Our lives work to the extent we give up our stories (and the people/structures which keep them in existence)

“Hey kid, you’re stuck in bad stories. But they’re only stories…” Werner Erhard

Yesterday my wife was spinning her usual story (or the story was spinning her) about going out. I listened to her at the level of story, I did not enter into her story, I did not collude, nor validate her story. Nor did I make her wrong for her story. I simply said nothing until I was asked to say something. Then I pointed out that it was all a story. She did not like that one little bit. Why? The whole point of her telling me her story was to entice me to enter into her story, validate her story, provide sympathy and make her feel good.

To me occurred that she would be free of the need to have someone make her feel good if she simply gave up her story and listened to herself as a highly capable person who is up to that which is at hand. Or if she simply got present to the fact that she will be fine irrespective of how she handles the situation: her life will not come to an end – she will not even catch the common cold! This got me thinking about how many of us are simply stuck in bad stories and yet do not get that they are only stories.

We have a choice – live in/be with reality or live in/from our ‘story’:

We can live in ‘reality’ in so far as it is accessible to us through our senses (see, hear, smell, taste, touch….). Living in ‘reality’ can be described as living in ‘suchness’. The world of suchness is simply what is so. It is a world in which when seeing occurs one can describe what one sees. And words like beautiful and ugly do not exist in this world – beautiful/ugly is a distinction/story we impose on what is there. It is a world in which taste occurs and can be described as sweet, sour, bitter but not as good or bad. I hope you get the idea.

Or we can live in the world of stories. Most of us, for most of the time live in the world of stories. What is remarkable about our existence is that we live in and our living arises out of our stories and we are not present that this is the case. ‘Our’ stories own us and run us and we are not present to it.

It takes something to keep these stories alive. We play a big part in keeping our stories alive – we give them life through our thoughts and our feelings. And importantly through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feelings. It can be even more complicated than that: through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feeling about our thoughts and feelings …… So one access to having our lives work is to give up our stories. Yet, it is not as simple as that for most of us.

We live in relationship – always! Amongst other things it means that we exist in relationship with fellow human beings: our parents, our siblings, our friends, our school teachers, fellow students, our work colleagues, our customers, the church congregation, the media we listen to and watch…….. The interesting thing is that our stories (that own and run us) are kept in existence as much by the people that we are in relationship with as by ourselves. So a powerful access to stepping out of our stories is to ‘move home’. Became a part of a community that has no listening for, no agreement with the stories that run us. Imagine going from a major city and living with the Amish in their communities. Do you doubt that our stories would lost their stranglehold over us? That we would start to see our stories and by seeing them have access to stepping out of them.

You might think that the people who are most likely to help us step outside of our limiting stories into stories that inspire us, give us more freedom, gives us more vitality, more self-expression, more joy would be the people who are the closest to us. My experience is that this is rarely the case. The people who are closest to us are the ones who both shape and help keep our existing stories in existence. This is great if the story creates a life that works for you (joy, self-expression, vitality…) and is not so great if the story bring the opposite into being, into your life.

All of which brings me to the key point: if we want our lives to work then we have to be willing to give up our stories. To give up our stories we have to be willing, prepared and committed to giving me all up all that brings our stories into being, colludes with our stories, keep our stories in existence. In practice that means not only our media, our culture, our religion, our ideologies (e.g. capitalism, socialism….) but also the people who are closest to us. That is a hard ask and that is why most people who even when they know that they are ‘plugged into the matrix’ and their ‘lives our a delusion’ are not willing to ‘unplug themselves from the matrix’. Occasionally, events come along and do that to us – at first we kick and scream, later some of us get that it was a blessing and create new, empowering, inspiring stories.

Finally the access to Possibility and Transformation is letting go of all of your stories forever. When you are standing naked of all Story then there is Nothing and in the space of Nothing you and I can create anything. Put differently in the space of Nothing there is only Possibility – a domain of unlimited possibilities and of freedom.

