On disappointment – what it unconceals and how to be with it


To be human is to be the host to disappointment from time to time. Disappointment is a guest that simply shows up – usually unannounced – without invitation. This week I notice that disappointment – with my children, with myself – has been present in the house of my being.

How to be with disappointment and what does it unconceal?

How to be with disappointment when it shows up? I can accept it, I can pretend that it is not there and all is fine, I can try to push it away, I can struggle with it, I can fight with it………….

This week I chose to observe it as I might observe a new/interesting guest at a dinner party. And by observing it the following was unconcealed:

  • my disappointment can occur in relations to people and/or objects;
  • disappointment that lingers, that is more seductive, is in relation to the people who are the closest to me – my wife, my children….;
  • disappointment is distinct from anger – anger has an active quality to it that tends towards hitting out whereas disappointment is passive and has an air of resignation to it;
  • disappointment is not only towards others it can occur in relation to one’s self – how one is being and what one is doing;
  • moving from being disappointed to observing disappointment is the shift that loosens the grip of disappointment and creates a space to simply let disappointment be;
  • in choosing to let disappointment be disappointment (as opposed to adding meaning/significance to it) disappointment loses its grip on me and thus I am free – to get on with my ‘life projects’;
  • disappointment with oneself, one’s life, can be an opening to transformation – the caterpillar has an opportunity to transform into a butterfly;
  • disappointment with people leads to withdrawal and withdrawal is the suffocation of relationship and that in turn is the suffocation of oneself – as I always exist in relationship with others, no escape;
  • disappointment is rooted in expectation – usually, unrealistic expectation born of unrealistic beliefs about self, about people, about human beings.

Ordinary living: addicted to illusions about others (and self)

Disappointment is rooted in expectation is the clue. I notice that when disappointment showed up (in relation to my children) I was engaged in a particular kind of conversation: “When I was that age I was X and s/he is Y! At his age s/he should be more X than Y.” Clearly X is the desired state and Y is the undesired state. It is in that gap that the clearing for disappointment to show up arises. Which begs the question: how realistic our expectations of one another are? This is what Anthony De Mello writes in his book Awareness:

“A young man came to complain that his girlfriend had let him down, that she had played false. What are you complaining about? Did you expect any better? Expect the worst, you are dealing with selfish people. You’re the idiot – you glorified her, didn’t you? You thought she was a princess, you thought people are nice. They’re not! They’re not nice. They’re as bad as you are – bad, you understand? They’re asleep like you. And what do you think they are going to seek? Their own self-interest, exactly like you. No difference. Can you imagine how liberating this is – you’ll never be disillusioned again, never be disappointed again? You’ll never feel let down again. Never feel rejected. Want to wake up? You want happiness? You want freedom? Here it is: Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.

It’s probably too startling for many of you to understand that everyone except the very rare awakened person can expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest whether in coarse or refined ways. This leads you to see that there is nothing to be disappointed about, nothing to be disillusioned about. If you had been in touch with reality all along, you would never be disappointed. But you choose to paint people in glowing colours; you choose not to see through human beings because you chose not to see through yourself. So you are paying the price now. “

Reading this passage from De Mello provided me with a powerful opening to own that I had left the doors open to disappointment by living from/into an unrealistic story. I am delighted to say that my son and I took the first steps today to move past the disappointment with one another. Right now, disappointment is not present, it has flown away and the house of my being is peaceful.

Finally, a warning

Please note: you and I do not need to add any meaning to “everyone except the very rare awakened person can be expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest”. I am not saying that this good or bad, right or wrong. This is as pointless as saying that driving on the right is wrong and driving on the left is right. In the real world, what matters, is to know if you are in a country where people drive on the right or left. And given that understanding you and I are free to choose to fit in with the existing way of doing things or to chart an alternative course and take the consequences that come with that.

On the distinction between ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’. And why it matters


Taking a fresh look at helping

Is it possible that in helping you I am, underneath it all and hidden from view, fanning the flames of my ego?  Put differently, is my helping there to bolster my sense of self-worth, to display that I am better/stronger/knowledgeable… than you?  Is it possible that in the game of helping you are there for me as opposed to me being there for you?

Is it possible that when I reach out to help it is to sooth/extinguish my own pain – the pain that I experience when I am present to you experiencing pain? Neuroscientists claim that ‘mirror neurons’ dwell within us / are an essential part of us.  And when I see/hear your pain the same pain shows up in my world, I experience it. It is by experiencing this pain that I act.  Put differently, where the mirror neuron circuitry is impaired people do not show empathy, they do not act.

