Hurt as an access to the possibility of humanity, connection and contribution


Through the news I am aware of the destruction being reaped by Hurricane Sandy.  Where there is destruction there tends to be hurt – people who are hurt and hurting.

We hurt.  We hurt in the sense of experiencing physical pain like that of a twisted ankle. We hurt as in the sense of experiencing emotional pain when it occurs to us that we are looked down upon, excluded, lost a loved one……  We hurt, that is simply what is so and goes along with being human.

What is our default setting towards hurt?  

We do not like to hurt.  I say our idea of the perfect life is life without hurt.   So we go to great lengths to avoid being hurt: we want to survive AND not be hurt.  We want to insulate ourselves from hurt.  Furthermore, we do not see any value in being hurt – hurt shows up for us as purely negative.

Is hurt purely negative?  

Is hurt purely negative?  Is that the way it has to be?  Do we have any choice in the matter of how we act towards and use hurt?  I say that we do. I say that there is another way to be with, and stand in relation to hurt.

I say that hurt can be the access to the possibility of humanity, of connection to our fellow human beings, and of contributing to a world that works.  I got present to this possibility yesterday, let me recount what happened.

Yesterday, reluctantly, I told my eldest son that I would not be able to go with him (today) to see the latest Bond film that he was eagerly waiting to see with me.  He got that I am ill and not in a position to go.

Later, my wife told me that this son of ours (17 years old) had agreed to accompany our youngest (daughter) on her ‘trick and treating’ rounds on Halloween (today).  That showed up as shock for me as the two of them do not get along well. And my oldest does not show up as someone who is into ‘trick and treating’.  Why did my eldest agree?

Hurt.  My wife told me that when she told him that our daughter had no-one else then my eldest agreed to accompany his sister.  Why?  Because he knows the experience of being alone.  He knows the experience of being excluded.  His experience of his later school years was that of being alone, being excluded, being without reliable friends.   Given being present to that experience he could empathise with his sister (humanity), seek her out and tell her that he will take her ‘trick/treating’ (connection and contribution).

I took a look at my life. The hurt of being called a “Paki” and being spat upon (at school) left me with a lived understanding of the impact of intolerance.  And it allowed me to be a stand for tolerance towards my fellow human beings.  To this day, I am proud of the fact that a fellow student and friend chose me as the first person to share his secret – that of being gay.  When I asked him why he chose me?  He told me that he knew I would continue to be his friend and accept him.  I remember the hurt that goes along with being small/powerless and being made to do whatever the authority figures (especially my father) wanted me to do irrespective of my needs, my feeling, me desires for my life.  And this experience of hurt enabled me to experience the hurt of my fellow human beings and thus be a stand for human dignity and freedom.  Which kind of explains why I chose not to have an arranged marriage.  Why I am a life member of Anti-Slavery. Why I placed my children in Montessori education and have encouraged them to speak their minds from the time they were born….. And why I strive to treat my fellow human beings as equals.  Do I always ‘get it right’?  No.  Am I a stand for tolerance-freedom-fairness-equality?  Yes.

Hurt as access to possibility and transformation

Hurt is hurt.  And to be in the world it to live at risk and that includes the risk of being hurt.  That is simply what is so.  What is also so is that our stance towards hurt – how we interpret it, how we use it – is not given.  We have a say in the matter of how we stand in relation to hurt.  You and I can use our hurt and the hurt of our fellow human beings to reach out and connect with one another and be a source of contribution to one another.

Which brings me back to Hurricane Sandy.  I hope that we as human beings will reach out and connect with those of us who are hurting right now in the USA. And I hope that those who are experiencing hurt in the USA will reach out, connect and be a source of contribution who live outside of the USA and are hurting.  You can say that I am a dreamer!

And finally when we use our hurt to put our humanity into the game of life, to connect to our fellow human beings and to be a source of contribution we transform our relationship / orientation / experience towards our own hurt.   Put differently, We can recontextualise our hurt: give it a new meaning, see it in a new light, even see it as a positive.  Perhaps, even something that we would not choose to change even if we were given the opportunity to change it.

