Distinguishing Between An ‘Easy’ Life And A Rich One


It occurs to me that if you/i are to play BIG then we need to become skilful at distinguishing. Today I want to distinguish between an easy-comfortable life and a rich one.

The Default: The Lure Of The Easy-Comfortable Life

To a large degree the promise and lure of technology is that it will rid our lives of hassle, save us time, and free us up to focus on what really matters.  So it is not surprising that we lap up every new technology even though, on the whole, we do not find ourselves living/experiencing richer lives.

What is going on here? Let’s take a look at the phenomena. What do we do with the emptiness-space created by new technology?  We fill it up!  What is it that we fill it up with?  We fill it up with some form of junk: browsing the internet, reading trashy magazines/novels, hanging out on social media sites, watching tv, hanging out in the pub with the same crowd doing the same stuff, eating more food then we need just to entertain ourselves…..

Why do we free up time only to fill it up with junk?  Take a good look at the context.  We have been conditioned and have become comfortable to living from the context of ease-comfort. Being addicted to the easy-lazy life, we embrace technology to take out more of the challenges-problems-effort from our lives. When that does happen we are too lazy to use the freed up time-space to do anything other than that which is easy/comfortable for us.

What does this all amount to? I say the lure of an easy-comfortable life is addictive especially in our cultural context. And it is vicious trap.  The easier-comfortable we make our living, the more we invite banality and boredom into the experience of living.

Allow me to put it bluntly: a life without challenges/problems ends up being experienced as a problem!  

What Does A Rich Life Look Like?

It occurs to me that a rich life is full of challenges-problems that call forth the best in us: our ingenuity in grappling with, learning from, and overcoming challenges-problems.

This was brought home to me recently when I was discussing consulting engagements.  I found myself saying that I like the difficult consulting engagements, the more complex/difficult the better. When I looked into this I found the following: the easy-comfortable consulting engagement show up as boring-dull. They lack that which calls me forth, keeps me on my toes, brings out the best in me, leaves me with a sense of satisfaction.

What’s missing from easy-comfortable consulting engagements?  Meaningful-worthy challenges-problems. And the sense of discovery, engagement, learning, mastery and satisfaction that goes with grappling with and overcoming challenges-problems.  Furthermore, I notice that when I am immersed in the challenging engagements, self disappears, the sense of time disappears….

Will any kind of challenge-problem do? Yes and no.

Yes, in that a life that lacks challenges-problems will inevitably be experienced as dull-boring-empty – you/i just need to give it enough time for the ‘honeymoon’ period to be over.

No, in that the challenges-problems that show up as relevant-meaningful are those that we encounter when we travel the path that we find our innermost selves called to travel.  So if you find yourself called to travel the path of turning conflict into peace then it is the challenges-problems that get in the way of you travelling your path are the ones that matter. Why? Because if these challenges-problems did not exist then you would simply-quickly reach your objective. Game over. Then you are left with a sense of emptiness in your experience of living.

Summing Up

It occurs to me that you/i are mistaken in striving for the easy-comfortable life if by taking this path we expect to experience aliveness-joy-fulfillment.  This path can only leave you/me experiencing a sense of boredom-dissatisfaction-emptiness in the longer term when the glamour of ease-comfort has fallen from our eyes.

It occurs to me that the access to the experience of aliveness-joy-fulfillment-freedom is going for and living a rich life: a life lived on the path of possibility where plenty of challenges-problems (small and big) show up and which call us to be BIG in grappling with them and overcoming them. And even if we do not overcome them, we have experienced  a meaningful existence, a rich life.

Is it possible to mix up a rich life with an easy-comfortable one? It occurs to that the answer is yes. Here I am reminded of my trekking days when it would take time, awareness, attention to detail and considerable effort to trek up a mountain. And upon arriving at the peak, usually tired-exhausted, I’d take time out to simply enjoy the scenery, eat-drink-sleep. And then get ready for the next trek.