Is it possible that when I help you I am not being helpful to you?  Put differently, is it possible that when I read for you I get in the way of you learning to read and reading for yourself?  Is it possible that when I cook for you I get in the way of you learning to cook and cooking for yourself?  Is it possible that when you fall and I lift you up I am getting in the way of you getting up yourself by yourself and getting present to being capable of lifting yourself of the floor?  Is it possible that when I supply you with food handouts I am getting in the way of you learning and taking responsibility for growing/coming up with your own food?

‘Helping’ and ‘being helpful’ – two different beasts?

It occurs to me ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’ are two very different beasts yet in the way we carry ourselves we collapse them into the one and the same.  It occurs to me that when we are ‘helping’ it is most likely that we are not ‘being helpful’.  And that by confusing ‘helping’ with ‘being helpful’ we are doing harm to our fellow human beings.  How?

By sharing, by telling, by advising we are ‘pushing’ our views on to our fellow human beings and thus robbing them of their responsibility and their freedom. What responsibility?  The responsibility to search for/come up with their own views.  By doing stuff for others we are robbing them of their responsibility for doing the work.  By making the choices for others we are not only robbing them of their freedom (to make their own choices and live with these choices) we are robbing them of their responsibility for making choices.  I hope you get the idea.

What is the critical difference between ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’? 

When I am ‘helping’ you then I am the lead actor, I cast myself in the most powerful role, it is about what I am doing to you/for you, I am the active force acting and you are the passive one simply receiving that which I am handing out.

Helping requires little thought, reflection, intentionality – it is easier, it is quicker, it does not require you and I to work in partnership, to cultivate strong bonds. I am the parent, you are the child, I lead you follow, I dictate you obey…… I say ‘being helpful’  is totally different ‘game’ – one that is rare simply because most of us collapse ‘being helpful’ with ‘helping’.  Put differently, our automatic way of being is such that it occurs to as that ‘helping’ is by definition ‘helpful’.   And because ‘being helpful’ really takes something (hard work, sacrifice) as opposed to ‘helping’ which is rather easy in comparison.  

What constitutes ‘being helpful’?

‘Being helpful’ requires that I let go of my ego, that I do not rush to act.  ‘Being helpful’ requires that I stand in the place that I see/act towards you as a person who is whole-complete-perfect, a human being who has all that life demands of him/her.  ‘Being helpful’ requires that I never encroach on your responsibility for your life.  ‘Being helpful’ demands that instead of taking away your freedom, I confront you with your freedom: to invent possibilities for your life, to take a stand in life, to make your choices, to walk the path you have chosen for yourself.   That I act to increase your capacity to be responsible and to exercise your freedom.  And importantly, that I act to increase your capacity to act powerfully on yourself and your circumstances.  Once this context is in place and I act from this context then any help that I provide will show up as contributing to the game of ‘being helpful’.

Imagine that you are confronted with a poor person.  Giving that person money is ‘helping’.  Buying that poor person food, clothes… is helping.  Now asking yourself what would constitute ‘being helpful’ to this poor person?  I say you are ‘being helpful’ when you ask and enter deeply into the following questions:

“What would enable this person to help himself, to lift himself out of poverty?”  Another way of thinking about this is to ask yourself the question “What is getting in the way of this person not being poor, being OK, being prosperous?”  A great place to start is with the person himself and the story that he has created (about himself, his circumstances) and lives from/into.  Then take a look at the circumstances of his life and the environment in which he is embedded.

“How do I ensure that at all times this person gets that s/he is whole-complete-perfect and gets s/he is in the driving seat?”  That s/he gets that s/he does not need fixing –  s/he is all that it takes to deal with/transcend her circumstances.  Notice: I deliberately wrote is and not has.  That s/he is confronted with the responsibility with lifting himself out of his poverty.  That it is s/he who chooses if s/he wishes to lift herself out of poverty – to make fresh choices, to walk a different path, to do the work that goes with walking this new path

“How do I ensure that I keep my ego out of the picture?  And if it is in the picture what can I do to ensure that it contributes to the game of ‘being helpful’ rather than undermining it?”  Just being present to this question, being mindful of it on a daily basis, keeping it existence is often enough to ensure that I show up as ‘being helpful’ as opposed to indulging in ‘helping’.

“What is missing the presence of which would make a significant difference?” Here I am talking about resources.  For many it is simply belief in themselves as whole-complete-perfect.  You and I can supply that much needed resource by relating to these people as whole-complete-perfect and not acting in any way to undermine this.  For example, in a Montessori School if a student goes and asks a question then the teacher, if she is embodying Montessori principles, will ask the student what he things the answer to the question is.  If the student says he doesn’t know then the teacher is likely to ask the student where/how we can find out for himself and encourage him to do so.  It may be that the resource that is missing is money to buy equipment to start a small business.  This is what Kiva does – enable people to lift themselves out of poverty by tapping into microloans.  It may be that the resource that is missing is simply education: “please teach me to catch fish so that I am able to catch fish by myself for the rest of my life. And teach others to catch fish!”  I hope you get the idea.

