Wisdom for Good Times and Challenging Times


It occurs to me that we in the West are living in the midst of interesting times. Some see opportunity, others are enveloped in fear.  If you and I are up to playing BIG then what kind of stance to take?  How to show up and travel in the midst of such times?

These were the questions that I was dealing with and my eyes happened to land on book that I read a long time ago: Love by Leo Buscaglia.  I opened it and found myself to the following words of wisdom from Joseph Zinker in his paper called On Public Knowledge and Personal Revelation (bolding is mine):

If a man in the street were to pursue his self, what kind of guiding thoughts would he come up with about changing his existence?   He would perhaps discover that his brain is not yet dead, that his body is not dried up, and that no matter where he is right now, he is still the creator of his destiny. 

He can change this destiny by taking his one decision to change seriously, by fighting his petty resistance against change and fear, by learning more about his mind, by trying out behavior which fills his real need, by carrying out concrete acts rather than conceptualizing about them, by practicing to see and hear and touch and feel as he has never before used these senses, by creating something with his own hands without demanding perfection, by thinking out ways in which he behaves in a self-defeating manner, by listening to the words that he utters to his wife, his kids, and his friends, by listening to himself, by listening to the words and looking into the eyes of those who speak to him, by learning to respect the process of his own creative encounters and by having faith that they will get him somewhere soon. 

We must remind ourselves, however, that no change takes place without working hard and without getting your hands dirty.  There are no formulae and no books to memorize on becoming.  I only know this:  I exist.  I am.  I am here.  I am becoming.  I make my life and no one else makes it for me.  I must face my own shortcomings, mistakes, and transgressions.  No one can suffer my non-being as I do, but tomorrow is another day, and I must decide to leave by bed and live again.  And if I fail, I don’t have the comfort of blaming you or life or God.

Yes, we live in interesting times. Brexit has happened. Trump has happened. Hate has been unleashed and hating the other is now clothed in patriotism.  Yet, the future is NOT determined.  Destiny has not already been set in stone. You, I, we can shape the future by the stance we take: our attitude, our way of showing up and travelling in the world.

You and I are like strands in a rope.  The rope does that which no strand can do by itself, on its own.  By coming together, working together, the strands bring into being the power of the rope.

Coming together means more than coming together with the folks we like – those who are just like us.  Playing BIG necessarily involves showing up and travelling from a specific context: a world that works for all, none excluded.  Which necessarily means involving oneself with the other with compassion. Consider that if we, individually and collectively, had not excluded and then ignored those who are excluded there would have been no Brexit, no election of Trump as president of the USA.

I thank you for listening, wish you the very best, and invite you to play BIG in these challenging times.

 

 

 

Playing Big Involves A Certain Kind of Relationship Towards Wrongdoing


A stone has a certain kind of being. What kind?  The being of a stone is stillness. A stone just sit there – it’s way of being has no capacity for acting in/on the world. It is indifferent to what is so and it cannot be otherwise for a stone.

The being of human being is very different.  The way of being of human beings is involvement in the world. And choice in the matter of what shape this involvement takes. Further, this involvement necessarily involves doing – taking action.

Yes, man can be indifferent to that which is but this indifference can never be the indifference of the stone.    The indifference of a human being is an active – chosen – indifference.  Man is implicated in his indifference and thus subject to moral judgement, the stone is not.

 

By nature of the being of human beings you and I are implicated in all that which is and which is not. If the world is not as you and I wish it to be then you and I are confronted with choice – how to be (including the actions we take or do not take) in the face of that which is and is not.  You and I can choose to resign ourselves to that which is, point the finger at others and leave it at that, or take responsibility for shaping the world to be more in line with which we wish it to be.

What has brought up this conversation today?  My confrontation with wrongdoing.