 

Putting the past in the past opens up the future and the experience of freedom


One of the most important insights that I got out of my participation in the courses offered by Landmark Education is this one: the default mode of being-in-the-world is one where you/i walk into a future that is already given, already bound, already constrained.  And as such the domain of freedom, the freedom to invent a future that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts us, is small and sometimes non-existent. Therefore, if you/i want to increase our zone of freedom / open up our future we have to put the past in the past.  Put simply, putting the past in the past is the access to opening up new realms of freedom, of possibility.  How to make this real/concrete?  Let me tell you a story.

I notice that I am fearful about going to the USA

One of the roles I have chosen to play in life is that of management consultant – it requires a willingness to travel.  Towards the end of September it became obvious that I had to travel to Texas, USA.  I noticed that something was up, I did not want to travel.  Why?  I had it that it was going to be an ordeal and fear/worry was present.  Why?

It was July 2008 and I was on my way to Detroit to meet my new boss.   On the way through security I was singled out and made to wait for some 45 minutes.  Why?  To be given the approval to fly to the USA by the US authorities.  I got it and boarded the aeroplane.  After a long journey, I was delighted to get off the aeroplane and looking forward to making my way through passport control and onwards to the hotel.  It didn’t work out that way.

I was asked the same questions (as I had been in London, UK) and I provided the same answers.  The ‘immigration officer’ asked me to follow him and lead me to large rectangular room.  It was full of people who did not look white Anglo-Saxons, all waiting, all looking at the ‘immigration officers’ who sat on an elevated platform to make them look bigger/stronger/more powerful than the rest of us.

The rational part of me told me that it was all a game and I had nothing to worry about as I was no threat to anyone and never had been.  Yet, another part of me did worry and was fearful wondering if I would be shipped off to Guantanamo.  So it took something for me to be calm and read a book for two hours or so.  Eventually, I was called up, asked questions, answered the questions, which they verified with my boss and let through.

What did I do with that experience? 

What did I say to myself as I made my way out of the airport and to the taxi stand?  I told myself that I could so easily have ended up in Guantanamo.  And that if I had ended up there I would not have survived (not having anything in common with the inmates or the guards) and as such would have let my wife and children down. Did I stop there?  No.

I made the decision that I would avoid travelling to the USA.  I told myself it was unwise and selfish to travel to a country whose default position is to assume that people like me are terrorists and have to be locked up without evidence, without trial.  And I acted in accordance with that decision including turning down invitations to visit friends in the USA.

I draw your attention to what happened and what I did.  I experienced what I experience and what happened happened at Detroit airport.  Yet, I did not leave it there.  I took that experience and made a decision out of it.  And where did I put the decision?  In the future: going forward, in the future, I am going to / I have to avoid travelling to the USA!

What was the impact of that decision?  It closed down the zone of freedom, of possibility, in the future.  Put bluntly, in my future a visit to the USA was out of the question.  So even when I got invites to visit the US, from friends or business organisations, I turned them down.

How did I put the past into the past and open up my future

First, it is worth pointing out that circumstances played their part. I had to go.  There was nobody who could go and do what I do.  And I was not prepared to let my client and colleagues down.  It occurs to me that sometimes unwelcome circumstances are exactly what we need to get us present to and out of the rut that we have fallen into.

Second, I put the past in the past.  How?  I examined the Detroit incident by looking at what actually happened and gave it a liberating interpretation.  After some questioning, the US immigration handed me my documents and sent me on my way.  Throughout the encounter he was professional – neither kind nor mean.  And I left my drivers licence with him, by mistake, and he forwarded it to my boss! The new interpretation that I gave this experience is this one: the immigration officer did his job and everything worked out just fine.  All that really happened is that I was delayed by two hours which could easily have happened on the flight itself and if it had happened it would not have put me off travelling on an aeroplane!

Third, I found out that to get into the USA you have to go and apply online.  Which I did and within a few minutes I got a written confirmation that I was authorised to enter the USA. This strengthened my confidence, my resolve, my interpretation that it was ok/safe to travel to the USA.

Fourth, I remembered the ‘kindness of strangers’ the last time I had travelled through Texas and so I invented a future that was full of the possibility of kindness/generosity and a great experience.

How did I turn out?

It turned out delightfully.  Texas was warm and the people that I encountered were warm.  And during my time there I was bathed in fellowship. I got to experience the ‘big heartedness’ of the folks that I encountered.  And when the time came to come back I was a sad to leave and looking forward to my next visit to the USA.

What can you/I take away from this?

