Look Up, Look Down, Look up…..You will get through this

December 16, 2020 ~ Written by: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner
Approx. Read Time: 5 Minutes

How can a walk in the woods illustrate a model for dealing with a world full of uncertainty?


 “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

With the COVID-19 outcome still pending – climate issues looming that will likely dwarf COVID-19, all this against a backdrop of social and other inequalities, we have struggled to describe how best to orient our team and the many individuals we touch through our commercial – philanthropic  – and impact activities.  In this context the current situation epitomizes the well known title of a classic by Jon Kabat Zinn (#1)  wherein he describes “full catastrophe living” which is a reference to the response of Zorba the Greek: “Zorba’s response embodies a supreme appreciation for the richness of life and the inevitability of all its dilemmas, sorrows, traumas, tragedies, and ironies.  His way is to “dance” in the gale of the full catastrophe, to celebrate life, to laugh with it and at himself, even in the face of personal failure and defeat. In doing so, he is never weighed down for long, never ultimately defeated either by the world or by his own considerable folly.” (#2) Thus reads a most practical approach!

 To date we have presented other approaches such as:

  1. Creating a cocktail via laughter: (How To Brew a Cocktail That Will Make You Feel Better)
  2. Examples on how to be a warrior vs. a worrier: (Worrier vs. Warrior)
  3. Being a willow not an oak: A Metaphor For The Times
  4. Mindfulness for tranquility: A Powerful Arrow For Your Catastrophe Quiver 
  5. Responding to stress: How To Use Your Vagal Lifeline

One thread thru all the above related to what for us is typical operating protocol. At Kirchner Group we have a rule of thumb: you don’t really understand something until you can describe it via a metaphor/analogy which then becomes the backbone of a paradigm that we follow to pursue our goals and transition through life.

And now – here we go again – still another idea to participate in “full catastrophe living”.


“Move and the way will open.” – Zen Proverb

I am what might be called an inveterate hiker. In fact, hiking ranks up there with another passion – cultivating paradigms per the introduction to this article.

On a recent hike I couldn’t help, but notice the rhythm (largely subconscious) of lifting the head to see what the trail has to deliver and looking at the ground for obstacles.  For what it is worth it turns out I find myself following the same routine, even on a smooth (sidewalk) surface so I assume it is ‘hardwired’! One might conclude that such  prevalent habit constituted a ‘survival skill’?

While it seems that describing this as a paradigm is a bit pretentious – e. g. this is a case where it is arguably a reflex or natural instinct – in fact, this is indicative of the kind of paradigms we like – they aren’t complicated, but they are effective in understanding/approaching the world around us via a simple metaphor/analogy. In fact, this is “natural” in every sense of the word!

Why do I think this is a relevant paradigm?


“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing.  This is the ultimate.” – Chuang-Tzu

Even if we simply consider the ‘COVID’ world, there are lots of details (obstacles) that need our attention (masks, distance, symptoms). This is analogous to the loose stones, twigs, etc. of our hike.

So – clearly, we can’t take eyes off our footing for very long. However, having said that if we become so obsessed with worrying about details like this that we may miss the path (read opportunities).

In other words, we need to develop a rhythm of looking up – looking down – looking up.

Another aspect

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” – Pema Chodron

Another observation I find both fascinating and relevant is when one starts to fall – the primary instinct is not to go down, but to lunge forward.

I think of this in the context of Marc Taub’s (Worrier vs. Warrior) comments on resilience.  He defines resilience as “the capacity to maintain homeostasis (balance) in the face of physical and/or mental stress, both real and perceived.” 

It also sheds a light on ‘perspective’ in dealing with life’s issues. This is, of course, where the Buddhist ‘beginner’s mind’ (being open to many possibilities instead of closed to all but one) helps create perspective.


“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns a lesson he can learn in no other way.” ― Mark Twain

As a quick (academic) aside, we should consider how this “paradigm” gets integrated into our behavior.

The situation is an example of what is called “experiential learning”

“Experiential learning is a well-known model in education that extends from the theory of Kolb (#3) who defines experiential learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.”


“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb


  1. Jon Kabat-Zinn – Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
  2. Jon Kabat-Zinn – Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness is a book
  3. Michael Rachick, Donald E. Maypole and Priscilla A. Day – Improving Field Education Through Kolb Learning Theory

Business Brain Model articles

  1. How To Brew a Cocktail That Will Make You Feel Better
  2. Worrier vs. Warrior
  3. A Metaphor For The Times
  4. A Powerful Arrow For Your Catastrophe Quiver
  5. How To Use Your Vagal Lifeline

About the Author: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist with more than 50 years of business success. He is not a scientist or an academic but he does have a diversified exposure to neuroscience, psychology and related cognitive sciences. Generally speaking, the ideas he expresses here are business-angled expansions of other people’s ideas, so when possible, he will link to the original reference.