Oftentimes what I, you, we don’t do has more of an impact than what we do

I was on the phone with my younger son today and he asked me what I had been doing.  I told him that I had been working.  So he said “No, I mean what have you been doing in the evenings?”  I replied “Working, I worked until midnight last night and I am working this evening.”  He asked “Are you getting paid extra for the work that you are doing in the evenings?”  I replied “No” and he asked “Why are you doing it then?”

Why have I been working during the evenings?  Simply put, a bunch of people who have placed their trust in me and who I care about are counting on me to help them accomplish something that matters to them.  And people’s jobs and lives are at stake – there is something huge at stake given the economic situation in this country.

I am also working in the evenings because I am mindful of a fantastic piece of wisdom from a master of life and living.  Like a zen master (and I say he is a zen master, I suspect he lives joyfully without labels) he sees reality and the human condition just as it is and just as it is not.  Here is what he says:

“It is important that you get clear for yourself that your only access to impacting life is action. The world does not care what you intend, how committed you are, how you feel, or what you think, and certainly it has no interest in what you want and don’t want. Take a look at life as it is lived and see for yourself that the world only moves for you when you act.” Werner Erhard

You, I , we act on the world by what we do and by what we do not do. Oftentimes what we do not do (that which we hide from ourselves) has more of an impact on the world than what we do do (that which is visible to ourselves and others). Unfortunately most of the time we are not present to this.

I was fortunate that I got present to the fact that what I did not do on Monday evening (structure and write up the information coming out of the workshops) was likely to make more of an impact on the project that I am working on/in than what I had been doing during the days (facilitating workshops).

Wow: I just got an insight into why my wife is unhappy with me right now!

What do I do when I have not lived up to my own expectations?

Here I am sitting in a hotel room in Ireland.  It has been a busy day and we got a lot accomplished.  Now that I am not busy designing and facilitating meetings & workshops – one after the other for the day – I am present to a certain sadness.  What am I sad about?

I did not manage my emotions.  My emotions played me and in that play my eldest son was hurt both by my words (of criticism) and by my actions (shouting at him).  As a result the affinity, the kindness, the love that was present between me and my son is missing.  This evening I did not even have the courage to ask to speak to him.  I got that was me being ashamed of myself and not wanting to  deal with the situation.  So I asked to speak to him and he refused to speak to him.  I totally get that and that is perfectly ok.  And it is also not ‘perfectly ok’ – not if I am ‘Playing BIG’ as cultivating relationships that work is a key part of that game (as I have created it).  So is managing my frustrations and emotions.

Now I can attach various meanings around me and what has happened.  I can make myself wrong, criticise myself, label myself as ‘bad’, can count that as another ‘failure’. And then I can withdraw, quit the game, beat myself up and just say ‘that is the way I am and that is the way I will always be’.  Yes, I can do that.  If I do that then what does that do for my son?  How does that address is hurt?  How does that rebuild our fractured relationship?

I am choosing to give a different meaning to what is occurred and what is present.  I am up for creating a meaning that leaves me in a powerful position to handle the rift with my son, to learn and to deal with the situations that ‘press my buttons’.  Specifically:

a) When I am under time pressure and I have multiple demands (simultaneously) on my time then I do not deal with that situation well at all.  I get into a state of distress.  Why?  Because I want to please all the people who are depending on me – asking something of me.  So I chicken out and try to do everything putting myself under more pressure.  And then someone pays the price of my ‘cowardice’ – failing to be straight with people and handling their disappointment when I say that I cannot do something they are asking of me.

b)  When people ask me for something at the last minute (and I already have a lot on my plate) I get annoyed and angry with that person. And that is simply because I do not say clearly and firmly “Sorry, this is last minute and I cannot help you now” and when they insist I fail to say convincingly “No is no!”

c) What there is for me to do is to talk with my son and ask him what I need to do to make things right and do those things such that they work for him and work for me;

d) Be mindful that these situation press my buttons and take the action to make sure that they do not arise and if they do then be straight with people and myself – what I cannot do I cannot do – and deal calmly with any disappointment.

The practice that I am taking on is the practice of saying “No” when the appropriate action is to say “No” and importantly BE “No”.  It is a challenge for me and I up for the challenge.  Now, what will it take to build that bridge with my son?  I believe I have an idea that will work for my son – take some of his pain away.  I rang just now and it is late and the family is asleep – I will call him tomorrow.


