Our normal objective worldview assumes a pre-existing identity, the self. The self controls behavior through direction, goals, outcomes, etc., which is measured and assessed according to time.

Our experiences though reflect something else. We do not do linear behavior according to time. Our behavior does not follow a set plan, a direction. It is difficult to predict what our, or others behaviors are going to be even though we may want certainty. Obviously, there is something else going on.

Our behavior is circular. We do repetitions or patterns of behavior. Patterns of behavior reflect how we operate as closed biological living systems. That is, the patterns of behavior that appear in what we do arise as a result of biological patterns of circular activity - the emotions.

It is the emotions, biological bodily dispositions that appear as different kinds of patterns of behavior that orientates the motion of behavior. This is the awareness and application of how we are and what we do as living systems.

KEYWORDS: Applied Living Systems, Existence, Identity, Survival, Direction, Behavior, Space, Time, Circularity, Emotions.


In this paper the author explores two paradigms. The first is what is considered or assumed to be our normal paradigm that of an entity called the self that determines and directs itís behavior. Behavior is separate to that of the self. The second paradigm, what may be considered to be an alternative, is actually how we are as biological living systems. That is, it is the operation of the biology that determines what we do and not some pre-existing objective entity called the self.

Indeed, one of the reasons why we find it difficult to predict or even control our own or others behaviorís is directly as a result of how we operate biologically. That is, our behavior, perceptions, distinctions, everything that we do changes around what is happening in the biology. And because it changes, it is difficult to predict.

The operation of the biology is difficult to see however, because we are so conditioned and accustomed to our normal way of perceiving/seeing, a way that blinds us of our inherent nature. We do not see how we are. Instead we see who we are. Who we are obscures how we are. In order to understand our behavior, how come we do what we do, we need to understand how we operate.

The second paradigm is an understanding of our biological operation and what we do as a result. It is a systemic paradigm. Our behavior is not separate either from the biology or from the environment. Rather it is relational (with the environment) and cyclical (patterns or repetitions of behavior that change according to biological bodily dispositions, emotions - circular patterns of interconnected activity with different time constants). Our behavior or rather patterns of behavior change according to these cyclical time constants - patterns of biological activity, what we commonly distinguish as the emotions.

Emotions are the motion of behavior, emotioning - the doing without a self or identity. We do not need to have a self or identity in order to do behavior because our bodies know what to do instinctively. And we know this because sometimes we do instinctive behaviors. Suddenly we know what to do and the appropriate behaviors happen accordingly. We forget ourselves. Itís as if we are doing something that is beyond ourselves like being driven from a strong desire or passion. By what, we do not know. It is instinctual or intuitive - the body knows. We lose all sense of time and space, as we become absorbed in the doing, in the knowing to do.

How does this circularity apply to our biological knowing or instincts? These are the natural patterns of behavior without our cultural conditioning. They are not driven by goals, directions, motives, plans etc. They are natural and spontaneous. This is our natural way of being, but we have forgotten. This natural way of being is sometimes perceived as being cosmic, spiritual or even new age which just reflects how far removed we have become by what we consider and assume to be the natural way in objectivity.

This is not just an application of living systems. It is an understanding of ourselves, and the other world that we live - a relational world. A world that is felt, distinguished either as intuitive or instinctual, where we make great leaps in our understanding as we become more interconnected with the vast cosmos that we live and participate in.

What follows is a reflective journey of the two paradigms - the exploration of ourselves and our behavior. From these explorations we can begin to see how our current paradigm obscures and also contradicts our natural daily experiences from the paradigm of living systems.


In the typical paradigm of objectivity we live as if we are our identities; an entity that exists inside the body. A self, that is directing and guiding behavior. The self needs a direction in life in order to survive e.g. what am I going to do with my life? What should I do? What do I need to do? What must I do?

All of these questions are reflections about behavior, about the motion or movement of behavior - a direction. Direction assumes a reference point for the self or identity to get to - a fixed point in time, the future. And the behavior has to follow a plan set by the criteria of the self to get to this certain point. When the self reaches this point he or she will be happy or satisfied with what has been accomplished, i.e. the criteria of the plan in terms of goals and outcomes, achieving a result, has been satisfied. And once this goal or outcome has been satisfied, the question generally is, what do I do next?

Success in life is always measured according to attaining objects or outcomes. We have made it if we have achieved everything that we set out to do according to our plans. However, there are some fundamental experiential contradictions and consequences within this objective paradigm.

Plans rarely turn out the way we want them to. And if we havenít reached our goals or destinations, then we think that we are failures - there is something fundamentally wrong with us. For example, Iím no good. Iíll become another person, identity, to make it work. Or, itís not working. I have failed at what I set out to do. Maybe if I do it this way instead, it will all work out.

