here a long time ago. What are you doing?
The little hummingbird looking at the animal says simply: ‘I am doing my part’

Blog Reviews

Review: Christina Hall's Video Series: Discover the Difference

Discover the Difference Video Series
by Christina Hall
Christina Hall has been training NLP since 1977. She collaborated closely with Richard Bandler for many years and was also closely involved with the development of many important NLP innovations including Submodalities, The Swish Pattern, and The Compulsion Blowout Technique. She also reportedly wrote or co-wrote some of the early manuals for NLP training, the influence of which is still felt today in trainings around the world. She is also a licensed psychotherapist, a Certified Hypnotherapist, and holds a Doctorate in Psychology and Neuro-Semantic Linguistics.
Apart from these qualifications and her long association with NLP, what is most significant for this review is her reputation as ‘the language master’. Her knowledge and expertise with using language is the primary attraction of this video series.
The video series examines the Meta Model in more detail than I have ever seen elsewhere. The Meta Model still lies at the heart of NLP, allowing practitioners to help people move back from their maps of the world to real sensory experience. Our maps of the world get encoded in language and we label experience with such words as ‘depression’, ‘success’, and ‘problem’. All of these nominalizations take us further from the simple fact that life is a series of ongoing processes – things that happen in time, right now. The Meta Model allows us to recognize the distortions, generalizations, and deletions that we have made from original experience when we represent them in language and memories. By using the Meta Model to revisit the original experience or recode it in more useful terms, it is possible to change our perception of the experience, to update our map. Thus, the Meta Model is fundamental to all NLP processes – the link that allows us to move between map and territory, and this video series explores all of the linguistic patterns in amazing detail.
The contents of the video series is shown below. Keeping in mind that each video is 90 minutes or more in length, you can begin to understand the depth to which Christina is taking the participants in understanding and using the Meta Model.

  1. Language as a Perceptual Tool
  2. Neurological Shifts and Temporal Perspectives
  3. Presuppositions and the Structure of Time
  4. Thinking Skills and Logical Levels 1
  5. Thinking Skills and Logical Levels 2
  6. Open Q&A Session on Language Patterns
  7. Universals and State Elicitation
  8. The Meta-Model as a System of Relations
  9. Chunking – Creating a Multi-Dimensional Network of Perspectives 1
  10. Chunking – Creating a Multi-Dimensional Network of Perspectives 2
  11. Building Intensity
  12. Guiding a Process of generalization
  13. Lost Performatives and Sorting Markers 1
  14. Lost Performatives and Sorting Markers 2
  15. Structuring Implications
  16. Complex Equivalencies