Warning

‘Being helpful’ requires a certain kind of play and generates certain kinds of results.  ‘Helping’ requires a different kind of play and generated different kinds of results.   I am not making the assertion that one is better than another.  Nor am I making the claim that one is good and the other bad.  I am definitely not telling you what do do not even under the guise of ‘helping you live better lives’.  You are responsible for your life, you are free to choose how you live your life. I am simply making it clear that ‘helping’ and  ‘being helpful’ are distinct and should not be collapsed.  That we should not kid ourselves that when we are ‘helping’ that we are by definition ‘being helpful’.  And that when we ‘help’ others we can actually be undermining them and thus not ‘being helpful’ to them.

Finally and importantly, I am not saying that you and I should not ‘help’.  If a young child falls into a fire I will take that child out immediately.  I will not wait to figure out how I can ‘be helpful’ to this young child.   If I come across a starving person I will ‘help’ that person by feeding him. And then I might just choose to play the game of ‘being helpful’.

And Finally

It really takes something to listen to my speaking.  I deliberately make it so – my commitment is to ‘be helpful’ and not simply ‘help”.  If you are listening to my speaking then I thank you. And in particular I thank the 30+ of you who subscribe to this blog.  Without you there would be no value in my speaking.  So once again I thank you for you listening.

 

 

What is the being of a father?


Musings on being a father

To father is simply to plant the seeds of a new life. It takes nothing to father.

Whereas to be a father is lifelong commitment to another life entered into voluntarily knowing that on the journey both joy and pain/sorrow will show up.  That is just what is so: in real life a rose without thorns simply does not show up – I have never encountered one.

To be a father is to choose to be responsible for another life.

To be father is to live the art of ‘loose’ and ‘tight’ – to allow freedom within boundaries and to act when boundaries are exceeded.

To be father is be opening  to being moved-touched-inspired-upflited by the child and learning from the child as well as moving-touching-inspiring-uplifting the child and encouraging learning.

To be father is to get that the child is not an adult in training – the child is just that a child and granting the child the freedom to be a child.

To be father is not to preach (that is easy and every fool does that), it is to live/model a life that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts the child.

To be father is to model both strength and vulnerability – showing that one goes with the other as do two sides of the coin.

To be a father is to be ok with saying/admitting “I don’t know, I don’t have the answers.”

To be a father is to accept and step into the process of letting go and let the child become wo/man.

To be a father is to model accepting and then handling that which shows up – wanted or unwanted in life.

To be a father is to be loving.

Fathers Day Card from Clea

Sometimes it occurs to me that I am doing fine at being the kind of father that I am up for being.  At other times it occurs to me I am/have failed so badly.  Neither is true – it is simply what shows up like the wind, sometimes calm and sometimes a gust.  To be a father is to wonder if you are getting it right and be open to encouragement!

 

 

You are the cause of your suffering / are you running a ‘racket’? (Part III)


This post continues the conversation that commenced earlier and which you can find below:

How can you be about/deal with ‘tiredness’ and ‘hopelessness’? (part I)

You are neither the thoughts nor the feelings that show up (part II)

Let’s get present to where your are at (or were at)

“I tend to always fall for men that are dominant and players. It is difficult for me to be attracted to someone who is less witty and dominant, as I have a strong character. Although I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment, am like a moth to a flame.

This is one aspect of your life that you shared with me. You also shared the following with me:

  • “I guess I am feeling the loss of physical intimacy, someone to just be there to hold me when I’m feeling lost and alone.”
  • “Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one.”

You are the cause of your suffering and you can give it up this instant

There is what you want to be so. There is what is so. There is a difference between what you ‘want to be so’ and ‘what is so’. This difference shows up as ‘painful’ – an issue to be dealt with / a problem to be solved. And you are probably telling yourself that once you have solved this one, met the ‘one’ your life will work out and you will live happily ever after.

Do you notice something interesting? There is no ‘issue’ no ‘problem’ in the world as it is. You are generating this ‘issue’, this ‘problem’, this ‘upset’ and the suffering that goes with it. Let me be plain: YOU are the cause of your own suffering! And you can choose to not suffer – you can do that right now. Let’s take a look at this in more detail:

You have bought into and are living out of a myth. Here is how it goes: I can only be happy if/when I find the ‘one’; the ‘one’ is out there; once I find the ‘one’ or he finds me then all will be great and I will live happily ever after. I know many people who have found the ‘one’ and then found out, later, that life has not worked out and bliss is not ever present. I know of people who have found the ‘one’ only to lose the ‘one’ through death – and they are left grappling with that. I know of people who have found the ‘one’ and then the ‘one’ has cheated and/or left them for another – and these people are left grappling with that. What if you let go of this myth? What if you let go of putting conditions on happiness? What if you choose to be with the fact that right now the ‘one’ is not in your life and you choose to put happiness into your life? Notice that when you put these conditions onto life you are constructing your own prison.

