The Holistic Decision Making-II, Building the Holistic Consciousness

In our previous article we have discussed briefly the problems and complexions of contemporary decision-making and the need of a holistic approach. The next question is how to arrive at this holistic decision-making? This article examines the first part of the discipline.

The holistic perspective means what is now called as the “systemic” or ecological view that looks or perceives everything as part of a larger whole. When this perspective is not merely an idea in the upper layers of mind, but permeates the entire consciousness of the individual and becomes habitual to or established in her thoughts, feelings, actions or even in sensations, we may call it as holistic consciousness. How to realize this holistic consciousness? We must learn to think, feel and experience things in a holistic and non-egoistic manner. We have to begin in the mind and in thought but extend it to other parts of the being through a process of imagination, visualization and other forms of inner discipline.

When we examine our thought-process carefully we will find most of our thoughts are self-centered, revolving around the self-interest of our ego. The main question we ask either consciously or unconsciously is “what it means to me,” or “how it affects me.” The first step towards holistic consciousness is to reverse this way of thinking. We must train our thinking and rational mind to think and reason in terms of larger wholes. In modern thought, systems theory and the science of ecology are based on this type of thinking. The main postulates of ecological or systems theory are as follows:

  •  Life or Nature is a dynamic, interdependent and interconnected whole “a holo movement” organized in the form of a hierarchy of sub holes.
  •  Each individual element is part of a larger whole which in turn is part of a still larger whole.
  •  Each whole is more than the sum of its parts.
  •  Each part potentially contains the whole or in other words the whole is potentially present in each part.
  •  The very existence or nature of each part is determined by its relationship with the other parts and the whole.

There is a school of management thought based on systems theory. An intellectual culture or way of thinking based on the systems approach is very helpful for holistic decision-making. However for a more immediate and practical purpose we must learn to think we are part of a larger whole and try to identify with this whole. We may extend this way of thinking to include larger and larger wholes until we embrace the whole of humanity and earth. Interestingly, DuPont, in one of its factories, has tried to cultivate such a holistic thinking among its employees. Carol Sanford and Pamela Marg, Consultants to Dupont, states that one of the training objectives of the company is “being able to bring to every decision-making process a total perspective that holds within it a reflection of all the critical elements which make up the whole of business and the nested system of which it is a part.”

The other aspect of holistic thinking is the non-egoistic attitude. As we have mentioned earlier most of our normal process of thinking is self-centered and ego-centric. Most of our responses to things, events or people is in terms of whether it pleases or displeases my ego, give me gladness or pain, flatter my pride, vanity or ambition or hurt it, satisfy my desire or thwart it. If we want to have holistic perceptions, we must think in the opposite way, which means to think as if my ego is not there. The non-egoistic consciousness thinks in terms of what things are in themselves and would be if the ego is not there, what is their meaning, how they fit into the scheme of things or how they will serve the work that has to be done or the life of the world or the higher cause or ideal which has to be realized.

In the modern corporate context, the holistic manager has to think in terms of how to serve the stakeholders better and better or to be more specific how to provide a better quality of life, experience and growth opportunities for the customer, employee and the community and maximize their well-being.

However for realizing an effective holistic consciousness we must not remain satisfied with thinking. What we think has to percolate into feelings and sensations. The faculty of Imagination can be a great help in making the abstract idea concrete to the mental sensation, which in turn can evoke the corresponding emotions. We must learn to project, expand and widen our heart and mind into the larger whole and feel our own small self disappearing into it or feel it as a part of our own higher and larger self beyond our ego.

The other part of the holistic discipline is the practice of what we may call as “Aspiration-Rejection.” Aspiration means conscious cultivation of all that is in harmony with the holistic consciousness in thought, feeling and action, like for example urge for synthesis or reconciliation of opposites and everything that unites, connects, harmonises, widens or enlarges our consciousness. Rejection means throwing off all that is contrary or hostile to holistic consciousness like for example things which divide people or thing or emphasizes on “eternal” opposites or creates unpassable boundaries.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.

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