I wish I had been at the workshops where these videos were made. It is clear that a huge amount of learning was achieved, but watching it on video does not achieve nearly as much. One of the great advantages of being a participant would have been the ability to ask questions, to interpret Christina’s talk in the context that it was presented, and to enjoy the flow of learning as it naturally emerged. That is, of course, one of the disadvantages in watching it on video because much of the context and the perspective of being a live participant is lost. Perhaps the best way to understand this is to think of the fourth NLP metaprogram: Perceiver vs Judger. Being in the workshop is like being a Perceiver – enjoying the flow as it emerges. Watching in on video makes me wish that it had be created with a Judger in mind because the emergent organization is often not clear on the video. I would love to see an edited book version of this series, or perhaps to listen to a properly recorded straightforward lecture series based on the same material. Christina Hall has an awful lot of useful stuff to say about the Meta Model and other linguistic tools used in NLP, but watching these videos is a poor substitute for being there in person. Apart from the lack of structure, the video quality is not high enough to show what is being written on the board, so it is difficult for the viewer to follow along with the examples. Christina Hall hasn’t published much in NLP. I see that there is a Japanese language version of a book based on her seminars in Japan. I’m going to pick up a copy of that in a while, and will eventually get around to writing a review. However, I read English a whole lot better than Japanese, so it may take a while.
Complaints aside, this is an amazing resource for people who want to understand the Meta Model at a deeper level. It is definitely not for beginners in NLP. Not just Christian Hall, but also the participants in workshop are obviously extremely familiar with the linguistic distinctions and tools of NLP. If you are willing to take the time to watch the entirety of this series, and perhaps to watch it again and again, there is a wealth of material here that can benefit your NLP work. For me, I think it will probably be quicker to read the book in Japanese, and hopefully Christina or her publisher will get around to producing an English version one of these days that gets her great knowledge out to a wider audience. And one of these years, I’m going to take a few days off and listen to the whole thing again. This is worthwhile material.
The DVD series can be purchased here.
Here is a good summary of the topics covered from Christina’s website.
Tape 1: Opening: Language As A Perceptual Tool
A lot has been written in NLP about teaching to the unconscious. This tape shows a master of this valued skill at work. I counted four sets of embedded loops (with three to four stories each), three embedded trances,  and nine spatial anchors, just to set up the seminar. And I’m sure I missed some. If you want to take your presentations to a new level,  this tape is a must.
Tape 2: Neuro-Logical Shifts and Temporal Perspectives
Chris explains some of the primary Submodality differences among various parts of speech and temporal (time) sorts.  This facilitates a change in the organization of a perceived “problem, ” setting a new orientation without necessarily having to do a formal NLP technique.  She also shows how changes in language,  even subtle ones,  can enrich the traditional NLP Outcome Frame.
Tape 3: Presuppositions & the Structure of Time
Chris focuses on phonological ambiguities and gives a number of specific examples of common questions that can be improved.  She also begins discussion on how certain words trigger Meta-Programs.
Tape 4 & 5: Thinking Skills and Logical Levels
Chris shows how prefixes and suffixes set the direction in someone’s thinking.  She also uses them to form double and triple nominalizations.
Tape 6: An Open Session With Questions & Answers: Language Patterns
Chris answers questions including such topics as Lost Performatives, Modal Operators, Tag Questions,  Meta-Programs, Polya patterns, implications and chunk size.
Tape 7: Universals and State Elicitation
If your idea of state elicitation is “Think of a time…  ” you will be amazed at the information on this tape.  Chris demonstrates how eliciting and pacing universal experiences are powerful tools of change.
Tape 8: The Meta-Model as a System of Relations
Most of us leaned the Meta-Model as a set of challenges to “violations”.   Chris takes the Meta Model to a whole new level of utilization in demonstrating its reflexive and nested structure as an underlying matrix of patterning. With a touch of genius, Chris has transformed and redefined the Meta-Model beyond a mere information-gathering tool into an understandable and vastly more useful organizing skill.
Tape 9 & 10: Chunking: Creating a Multi-Dimensional Network of Perspectives.
Every person categorizes their experience to make sense of and organize the events of their life. Chris demonstrates how guiding an individual to change the ways in which they perceive and internally organize an event can access freedom to think more resourcefully.
Tapes 11: Building Intensity
Chris shows how to find the strategy that an individual already uses to build intensity to set a different direction creating and developing resources using the person’s own strategy.
Tape 12: Guiding the Process of Generalization
Chris uses backtracking and the art of questioning thereby opening up choices where someone thought there were none.  She demonstrates how the Meta-Model questions you ask set a direction for any context.
Tape 13 & 14: Lost Performatives and Sorting Markers
Chris explores the interplay of Lost Performatives and Meta-Programs to track a person’s strategy.  She also talks about the impact that Modal Operators and temporal markers play in the creation of Generalizations.
Tape 15: Structuring Implications
Chris leads an in-depth exploration of the power of implication through presupposition… a nested structure of the 1st,  2nd and 3rd order which support the universals in all languages.
Tape 16: Complex Equivalencies
Generalizations that map across logical levels,  creating semantic confusion and resulting in unresourceful “behavior-to-identity” equivalents are a major source of what Korzybski refers to as “unsanity.”  Here you will find tools to identify,  unlock and render powerless those previously limited “realities”.

