Sunflower Mind video clip # 4: Orienting

This 4-minute video clip is about how we orient, moment by moment. It is part of the 25-minute video about embodied relational mindfulness.


I mentioned the environment. We are what we are based on what else is happening around us, what we’re responding to. And very specifically, there’s the question of orienting. What makes the metaphor of Sunflower Mind so dramatic is that the metaphor is about the sunflower being oriented towards the sun. So oriented towards the sun that it follows it.

Orienting is something that we all have, that all life forms have, not just human beings, or just animals. Plants as well. All plants – regular plants, not just the sunflower – tend to orient toward where there is light, so that’s why they go up. And you notice when a tree, or a plant, is in a place where there is some shade, they grow into all kinds of weird and contorted shapes in order to reach the place where they can see the light.

So the sunflower is simply the more dramatic one because it’s not just, that it’s orienting toward the light in general. It’s not just that the direction it has is the net result of where it’s orienting most of the day. The sunflower is orienting moment by moment, in a dramatically observable way. And, if there is one thing that is very powerful in the image of the sunflower, it’s that capacity for orienting.

Now, orienting is not just something that is: “Oh by the way, I happen to have part of my attention somewhere.” Orienting is a total organism response. It’s a reorganization of the organism, in such a way that it is facing a given situation.

Obviously, if you are in a situation where there is no threat, no reward — in other words, a situation that does not stimulate you — then you don’t need to be focused on one thing. You can let your mind wander. You can go from one place to the other. But, the more of an urgency there is, either because there is a clear and present danger, or there is a very clear reward, something important that’s at stake, one way or another, then your whole organism is going to tend to focus and orient toward either the reward, or toward the threat. Either orienting toward it in the sense of fighting, or running away from it in the sense of flight. But even flight is very much of an orientation based on what that situation is, what that threat is.

So the thing that is very dramatic about the image of Sunflower Mind is that the orientation keeps shifting depending on where the sun is. What this metaphor is about, in terms of our consciousness, is how we reorganize our whole being based on how we perceive the situation. Attraction, or moving away from. Reward or threat. But, one way or another, we perceive it. And, the more intense it is, the more we reorganize that way.

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