“I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment”. Is this so? Let’s take a look at hurt, specifically how you (and I) create hurt. Notice that hurt arises in relation to people and pets. How does it come about? We create and live out of expectations around people – especially those who we are close to / those close to us. We may or may not share these expectations with them. They may or may not agree to our expectations. When the expectations are not met what shows up? Hurt. The bigger the gap between the demands we place on people (whether communicated or not) and what we get/do not get from these people the bigger the hurt. If you and I genuinely want to be free from hurt then we can do that right now: give up any and all expectations of people. You can even go further and ‘expect’ that every single person will act to get what he/she wants out of life – to act ‘selfishly’. Don’t you do the same? So what is the big deal when others do the same as you, same as me? If you practice this you will notice that there is no space for ‘abandonment’ in your life. ‘Abandonment’ is a function of making demands on people, on life, that life does not fulfil. Put differently, it is label for a specific kind of hurt.

Are your running a “racket”?

During my participation in Landmark Education I was exposed to the distinction “racket”. What is a racket? I say a racket is made of the following:

  • Fixed way of being e.g. being demanding, being critical, being helpful, being miserable…
  • Fixed set of behaviour – doing the same things over and over again
  • Recurrent complaint – about someone, something, about yourself
  • Payoff – usually hidden, not acknowledged – what you get out of being/doing what you are being/doing

Let’s get clear on this: you find a certain type of man attractive; you go for this type; you get what you get and you take it; at some point the ‘hurt’ and ‘abandonment’ shows up in your life’; you ‘beat yourself up’ in some way or form; you do the same again and again; and then you plead that you are simply a ‘moth to a flame’.

Well you are not a ‘moth’! You are human being who can envisage future, see possibilities, be other than that which you are being, pursue possibilities/paths other than what you are on today, do stuf that you are not doing today, stop doing stuff that you are doing…. you can even choose to give up your life. To be a human being is to be ‘the one that is always the chooser, always, not that which is chosen nor that which shows up or is imposed’. You can play at being ‘small’, ‘helpless’ even ‘pathetic’, that might work with you friends/family – it does not work with me. I relate to you as a ‘force of nature’ who can at any and all times invent and live into futures that leave your experience of living transformed. You are ‘BIG’, you really are. The question is, when will you choose to ‘play BIG’?

So now that we have distinguished the upper most level of racket – playing ‘small’ and asking for ‘leniency’ or ‘help’ let’s move on to the second level of your racket as I see it. Notice, I am not making truth claims. I am simply sharing my perspective with you, you might not like it and I say that is fine, try it out and see if it works. If it works then keep it, if it does not then you can drop it – I am not attached to it, you won’t hurt my feelings. Back to racket.

I say that you ‘ok’ with what is so including the ‘hurt’ and ‘abandonment’. Why? Because whatever it is that you are getting is of more value to you then the cost that you are paying. Put differently, the ‘payoff’ exceeds the ‘cost’ and so you continue doing what you are doing. Do you want to create the space in which you can choose to give up this game? Then look ruthlessly at the payoff – this will taking brutal honesty with yourself and we, human beings, are poor at that. What might that ‘payoff’ be?

  • You get to be right about men – they cannot be trusted, they are selfish;
  • You get to be right about yourself – you are small, helpless, cannot help yourself, cannot control yourself, you are passionate-different-trusting…..
  • You get sympathy – you can tell the story of how life is not working out and get attention, get sympathy………..
  • You get out of demands that you or others would otherwise place on you – after all if you are ‘hurt’ and ‘abandoned’ then you can give yourself a ‘get out of jail for free’ card and others typically do the same for you
  • By playing this ‘game’ you keep yourself occupied rather than being bored – it is better than ‘nothing’
  • Your belief in the myth of the ‘one’ continues intact and your dreams are not shattered……

The list is endless yet the buckets are not. What do I mean? Some wise folks have pointed out that human behaviour is driven by:

  • Looking good avoiding looking bad – which is why walk around with masks and are almost never truly ourselves
  • Being right and making others wrong – even if that means going to war and millions get killed
  • Dominating others and avoiding being dominated – in a family there is no-one as dominant as the one that gets the others to believe that he/she is helpless, ‘small’ and needs to be given special exemptions and be looked after!
  • Validating yourself (everything including your beliefs and points of view) and invalidating others – I experienced a great example of this morning when Matthew, Jehovah’s witness came to my door to show me the error of my ways and convert me.

