Put Aside ‘Story’, Be Present To The Phenomenon


In our default way of being something occurs in the world and instantly we find ourselves in the domain of explanation; we are almost never present to the phenomenon itself: that which occurred.  Does this matter?  Let’s explore through an example.

Yesterday evening, wife was talking to sons and one in particular. She floated the idea of him putting his brother on his insurance policy, driving his new (to be) car. Instantly, I intervened, dominated the conversation, and made my wife wrong about bringing up the subject.  She was not at all happy. How did I respond to the situation?  Not well: I did not listen to her objections instead I made her wrong for objecting to my insistence on having the conversation go my way.  Where was I whilst this ‘conversation’ was occurring?

I was in the land of ‘story’: explanation, reasoning and excuse.  What kind of ‘story’?  This one: “The boys don’t get along at the best times. What is my wife thinking? Has she forgotten the animosity between the boys?  Is she deliberately stirring up conflict?  Surely she can’t be that stupid! I have to put an end to this right here, before this plan gets any wind behind it. It is the right thing to do.”

What was the ‘story’ that I found myself entangled in when my wife objected to my attempted domination of the conversation?  This one: “Is she stupid?  Doesn’t she get that I am doing what I am doing for the benefit of all?  That my way is the best way: it will avoid conflict further down the road. If this thing gets ‘wind in the sails’  we (wife and I) will find ourselves involved in sorting things out. And whatever we do we will end up disappointing one of the boys!. No, I have to stick to my guns and stop this stupid idea!”

As you can imagine the situation did not turn out well. My wife and I ended up going to sleep upset with one another.  What showed up when I slept on the matter? In sleeping on the matter, I focussed on the phenomenon itself: that which occurred and not my interpretation-explanation (‘story’) of that which occurred.  And this is what showed up for me:

When my wife brought up the idea of one son putting the other son on his car insurance for his new car, I became alarmed. My body sat upright as if an alarm bell had gone off. What was the cause of this alarm? I saw in my minds eye, tension-conflict-fighting between the boys over who did what. And I saw myself being sucked into the situation – at the very minimum listening to, seeing, experiencing this conflict.  I hate conflict!

How might the evening have turned out if I had been present to the phenomena – that which was occurring for me – as it was occurring?

1. I would have realised one of my ‘hot’ buttons had just been pressed. That I was alarmed, I was fearful, I saw myself being sucked into a pit that would be hard to climb out of.

2. I would have said to wife: “Listening to your suggestion, I find myself fearful. I am afraid that this idea will not turn out well. The boys will argue-fight. You and I will be blamed for coming up with his idea – even forcing this idea on to our eldest son. And whilst you can tolerate conflict between the boys and see it as a learning opportunity for them, I find in unbearable. Finding it unbearable I will find myself sucked into sorting it out. And that will be a thankless task. So I finding myself vulnerable, alarmed, fearful about what you are suggesting to our eldest son. What can you do to help me out here?”

3. Wife, I, and the boys would have been given an opening to a honest conversation. It is even possible that the boys would have found an opening to share how the situation showed up for them and how they were feeling about my wife’s suggestion.

4. Wife and I might have gone to sleep within the context of mutual understanding and affection.  We might even have gone to sleep understanding each other better  – at a more intimate-deeper level.

So next time, you find yourself enmeshed in story feeling what you are feeling, telling yourself what you are telling yourself, put aside the ‘story that you are spinning and which is spinning you’ and get present to the phenomena. Being with the phenomena, without the ‘story’, may just give you the opening that you need to take an alternative (more effective) course of action.

What did I do? Having gotten present to the phenomena during the night, I apologised to my wife for my conduct the previous evening, and shared the phenomena (that which I had experienced). I am confident that this allowed her to forgive me, and put the previous evening behind us.

Explanation: The Access To Generating Breakthroughs?


PHENOMENON

Definition:

1. An event or situation that can be seen to happen or exist.

2. A fact, occurrence, or circumstance, observed or observable.

Etymology:

1570s, “fact, occurrence,” from Late Latin phænomenon, from Greek phainomenon “that which appears or is seen,” noun use of neuter present participle of phainesthai “to appear”…

What Is So

There is the phenomenon e.g. widespread flooding in the southern England (UK)

There is the interpretation-explanation (‘story’) about the phenomenon e.g.” it is due to government neglect through cost-cutting.” 

