The Netherlands, and especially Amsterdam, is known for its excellent bicycle infrastructure. It is excellent, because the Dutch infrastructure designers came up with the concept of “disentangling”. They realized that simplifying means to physically separate the bikes from the cars.
When we talk about disentangling infrastructure, this means we started out with something that is complicated and we are trying to make it better. Simpler, if you will.
With a problem in any area, whether it is Dutch people wanting to bike in peace, or some problem you have in your personal life, your problem is rarely simple. In fact, it is usually a problem exactly because it is so complicated. Everything is entangled, into a big mess, and we don’t know what to do with it. We are trying to ‘solve’ our problems. But instead, we should first untie the mental knot that we created in our head.
It is tempting to try to disentangle the mental knot by jerking on some loose ends and hoping that it gives way. It is much better to fumble around with it lightly, until we see some part of the knot giving way. So how do we mentally disentangle our own minds?
The first step to uncomplicate anything, is to realize what the problem consists of. For example, we need to realize that bikes and cars are different vehicles, with their own speed, needs, size and regulations. This is the requisite to start to construct separate roads for both.
In my blog Share your needs I discussed how we should separate any situation from the emotions we experience. When somebody tells us something that makes us feel hurt or angry, it is not the content of what they say, but how it relates to our needs that makes us feel the emotion. And we can learn to disentangle the two.
Another area in which we can learn to uncomplicate our lives is pleasurable touch. Pleasurable touch between people quickly gets conflated with a committed relationship, but this only serves to complicate the inherently simple experience and enjoyment of touch.
The book starts off with a simple 20 minutes exercise: waking up the hands. The exercise is about changing how you experience your hands. Discover with curiosity what it is like to allow yourself to experience the sensation of touching an object. For example a coffee cup. A detailed instruction can be found on Betty Martin’s website.
I don’t have to worry about what my touch means to the coffee cup, and whether or not the cup and I need to talk about what happened afterwards. The exercise takes out one of the two strings, and thus there is nothing for the other string to entangle with. There will be no knot.
The exercise is like placing a bike path in a place where no car can come. You don’t need to look around you for cars. And this suddenly allows us to enjoy the bike ride just as it is. It’s as simple as that. Untangle your life.