Giving up ‘responsibility’ and standing in the ‘space of Responsibility’ is a powerful access to getting stuff done

I want to share two experiences with you and what I have learned from these experiences.  Lets start with the experiences:

A number of times I walked up and down the stairs and noticed dirt on the stairs.  Each time i sang the following song: “Hoovering the stairs and keep them clean is my son’s responsibility.  Did he do his job of cleaning the stairs on Sunday?  Did he do the job right? i  don’t think so else the stairs would not be this dirty.  You simply can’t count on people to do what you are counting on them to do.  i should have a word with him and get him to hoover the stairs.”   What I (the one committed to ‘Playing BIG’) noticed is that nothing changed in the real world.  i did not speak to my son – not that it would have done any good.  The stairs continued to be dirty.  Furthermore, I noticed that it is I (and i) who wants the stairs to be clean.  Now if I want the stairs to be clean then who is generating that demand on the world?  I am.  Once I got that I picked up the brush and dustpan and cleaned the stairs – twice during the week so that they could be pristine. And I felt great about it.

For about a week a bunch of boxes and the metal stand for the Christmas tree has lain upstairs on the landing.  Once, during the night, I tripped over the stand and almost hurt myself.  What came out of my mouth?  I cursed my wife for leaving the stuff there.  And I asked myself: “Why the heck has she not put the damn stuff up in the loft?  She wanted the Christmas tree and decorations.  So it is her responsibility to put the damn stuff away!”  Guess what that damned stuff stayed where she put it for the week. She was perfectly content for it to be there and so were my three children. Who was put out by it and wanted it moved off the landing and in the loft? Me.  Today, I and not i was present and it noticed that I is responsible for the demands that I (and i) place on the world.  Guess what?  In less than three minutes the stand and the boxes were up in the loft.  And I was left feeling joyful.  Why?  I had taken responsibility for making happen what I wanted to happen and not pester others to make happen what I want to happen.

So what is the lesson?  There is great wisdom in Nike’s slogan “Just do it!”  The access to just doing what I want done or what needs to be done is for me to stand in the ‘space of Responsibility’.  What do I mean?  Specifically, I mean stepping out of the already, always context (space) in which i, you, we are automatically embedded.  What is that space?  I call that was space “responsibility” – notice that it is responsibility with a small r.  In this space of responsibility when what i (you) want to happen does not happen then i (you) find someone to blame – i points the finger, i criticises, i bangs the table, i insists the other party does what i wants done.  The alternative place to stand and to live from is the space of “Responsibility” (notice that it starts with a big R).  In this space I (You) take the stand that I am Responsible for what shows up in my life AND I am Responsible for bringing into my life what I want in my live and keeping out of my life what I want to keep out of my live.  By taking this stand I look always to myself to get done what needs to be done. Now I might choose to get that done through other people and if I do go down that route and the stuff does not get done (or not the way I want it done) then I take a good look at myself and ask the following question:  who am I being such that I do not create the results that I want in my life?

Finally, I am clear that if I want to be powerful in my living then the access to that is standing (and operating) from the space of Responsibility and not responsibility.

The power of intention: it’s all intention!

This week I got present to the huge influence intention has on how I am being and what shows up in my life.  I also got present to the impact on myself and others when I have one intention and yet pretend to be, to do something else – something that is not a function of my intention.

Time is short and I have a powerful intention to honor my word

Its 12:15 and I have just got off an important conference call.  There is another conference call scheduled for 13:00.  That leaves me with only 45 minutes to get to the town centre, park my car, get to the shops, find the right phone case (for my son), pay the parking, exit, arrive home and dial into the conference call.  i (which loves to ‘play small’) comes into play right on cue: “You’ll never get it done today.  Too risky – you will be late for the conference call.  Son won’t mind if you don’t keep your word.  I am sure that I can come up with a good excuse…….”