 

How To Open Yourself Up To The Experience Of Joy


Why bother with all the effort-risk-vulnerability that goes with showing up as a creator – one who creates, cause, authors?  Why not simply continue to go along with our conditioning and the default way of ‘showing up and travelling through life’ – that of a consumer who at best only gets to choose that which others have created?

Look at your lived experience and ask yourself how many people you have experienced as joyous – today, this week, this month?  Have you experienced joy?  Joy, not happiness.

When you/i show up and travel through life as creators (not merely consumers) we open ourselves up to experiencing joy.  When you/i show up as consumers we restrict our experience to moments of happiness and pleasure.

…. man does not grow automatically like a tree, but fulfils his potentialities only as he in his own consciousness plans and chooses…..

….. if a man does not fulfil his potentialities, as a person, he becomes to that extent constricted and ill…. “Energy is Eternal Delight,” said William Blake; “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.”…..

…. to the extent that we do fulfill our potentialities as persons, we experience the profoundest joy to which the human being is heir.

When a little child is learning to walk up steps or lift a box, he will try again and again, getting up when he falls down and starting over again. And finally when he does success, he laughs with gratification, his expression of joy in the use of his powers.

But this is nothing in comparison to the quiet joy of when the adolescent can use his newly emerged power for the first time to gain a friend, or the adult’s joy when he can love, plan and create.

Joy is the affect which comes when we use our powers. Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity, who is able to affirm his being, if need be, against all other beings and the whole inorganic world….

– Rollo May, Man’s Search For Himself

I find that I look forward to Sunday mornings. Why? I experience joy in the process of cooking (Sunday lunch) and feeding my loved ones. How did this come about? I give up my beliefs-concerns-fears around cooking. How? By inventing the possibility of showing up as an adept-capable cook. And then I got busy cooking with the help and supervision of my wife.

When Sunday lunch comes around the people around the table experience happiness-pleasure that comes with eating that which has been served to them.  I experience the joy that comes with relating to myself as a creator: the creator of the food and the source of happiness-pleasure occurring around the table.

It occurs to me that there is profound truth in that which Rollo May speaks. Are you up for putting Rollo May’s speaking to the test: trying it out for yourself?

Distinguishing Between ‘Being With’ And ‘Understanding’


When is it appropriate to simply ‘be with’ (experience) the phenomena and when is it appropriate to dive into that which shows up and strive to understand it?

Let’s start with exploring ‘Understanding’ as a mode of being (showing up) and operating (travelling) in the world. Why? Because it occurs to me that is the dominant mode of being in the Western world where I find myself living.

A Brief Exploration Of Understanding

Something occurs and we strive to understand.  What exactly does that mean? As I look into my lived experience it occurs to me that when we are involved in ‘understanding’ we are involved in:

– seeking to figure out why something occurred and specifically we are looking for the cause of that which occurred;

– seeking to figure out the mechanics (the machinery behind) that which occurred – how the various elements interacted to generate that which occurred; and/or

– seeking to figure out (predict) how some event is likely to play out, the path that will be travelled and the outcomes that will generated.

Whilst all three of these are possible, in everyday practice, when we are seeking to understand, we are seeking only to figure out cause and/or mechanics.

This mode of being (showing up) and operating (travelling) in the world has become dominant since the Enlightenment. And has been the means for us, the human race, to attain mastery over nature. Arguably, the mode of being is responsible for the length of our lives,  the quality of our health, the sexual liberation of women, our capacity to fly, to put men on the moon etc.

 A Brief Exploration of ‘Being With’

When you and I are ‘being with’ that which shows up, we are being present, to that which shows up and we experience as experiencing beings amidst the hurly-burly of life.  And not as ‘scientists’, standing apart from that which is occurring, and engaged in the task of figuring out that which lies behind that which has occurred or is occurring.

I get this may sound strange given that this is the not the normal way of talking. So, allow me to give life to this by sharing a lived experience.

A long time ago, that is how it occurs to me, I found myself managing a motor dealership that had gone into ‘receivership’ (Chapter 11 in the USA).  There I am sitting in the office dealing with paperwork. There is a knock on the door and the lady who plays the role of Receptionist, shows in a well built tall (very tall) man. Instantly, I found myself experiencing fear. Why?