Breaking free from your “racket”

‘Sister’ be ruthless with yourself and get clear on the ‘payoff’ and the ‘cost’ of playing this game. When it comes to ‘cost’ look at both the cost that you pay now, that you are paying longer term, and the cost that the people in your life pay. When you have written that out then get present to it – step into it, experience it. Once you have done that – are clear on the ‘payoff’ and ‘cost’ as experienced – then choose. Choose to play this game of falling for/going for the dominant men, the players, and if you do this then you give up complaining. Or choose to give this game up. If you choose to give it up then you create space to invent a more inspiring-moving-touching-uplifting game.

Finally, remember what I said earlier – you are creating your own suffering and you can give that up right now. How? Be with life as it is and as it is not. I wish you well and it will not make a difference. You, only you, are the difference that can make a difference to your experience of your living. Your destiny lies in you.

You are neither the thoughts nor the feelings that show up (part II)


This post continues the conversation that I started in the previous post where a ‘sister’ reached out to me for help, for advice, for my point of view as she was and may still be suffering.

Let’s set the ground for this conversation

Look into the matter deeply and you might just find that we human beings do not have access to the truth.  If you are scientifically minded then study what has been taken for knowledge and ‘truth’ and you might just find that ‘truth’ is always provisional and ‘truths’ have come and gone.  Once ‘truth’ was that the heavens revolved around the Earth and women were held to be inferior to men – some men, tribes and religions still cling to the belief that women are inferior to men and are the property/playthings of men. I remember standing up to my parents so that my sister could go to University and create her own life rather than have a forced marriage thrust upon her.

How best to illustrate, provide your for a feeling for what I am pointing at?  Allow me to share a sufi tale with you.  A sufi master is said to have told the following story: 

‘Finding I could speak the language of ants, I approached one and enquired, “What is God like? Does he resemble the ant?”  He answered, “God? No, indeed – we have only a single sting but God, he has two!”‘

Which is not to say that all viewpoints, all the places we choose to stand are equal in value.  If you are driving in the UK it makes huge difference as to whether you drive on the left (the UK viewpoint) or the left (USA/Continental Europe).  The same applies to Life: some vantage points are simply more useful for tilting the table towards the ‘workability’ of life.  So the point of view that I share is not the truth.  I make no such claim yet I do assert that living from the vantage point that I am sharing can increase the ‘workability’ of your life.  Now that we are clear on this lets move on to the conversation itself.

All kinds of unhelpful/disempowering feelings & thoughts can show up in our lives

Sister I notice that all kinds of thoughts and feelings are showing up in your life: feeling lost; feeling the loss of physical intimacy; feeling lost and alone; feeling the burden of uncertainty/insecurity; feeling unwanted; feeling you don’t belong; longing for the one; thinking and believing there is something wrong with you…….

It might occur to you that you are all alone, that this is only showing up in your life.  You are not alone. Many, many of us have experienced these thoughts, these feelings at some point in our lives.  How many thousands are thinking/feeling this way right now?  Allow me to share a story with you.

“One day a mother turned up to the abode of a holy man clutching the body of her dead baby.  She was in so much pain and she pleaded, again and again, with the holy man to bring her baby back to life.  The holy man listened patiently and then told the mother that indeed he could help her.  And in order for him to help her he needed her to go back to her village and bring back a glass of water – but only from a household which had never experienced death.

The mother went back to her village and started knocking on doors. Each household was more than willing to give her a glass of water.  Yet the water was of no use as every household had lost someone – grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, friend……

After knocking on all the doors and finding no household, no person, left untouched by loss of someone dear the mother returned to the holy man.  This time she was lighter because she had gotten that loss, sorrow and death touch us all – an intrinsic part of human life.”

How about living from this stand: whole-complete-perfect?

So ‘sister’ you are no less than anyone else on this planet.  Suffering is not a sign that there is something wrong with you, that you are defective. Loss, pain, sorrow, suffering come as intrinsic to human existence on this planet of ours. You are whole-complete-perfect just as you are and just as you are not.  How about standing in that space?  The space of “I declare myself to be whole-complete-perfect just as I am and am not!”

You (and I) are neither our thoughts nor our feelings

Sister, being a woman, it is quite possible that you may find the following a struggle.  And I say there is value in listening to what I am about to say.  I say that you and I are neither our thoughts nor our feelings!  That’s right I get that thoughts and feelings are present and I say that you are not these thoughts nor these feelings.  Do you disagree?  Does this upset you?  Bear with me and let’s explore.