When faced with wrongdoing what do I do?  Do I pretend that it is not happening?  Do I join in with those doing wrong? Do I help those who are the subject of the wrongdoing?  Do I accept that wrongdoing is occurring and say it is not any of my business?  Do I merely go through the pretence of doing something whilst staying in the good books of the wrongdoer?  You get the idea.

When it comes to the matter of wrongdoing Martha C. Nussbaum has something to say:

… where the perpetrators are like General Dyer, human, the consequence of recognising wrongdoing … is clear: the witness must oppose such evil at great cost and denounce it to others...

In our contemporary world, in which it is a good assumption that most of the starvation and much of the other misery we witness is the result of culpable negligence by the powerful, metaphysical resignation would, again, be relatively good news, letting the powerful of the hook.

But the truthful new of Greek tragedy, for us, as for the Athenians, is far worse than that: for the bad news is that we are culpable as Zeus in the Trachiniai, and the Greek generals in The Trojan Women, and Odysseus in Philoctetes, and many other gods and mortals at many times and places – unless we throw off our laziness and selfish ambition and obtuseness and ask ourselves how the harms we witness might have been prevented.  

As Philoctetes knew, pity means action: intervention on behalf of the suffering, even if it is difficult and repellent. If you leave out the action, you are an ignoble coward, perhaps also a hypocrite and a liar. If you help you have done something fine. 

– Martha C. Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness

If you and I turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing then let’s be clear we are playing small.  Playing BIG necessarily involves doing that which Martha says: taking action, opposing evil, helping those subjected to wrongdoing/evil.

Further, I invite you and me to consider that where we are being obtuse, lazy, and selfishly ambitious it is most likely that we are playing small.  Given this recognition you and I have the choice to stop this and play BIG.

I thank you for your listening. Until the next time…

How To Play Big In Our Dealings With Our Fellows


Our automatic/default way of being with regards to our dealing with our fellows is one of being controlling is it not?  I have a view on who you are / what you are / how you should show up and travel and given my attachment to this view I seek/strive to control you: control you as my child, my spouse, my sibling, my colleague, my friend… Right?

What shows up when we relate to our fellows in this habitual way?  If we succeed in our efforts we do so by cutting limbs of the other to fit the Procrustean bed we have created for them.  If we do not succeed then we blame / criticise them. Either way there is something amiss in this way of relating to others.

Is there another way of relating to our fellows?  Is there a way of being-in-the-world that frees our fellows to be  – to simply be – without having to fit into a particular mould we have created for them?

I invite you and me to listen to these wise words:

Last summer I noticed a strange plant in our pasture. I did not know what it was, I had no picture in my mind of what flower or fruit it would bear, but I freed it. That is, I dug around it and opened the soil that the rain might fall on its roots, I cleared out the thistles with which it was entangled so that it might have room to spread, I cut down the undergrowth of small maples near so that it could get the sun. In other words, I simply freed it.  Every friendship which is not treated in this way will surely suffer; no human relation should serve an anticipatory purpose. Every relation should be a freeing relation with the ‘purpose’ evolving.”

– Mary Parker Follett, Creative Experience (1924)

This may be a BIG ask for you.  It is a HUGE ask for me.  Which is why it is game fit only for those of us committed to playing BIG in our dealings with others.

Finally, I invite you/me to play BIG in our dealings with ourselves. I’m inviting you and me to free ourselves in the way that Mary Parker Follett describes.

Now, I get what the folks at Landmark were saying when they counselled us to “Listen coming from nothing”- listen / relate to others without any preconceptions.  In the space of nothing, anything has the ‘space’ to show up.

I thank you for your listening. Until the next time….

Playing BIG With-Towards Imperfection


Imperfection, imperfection, imperfection!

I disappoint myself. Not always but certainly from time to time. I particularly disappoint myself when my relating with others is not working out as I want it to work out.  I am so imperfect!  It really takes something to be with this. Mostly, I am not being with it as I am so busy lashing at myself.

