Distinguishing love from love


What is this phenomenon called love?  Investigate this phenomenon and you will find that it is not just one experience (phenomenon).  No, it is manifold, many different experiences (phenomena) hidden under one label – love.

What are these manifold experiences housed and mingled together under this umbrella called love?  There is the experience of desire which is more accurately labelled lust. And as lust is not acceptable, given our cultural practices, it is called love.  There is plain sex and that is called ‘love’ or ‘making love’.  There is ownership – in the sense of I have exclusive rights to you, your body, your sexuality, your resources, your time – and that is also called love …. and there is love as in care and caring.

It occurs to me that we would help love to flourish if we reserved love only for authentic care for another.  What kind of care?  Care for their wellbeing – in the physical, emotional and spiritual domains of life and living.  Whilst I can talk about this it is better to get there more concretely.  Allow me to give you an example.

In the morning as I was headed out to spend a few days away from home I was got a surprise.  What kind of surprise?  On one of the doors leading to the outside, a door I have to go through, I found a note for me.  What kind of note?  This note:

photo-3My wellbeing requires me to start the day by taking the Levothyroxine tablet.  And to end the day by taking a statin tablet.  That is just so. And more than once I have left my tablets at home.  So my son, late at night, after I had gone to bed had written this reminder for me and left it where he knew I would see it.  Why did he do that?  Because he cares for me – he loves me.

Now, here is the thing to get.  It is quite possible that my son felt strong feelings of love for me that night.  And those feelings would not have shown up in my living nor made any difference.  Why?  Because I do not have access to his feelings.  I do have access to his actions: I got present to the depth of his love when I saw this post it note and it moved me to tears of gratitude and joy!

I say that contrary to what the songs say love is not a feeling.  No, love is verb – it is doing.  Doing what?  Doing that which contributes to the wellbeing of those we claim to love.  And not doing that which gets in the way of the wellbeing of those we claim to love.

So you and I are confronted with choice: to live from the default context where love is a hodge podge of phenomena or to create and live from an ‘extraordinary’ context where we use the label love to mean love – love as in compassionate caring for the wellbeing of those we claim to love.

What choice will I make?  What choice will you make?  In making our choices we should be mindful that love – as in caring for the wellbeing of another – is the access to transformation: of my live, your life, our lives, of life as a whole.

The day the electricity died, it always dies


My son and I had plans for yesterday.  At the end of his day we were going to cook together, watch a movie, play some music and dance.  In the midst of the evening and our plans the electricity died.  Darkness. Our plans come to a halt!

In the process this thought struck me: what a privilege electricity is!   Walk with me down imagination lane. And imagine what our lives would be like without electricity.  Can you imagine our modern, taken for granted, existence without electricity?

Then another thought, a profound thought, struck me.  Does not electricity give me existence?  And one day, any moment / any day, that electricity will die.  I will be no longer.    There will not be any darkness as I will not be there to witness it.  And so I came face to face with existence: it occurs to me that my life, my existence, is not a right, it is a privilege!

You and I are confronted with a choice.  What is this choice? To continue living from the default context – ‘life is a right’ – and all that goes with it: sense of entitlement for life to provide us with our needs and wants; a lack of joy in our living; a tendency to fritter away our time, our life, on that which does not matter, that which does not give us joy, that which does not make a contribution, in short the banal.

Or you and I can choose to create and operate from the context ‘wow life is a privilege!’.  Operating from such a context we are present to the gift of our existence and as such we are mindful of and make the most of each moment. Gratitude is present.  Aliveness to the experience of being alive is present.  Joy/delight is present.  A sense of adventure is present.  Living, truly living, is present!

Looking ahead and moving into 2013, what choice will I make?  What choice will you make?  Living from the context ‘life is my right’ or ‘my life is a privilege!’?

Christmas: a time to be of service and make a difference?


AldinePhotoChristmas2012

I dedicate this post to my wife, Aldine. For me, my wife is the embodiment of that which I want to share with you in this post.

Christmas can be just a ritual we go through or it can be a time to get present.  Present to  what?  Present to being of service and making difference.  Who to?  How about starting with the people who you/I are spending Christmas with.  And then allowing ourselves to ripple out from there to touch all the people whose lives touch our lives, however briefly and lightly.

What does it take to make a difference?