We donít determine the direction of our own behavior or someone elseís and we end up blaming each other for what we think our behavior SHOULD be. For example, you said you were going to do this and you havenít done it. This was supposed to be done yesterday, how come you havenít done it? You are lazy etc.

Life according to how we think it SHOULD, be our criteria for what we want to happen, rarely tuns out the way we want it to. This reflects that our criteria for what we want to happen does not determine what the behavior is, or is going to be. As a result we end up feeling frustrated and unhappy thinking that we are not getting anywhere.

It is obvious from these experiential examples that there are contradictions and conflicts between the paradigm of objectivity and what actually happens in our daily experiences.

Our experiences however reflect that we are not in control. Our criteria does not determine what our behavior, the outcome will be. There is a direction to life, a fixed reference point in time to get to.

If we are not getting somewhere or doing something, we donít feel validated. That is, we are not in control and certain about what is going to happen. The Ďgoing to happení is a comment on the prediction of future behavior, that the doer, the identity, can predict and determine where itís behavior is going to go, the direction.

1.1 Making Behavior Happen

At the core of the objective paradigm is the fundamental belief or assumption that the self or identity is in control of what he or she is doing and knows what is going to happen with certainty according to his or her criteria. We use criteria to make certain behaviors happen. This gives us a sense of where we are going - a direction - a fixed reference point in time. We use time to measure and assess our behavior.

Having a direction and getting somewhere validates the existence of identity - the doer, the Ďwhoí. If weíre not doing something or getting somewhere, we donít have an identity nor do we feel validated. What you do equals who you are. (M. Gluski, 1999).

Usually when we think that we need a direction to get somewhere or do something, always perceived in relation to time, we are not seeing what is happening in the moment. The perception of the moment is, nothing is happening. The moment is not fitting with the criteria of what SHOULD be happening, thus, Iíve got to make something happen. I just canít sit around and do nothing. Iíve got to do something and make things happen, make behavior happen.

The doer then sets criteria for making behavior happen according to wants, usually distinguished as a must or a should. We should or must do certain behaviors according to our, or others criteria. We force our, or others behavior to fit with what we think should or must happen. This is usually when we control and demand from each other.

When the moment is not fitting with what we think SHOULD be happening, something is wrong. This isnít it! This can't or shouldnít be happening! The Ďití is referring to the fulfillment of criteria for what we want to happen. Iíve got to change what is happening so that it fits with my criteria for what I want the outcomes to be.

If these outcomes donít happen in the moment in which we want them to we reassure ourselves that the big Ďití is coming. Its going to happen soon, everything will be alright. I will be alright; it will turn out the way I want it to. Sometimes though we become even more determined and go looking for Ďití. We change jobs, partners, religions, look for the big Ďití as if itís out there somewhere.

Where is the Ďití that we are supposedly getting to? Where is the Ďwhoí that is trying to get somewhere? And where is the somewhere that we are getting to?

All of these perceptions on behavior are about control. And yet it is interesting happiness and satisfaction depends on getting results, outcomes, end points (goals) - criteria. But how can we be happy or satisfied if we are controlling and demanding? Perhaps this contradiction is reflected in our endless search for happiness.

We also use change or, the perception of change to control or modify behavior to fit with our criteria of what should be happening. Change in this context however, is a myth. It is a myth because we cannot change what is happening in the present, past or future.

How can we change behavior that we have already done or behavior that we havenít even done yet? We cannot change behavior either in the present, past or future. What is happening is what is happening. But we fight and resist what is happening. The identity or self is in control and seeks to change itself and the behavior so that the moment fits with the criteria of what should be happening. This is after all how the self or identity seeks validation, its existence in life.

If we question the existence of identity and direction, the motion or movement of behavior, we begin to see how we are living an existential objective myth. That is, there is no objective Ďití or reference point out there in the world to get to that provides us with happiness and fulfillment. Its all a social construction in fear, mistrust and the desire for control - the certainty of what is going to happen in life, behavior.

We have constructed a paradigm that is centered on acquiring physical or conceptual objects, such as outcomes, goals etc. We care more about fulfilling our criteria to get or attain objects than we do about each other. We are also modifying or controlling our behavior so that it fits with the acquiring of conceptual or physical objects.

We are seeing and relating with each other as if we are objects which is reflected right across the board in our various social systems - business, politics, economics, education, relations between women and men and even families and other kinds of institutions.

We are not human beings in this paradigm of objectivity. Rather we are objectified entities going after what we want - more and more objects. These are supposed to provide us with happiness and satisfaction - our meaning and purpose to life.