You/I might think/act as if our past is in the past.  And that is not the way it is for us human beings because we put the past into the future.  We do that by making decisions on/about the future.  This in turn constrains our options around being/doing and thus limits our freedom, our self-expression, the possibilities that we can invent and live from/into.  And it does not have to be this way!

You and I can chose, as a deliberate act, to take the past that is sitting in the future and put it in the past.  And we can incorporate this practice into our way of being-in-the-world: on the look out for the past that has got misfiled in the future and keep putting it in the past.  Thus we end up with future that is wide open to invention and we experience a freedom to be/do that we may have not experienced for a long time.

And finally

You could sum up the work of Werner Erhard and the work of Landmark Education (“Transformation”) as being exactly this: enabling the human being to take his/her past out of his/her future and put it into the past thus leaving absolutely nothing in the future – a future wide open to being invented unconstrained by the past.

Existential choice: a life in the stands (as spectator) or a life in the arena (as creator/player)?


As beings-in-the world that are thrust into the world there is so much over which we have no choice. We don’t get to choose if we come into this world. We don’t get to choose the timing – we are thrust into this world when we are thrust into this world. We don’t get to choose our family – we get what we get. We don’t get to choose our language – we get what we get. We don’t get to choose our culture – we get what we are given. And so forth. So it is tempting to fall into the pattern ‘I have no say in the matter of how I show up in life!’ and live accordingly

We do have a fundamental choice over how you/I are being as beings-in-the-world. I get that most of us are not present to this choice nor the default setting. Yet, that does not change the fact that we do have this fundamental choice. What am I talking about? I am saying that you and I have a say in how/where we show up. When I say how/where we show up I am talking ontologically – that is to say I am pointing to a way of being-in-the-world. So what exactly is this fundamental choice?

You/I can show up in the stands as spectators watching the spectacle – life – occurring in the arena. And as such we can observe, we can comment, we can criticise, we can enjoy or not enjoy…… Whilst it is less effort, more convenient, it is also the case that for many of us it leaves us unfulfilled, without joy, and from time to time wondering “Is this all there is?” Showing up as spectators in the stands is the default setting

Alternatively, you/I can actively leave the comfort of the stands and step into the arena. Put differently, you/I can choose to show up in the arena and shape how the game (of life) turns out. Being a player on the arena involves more effort, more work. It also requires courage because we are on show standing for what we say matters to us and thus open to criticism, ridicule and even attack. In some cases, we even put our lives at risk like Malala Yousafzai, 14 year old girl, attacked for championing education for girls and highlighting Taliban atrocities.

By this stage, you/I might be wondering why leave the safety/convenience/comfort of the stands for the risk/effort/vulnerability of being in the arena? Because you/I want to experience a certain kind of living, a certain kind of life. A life of meaning, of absorption, of fulfilment, of joy. It matters to us, at some fundamental level, that you/I live lives that matter, that are authentic, that are fulfilling. Those of us who chose to show up in the arena as players/actors/creators are not faced with the question “Is this all there is?”.

As you/I ponder this fundamental existential choice, I wish to share this “Man in the Arena” passage from a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

There is nothing wrong, nobody to blame, and no waste of time!


Mission: get daughter to the outdoors activity centre by certain time

Recently it took it upon myself to drive daughter about 30 miles to an ‘activity-adventure-outdoors’ camp.  Google Maps suggested that this drive would take about 30 – 40 minutes.  Yet, the drive itself took 2 hours 40 minutes.

First it took me longer to finish my work so we set-off 15 minutes later than I had planned.  Then we encountered traffic – lots of it.  So I diverted and worked my way around the traffic.  Delight showed up.  And I still ended up in endless traffic – crawling along.  Daughter noticed that it was faster to walk! Getting that we would not arrive on time and this impacted others, daughter phoned her ‘guide for the weekend’ and let her know that we would be an hour or so late.

It does not work out as planned

An hour and forty minutes later we arrive at the destination according to the GPS.  It is dark, it is wet, it is raining hard, the country roads are small, lighting is poor, tiredness is present.  I notice that tiredness and anxiety are present for me, my experience.  Yet, daughter is positive, optimistic, cheerful and is relating to all of this as an adventure.  And concerned for me.