Notice: the phenomenon is always distinct from the ‘story’.

Notice: we can invent an array of stories for the phenomenon at hand: “serves people right for building homes in flood prone areas; it serves the middles classes right for voting in this government; it is due to climate change; it is God showing his displeasure; this government is uncaring and incompetent etc….”

The automaticity of the ‘human machinery’ is such that I am almost never present to the distinction between phenomenon and story: the story shines so brightly in my speaking that I cannot see (am not present) to the phenomenon that lies in the background.

Exception = breakdowns.

Breakdowns occurs when the novel-unusual occurs: I find myself faced with the phenomenon as there is no ready made ‘story’ to understand-explain and thus slot the phenomenon into my ‘already always listening-interpreting-explaining’ of phenomena.

Even when breakdowns occur I will do my best to concoct a story that enables me to make sense of these breakdowns and fit them into the ‘story that I already am’ with the minimum disturbance to my way of being / showing up in the world.

What drives this entire play? The ‘story that I already am’. The story that gives my way of being / showing up in the world. My ‘already always listening’: of self, of you, of others, of us, of the world’. Behind my ‘story’ lies the ‘Story’: the story given by the culture that I find myself enmeshed in and of which I am an embodiment.

The Access To Breakthroughs Lie In The Domain Of ‘Story’

Notice, that the phenomenon does not dictate the course of action we will take. For example, the fact that there is flooding in southern England is simply what is so.  What is so does not in any way dictate-determine what is done about what is so.

What determines our course of action regarding the phenomenon?  Our interpretation, our explanation, the ‘story’ that we make about the phenomenon: the dominant ‘story’ determines the course of action taken.

Notice: For as long as the existing ‘story’ explains-dominates the phenomenon we will continue to do some variation on what we have done before in relation to the phenomenon.  Put differently, the course of action that is taken in relation to phenomenon is always given-dictated by the dominant ‘story’ used to interpret-explain the phenomenon.

Which means that if the actions that you are taking, in relation to a specific phenomenon, are not generating the kind of results that you are wanting then you may want to stop. Stop!

Stop and be with the phenomenon just as it is and as it is not. Listen to, observe, touch-feel, live with, be with the phenomenon.  What is it that is unveiled?  Something is always unveiled for it is simply so that one cannot ever see the whole apple: some aspect of the apple is always hidden.

Now, with a fuller-richer-more rounded grasp of the phenomenon, you are in a position to invent-choose an alternative ‘story’: an alternative interpretation-explanation. The trick is to choose a ‘story’ that is in accordance with the phenomenon and generates actionable insight: insight that leaves open the space to take fruitful action.

All of which is to say that the access to generating breakthroughs – in our relationships, in our families, in our workplaces, in this world – lies in the explanation: the ‘story’ that we create around our relationships, our families, our workplaces, our world.

Want a breakthrough in a realm of your life?  Want to generate a transformation in your experience of your life? Then let go of the ‘story that you are and which gives you your way of being and showing up in the world’ and invent-nurture-cultivate-grow a different ‘story’. One of the most important shifts is to move from ‘not enough’ to ‘enough’; from ‘victim’ to author of one’s life; from spectator in the game of life to being on the court playing full-out.

Ultimately, to play BIG is to let go of the dominant story about what it is to be human. And what it is to be successful. And what constitutes a good life.  What does that open up: a space, a big space. And what can we do with such a space. Invent and actualise new possibilities.

 

What is Love As A Way Of Being?


On Love As Emotion-Feeling

Love as commonly spoken about, written about, sung about, holds little interest for me.  Why is that? Because it occurs to me that this is ‘love as a feeling’.  Now take a look at that phenomena of feeling-emotion. What shows up?  What shows up for me is the fact that feelings-emotions come and go.  It occurs to me that ‘my feelings-emotions come and go’ rather like guests did in my parents house when I was child.  We almost never knew which guests were going to turn up, on what day, at which time, what mode they would be in, how long they would stay…..