Do you choose the thoughts that pop up into your mind?  Just sit and meditate even for five minutes, keep a blank mind, think no thoughts.  What happened? Did a stream of thoughts simply show up?  Did you choose to think these thoughts? If you are honest you know that you did not choose these thoughts, they simply pop up in your house of being without your bidding.  Look deeper and you will find that some of these thoughts hook you and others don’t – they show up, they disappear.

What about your feelings?  Do you choose them?  Do you choose to feel sad, miserable, joyful?  If you look deeply you will find that feelings show up in your house of being uninvited just like your thoughts.  And you will find that some feelings show up more often than others.  You are also likely that some feelings hook you more than others – they stay longer, you connect with them more deeply.  And all feelings fade away whether you want them to or not.

Do you still find what I say difficult to accept?  Imagine that you are throwing a party and a you get a village load of people turning up at this party – some invited and some ‘gatecrashers’.  Does your Self expand to include these people?  Do you ever say to yourself I am all – me, the people that I have invited and the ‘gatecrashers’?  No, you do not.  What is more once you noticed the ‘gatecrashers’ you would ask them to leave and if they did not you would  call the police so as to eject these unwelcome ‘gatecrashers’, right?

How are the thoughts and feelings that show up in your house of being any different to the ‘gatecrashers’?  And why do you collapse them with yourself and call them your feelings, your thoughts?  I say that you do that because you have been born into a culture that says and teaches you that the thoughts and feelings that show up for you are yours – they constitute an integral part of yourself.  And that is why you latch onto them and confuse them with yourself. Yet you are not the thoughts and feelings that show up and then disappear!

Do you want access to freedom?

If you want access to freedom then I invite you to live from this sand: “I am the context and not the content.  I am the house of being not the furniture that turns up, stays around, wears it, is thrown out.  I am the chooser not the chosen (content) nor the ‘gatecrashers’ (thoughts/feelings/moods) that show up in my house of being uninvited .  I choose and declare myself to be the possibilities that I project and the stand/s that I take in life!”

You might be wondering how that gives you freedom.  Allow me to illustrate with a personal example. Last week I was in considerable pain – some days I spent curled up in bed, some nights I did not sleep at all.  Then Friday morning arrived and it was the first morning that I felt OK.  Months ago I had agreed to meet a ‘friend that I had not yet met face to face’ and his guests for an informal chat in London. That informal gathering was due to start at 4pm.  What to do?  Do I take a chance and drive into London – an hour drive?  Or do I play it safe and rest given that I have already let my friend know that I am ill and might not make it? The day showed up as being miserable: dark clouds and heavy rain.

What thoughts and feelings showed up? Thoughts: don’t go, stay at home, it is safer (more accidents on the roads in this kind of weather), it is the right thing to do as I need to rest, and if I do go and am unwell then my wife/family will criticise me.  Feelings: confused, worried, scared – about doing the wrong things, making my health situation worse.

What did I do?  I chose to be my stand: to honour my word as myself.  I got into the car at 14:45 and headed into London in the pouring rain.  Half and hour later the noticeboard showed speed restriction and a blocked lane, long delays – an accident had indeed occurred on the motorway.  This was a great excuse to turn the car around and head back home. Those thoughts did pop up in my mind: look you have done your best, you have kept your word, no disgrace in heading home.  What did I do? I chose to play full-out to honour my word.  I diverted onto minor roads and found myself a different route into London.  I arrived 15 minutes late and yet I did turn up and I am proud of myself: I choose not to allow the uninvited thoughts and feelings to deflect me from my stand in life.

Summing up

You, I , we can choose to relate to ourselves as the possibilities that we invent live from/live into and the stand/s that we take in life.  You, I, we can get and live from the stand that we are not the thoughts and the feelings that pop up, stay a while, disappear, reappear in our minds/bodies/lives.

Living from this context we can let go of “I am feel insecure or helpless” and replace it with “How interesting I notice insecurity and helplessness are present, I wonder how they ended up in my house of being.”  And living from this context you can let the thoughts and feelings that show up, simply be, whilst you continue to be ruthless in living from/into the possibilities that you have invented and the stands you have taken.

I guarantee that if you live from the context that I have outlined above your experience of living will be transformed.  You will relate to yourself as a powerful human being.  If you do that then you can drop the need to take more courses to fix yourself.  How/why?  Because you are already whole-complete-perfect and as such there really is nothing to fix and no course will fix it! 

Ultimately it comes down to choice.  Whether you choose to live from the context of whole-complete-perfect, living from/into the possibilities that you invent and the stands you take.  Are you up for that ‘sister’?

How can you be about, deal with tiredness and hopelessness? Part I


A ‘sister’ reaches out

Recently a ‘sister’ reached out to me to share aspects of her experience of her life and to ask for my advice:

“I am feeling lost without anchors in my life. I guess I am feeling the loss of physical intimacy, someone to just be there to hold me when I’m feeling lost and alone. Work stability and security in an organisation that is chaotic with recurring re-structuring and transfers.