Blog Reviews

Review: The Definitive Book of Body Language

The Definitive Book of Body Language
by Allan and Barbara Pease (2004)
Now, this is a great book for anyone interested in body language, how we communicate non-verbally by the way we sit, move, and set up our surroundings. While it is written in a very readable, often humourous style, every single page is full of useful observations and generalizations about how to interpret body language.
The authors describe many of their own experiments. For example, by using namecards they rearranged the seating in training rooms and moved all the previously keen learners  from the front to the back and sides of the room. This had the effect of reducing their learning and interest in what the trainer said. Conversely, the people who were moved into the front and center had a big increase in both learning and motivation. Along with their own research, they have explored the major research by Paul Eckman and many other body language researchers, and the back of the book contains a rather impressive seven pages of tightly typed references. What the authors have achieved is to summarize this research into highly useful and readable chunks that are accessible to the everyday reader.
In every one of the 19 chapters, there were moments when I just had to stop and go “wow, so that’s what was happening in that situation – if only I had known.” Maybe that’s simply because I’m a man, and men are notoriously worse at noticing body language than women. The female brain is organized for multi-tracking, to identify different conversational tones easily, and to subconsiously read the body language of other women and men. The promise of this book is that men can learn to achieve this through consciously reading the signals, and that everyone can learn to do it much much better.
The authors cover a huge range of topics which are shown below, and even the shorter chapters are packed full of useful information. This is a long-term reference book as well as a good read.

  1. Understanding the Basics
  2. Hands
  3. Smiles and laughter
  4. Arm signals
  5. Cultural differences
  6. Hand and thumb gestures
  7. Evaluation and Deceit Signals
  8. Eye Signals
  9. Territories and Personal Space
  10. Legs
  11. Common Everyday Gestures
  12. Mirroring – how we build rapport
  13. Secret signals of cigarettes, glasses and makeup
  14. Body pointing
  15. Courtship displays and attraction signals
  16. Ownership, territory, and height signals
  17. Seating arrangements
  18. Interviews, power plays and office politics
  19. Putting it all together

For NLP work, it is useful to ask: Does it work? There is no doubt that much of body language is common and can be judged relatively accurately using the information in this book. This is supported by the research by Ekman, the authors, and others. However, what is important is to always calibrate – the person in front of you is the most important person to be dealing with, and it is quite possible that they will deviate in some systematic ways from the information in this book. The key word here is ‘systematic’ – you still need to calibrate the person who is sitting in front of you to understand what any particular gesture or cluster of gestures means for that person. The greatest value in books of this type is that they raise our awareness of the sensory distinctions that we can use to improve our own sensory acuity. This book is a very fine map of the world of body language and highly recommended for anyone involved in NLP, but it is also useful to keep in mind that the map is still not the territory.