You may find yourself in a sad or happy state, and yet you may be at a loss as to why you are in that particular state now …. emotions are a fairly good index of how conducive the environment is to our well-being, or, at least, how conducive it seems to our minds…

…. the biological “purpose” of the emotions are clear and emotions are not an indispensable luxury. Emotions are curious adaptations that are part and parcel of the machinery with which organisms regulate survival…. emotions actually produce quite reasonable behaviour from the point of view of survival.

At their most basic, emotions are part of homeostatic regulation and are poised to avoid the loss of integrity that is a harbinger of death or death itself, as well as to endorse a source of energy, shelter or sex. And as a result of powerful learning mechanisms, such as conditioning, emotions of all shades eventually help connect homeostatic regulation and survival “values” to numerous events and objects in our autobiographical experience. Emotions are inseparable from the idea of reward and punishment, of pleasure or pain ….. Inevitably, emotions are inseparable from the idea of good and evil.

Antonio Damasio, The Feeling Of What Happens

On Love As A Way of Being / Showing Up In The World

I find myself attracted to the enquiry regarding ‘love as a way of being / showing-up in the world’? Why?  Because, I can choose and thus shape my way of being / showing-up in the world.  What does ‘love as a way of being / showing up in the world look like?’  Here, I say it is worth listening to the wisdom of Werner Erhard

What love actually is, is the experience that someone else is all right exactly the way they are. To love somebody you have to choose for them to be the way they are. Exactly….Now, if you make something all right the way it is and all right the way it’s not, what’s another word for that? Space. The person’s got the space to be. You know, they can be. They can be the way they are and they don’t have to. Because it’s all right with you for them not to be the way they are. And it’s all right with you for them to be the way they are. That’s love.

……..  Let me put it in more fundamental terms. To be able to tolerate someone the way they are and the way they are not – is loving them. The highest expression of love is the experience that you are creating that person exactly the way they are. They are your creation exactly the way they are, and you are creating the space for them to be any other way. That’s an ultimate expression of love. To create the space for people to be the way they are and to create the space for people to be the way they aren’t. That’s it……

….All the rest of it is an illusion. You see “I love you” is an illusion. It really is…… If I walked up and say “I love you” that’s got to come out of the notion that I might not. You see, it’s got to come from a sense that there’s something other than “I love you”.

The fastest way to destroy love is to make a goal out of it, because people who are trying to be loved come from a place that they’re not loved. And people who are trying to love come from a place that they don’t love.

Werner Erhard on the Experience of Love

And if that shows up for you as too philosophical then I leave you with the following:

Love is listening, observing, validating and empathizing.

– Catherine Cadden

Play BIG: Be A Human & Call Forth Each Other’s Humanity


I have been giving a lot of thought to what it means to play big.

Imagine you are out of university, enter the world of work, and set your sights to becoming the youngest ever CEO of your organisation.  And you set out to do exactly that.  Now that could be called playing big, and it does not show up for me that way.

Imagine that you have set up a coffee shop and you dream of having a chain of coffee shops all across the country. And then expanding so that there is one of your coffee shops in every city across the world.  And then you get busy turning this feat of imagination into reality.  This could be called playing big, and it does not show up for me that way.

Imagine that you are down and out with cancer. Yet, you envisage getting back on your bike and winning the Tour De France. Unimaginable to most and you are totally determined to do so. And you do all that it takes to deal with your cancer, get healthy, get fit, race. You win the Tour De France.  Many would call that playing big, and it does not show up for me that way.

It occurs to me that, for me personally, playing BIG is transcending that which goes with ego: self-centredness and vanity at best; selfishness, greed, indifference and/or cruelty at worst.  It occurs to me that to play BIG is to put the best of my humanity, our humanity, into action. And in thus doing make a contribution to lives and life itself.  Which is why, I find myself deeply moved by the following words for one who lives-walks the path of god:

Be a human, bring out each other’s humanity.

Get rid of hunger, get rid of poverty. Don’t be materialistic, and you will have money, even to give to America.

I have a love of humanity. A love for any person.

Truthfully, I am a refugee from India, but I call myself a human being.

I have become famous for being a human being.

– Abdul Sattar Edhi, Edhi Foundation

I encourage you to watch the short film and allow yourself to be touched by that which is the best in and of us:

If you find yourself touched then I ask that you honour our shared humanity by truly being a human being and calling forth the best of our shared humanity.  Here is an idea that has just come to me, how about for one day:

  • that which you spend on yourself (say a coffee, a lunch, a restaurant meal…..) you also spend on a fellow human being with a open heart; and
  • put into the world and thus share the non-materialistic bounty of life – a smile, a kind word, deep listening, a helping hand.