Thankfully, being mindful I was present and I was adamant that I was going to play full out to honor the word given to son.  So I headed out to the town centre committed to playing the game full out to get the right phone case and get back in plenty of time to make the conference call.  No traffic.  No problem finding a parking place – too easy in fact!  Get to the first mobile phone shop. Can’t find the phone case.  Find an assistant and ask for help.  He shows me the phone case – only one type of phone case.  I look at it and it strikes me that that phone case is not the one that occurs as being the kind of phone case that son would like.  Make my way to the second retailer and look for the case.  Cannot find it and look for help.  There is only one person to help and he is already helping another customer.  Wait.  Great my turn.  I ask for help, get it, try out the phone case, it is just right, pay £10, thank the chap for being helpful.  I notice that he is smiling and I am smiling.  Leave, pay parking ticket, exit car park, arrive home.  What?  Still fifteen minutes to the conference call.  That means that I accomplished the mission in 30 minutes. WOW!

Fully into putting together an inspirational music playlist and my daughter enters

I had set my heart on putting together an inspirational music playlist.  It is around 18:45 and I am half way there – looking forward to getting this done and then taking a break.  Daughter marches into my room and ‘asks’ for my help in doing her homework. Out of guilt i drops what it is  doing and says “OK, I will help you” ignoring that other part of i which is not at all happy about this.  i and daughter go downstairs.  i and daughter sit around the dining table and she starts her homework.  i automatically finds fault with the way that daughter is doing her homework: she is just writing the answers and not showing the workings – how she arrived at the answer.  i tells daughter that it is not good enough to just write the answer, she also has to show how she got to the answer.  i tells daughter that this will help her in the exams: even if she gets the answer wrong she can get some marks if she is using the right method.  Daughter does what she does. i interprets this as you are wasting my time: “If you are not willing to listen to me and insist on doing your homework the way that you are doing it then you can do it on your own!” i makes its way back to the PC and finishing the music playlist.

Once i had retired and I came into play I noticed that i never had the intention to be of service to daughter.  The hidden intention was to get the music playlist finished.  Everything that occurred – the words, the behaviour – on the surface was just a sham.  i pretending to i and i pretending to daughter.  I also notice that i created exactly the situation that it wanted to get its desired outcome!

Lesson learnt

What is and is not showing up in life (including my experience of what is showing up or not) is function of my intention – whether I am aware of it or not.  So all I have to do is to look at what is showing up and then asking myself the question “What intention would result in this showing up (or not) in life?”  And if I answer that question truthfully then I have the access I need to create the intention that sources the kind of phenomena I want in my life.

‘Playing BIG’ – what the heck is that?

I’ve noticed something interesting.  There appears to be default listening around what constitutes ‘Playing BIG’ when it comes to the people that I know and have shared this Possibility with.  This default listening involves a vision of the future, bold goals, striving after achieving those goals.  There is also an element of ‘being someone’ rather than simply another human being.  So a great example of ‘Playing BIG’ within this listening would be to set up a vision of being at the top of Mount Everest, setting up the goal of being there at the top say by the end of this year and then getting busy making that happen.  And when that vision is achieved then I become someone ‘BIG’ – as now I am someone rather than anyone!

That is not how I speak or listen to ‘Playing BIG’ – not for me, not for you. I am clear that ‘Playing BIG’ will show up differently for different people.  For me ‘Playing BIG” occurs primarily in the domain of who I am being rather than what I am doing or what I am getting out (achieving) of life.   For you ‘Playing BIG’ may occur in the realm of achieving e.g. generating a $1 million in this calendar year, climbing Mount Everest or lifting 100 children out of poverty.