Blog Reviews

Review: Dynamic Learning

Dynamic Learning
by Robert B. Dilts & Todd A. Epstein
Dynamic Learning CoverBecause I have been a teacher for almost 20 years, Dynamic Learning is an NLP book that I have been meaning to read for a long time. Such a great title! That’s exactly what every teacher wants to see in their own classroom – dynamic learning happening as the students are engaged and learning content and strategies that will enrich their lives. Like many NLP books, Dynamic Learning is the transcript of a seminar and while this does add a certain sense that the reader can experience the ‘feeling’ of the seminar, this is one book that I felt could have done with a lot of editing. In some sections, the demonstrations seem to go on far longer than useful and they were clearly more useful in the shared physical space than they appear on the written page.
The blurb on the back of the book says that “The authors describe a multitude of ways to make learning fun, easy, and effective.”  That’s a big goal and while the authors have provided some extremely useful advice in some areas, the book would have benefited from some more background information and statistical support as well as cutting down of the long demonstration transcripts.
Chapter 1 (The Fundamentals of Dynamic Learning) is essentially a short summary of NLP from the authors’ perspective including Dilts’ neurological levels model, a good introduction to strategies, and a kinesthetic approach to creating good learning states in the classroom through posture, gestures, and eye movements. For people already familiar with NLP, it seems brief, but undoubtedly it will be not enough for people who are not familiar with NLP, highlighting one of the difficulties of targeting an NLP-based book at a more generally area such as education.
Chapter 2 (Remembering Names) and Chapter 3 (Memory Strategies) offer some useful strategies, but they could have been greatly reduced in length. On the other hand, the long elicitation of these strategies given in the transcripts of the demonstrations may be interesting to NLP modellers or even teachers who are interested in modelling other skills important in learning. Chapter 4 explores how people can improve their senses (Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) through simple exercises and also briefly examines submodalities.
Chapter 5 provides one of the better ideas in this book. It details how effective strategies can be transferred between two people. For example, two teachers or two students may have different strategies for achieving a task. By eliciting and sharing the goals of each person, and looking at their evidence procedures and operations, it potentially becomes possible to learn a strategy from a more effective learner. Combined with the sensory distinctions of NLP, this simple idea is very powerful.
Chapter 6 is an overly long account of the spelling strategy. The long transcriptions which bring the chapter to 57 pages (!) would have been better presented in the form of standard prose. Perhaps the core question that I kept asking myself is whether this book is about modelling or about the sharing of the results of modelling. From the point of view of the teacher who wants to use the spelling strategy, all the detail is unnecessary. For the dedicated NLP modeller, it certainly provides insight, but still seems far overpresented. The book seems to wander between modelling (which can be seen to be the core of NLP) and presenting useful things for teachers (the trail of techniques which results from this modelling).
As a language teacher and language learner, I was particularly interested in Chapter 7 (Learning Language). It introduces the NLP idea of second position modelling, stepping into the shoes of an expert speaker of the language and beginning to take on their gestures, beliefs and eventually language. In my own classrooms in Japan, this is something that would be very beneficial to students since their own highly-defined (if unconscious) Japanese identity is so strong that it tends to stop students from modelling non-Japanese. I found the rest of the chapter to be less useful. The obstacle course and other activities can be viewed as a repackaging of the classic TPR (total physical response) methodology introduced by Asher in the 1970s. The activities are useful, but this chapter adds little new to language teaching.
Chapter 8 provides some useful tips for increasing reading speed including the use of peripheral vision and the reduction of subvocalization.
Chapter 9 (Creative Writing) was my favourite in the book, and it provides some excellent ideas for using connectives (e.g. because, therefore, after, while …) as prompts for writing. On page 308, the authors do something that I always see as one of Robert Dilts’ great strengths – they combine several tools to create a more powerful tool or model. In the table below, they combine connectives with perceptual positions, representational systems and time frames to create a series of prompts that will help any stalled creative writer, or even an already active writer!

Connective Perspective Representational System & Time Frame
because I see – saw – will see that
therefore we hear – heard- will hear like
after you feel – felt – will feel how
so that They touch – touched – will touch as if

Chapter 10 offers some useful tips on assessment and how to deal with ‘resistance to learning’. The book also has some appendices which offer worksheets and some more background on Dilts’ neurological levels model and how it relates to Batesons’ levels of learning. This latter material could probably have been usefully presented at the beginning of the book to frame the authors’ important underlying idea that the most important thing is to learn is ‘how to learn’. When students can learn to learn and to take control of that learning, that is when we could truly get Dynamic Learning. While this book has some good ideas, there may be too much unessential material and too little signalling for the average busy teacher to get much out of it, and someday I would like to see a new Robert Dilts book where he refines the ideas of this book for an audience of teachers who could really use it to create dynamic learning in their classrooms and beyond.

Other Stories

The Old Cast Iron Pot

The farm provided Virginia with numerous illustrations to use in teaching. One such story was that of an old cast-iron pot, which she used as a metaphor for self-esteem:
When I was a little girl, I lived on a farm in Wisconsin. On our back porch was a huge black iron pot, which had lovely rounded sides and stood on three legs. My mother made her own soap, so for part of the year the pot was filled with soap.
She explained other uses for the pot.
[A]t other times, my father used it to store manure for my mother’s flower beds. We came to call it the “3-S pot.”. Anyone who wanted to use the pot faced two questions: What is the pot now full of, and how full is it?
Long afterward, when people told me about themselves—whether they felt full, empty, dirty, or even “cracked” I thought of that old pot. One day many years ago, a family was sitting in my office struggling to find words to tell each other how they felt about themselves. I remembered the black pot and told them the story. Soon the members of the family were talking about their individual “pots”, whether they contained feelings of worth or of guilt, shame, or uselessness. They told me later how useful this metaphor was to them.

Other Stories

The Cracked Pot

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered
a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.
The old woman smiled, ‘Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?’
That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.’
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.
Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.
You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.