I am taking on this game, joyfully.  And it would be great to play this game with you, play it together.

It occurs to me that you/i/we have a choice. What choice? A fundamental choice: to live as gods or to live as beggars. What is the difference? God gives.  The beggar, in whichever guise is always looking for that which he can receive/gain from others.  Please notice even a ‘beggar’ can be god. How? Simply by smiling and allowing that smile to light up the lives of those who pass by and receive the gift of that smile.

I thank you for the listening that your create. It is your listening that keeps me in this conversation and calls forth that which finds itself spoken here, at this blog.

Daring Greatly: Moving From The Stands And Into The Arena


Having stepped out of, perhaps only a little, the dungeon of fear I find that I am that much more sensitive to the fear that grips so many of us.  For example, this week I came face to face with the fear of speaking truth: of saying what there was to be said, of accurately describing the situation.

Why was the fear present?  I do not know for sure as I was not the one experiencing the fear. My educated guess is that those advocating the politically correct course of action were gripped by the fear of looking foolish, being criticised/ridiculed, of being ‘punished’.  And I notice that I am not immune: in writing this I notice that the fear of offending is present and so it is taking something to write these words.

If there is purpose behind this blog it is this: to inspire me and you to play BIG. What does that mean?

– It means giving up playing small and in so doing relinquishing the roles that we are most comfortable with and which we occupy naturally and by default. What roles? The roles of victim and spectator; and

– Live a life of self-expression, express that which calls to be expressed.  This requires moving from the safety and smallness of the stands (can you be any smaller than being one in a crowd of thousands of spectators) onto the arena and thus the spotlight.

Why should I bother? Why should you bother?  Why should we put ourselves into the game of life, play full out, express that which lies in us calling to be expressed?  Why should we face the hard work, the struggle, the pain that goes with being in the arena?  Because, aliveness (true aliveness) is only present when I am in the arena! And I am human like you, so it occurs to me that the same is true for you: you are truly alive when you are in the arena playing from and for a possibility that truly matters to you, calls you, touches-moves-inspires-uplifts you. 

Perhaps my answer is not satisfying, not eloquent, maybe not that clear.  So allow me to share with you a passage from a speech that is eloquent and which states all that needs to be stated:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, 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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

If you find that this quote speaks to you then I invite you to watch the recent (Dec 2013) talk by Brene Brown – she is the knack of conveying what it takes to give up the comfort-anonymity-smallness of the stands and moving into the sometimes harsh glare of the arena:

Introducing The ‘Quotes’ Tab


On the recommendation of a friend whom I value I’ve been reading a travel book: Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon.  I find it to be a riveting read as it provides me with a broader insight into the humanity as expressed in different places.

Ted has made it across Africa and now finds himself in South America. Delight at arriving there soon turns into despair when he finds himself seized by the shadowy police and he is facing the prospect of torture and death:

Up to that moment I had kept alive a last flicker of hope that my danger was all imaginary …….. It feels immodest .. to say … that I prepared myself for death…

Death itself, I soon realised, was not such a bad prospect. In a way I had invited it by embarking on this journey ….. It was not really death that bothered me then. It was pain. 

By chance …. I had found a copy of Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt…. Greene’s stuff hero finds himself seized by the police in Paraguay.  A policeman hits him, but he scarcely feels it. Then there follows a sentence which, in my hypersensitive state, I must have saved for emergencies”

‘Physical violence. like the dentist’s drill, is seldom as bad as one fears.’

…. I built on it like a piece of rock. I contemplated the possibility that the fear of torture might be worse than the torture itself …. I managed to let the fear go.

Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

After reading this passage I found myself called to collect and share quotes which are in line with that which I speak-share on this blog.  You can find these quotes on the Quotes tab (on the header next to the ‘home’ tab).  I am committed to adding quotes as and I discover them.

Today, I wish to share with you three quote that particularly resonate with me in this moment:

What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.” Unknown

“Living life without making a difference is to be amongst the living dead.” Ron Travisano

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” Bob Kerry