We cannot find the place!  I drive one way.  I drive another way.  Time goes by.  More and more tiredness is present.  Annoyance, frustration and anger is now present in my house of being.  30 or so minutes later we are really in the middle of nowhere and I get that the GPS is not working.  My daughter calls for help – there is no signal.  Then a fellow human being, walking his dogs, with torch in hand shows up.  I ask for help and he provides it.  Some 15 minutes later we arrive back at the same place that the GPS had taken us to the first time.  Again we cannot find the activity centre.

It is dark, it is foggy, it is wet, I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, angry.  My daughter is calm and helpful: she tells me that it is OK to turn back and go home. Now, it is not an option to quit, to go home.  I stop the car and look at the paper map.  “Aha, we are right next to it.  It has to be here!”  I turn around the car and together daughter and I find it! And I cannot help but notice I have been going round in circles for an hour.

The automatic machinery of being human kicks-in

After dropping off daughter, I notice that I am not looking forward to driving.  Yet, driving is necessary if I am going to get back home.  I notice that I have no confidence toward the Garmin GPS.  I notice that I am blaming Garmin and blaming myself for bringing the Garmin as opposed to the TomTom.  I notice that I am blaming the Girl Guides group who arranged the weekend for being inconsiderate: they should know better than arrange a date/time which involves peak traffic. I blame myself.

If that is not enough.  I notice that I have it that something is wrong (with me, with Garmin, with the world..) and that I have wasted my time.  Look, I could have done something useful with the extra 90 minutes that it took to get to this place!  I notice that I have it that my time is precious and I do not have time to waste.

I get it: I set myself free and peace is present

Driving back, I get it.  I get that all that is showing up in my house of being, my experience, is the automatic machinery of being human.  I get that who I am is the person who is doing the noticing: the one that is noticing the machinery at play.  That opens up a clearing for me to simple be – to be peaceful.

In this clearing I get that I have not wasted my time The trip took exactly the right amount of time: not a second more or a second less than the perfect time for this trip.  How do I know?  Because that is the time it took to get there! I got it, do you get it?  Listen, the 30 – 40 minutes that Google Maps and Garmin suggested did not take into account reality as it showed up on the trip.   Further, I got that the 2 hours 40 minutes had been well used – the mission had been accomplished, daughter was delighted, daughter and I had worked together well and affinity was present between us, I had saved wife 2 hours and 40 minutes…. Most importantly the time had been used in the service of my stand: to put something into the game of life, to be of service, to be a source of contribution to fellow human beings…

Then I got that there was nothing wrong.  There is traffic.  There is rain.  There is fog.  There are tiny country lanes.  There is darkness.  And on a Friday evening in October, all of these can and do show up.  Really, there is nothing wrong.  It is simply the reality that showed up.

I got that there is nobody to blame.  There is no evil person who planned it to work out the way that it worked out.  Everyone in the traffic was doing his/her best to get home.  The Garmin folks built that best GPS that they were in a position to build.  The activity centre folks got that finding their place is and has been an issue.  And they feel unable to do better due to planning laws that restrict the signage they can put up….  Finally, I got that I was not to blame: I showed up and did the best that I was able to do at that time and in those circumstances.

Having gotten, really gotten (as opposed to simply thought about/of) that there is nothing wrong, nobody to blame and no time was wasted I noticed that my being and lived experience transformed: peace, delight and joy were present in my house of being; the annoyance, the blaming, the anger vanished. Relaxed,I drove back home (40 minutes) and spent the evening watching a touching movies with sons and their friend.

Life had showed up whole-complete-perfect!

In the context of relatedness/affinity it really takes something to say “No”


An insight into the machinery of being human

There is a certain joy that is present when I encounter someone who occurs as being a “fruit of the same tree”. There are only a handful of people that I know who show up that way in my world. As you can imagine these people occur as special and so the inclination (off the automatic machinery of being human) is to say yes to the invitations and their requests. Put bluntly, the automatic machinery (of being human) does not wish to put the relatedness/affinity at stake by saying “no”.

A person whom I like/admire/respect makes a request of me

This week such a person, a person who I like/admire/respect, reached out to me and requested an endorsement. Upon receiving this request I noticed surprise and delight: “Wow, this person considers me worthy of endorsing him.” As as I grappled with this request I found myself in a bind.

I felt torn between competing values and commitments. How do I honour the distinction “endorsement” (not devalue it) and at the same time take on the request made of me by friend? The issue was not an issue of the competence of my friend: I am confident that he is competent, highly competent. Rather, the issue is that I have never worked with my friend and as such I am not in a position to provide an endorsement without devaluing the endorsements that i have already given to people with whom I have worked.