What does it take to make a difference in our lives, in the lives of our fellow human beings, in the world within which we dwell?  It takes courage. What kind of courage?  Let’s listen to a master of the human condition:

“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference… to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself …… and to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.” Werner Erhard

What does it take to make a difference to the people whose lives we touch?

Our ordinary, default, way of showing up in the world does not lend itself to generating great relationships and making a difference.  Why?  Because, if you are like me then you are great with people when they are being great. And not at all great with people when they are not being great.  Put differently and simply, if you are like me then you struggle to put up with people’s garbage – even at Christmas.  What am I pointing at?  I am pointing at the kind of stuff that people say and/or do that drives me up the wall.

Is there another way of showing up in the world that does allow us to be great with people, to generate great relationships, to make a difference.  There is. Here is how Werner Erhard puts it:

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”  

It occurs to me that over the last 20 years I have given my wife plenty of my garbage to deal with.  And the only reason that we are still together is that she has a commitment to me (as a ‘soul whose intentions are good’), to our marriage, and to our family.  Out of this commitment she gives space to my garbage and keeps reminding me of who I am.  And for that I am truly grateful!

And finally

I wish each and every one of you a great Christmas and the very best for the New Year. And I am clear that my wishes make no difference at all!  Who makes the difference?  You do!

How do you make the difference?  By getting present to being the authors of your lives.  By getting present to the fact that you matter in how you show up in the world.  By generating the courage to stop proving that you are small and unable to make a difference.  By being of service – the kind of service that Werner Erhard is pointing at.

Leadership always starts with leading oneself from the place of ‘victim’ to ‘author of one’s life’.  From showing up as unable to make a difference to being committed to making a difference.  From playing small to playing BIG!

Shifting our focus from ‘what is missing/wrong’ to “wow, there is so much to be grateful for!”


It is so easy to notice what is missing in our lives especially when we swim in a culture where there is an agreement, an obsession, on what is missing.  If you are wondering what I am talking about then think about what is wrong – with you, with your colleagues, with your friends, with your family, with your loved ones, with your work, with the economy, with government, with your society, with the world.  You might be wondering what has ‘what is wrong’ to do with what is missing?  Wrong signifies that something is missing – specifically, the state of perfection is missing.

Being fixated with that which is wrong/missing is the default way of being that goes with the ordinary way of being-in-the-world especially if you/I live in the most prosperous countries.  This fixation leaves us feeling dissatisfied at best. At worst it can and does leave us frustrated, annoyed, angry and even bitter.  That does not occur to me as being great places to be in.

I say that even in these difficult times you/I have so much to be grateful for!  I say that even in these difficult times our lives are easy.  I say that even in these difficult times we should take the time, especially as it is Christmas, to get present to how great it is and give thanks for existence just as it is and as it is not.

If your life shows up as difficult then what I say may occur as ‘happy talk’ at best. At worst, it may show up as a lack of sympathy for your suffering.  I get that.  So, I wish to share with you one of the most moving stories I have read during the course of 2012.

I say that if you make the time to read and be with this story you will be left moved-touched-grateful for the life that is yours.  Here is a small abstract:

“As he hears me, he looks up and puts his hands on my cheeks. I pray that God would see this man and see his sufferings and that he would have mercy upon him. When I finish praying I kiss both his hands which are now wet from my tears, stand up, grab my bags and walk away.

When I get to the end of the street I look back to see that he has not moved. His face is in the dust again and I can see his back rise in small convulsions. He is sobbing.”

I invite you to read the full story here.  I assure you that this story will touch your humanity, possibly move you tears, and leave you with a profound sense of gratitude for your life as it is and as it is not.  How can I be so sure?  This is what showed up for me; if you are reading this blog then I am confident that your humanity and my humanity overlap.

The power of shifting the conversation from who is wrong to what went wrong


I dedicate this post to my wife who is the source of this insight, this conversation.

The default: one party is good/right, the other party is bad/wrong

When conversations, actions, events and relationships don’t work out as we want or expect them to work out what happens?  Look carefully and you will find that the default is that we look to figure out who is wrong.  And from there we go and label some person/group as bad/wrong and another person/group as good/right.  If we are one of the parties to the upset/conflict then we end up declaring ourselves as good/right and the other person as bad/wrong.

Even as an observer, if you listen to one of the parties to the conflict sharing his story, his take on the situation, the temptation and the default way of being is to want to work out who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad. Even as an observer we get drawn into and cannot resist taking sides.  And in taking sides we validate one person and invalidate the other – usually without even hearing the others side of the story.