What happens when you disappoint me?  Your imperfections, where you fall short, are lit up and I see them – all of them.  How do I treat you? I lash out at  you – sometimes the lashing makes a sound, other times it is silent.

Thats the way to be if one is committed or merely resigned to playing small.  My default setting is to play small when it comes to imperfection. It may be yours.

What’s the starting point for playing BIG in relation to imperfection?

Lets start with an insight – perhaps the insight when it comes to human beings and human worlds:

…..We are all imperfect. 

Such a vision not only invites but requires Tolerance: active appreciation of the richness and variety of human beings on this earth, along with the understanding that we all struggle with the same demons, we all share the same fears and sorrows, we all do the best we can with what we have.

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Please get that imperfection is not a bug it is a feature.  Imperfection is a feature of human existence. Wherever you find a human being or human beings you will find yourself, sooner or later, face to face with imperfection. There is no escape from imperfection – it is intrinsic to human existence and pervasive.

Given this insight what is it to play BIG in relation to this feature of human existence?

The following story provides a great answer to this question:

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with large and recurring crops of dandelions. Although he tried every method he knew to get rid of them, they continued to plague him. Finally, in desperation, he wrote the Extension Service of the Agriculture Department of the State University, enumerating all the things he had tried and concluding with the question: “What shall I do now?”

After a somewhat prolonged time even for such correspondence, the reply finally came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Damn! I have been ‘on it ‘with several members of my family: My mother, brother, and uncle for selling my father’s land despite his express request to not sell the land; My wife; and my eldest son.  Playing BIG necessitates getting ‘off-it’. Am I ready to do that?  I suspect this conversation provides a pointer.

Now what is the stance I take toward myself?  Do I start lashing out at myself for getting ‘on-it’ and staying ‘on-it’ for most of this week?  That would be falling into the same trap – lashing out at myself for not being OK, for being imperfect.  So what is it to play BIG here with regards to myself and my inherent imperfection?

If you could really accept that you weren’t ok you could stop proving you were ok.

If you could stop proving that you were ok you could get that it was ok not to be ok.

If you could get that it was ok not to be ok you could get that you were ok the way you are.

You’re ok, get it?

-Werner Erhard

Yes, it’s ok to accept my imperfection – all the areas in which I fall short. Yes, it’s ok for you to accept your imperfection.

It would be too simple, too Western, to leave this conversation here. So let’s introduce paradox (through Zen) for life is paradoxical through and through:

Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.
―Shunryu Suzuki

Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.
―Shunryu Suzuki

I thank you for your listening. And I ask you to play BIG even if you find that like me you are finding your playing BIG imperfect.

“I did do something… I made you.”


Refugees fleeing the Middle East. Risking not only their lives but also the lives of their loved ones to make it to Europe. There, these fellow human beings, come face to face with the kind of violence that is most difficult for a human being to bear: being looked down upon, being treated with indifference, being rejected…. Unwanted by our fellow human beings.

UK. Spike in hate crimes. Racism out in the opening post vote for Brexit. The foreigner (black, brown, white..) is not welcome: “Go back to your f***ing country!”.  So, no surprise, that folks who look and/or sound foreign find themselves fearful.

USA. The legacy of slavery is out in the open. White folks shoot black folks without impunity. Some black folks have had enough of this….Dallas.

Centre of Brussels. I walk and find myself face to face with many folks sitting on the pavements begging. How can this be?  Brussels, the heart of Europe. Europe a continent of wealth. Seeing some folks begging, just about everybody walking by, this does violence to my soul.

What is my instant / natural response to all this? What is my gut level reaction to a world that doesn’t work?  What is yours?  Isn’t it that which is vividly illustrated by the story below:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

For many of us God is dead so we replace God with Government: Why doesn’t the government do something about this?   The government should do something!  Aren’t the folks in government just like us: looking for others, including us, to do something?  This is a weak stance is it not?  It is the stance of child is it not?  This is playing small is it not?