Looking more deeply into ‘Playing BIG’ I see that for me ‘Playing BIG’ involves the following:

a) Allowing my fellow human beings and especially my family members (who I interact with daily and share a living space) to be – just as they are and just as they are not. This occurs as a BIG ask as my default position is not to do this – it is ‘force’ them to fit into my point of view on how they should be.  I am noticing that I have been failing at this often despite my commitment to ‘Playing BIG’.

b) Allowing the world to be – just as it is and just as it is not.  Just the other day I was in a hurry to buy a phone case and I noticed the volcano of frustration and annoyance building up in me.  I get that my default position is that the world should work so as to accommodate my desire, my wishes – instantly.

c) Expanding my circle of concern beyond myself.  WOW – whilst meditating this morning I got that I have been so attached to ‘Playing BIG’ that in the process I have been ‘attached to not losing my face’ with the people who I have shared my stand in life (including that of ‘Playing BIG’) and as such I have been being selfish.  Specifically, I have not been being generous (compassionate listening, making time available, doing what was natural to do in the moment) with my family.

d) Expanding the zone of my self-expression and vulnerability.  Specifically, breaking out of the prison that I have allowed to build up around my self-expression.  In the process of expanding this circle of ‘self-expression and vulnerability’ I have opened up this blog to Google (before you had to know it existed to find it).  I have been singing.  I have been dancing.  I have been giving hugs.  I have been playing table-tennis.  I have been disclosing parts of myself that I have not disclosed before.

e) Dealing with my emotions (and upsets) in a way that creates harmony with self and fellow human beings rather than creates upset and discord.  When immersed in ‘Playing small’ i tends to let emotions fly and land where they land.  i does not take responsibility for what it is doing and the impact it is having on self and others.

f) Coming from the stand that I am responsible for my life (how it occurs to me, what phenomena show up) and letting go of the position ‘I am small and simply one of the pawns in the game of life‘.  That is a big one especially when I notice that I am automatically immersed in a world where the default condition is that almost no-one (from the ‘top to the bottom’) takes responsibility for their lives and the world that we live in.  We are all so busy ‘playing victim’, being self righteous and pointing the finger.  When it comes to that game, my i is as good at playing that game as anyone else that I know on this Earth.

To sum this up I’d say that for me ‘Playing BIG’ occurs as ‘mastery over my ‘self’, the ‘i’ that tends to run me.  For you it might be ‘mastery over the world or some aspect of it’.  And that is OK.

Now when I say that this is how ‘Playing BIG’ occurs to me.  Specifically, I mean that is how it occurs to me right now.  If new stuff  shows up then I am open to letting that influence how ‘Playing BIG’ occurs for me and how I play ‘Playing BIG’. And that means letting go of attachment to ‘my face – winning it or losing it’.  If you are remotely like me then you will know that is a HUGE ask: being who you are being, doing what you are doing, having what you are having without consideration of ‘looking good and avoiding looking bad in the eyes of others’ is truly ‘Playing BIG’.  How many of us play that BIG?

How do you contribute to someone when you cannot ‘fix the situation’?

I was meditating this morning.  Whilst I was still sitting in the lotus position (after having completed the meditation) my daughter came into the lounge.  Just by looking at her I could tell that she was upset.  She asked for a hug and I invited her to come and sit on my lap. Once she sat on my lap I asked her what she was upset about.

She told me that she did not want to go to school.   She told me that she finds school boring.  She told me that the teachers spent too much time on the academic subjects (English, Maths..) and almost no time on the creative subjects that breathe life into her and give her wings: art, painting, dance….. She told me that the teacher his moved her best friend to another part of the classroom and so they are no longer sitting next to each other.  She cried. I felt her pain – really, I FELT her pain.  And I also got that I could not fix the situation.  Life is life.  Sometimes it throws up several flavours like Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry…. At other times life throws up Vanilla and when that is so you can choose Vanilla or you can ‘resist’ and you are still faced with Vanilla: there is no escaping Vanilla when all there is, is simply Vanilla.

I got that I could not fix it for her.  So how do I help my daughter given that I cannot fix the situation for her?  I held her tight (but not too tight) and I allowed her to cry – to express and share her pain without any judgement.  And after with what was so for about five minutes she got up and got ready to go to school.

Sometimes the most profound way that we help our fellow human beings is to a create a safe space where they can be who they really are.  A safe space where they can share what is really going on for them without fear of judgement.  A safe space where they know that we will not make any attempts to tell them what to do, to fix them.  A safe space where the communication in our being and relating simply says: “You are equal to the circumstances that you are facing.  And I am here for you.”