Objects also define our identities in terms of wealth, how much we have or acquired, our status, our position. All of these are assumed to provide us with power. The power to dominate and control in the pursuit of acquiring more and more. We only care about ourselves, what we want or can get and we use and abuse each other in the process.

Our families and relationships with each other are suffering as a result - our social systems are breaking down and we are destroying the environment. We are blind and indifferent to each other in objectivity. We are objects. We are not human beings.

We can recover our humanness and return to a natural way of life where we live and flow together among ourselves and nature, congruently. Where we are defined by our relations with each other in recursive and circular patterns of behavior and not by objects. Where we follow our intuition, instincts, desires, dreams and passions and support each other in that so that we can develop our full potential and intelligence. We can once again become civilized - to live in unity with everything.

This is the awareness and understanding of how we are and what we do as living systems.


It is the biology - how the body operates as a closed living system and what we do as a result (circular behavior) that is not seen in objectivity. We live in the happening, in the present - behavior just happens. The happening is a spontaneous natural drift that appears as a constant movement of change and adaptation with the environment as circular or repetitive behavior.

Circularity or repetitions could not happen without the circular operation of the biology. This is largely due to our operational closure. This closure is the boundary, in our case the skin. It is our boundary that is coupled or connected with a linear surface, the environment.

What all of this means, is that as we interact with the environment, a linear surface, the circular processes of our biology appear in our behavior as repetitions. We are always interacting recurrently with each other and the environment. Recurrent interactions are spontaneous and natural and do not require any effort. We are in harmony with each other and the environment. We are flowing together in congruent patterning - recursive and circular behavior.

As living systems, our bodies operate according to how our structure is built or made. We are structure determined living systems. The structure is constituted by the cellular and molecular processes of autopoiesis which means self or automatic production. The components and their relations, what constitutes our structure, is generated or formed by the processes of autopoiesis. This amazing biological process is very apparent in the formation of any living system from the initial egg stage in the womb right through to birth.

But there is also something amazing that the processes of autopoiesis specifies; the closure or boundary of living systems. These processes determine how far the network will go, the extension. This extension is the boundary, the operational closure of the network. As a result, the network of the body, the structure, operates as a vast interconnected network of activity among the components and their relations.

This boundary is a relational surface between the operation of our bodies, our structures, and what we do as a result, behavior in interactions with the environment. In our case, the skin is the relational surface or boundary of our closure as structure determined living systems.

As the surface of our bodies becomes structurally coupled with a linear surface, the environment, a recursion or repetition appears. 'Whenever a cyclical process becomes coupled to a linear one, the phenomenon of recursion take placeÖ..' (Maturana & Verden Zoller, The Origins of Humanness in the Biology of Love, Draft Version, 1997). This is a process of mutual transformation, change and adaptation. We see this process of mutual transformation in everyday life for example, as we walk down the street or even eating food.

All of these repetitive behaviors appear at the boundary, the skin, in the relation or interactions with the environment. Our behavior is always relational, i.e. it is not something that the body does alone, rather behavior occurs in the relations or interactions WITH the environment.

The changes of behavior that appear at the boundary in the relations or interactions with the environment arise as a result of biological circular processes of activity. These changes reflect different kinds of behavioral patterns that appear as a result of circular or cyclical biological activity.

This cyclical or circular activity reflects that our structure operates as a vast interconnected network. There are constant patterns of activity taking place in the network among the components and their relations. ĎYou have cyclical interwoven or interlaced processes with different time constants for the system to be in a continuous changeí. ĎÖ. cycles of cycles interconnected with each otherí. (Maturana, Video Tape 6, Seminar in Melbourne, Australia, 1991).

These cycles show up as natural changes in our patterns of behavior. We can see alternating cycles in our patterns of behavior by what we distinguish as moods or different kinds of emotions. It is these moods or emotions that appear in our patterns of behavior with regularity. There is a constancy to the alternating cycles of activity as we move or shift from one mood or emotion to another.

These alternating cycles of activity vary according to long or short time constants. ĎThe time constant, the time involved in that the system comes back to a certain reference state is very shortÖbut there are processes which are cyclical but with a long time constantí. (Maturana, Video Tape 6, Seminar in Melbourne, Australia, 1991). These time constants are a key to understanding how long our moods or emotions last for.

If we resist the emotions that show up naturally, i.e. a cycle of biological activity, it will persist. What we resist, persists. The cycle or pattern persists. We fight and resist our emotions because we donít trust them. They are uncontrollable. We are out of control. The more that we try to change the emotion, which we cannot do, it will become more intense. The more intense the emotion becomes the more we become afraid of it. It becomes an entity, a thing to be afraid of, to fight against and control.

