I woke this morning (15th April 2022) to the sound of all the chaffinches in the world exchanging pleasantries across the dyke, over the fields and through the forest, and it occurred to me that a model I’ve used to inform my own life would work very well as a way of thinking about Jefferies, his feeling for eternity-now, space-time and one’s very small place in it all. Perhaps that’s what the chaffinches were talking about.
The model started life with Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) and has been popularised by the great NLP teacher, Robert Dilts. Under them it has been known as ‘Logical Levels’, a way of cataloguing everything that exists. I’ve never seen it as either particularly logical or hierarchical but rather as a set of concentric circles which I think of sometimes thus:-
The best way to come to terms with the model, as I’ve done many times, is to walk it so that brain & body are activated together. As you walk around the circle called ‘My Living Space’ it’s important to see/hear/feel as much of what’s there as possible – chaffinches, mist rising from the dyke, the feel of the forest atmosphere. That’s what Jefferies did when he walked & wrote his nature essays. Now you’re into the second circle ‘What I Do Now’ in your Living Space: you might make notes on what you see/hear/feel and many other things besides – Jefferies wrote novels, was a reporter, faced up to social concerns, engaged in visionary thinking, was husband & father and so on. Now step into the next circle ‘What I Could Do?’ – your thinking as you walk round it could include ‘more of the same’ but there might be other things like ‘doing things differently’: Jefferies envisaged the possibility of being able to acquire what he called ‘more soul-life’ but there might be other things – finishing that novel you’ve been writing for so long, making more space for your family, expanding time, and so on. Be specific!
The last circle offers the opportunity to look back and ask ‘What does all that say about me? My values & beliefs… Jefferies was constantly striving to articulate his own beliefs & values. When you think you’re ready, step into the most important place, ‘I’ for Identity, a combination of everything you’ve just experienced, and an ‘I’ that can stand apart from the mix and make objective sense of it all – what I call ‘Meta-I’, that part of you that can envisage the Whole, or even The Beyond.
You can test the strength of Meta-I by taking it back with you into each circle in turn and viewing Values & Beliefs, the things you decided you could do, the things you actually do, and finally your Living Space to notice the different feel of things you came across on the way in. Then, like Jefferies did, you can find out what it’s like to walk among the stars and, with the experience of The Beyond, look back at your complete Being with Meta-I.
Back in my Living Space I can still hear the chaffinches discussing all this thinking I’ve just done.