The spiritual tradition is clear on what it takes to make the world work:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

And out of the long silence, God said: “I did do something about them. I made you.”

Looking for a source of inspiration? An ordinary fellow human being who showed up and travelled in this manner? Today, I cannot think of a better example than Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Central Brussels. Each day I ensure that I have enough cash in my pocket. As I come across a fellow human being begging, I look that person in the eye, and place some money in his/her hands. I continue to do this until there is no more cash in my pocket. I have not changed the world. Yet, I made a difference to at least two people every day: the person/s begging and myself.  I have moved from being one who looks on from the stands and despairs to an agent who acts.

I thank you for your listening. Wherever you are I hope you will play BIG.

Abdul Sattar Edhi: An Inspiration For Those Who Are Up For Playing Big


You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference — to be of genuine consequence in the world. We know that there is no satisfaction in merely going through the motions in life, even if those motions make us successful or even if we have arranged to make those motions pleasant. We want to know we have had some impact on the world. In fact, you and I want to contribute to the quality of life. We want to make the world work

-Werner Erhard

Yesterday I learnt that Abdul Sattar Edhi is no longer. You’ve probably not heard of him. Yet, in my eyes, he sit there alongside Gandhi as one of the world greatest examples of humanity: a peaceful warrior for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts…. A living example of what is possible when one makes one’s life a stand for something noble – something that calls to the deeply human in us, no matter how deeply it is buried.

Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears….. A profound sense of loss. Yet, I have never met the man, merely donated money to the organisation he founded. So from where does this deep sense of grief arise?

What is it that i find my deepest self (that which is beyond my conscious control) mourns for?  The loss of a saint, the humanity he embodied, and the humanity he called forth in many people. I suspect that he left heft many of us feeling better about ourselves and the world that we find ourselves.

For as long as there is one Edhi there is hope. More, an Edhi is an opening, a clearing, for our humanity to show up and make difference: to contribute to the quality of life – for all.

 

People have become educated, but have yet to become human.

-Abdul Sattar Edhi

So this is my invitation to you, to me, to us: Let’s play BIG, starting right now, by putting our humanity, the kind of humanity that Abdul Sattar Edhi,  into action.

I thank you for you listening. And I ask that you show up and travel in manner that makes a positive difference to the quality of your life, our life, life itself.

Play Big: Embrace A Stranger The Nicula Way


I’ve been working in Belgium this year. Typically I take flight out to Brussels every Sunday night or Monday morning. And take the flight back to London late afternoon every Friday.

I work with a great bunch of people: Jeroen, Martijn, Patrick, Rupert, Arun, Prashanth, Alexandra……. They show up and travel in a manner that leaves me feeling welcome, respected, part of the team.

There is something special about Alexandra. She kind of ’embraced’ me without ever having met me. How by ringing me whilst I was recovering from back surgery.

Upon my return to work/Brussels Alexandra made me feel welcome by seeking me out and taking me out to lunch.  Not just once but several times. Now and then when she takes a break and goes out for a cigarette she invites me along. Sometimes I take up her invitation.

This week Alexandra invited me to her home. I found myself both surprised and delighted. Why surprised? “She hardly knows me!”  Why delighted? She trusts me enough to invite me to her home; and she finds me sufficiently interesting to invite me to her home.

The result? I spent a lovely evening at her place. I met her son: a beautiful young fellow, alive, curious, playful and intelligent; he enjoys chocolates; and loves his mother. I got to learn a little about her partner.  Alexandra also shared some of her life with me. Being English I tend to be somewhat reserved yet I found myself telling Alexandra about some aspects of my life.

What is there between myself and Alexandra? Gratitude! Gratitude for what? For being the first and only Belgian person who has invited me into her home, her family, her life.  For  puncturing my sense of being a stranger in this land.

I invite you and I to play big by embracing a stranger the Nicula way!  Who can you invite into your life and by so doing touch his/her life for one lunchtime, for one evening, or for a lifetime?