2.1 Understanding Our Patterns - Moods and Emotions

We do not know how to be with our moods or emotions. We want to get out of them - to control or suppress them. The more we do this, we fix it. The emotion becomes fixed, as if it is there in itself and we are that emotion. It becomes a thing, an object, an entity that we fear or fight against. We are fighting against a natural biological pattern - a cycle of activity with a varying time constant.

We cannot change our emotions or moods and the resulting behavioral pattern in any given moment. We are the pattern. What shows up is what shows up. In other words, be with the pattern. Validate it, be with it, acknowledge it.

When we do that, the pattern changes automatically. We wait until it shifts or changes. We are acknowledging the fact that we are structure determined systems that operate in alternating cycles of biological activity and it literally cannot be any other way than that in any given moment.

But there is also something very important to understand in this process which has to do with perception and human relations. All of our perceptions, acts of distinguishing in language, the bringing forth of conceptual and physical objects are co-ordinated around the emotions. This is obvious as our thinking changes according to our emotions. How we perceive someone or a situation depends on what is happening for us emotionally.

When we resist a particular disposition, mood or emotion, a pattern of activity, it persists. The pattern persists. And the more it persists the more intense it becomes. We objectify the emotion so that it becomes a thing, an entity, and we project that emotion as an entity or thing onto another person so that they become what we are distinguishing. Or to be more precise, the distinction becomes objectified so that the person with whom we are distinguishing and interacting with becomes what we have objectified. They are or become what we are distinguishing.

Say for example, we are experiencing fear. We objectify that fear and perceive and relate as if we are afraid of the person that we are relating or interacting with. What is actually happening though is that we are afraid of the disposition that we have distinguished. We have turned it into a thing and perceive (distinguish) that we are afraid of another person.

But people and other objects whether be physical or conceptual, only become what we distinguish them to be in various emotions. And we think that we or other people are literally those perceptions. We live them as being fixed, real and there in themselves. We think that we are the patterns that we have distinguished or co-constructed with others. We are this or we are that. They, other people are this or that.

We are living and interacting as if we and other people are those perceptions. But we are not. All that we are doing is bringing forth distinctions and they change all the time depending on the emotions. We are doing acts of distinguishing. We are not the distinctions.

This awareness of how we are constructing our experiences and perceptions through acts of distinguishing can enable us to understand how we are constructing ourselves, experiences, worlds and realities. And instead of being the construction, we can share what is showing up for us. We can pay attention to how and what we are distinguishing enabling us to see how we are perceiving each other and situations. We become aware of how we are constructing our experiences, realities or worlds. We can reflect, learn and understand with each other and not take it all so seriously.

We can learn and grow from the experiences when we realise that all that is happening is that behavioral patterns of distinguishing are being co-ordinated around the emotions - biological patterns of cyclical activity. This is a systemic and circular dynamic between our behavior - what we distinguish, perceive; and how we relate and interact with each other according to biological patterns of cyclical activity.

It is the biological patterns of cyclical activity, emotions, that orientates our behavior as we interact with the environment and not plans or goals directed by a pre-existing self.


3.1 Circularity & Direction

We donít need direction in order to know where we are going or what we are going to do. We donít need to know that we are moving in one direction or another. ĎYou donít need to know where you are going in order to know that you are in motioní (Klaus Krippendorf, CYBCOM Email conversation on Space and Possibilities, July, 1999). All knowing is doing and all doing is knowing (Maturana, 1991).

We allow the emotions to guide us - the motion of circular behavior - natural patterns of behavior that are co-ordinated according to our desires, emotional preferences. The difference is however, that the desire is not an outcome or a goal, a fixed reference point associated with direction, rather desire is an intuitive knowing, an emotion. It is the body guiding the motion of behavior and not some pre-existing identity, distinguished as the self.

Desires are spontaneous. They just happen, like an intuitive knowing to do something. We cannot explain why, but we know that we have to do something or go somewhere. This is to live in spontaneity and trust. In the synchronicity of life where events just happen. Coincidences appear as the desires are met.

Direction obscures the motion or patterns of behavior. We donít see emotions, the motion or patterns of behavior. Instead we see direction and movement. Direction only appears when we distinguish, bring forth, time and space, as we distinguish a reference point or coordinate for the movement of behavior, e.g. from here to there.


Life is not meant to be a goal or a prison where our behavior is conditioned or modified to be a certain way or move in a particular direction according to pre-defined plans and goals. Rather behavior is spontaneous, happening moment by moment in the changing constancy of our emotions - the biological and relational orientation for every behavior that we do in our interactions with each other and the environment.