At some level, I had picked up that the man in front of me was both strong and angry – very angry. His upset, his anger, was written all over his body. And I picked up that the Receptionist had ‘saved her skin’ by passing this man over to me.

Finding my wellbeing at stake, I found myself totally present. Being totally present, I talked to the man politely, invited him to sit down. Then I told him that I could see that he was really upset and invited him to tell me his story. Then I listened. And I empathised – with his experience of loss, of betrayal, of confusion and suffering. After about an hours conversation, I shook hands with the giant who was now gentle. And helped him as best as I could to file a claim against the business for the losses he had incurred.

At no time in this encounter-conversation did I find myself in the role of ‘scientist’ standing at a distance, looking at what was occurring, and attempting to figure out what had occurred.

That is how I would define ‘being with’: being attuned to the situation; dancing with that which occurs as it occurs; operating at the level of lived-felt experience; living it not figuring it out!

What Happens When We Mix Up These Modes of Being? 

Recently, it was my birthday. At the appointed time of celebration I was so excited. Why? I was looking forward to giving out the ‘gifts that I had brought’ for each person around the table.

With great delight I announced that I wanted to enter this phase of my life as I wish to live it: giving that which I could/had to give. Then I told everyone that I had a gift for them. And handed each person an envelope with his/her name on it. Once they got over their surprise, each opened his/her envelope, and found money in there.

What I was hoping to see-experience was joy: joy in the faces of these people. What I got was questions along the lines of is this some kind of joke? I assured all that it was not a joke, that the money they had in their hands was genuine gift from me to them on my birthday. Then the why questions started: why are doing this?

I found myself puzzled, distressed and mildly annoyed with questioning. Why? It occurred to me that in showing up and operating from the ‘Understanding’ mode of being-operating in the world, the people around the table had stripped the beauty from the act-experience of giving and receiving.

Furthermore, and most importantly, there was no adequate answer that I could provide that satisfied them. Why? Because there was no cause – nothing and nobody was causing me to do that which I was doing.  And there were no set of circumstance (the mechanics) that had come together to cause me to give people gifts on my birthday.

It was only when we gave up the ‘understanding’ mode of being, along with its questions, that the people around the table were able to experience the joy of receiving a gift that day. Only when they embraced the ‘being with’ receiving a gift was I able to experience the joy of giving that which I had given and had been looking forward to giving.

Why Distinguish between ‘Being With’ and ‘Understanding’?

If you have lost a loved one and  are in pain, suffering, grieving, crying. Then it is totally inappropriate for me to show up and operate from the mode of ‘Understanding’: to figure you out. What is appropriate is for me to ‘be with’ you being the way that you are being. And ‘dancing’ with you.  This may mean simply listening or it may mean touching you, hugging you, holding you and allowing you to hold me.  Arguably, that is the appropriate response to all those who are grieving over the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner.

There are also situations where the most appropriate mode of showing up and operating is that of ‘understanding’.  In the case of the disappeared Malaysian airliner, all who search for the black box do so from the context of ‘understanding’. The commitment is to figure out what happened. And importantly, to figure out what caused what happened.

When you and I use the right mode of being – such that it fits the context at hand – we increase the workability of our lives, the lives of our fellow human beings, and life itself.

What I see again and again is the inappropriate intrusion (or use) of the ‘understanding’ mode in the area of human relationships and relating. Too often we seek to ‘understand’ others when the most appropriate-fitting way of showing up is ‘being with’ the other person and the relationship as it is and is not.  Too often we strip nature-humanity-life of its beauty by using the the ‘understanding’ mode to explain that which it is most fitting to experience.

Take the love between a mother and her child. Can this ever be ‘understood’ and explained?  And even if it is ‘understood’ and explained, what does this understanding-explanation add to the experience of love?  Now think what shows up in your living if you simply show up and simply witness, be with, experience a mother’s love for her child: perhaps your mother’s love for you or your love for your child.