How does this default way of being/showing up in the world tend to work out?  My experience is that it does not tend to work out.  Taking sides  – labelling one person ‘good’ / ‘right’ and the other ‘bad’ / ‘wrong’ just perpetuates the myth: some people are ‘good’ and some people are ‘bad’. And it keeps us stuck in the existing context which says that ‘bad’ results are the result of ‘bad ‘people.

Creating an ‘extraordinary’ context for dealing with that which shows up and which does not please us

Leaving aside evil people and I am clear there are evil people – they tend to be labelled psychopaths – is there value in operating from a context of whole-complete-perfect?  What do I mean?  What would become available if we acted as if each person is whole-complete-perfect?  Put differently, what would become available if you/I operated from a context that each person is doing what shows up for him/her as reasonable, as good, as right?

What my wife and I have noticed is that if we operate from this context then we have a powerful way to deal with the upsets and conflicts that show up in our lives as we go about in the world.  How exactly?

Operating from a context of each person is being rational/reasonable given how the world show up for him/her we can ask the question that is almost never asked:  how is it that two (or more) reasonable people ended up creating this undesirable situation/outcome?  Put differently, we focus on the question of what went wrong and not who is wrong.

What we have found is that when we relate to people as whole-complete-perfect and focus on what went wrong we get powerful insights that enable us to:

  • deal effectively with what went wrong;
  • figure out how exactly (step by step) it ended up working out the way that it worked out;
  • generate insight and affinity with the people who are involved in the events unfolding as they have unfolded; and
  • prevent the reoccurrence of that which occurred and left all parties unhappy, resentful, frustrated, angry and even violent.

Summing up

If you want to be powerful in the way that you show up in the world for yourself and for the people with/around you then:

  • shift the context from ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people to everyone is ‘whole-complete-perfect’; AND
  • shift the conversation from who is wrong to what went wrong – how is it that events turned out this way given the good intentions of all parties.

Heroes


Getting access to your authentic self

Have you ever tried to find and connect with your deeper self, your ‘authentic’ self?  Have you ever wondered what kind of values that you should embody?  Have you ever wondered what really matters to you? Have you ever wondered what kind of life you should lead, what kind of ‘projects’ you should engage in and pursue?

I have.  And in the process I read a lot of self-help books with all the exercises including reflecting and finding experiences where I felt most alive, happy, joyous….  Yet, none of that really worked for me.  Are you in the same boat?

If you want to bypass that and connect with your deeper self and get access to what really matters to you then I have a useful shortcut for you.  Answer these two easy questions:

a) which people – real or fictional – are your heroes?

b) what is it, specifically, about each of these persons that makes them heroes for you?

My heroes include the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Up to this week my heroes included: Gandhi, Jinnah, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Maria Montessori, Joan of Arc, Albert Schweitzer, Oscar Schindler, The Prophet ‘Mohammed’, George Adamson, Tony Fitzjohn, and Monty Roberts.

AN13475677Victoria-Soto-27-

This week, I have been deeply touched by the following people, who show up as heroes for me:

– Victoria Soto;

– Dawn Hochsprung;

– Mary Sherlach;

– Maryrose Kristopik;

– Kaitlin Roig;

– Abbey Clements;

– Yvonne Cech; and

– The Sandy Hook school janitor.

In a tragedy these people make me feel proud to be a member of the human race!  These fellow human beings disclose for me the best of what we, human beings, have to offer as a species.  What is that?  They disclose that human being is not simply being-for-onself: the default view pushed by capitalism and modern society.  No, they disclose that what is truly noble about human being is being-for-others: the willingness to put one’s life at risk for fellow human beings.

Out of this tragedy these men and women have disclosed the possibility of love, selflessness, courage and heroism.  These values speak to me – they bring tears to my cheeks.

How to end this?  I acknowledge the courage of each and everyone of the teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook school.  I offer my condolences to each and every person who has lost a loved one.  My heart and my eyes flow with tears – tears or sorrow for all those who have lost loved ones.  And tears of gratitude for all those who put their lives at risk and saved lives.

I am proud to be a member of the human race. And with people such as Victoria Soto, Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach the human race if worth believing in and standing for.

Get real!


Mitt Romney‘s wealth is estimated to be between US$190-250m. He was the CEO of Bain & Co (renowned management consultancy).  He co-founded Bain Capital one of the largest private equity firms in the USA.  He was the the Governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006.  He then got busy on his ambition to become president of the USA.   Just keep this in mind, I will come back to Mitt Romney later in this post.