It is bearing me down, the uncertainty in my workplace and bearing the responsibility of taking care of 3 growing kids, with sometimes no one to talk to for parenting advice.

I guess I had reached a point where I was just very, very tired and feeling as if I don’t belong or wanted both in my work-place and in my personal space. Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one. Sometimes believing that I am flawed in some way that is preventing that from coming into being.

I tend to always fall for men that are dominant and players. It is difficult for me to be attracted to someone who is less witty and dominant, as I have a strong character. Although I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment, am like a moth to a flame.

People, friends have said I am strong and a survivor from what they see. I know I am a survivor, but the scars have been deep and plenty. I don’t feel very strong most of the time, struggle to overcome my feelings of insecurity and capabilities.

I always feel that there is constant turbulence in my life both at work and in my personal life.  How do I continue when I’m feeling so tired and hopeless.

Warning: I am not ‘God’ and do not have ‘solutions’ to life

Before I dive into the heart of the matter I wish to make it plain that I am not in a position to provide advice.  I am clear that I am not ‘God’ and as thus I have no solutions to life.  To take that orientation is to see life as a ‘problem’ – we search for solutions to problems.  Perhaps life is simply a gift that we are granted or it is a challenge/opportunity to help us unfold, develop and flower in our unique way in the process playing our part and contributing to the bigger play called ‘Life’.  Perhaps life is simply a mystery that can never be solved, only lived.

“How do I continue when I am feeling so tired and hopeless?”

Sister, rest assured that if you do not actively interfere with your automatic machinery (that goes with being human) then you will continue and you do not have to figure out how you will continue.  What do I mean?  I mean that by virtue of being human and being here, you have been granted a fierce will to survive and an array of capacities that enable you to survive.  Put differently, to be human  is to be a formidable survival organism – one that continues  because its design is to continue itself for as long as it can.  That is to say your ‘human  machinery’ will take care of surviving/continuing if you do not get in it’s way.

Who and what is the cause of tiredness and hopelessness?

When you ask this question (How do I continue…..?) what you are saying is that ‘the story that you are telling yourself about your future’ is leaving you feeling tired and hopeless.

In the Western world, Sunday is a day of relaxation – it is where you can take it easy, meet up with friends and family, do what you enjoy doing.  It should be the ‘happiest’ day of the week.  Yet, research shows that it is the ‘unhappiest’ day of the week for many people.  Why?  Because many of these people are looking into the future and what they are present to is being at work, slaving away at work they do not enjoy, on the Monday.  Which is the best/happiest day of the week?  Friday.  Why?  Because whilst these people are in the office (where they do not want to be) they are not really in the office.  Instead they are living into the future that is the weekend – who they will be with, where they will be, what they will be doing……..

So let’s be clear on this:  what gives you your being today, right now, is the future that you are living into.  Here is what Alan Watts says in his book (The Wisdom of Insecurity):

“Human beings appear to be happy just as long as they have a future to which they can look forward – whether is be a “good time” tomorrow or an everlasting life beyond the grave.

So what can you do about ‘tiredness and hopelessness’?

You can choose to be resolute and fierce in your living.  You can choose to relate to yourself as a ‘force of nature’ with awesome qualities – all that you need to live fully right now and into the future.

You can get present to the fact that you really do not know how the future will turn out (and thus is open to invention). You really do not know. And even if something ‘bad’ happens you do not know how that will turn out.   What shows up as ‘bad’ or a ‘catastrophe’ today, can show up later as the best thing that happened to me, just what I needed to grow, to develop, to move forward on to a new path.

You can choose not to listen to nor create a story about a future – a dismal future – that leaves you feeling tired and hopeless.  If one part of you is throwing up this story, then don’t buy into it.  And that is a whole lot easier if you embrace my next suggestion.

You can, right now, deliberately create a story about you and your future that genuinely leaves you moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  What kind of a future, if you created it now and lived it now (as if it were real right now) would leave you genuinely moved-touched-inpsired-uplifted?

You can choose to focus on what works in your life, what you can be grateful for right now.  What if you had all the challenges that you have right now and you lost your eyesight? What would that be like?  What if one or more of your three children fell ill with a serious disease?  What would that be like?

You can choose to spend time and focus upon those who are less fortunate than you. If you do that then you will both lose sight of yourself (and your suffering) whilst you are helping others less fortunate than you.  Indirectly this helping, this intimate contact with those less fortunate than you will leave you more grateful for the blessings – sight, speech, hearing, movement etc – in your life.  Finally, you are most likely to show up for yourselves as a ‘god’ rather than a ‘beggar’.  For most of us it is impossible to ‘give of ourselves’ to the less fortunate and not to receive more back in return. 