I dedicate this post to my friend Lonnie Mayne. Lonnie does not seek to understand me. He simply creates the space where he and I can simple ‘be with’ that which shows up in our conversation. What a privilege this is: to be granted a space to simple be. Thank you Lonnie, your existence makes a massive contribution to my existence.

 

Opening Ourselves To The Impossible And Living A Life Of Possibility


There is one scene, one dialogue, from the movie 12 Years A Slave that is etched in me.  Solomon Northup is an educated, free black man, who finds himself sold into slavery. He is being advised, to hide his education and play the dumb black man in order to survive. Solomon replies with great conviction “I don’t want to survive. I want to live!” 

It occurs to me that the difference between surviving and living is possibility: living into-from-out of possibility.  What is the difference?  I share with you some powerful, even life transforming passages, from Ellen Langer’s book Counter Clockwise:

In most of psychology, researchers describe what is. Often they do this with great acumen and creativity. But knowing what is and knowing what can be are not the same thing. My interest ….. is in what can be …… Small changes can make large differences, so we should open ourselves to the impossible …..

The psychology of possibility first requires that we begin with the assumption that we do not know what we can do or become. Rather than starting from the status quo, it argues for a starting point of what we would like to be. From that beginning, we can ask how we might reach that goal or make progress towards it. It’s a subtle change in thinking, although not difficult to make once we realise how stuck we are in culture, language, and modes of thought that limit our potential. I maintain that we don’t know even if we try, because when we try and fail, all we know is that the way we tried was not successful. We still do not know that it can’t be. 

The second step toward embracing a psychology of possibility …. is to try out different things without evaluating ourselves as we go along….. We would simply note whether or not the attempt was successful. Pursuing possibility regarding our health may result in the desired end, but in addition, pursuing the psychology of possibility is itself empowering. It feels good to have a personal mission, it contributes to a more positive outlook in general... As we actualise the possible we may find out other interesting things about ourselves and the world…

Too many of us believe that the world is to be discovered, rather than a product of our own construction and thus to be invented. We often respond as if we and/or the world around us are fixed, even when we agree in theory that we are not. We might sit uncomfortably in the bathroom each day without realising that we would feel better if we changed the height of the toilet….. We don’t go to the opera because of our glaucoma, when the experience of merely listening to the music could be extremely rich. There are many changes we would know how to make …. if it only occurred to us to ask.….. We imagine the stability of our mindsets to be the stability of the underlying phenomena, and so we don’t think to consider the alternatives.If we open up our minds, a world of possibility presents itself…..

If I had never wondered about what is possible, I never would have conducted the counterclockwise study and never witnessed the transformative power of our minds.

Do you want merely to survive or do you want to live!? If you want to live! then listen to Ellen Langer and open yourself up to the impossible – embrace, step into, and live from a life of possibility.

If listening to Ellen Langer is not enough for you then I leave you with the following two ‘laws’ from the prolific science fiction writer, Arthur C Clarke:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

 

Birthday Gift: Quotes To Savour?


Officially, it is my birthday.  And I have chosen freely to show up and operate from a stance of giving: giving of myself to others, to make a positive contribution, and bring life to the possibility of a world that works for all.

What can I give to you today, the people, the friends, who make the time to listen to my speaking?  Perhaps, a few quotes to be with.

Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.

― Joseph Campbell

I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought AND found how to serve.

– Albert Schweitzer

I had always thought that we used language to describe the world — now I was seeing that this is not the case. To the contrary, it is through language that we create the world, because it’s nothing until we describe it. And when we describe it, we create distinctions that govern our actions. To put it another way, we do not describe the world we see, but we see the world we describe.

— Joseph Jaworski

All things are subject to interpretation, whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. 

– Friedrich Nietzsche

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

– Hannah Arendt

As you meet your limits your limits will expand.

– Robin Sharma

Heroes are ordinary men and women who dare to see and meet the call of a possibility bigger than themselves. Breakthroughs are created by such heroes, by men and women who will stand for the result while it is only a possibility – people who will act to make possibility real.

– Werner Erhard

I thank each and everyone of you for listening to my speaking. And of your sharing.  Please know that your existence makes a contribution to my existence.

At your service and with love,

maz