And finally, I dedicate this conversation to Alexandra Nicula – a remarkable woman. And someone who now shows up for me as a friend.  Thank you Alexandra for your kindness, your generosity, and your way of being – which I find refreshing and inspiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play Big: Embrace The Truth of Human Existence


I have been reading the book Man for Himself by Erich Fromm.  There is one passage which resonates with me. And this is the passage I wish to share with you as it occurs to me that it gets to the heart of playing BIG in my/your living.

Man can react to historical contradictions by annulling them through his own action; but he cannot annual existential dichotomies, although he can react to them in different ways. He can appease his mind by soothing and harmonising ideologies. He can try to escape from his inner restlessness by ceaseless activity in pleasure or business. He can try to abrogate his freedom and turn himself into an instrument of powers outside of himself, submerging himself in them.  But he remains dissatisfied, anxious, and restless.

There is only one solution to his problem: to face the truth, to acknowledge is fundamental aloneness and solitude in a universe indifferent to his fate, to recognise that there is no power transcending him which can solve his problem for him.Man must accept the responsibility for himself and the fact that only by using his own powers can he give meaning to his life.  

But meaning does not imply certainty; indeed the quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning.  Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.

If he faces the truth without panic he will recognise that there is no meaning to life except the meaning  man gives his life by unfolding  of his powers, by living productively; and that only constant vigilance, activity, and effort can keep us from failing in the one task that matters – the full development of our powers within the limitations  set  by the laws of our existence.

Man will never cease to be perplexed, to wonder, to raise new questions. Only if he recognises the human situation, the dichotomies inherent in his existence and his capacity to unfold his powers, will he be able to succeed in his task: to be himself and for himself and to achieve happiness by the full realisation of those faculties which are peculiarly his – of reason, love, and productive work.

I invite you to grapple with the speaking of Erich Fromm. I invite you (and me) to take responsibility – right this moment – for our living and our lives.  It is a BIG ask which is why it is only for those up for playing BIG.

Until the next time….

What Does Ralph Waldo Emerson Say On Playing Big?


A little while ago I read Robyn Davidson’s book, Tracks. If you haven’t read it and enjoy reading about real people -about the human spirit and it’s thirst for something beyond the know and the accepted – then I encourage you to read it.  Please don’t play small and settle for watching the movie – the movie is such a shallow version of the book.

Today, I came across a passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson which is in line with the 1700 mile journey Robyn Davidson took across Australia – against all advice – just because the journey was calling her. I share this passage with you in the possibility that it will inspire you and me to play BIG (bolding mine):

“You will hear everyday the maxims of low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. “What is the Truth you seek? What is this Beauty?” men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God has called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, “As others do, so will I. I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season;” – then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand men”

-Emerson, 1838

I thank you for your listening. And I wish you the very best – I hope you will listen and respond to that which calls forth the best, the bigness, in you.  Until the next time..

How To Show Up & Travel Powerfully


What is power? What is to live – as in show up and travel – powerfully? Is it a matter of holding unshakeable convictions?  Is it about being right and never being wrong or admitting you were wrong?  Is it about being able to dominate folks and get them to do what you want them to do?  Is about being able to bend nature/life to your will?  Is it about belonging to the biggest nation, religion, corporation, club, tribe?

Have you come to a conclusion?  Yes? Great. No? Think further and come to a conclusion. Now that you have come to a conclusion I invite you to read and grapple with the following perspective on power and living powerfully:

When all is said and done there is only one definition of power that has any authentic meaning for man. We have seen …. that man is the animal in evolution who lives a series of paradoxes on which is distinctive humanity is based. So much so that we can say that his fate is to live in the teeth of paradoxes. For an animal with such fate, what would his distinctive strength be? 

It would have to be the ability to support contradictions, ambiguities, since his own distinctive nature is based on them and is rife with them. Power for man …… is the ability to support contradictions, nothing less. 