What if you simply you cannot change your circumstances?

Lets, just assume that you face circumstances that you simply you cannot change. Then what can you do, how can you be about that?  Here is what Viktor Frankl says: “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Let’s make this real. You are 17 years old, you are into diving and you have an accident that leaves you paralysed from the neck down.  How can you be about this circumstance, that you cannot change?  This is what this chap says and how he has lived his life:

I broke my neck but it did not break me. I am at present helpless and this handicap will remain with myself apparently forever. But I would not give up my studies.  I went because of my own helplessness to help other people.  I want to become a psychologist to help others.  My suffering will add an essential contribution to my ability to understand and help others.

Please notice that this young man has chosen to be fiercely resolute. He has invented a future that gives his life meaning and within which his unchangeable circumstances show up as an asset rather than a tragedy.  He has created a story that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts hims.  It is the story that is giving him being – a powerful desire to live to contribute to be of help to those facing helplessness – rather than his circumstances.  It is ALL story: life is ALL story.  How life show up for you is a function of the story that you are living into/from. 

You can watch an interview with this young man (Jerry Long) and Viktor Frankl:  http://youtu.be/1_lmMl4P7cQ

And finally

I will continue the conversation in the next post – there is so much to ‘grapple with’ here and it requires more than one post.


Sin revisited


Christian doctrine of ‘original sin

If I have understood the concept of ‘original sin’ then it arises as a result of the ‘ fall of man’ whereby Adam disobeyed God.  As such every human being is born sinful – being sinful is the original condition of human beings.  Put differently, ‘badness’ is our nature and we have to strive to be good.  Who can redeem us from this state of ‘original sin’? God – if and only if he chooses to do so.

The Kite Runner: Baba’s view of sin

Some years ago when I was reading the  Kite Runner.  In this novel a conversation takes place between the principal character and Baba (his father.   This is what Baba says about sin:

“There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

A powerful way of looking at sin

If we are going to create and live from/into stories then how about generating a story that leaves me being powerful in my living?  I say that we are born ‘whole-complete-perfect’ – we are thrown into this world with all that we need to play fully, our part, in the drama called ‘Life’.  Thrown into this world we are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’.  We simply are.

Yet somwhere along the the line each of us does commit ‘sin’:

I sin when I say that I am not ‘whole-complete-perfect‘.  I put myself down in any number of ways: I am not enough, I am weak, I am powerless, I am helpless, I don’t count, I don’t matter…….

I sin when I fail to take responsibility for what is so – that includes my life, my community, my tribe, my nation, the state of the world.  Chaos theory shows that a miniscule change can influence dramatic changes in the world.  And history shows that everything starts with one wo/man – a man that takes a stand and operates from that stand.  Think Jesus, Mohammed, Stalin, Hitler, Luther, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie……..

I sin when I fail to recognise that any moment I can reinvent my life simply by inventing and living from/into possibilities that leave me moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  To be human is to be granted with imagination – the capacity to envisage a life other than one I am living now, I world other than what is so today – and the capacity to act on the world, to live that possibility and bring it to fruition.  The happiness research shows that it is not arriving at the destination that generates happiness.  No, happiness is a byproduct of being on the right journey.

I sin when I hold myself to separate from my fellow human beings, from all other living beings and the earth itself.  When I hold myself as being separate I close to my eyes to the fact that in the drama called ‘Life’ everything, everyone, all of life is interdependent.  Each and everyone is in relationship.  Look deeply into this and it is obvious that I have never been independent – I, you, we would not be alive today if it was not for the air, the water, the plants, the animals, our fellow human beings……..

I sin when I steal and like Baba says I steal in so many ways.  I sin when I withhold my compassion, my love for to be human is to be social – to search for and need compassion and love from my fellow man.  I sin when I treat living beings as merely objects – objects/resources to be used/abused for my benefit.  I sin when I criticise, I condemn, I belittle, I diminish the humanity of the other.  And the other includes all sentient beings e.g. the great apes, elephants, dolphins…..

What is the ‘good’ news?

I do not have to wait for God or for any other entity for any kind of redemption.  Right now and at any moment I can give up my ‘sinful way of being/living’.:

  • I can live from the context of being ‘whole-complete-perfect’.
  • I can choose to be responsible/accountable for my life, for the state of the world.
  • I can invent and live from/into possibilities that leave me ‘moved-touched-inspired-uplifted-joyous’.
  • I can recognise that the nature of existence is relationship – to be alive is to be in relationship – and I can act accordingly.  I can ask myself “How would I like to be treated if I was born cat, dog, monkey, elephant…..?”  And I can show the care that I expect others to show for me.