The bigger issue underlying this issue was the fact that I did not wish to say “no” to the request and thus hurt the feelings of my friend. And I did not want to put our relationship at risk. I noticed the temptation to pretend that I had not received this request for an endorsement. So I did nothing for a couple of days.

Eventually, I chose to be authentic, to act in accordance with my stand. So I wrote back to my friend thanking him for his invitation to endorse him. I explained how I found myself in a difficult position. And I told him that I was choosing not to accept his invitation/request. Once I hit the send button I was at peace knowing that it will work out the way that it will work out. And, that both of us are big enough to be with what there is to be with.

Is there an insight here?

It takes courage to be true to our stand especially when it occurs to us that we are at risk in some way. And it is very deep caring and commitment to our stand which provides the courage to be and to do that which is in authentic alignment with our stand when our automatic machinery is yelling/screaming at us to take the short cut, to give in, to please, to not put self at risk.
I notice that self-respect and a sense of being powerful shows up when I am being in accordance with my stand. The opposite is also true for me: when I fail to be my stand then I notice a loss of power (in my being / showing up in the world) and self-esteem.

Is it possible that when I stand for that which I have chosen to stand for, and do that in a manner that honors the dignity of my fellow human beings, I am creating an opening, an invitation, for my fellow human beings to express their voice and stand for that which matters to them?

If the right listening is there then this is all it takes to restore relatedness


A couple of days ago there was a disagreement between two of my children.  Being next door and hearing the heated voices, I intervened to stop hurt taking place.  Nonetheless, hurt took place.  Daughter was so upset, so angry that she threw the iPad and ran out of the room crying; the iPad was a present from my sister; the two of them were fighting over the iPad and Netflix.

Confusion and upset was present in my house of being.  The thought that I had been unfairly treated, that I did not deserve that which I had received surfaced.  I picked up the iPad and went back to my study and got on with what I had been doing.

Later that evening the following was pushed under the door and into my study:

That is all it took for the healing to take place between daughter and me, for the relatedness to be restored.  How is it possible that my daughter would write this card so quickly after being so upset?  And how is it possible that I would receive it with gratitude as quickly as I did?  How is it possible that we would ‘forgive’, putting the past in the past, and move forward together with our relatedness intact, perhaps even stronger?

LISTENING!  I listen to daughter as one who loves me unconditionally.  And she listens to me as as one who loves her unconditionally.  And we listen to each other as souls whose intentions are good.  And we listen to human beings as beings who make mistakes.

What is the insight here that is of value?  The listening is the background that gives meaning and shapes that which shows up in the foreground.  Too many of us get busy on ‘fixing / dealing with’ the foreground (the events that occur) and few of us work on the background: the listening.  Yet, the power, the leverage, is in the listening!

If your relationships are not working out then focus on the listening that you bring to it.

Alberto Casillas: an ordinary man takes an extrarodinary stand and becomes a national hero


 

 

“There were excessive police forces. I am for compliance with the law, but above the law, there is humanity. I did what I had to do, that’s all.”  Alberto Casillas

Occasionally, I read about, see and hear that which leaves me moved-touched-inspired. This week I came across the Alberto Casillas, an ordinary barman in Madrid, who took an extraordinary stand during the recent anti-austerity protests that took place in Spain.

Why did Alberto put himself at stake?  Why did he put himself between the riot police (not known for gentleness) and the anti-austerity demonstrators & customers that were in the restaurant/bar?  According to Alberto: to protect, to save lives.

The question that calls to me this one: what does it take to take the kind of stand that Alberto took?  It occurs to me it takes compassion-care-courage. And it is interesting to note that Alberto is being celebrated as a national hero.  You can read about it here.   I recommend watching the following short video:

I could leave it here and that would be fine.  Yet, it occurs to me that there is a deeper question here.  And for me, this question is: what does this disclose about the being of human beings?

It occurs to me that how people have responded to the being/doing of Alberto discloses that the being of human beings values and thus honors care-compassion-courage.  Does it unconceal anything more?  I say that it unconceals something about how we would like to be: compassionate-caring-courageous.

What else does it unconceal?  It is what you put into the world that contributes to the well being our fellow human being that counts.  Put differently, the people who will mourn you are the people whose lives you have touched through compassion-care-courage.