We do not see the interconnectedness of all that we do in our relational co-existence as we co-ordinate our behaviors together around the emotions. We bring forth experiences, perceptions, in co-ordinations of co-ordinations of distinctions in language - the construction of worlds or realities.

The world as we live it and know it is relational. It depends on what we do and how we co-ordinate our behavior together in the relational orientation of emotions - the cyclical processes of motion.

Without the amazing processes of autopoiesis, automatic cellular and molecular self production, that generates not only the components of the structure and their relations that constitutes the entire interconnected network that is our bodies, it also generates and specifies the boundary. Without the boundary, the operational closure of our bodies, the skin, we could not do patterns of behavior. Our bodies would not be able to change and adapt with the environment if it were not for the boundary as it is a relational surface between the operation of the biology and what appears as relational behavior in interactions with the environment.

We could not learn as we do through repeating our behaviors in recurrent or repetitive interactions that our structure changes and adapts around without a relational boundary or surface. It is not a surface that separates us from the environment, rather it is a surface that is always coupled with the environment in recurrent or repetitive interactions.

This is distinguished as structural coupling or structural congruence with the medium. It reflects a systemic dynamic between the structure of a living system and the environment in which both mutually transform the other in recurrent interactions, a process of mutual change and adaptation.

And we can see this remarkable process every day in what we do. We cannot see inside the operation of our bodies. We can see however the operation of our bodies at the surface or boundary, the skin, as changes in patterns of behavior in interactions with the environment.

This is apparent in whatever we do in daily life whether it be the simple actions of walking or running along a road, swimming in the water, writing something down on paper or even interacting with our computers via a keyboard and mouse. And yet we take all of these amazing systemic and dynamic processes for granted. They have become so automatic that we donít see them.

We live a circularity that changes and remains constant at the same time between the operation of our bodies and our behaviors. The interlaced or interwoven biological processes that take place as cycles of activity in the network change according to long or short time constants. These are patterns of cyclic activity, moods or emotions that appear as changes in our patterns of behavior.

We can learn to trust these natural cycles or continue to fight against them by denying or suppressing our emotions. If we trust the emotions, we are acknowledging the knowing of our bodies. The body knows what to do. All doing is knowing and all knowing is doing. As we pay attention to our instinctive or intuitive desires, emotional preferences, our behaviors flow accordingly or congruently together as synchronicities. Natural, spontaneous happenings, as if certain situations were meant to be. We feel intuitively that we are on the right path.

If we acknowledge and be with these cyclic patterns of motion by sharing what is showing up for us in any given moment, we are not only being congruent with what is happening, but we are also being honest and sincere emotionally. This is something that we do not feel very comfortable with in our western culture. This is because emotions are associated with weakness. Vulnerability is perceived as a weakness, not a strength. Innocence and trust is perceived as being naive.

As long as we are honest and sincere emotionally, pain and suffering will not show up. What shows up instead is mutual understanding and respect. We learn from our experiences in these situations and we continue on without worries, concerns or problems. There is harmony in the understanding and we walk away with a good feeling. But if we deny or suppress our emotions, what is actually happening for us in any given moment, we will interact in emotional insincerity. This can trigger emotional pain and suffering, rejection and anxiety. We know intuitively or instinctively that something else is going on. And when this happens, mistrust sets in. There is no longer mutual trust in our relating/relations.

These are just some of the consequences of acknowledging and invalidating our emotions in terms of our perceptions and human relations. There are many more. Through this awareness and understanding of how we operate and what we do as closed structure determined living systems, we can begin to see ourselves in a different way. We can begin to create another world - a relational world that appears not in an objective self, but in intuitive or relational knowing. A world in which we feel supported in our desires, dreams and passions.

The relational world is an experiential awareness of our interconnectedness as we weave and co-ordinate our behaviors together in a dance of synchronistic happenings - the motion of life, natural patterns of behavior. Emotions are patterns of cyclical motion. These patterns appear as a never ending recursive systemic dynamic of congruent structural changes and transformations that constitutes the web of life. This is the nature of life - the circular motion of behavior.

Life is circular. How we live is circular. We live in motion not movement. Motion is natural patterns of behavior. Emotions are patterns of activity that show up as different patterns of behavior. Emotions appear as circular patterns of varying behavior. Emotions are motion. Life is motion - circularity.


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Maturana, H. (1991). Transcript of Video Tape 6, Seminar held in Melbourne, Australia.

Maturana, H. and Verden Zoller G. (1997). The Origin of Humanness in the Biology of Love, Unpublished Draft Version.