I notice that a lot of people are hurting.  I notice that some of the people that are hurting, are hurting so badly that they are on their knees.  Thankfully, I am not one of these people.  You might be one of them. What am I talking about?   I am talking about the tough economic times in the western world (Greece, Spain, UK, USA..) where many people have lost their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods.  This is new for us – not new for many others that live in this world that peoples us and is our home.

In many parts of the world life is difficult and has been difficult for a long time.  It is not only difficult it is oftentimes harsh/brutal/unforgiving.  Because this applies to just about everyone (except the elite) people in these parts of the world do not say “I am in this position because of me.  If I am in this position then that means there is something wrong with me.  I have failed.  I am defective….”  Nor do they go about saying that about others.

This is not a luxury that is available to those of us who live in protestant countries especially the UK and the USA.  Why?  Because the dominant narrative and thus listening that one person has for another is as follows: how your life turns out depends on you; look everyone, EVERYONE, can make it; if you have not made it then you must be responsible; you are at fault – you are the source of the hardship that you are experiencing.  With this narrative comes a lack of compassion, kindness and generosity towards one another.

What is astounding is that so many people in the USA/UK have bought into this myth that they are hard on themselves.  That is to say that you/I find ourselves on our knees and we  blame ourselves.  We are ashamed of ourselves.  We berate ourselves.  We think that we have failed and that there is something wrong with us.  “Look, I live in a country where ANYONE can make it.  I have not made it so there must be something wrong with me!”  Put differently, we lack compassion towards ourselves because we have a FAULTY map of the world.

I say get real.  I say get that you/I are not Gods – we are mortals and as mortals our circumstances and our destiny is to some extent ‘shaped by the Gods’.  The Greeks got this beautifully.  The Greeks got that at the end of the day man is subject to the ‘whim of the Gods’ and the best that s/he can do is to ‘fight the good fight’.  This is what makes the human situation a tragic one; we are not like the stone, the plant nor the tiger – we can do so much; and yet we are mere mortals, not Gods.  This might not be concrete enough for you so allow me to make it real by going back to Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney lost!  He spent six years of his life and a spent something in the region of US$750m and he lost.  The richest person to run for the presidency lost.  One of the most influential people in the USA did not get to realise his ambition.  Many thought he was going to win.  He, himself, thought he was going to win and so had a massive celebration including fireworks planned.  And how did it work out?  He lost!  All his wealth, his fame, his track record, his influence, the $750m he spent .. did not get him the presidency.  In Greek terms ‘the Gods’ were not on his side, they favoured Obama.

I say get real!  I say be compassionate towards those who are hurting right now – whether that is your fellow man or yourself.  We are not masters of our fate.  Whilst we can do a lot, we cannot shape, entirely, how our lives turn out or how the world turns out.  

Werner Erhard, found this out in 1991.  Many thousands of people flocked to take part in his seminars (est, and later the forum).  Werner created ‘transformation’ and he touched many lives – indirectly he has touched mine through my  participation in the courses delivered by Landmark Education.   Werner preached ‘responsibility’.  He urged the est participants to take responsibility for their lives – just they are and are not – rather than play ‘victim’ and blame others.   Werner was soaring at the heights – both in terms of the impact he was making and his fame/fortune.  Then in early 1991 he found out that CBS News were going to show a programme that was going to ruin his reputation.  Despite his best, including his offer of taking a lie detector test, he could not persuade CBS News not to run the programme.  And he left the USA and found himself in exile – reputation ruined.  Many years later the allegations in the CBS News were retracted. And the impact on his life had been made – there was no ‘going back’.

Finally, I say that if you/I find ourselves on the receiving end of the ‘whims of the Gods’ like Werner did then we can put ourselves in a powerful position to be with and deal with what is so.  First we can be compassionate towards ourselves. Second, we can in the context of this compassion take responsibility for our lives – including getting ourselves off the floor.  Werner Erhard did just that.  He left the USA and he invented a new life for himself outside of the USA and he has been making an impact all over the world.

And finally, if you find one of our fellow human beings hurting and/or on the floor (emotionally, financially, physically) then I ask you to give that person a helping hand.  If you are finding that difficult because you are under the myth of ‘man as God’ that is so dominant in the USA (and to some extent in the UK) then I remind you of Mitt Romney, six years, $750m spent, and no presidency!