It is amazing how we misread reality, how we see power in all the wrong places, all the wrong forms, forms which have nothing to do with our distinctive problems. We think we see power in the people with sure beliefs, unshakeable convictions, smug self-confidence. Yet these are psychological weaknesses on a planet which is fluid and full of surprises.  We think we see power in the ability to dominate and coerce others. Yet history has taught us that power inevitably makes a slave of and destroys the manipulator whether it be a man or a nation. We think we see power in numbers, in the deafening chorus of mass enthusiasms and the solid wall of shared opinions. Yet history daily teaches us that nature has no respect for even unanimous misperception of reality, and she has the coldest equanimity for the enthusiasms that carry whole populations into rapture…..

Such power for man must be, of course, an ideal, and an unattainable one – yet the whole sense of human life is a struggle in that direction.”

– Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning

 

If you truly get what Ernest Becker is getting at then you will find a new space of freedom opening up for you.  How so? You can accept the messiness of life: the contradictions, the ambiguities, the reversals…  You can accept these in yourself, in others, in nature, in human living.

What is there left to say?  To say thanks – thanks to each and everyone that continues to subscribe to this blog. And to wish each of you the very best living – living powerfully – in 2016, and beyond.

 

 

 

Does Calling Forth Beauty Requires A Willingness To Be OK With Ugliness?


During the course of my life I have played many games and many games have played me. The game of fame no longer calls to me. The game of success / wealth no longer calls. The game of competition (beating others) no longer calls…

The game that calls me today is a two-sided game. One side of the game is for my existence to add to the beauty of this world in which I dwell. The other side of the game is to show up and travel as blessing to others. It occurs to me that when I play the game of being a blessing unto others I add to the beauty of this world. And that when I play the game of adding beauty to the world I am creating an opening for me to occur as blessing to folks.

Every game has a price.  When I played the game of going from being called a ‘Paki’ (being spat at and looked down upon..) to being somebody, the price was hard work – years of it. When I played the game of being a husband and father, the price was to put myself second always….. When I started playing the game of self-expression (like writing blogs) the price was a willingness to stand, be seen, be subject of criticism/ridicule…

So what is the price that comes along with playing the game that I have chosen to play – the game of adding to the beauty of the world and showing up as a blessing to others?  It occurs to me that the price is accepting even embracing the ugliness of the world. And not letting this ugliness to cause me to lose heart and thus give up on the game that calls to me.

What is it that I am getting at? Allow me to illustrate by sharing lived experiences.  On a recent assignment to a new place, new organisation, and new people, I found myself deliberately choosing to notice something noteworthy about folks and complimenting them on that which showed up as noteworthy for me.  For example;

  • On a cold day I came across a woman in her 40s dressed as if it was summer whilst I had suit, overcoat, scarf and gloves!  So I remarked on the difference and complimented her on her ability to deal with the cold so well. This brought a smile to her face and allowed her to share her optimistic take on life. This exchange took less than a minute or two.
  • Walking down the stairs I noticed a fellow glide down the stairs whilst I kind of hobbled. I called out to him and complimented him on his agility, his swiftness, his grace of movement. He laughed and told me that it was easier to go down swiftly (which was what he was doing) than go up swiftly (which is what I was doing). This exchange took less than a minute.
  • In the open plan office, I came across a young lady dressed well – really well. I thought I noticed a style: the French style. So I complimented her on her style. Said it reminded me of the French; told her I was married into the French. Then I asked if she had any French parents. She didn’t. But she did have a Czech mother. I wished a great day and carried on. The exchange took about a minute.
  • Watched what occurred to me as remarkable demonstration of the concept of integration/APIs/enterprise bus: the most abstract showcased in the most human / concrete of ways. I came across the guy who led that demonstration. I acknowledged the brilliance of his demonstration. He smiled. He opened up and shared something of his background like going to Cambridge University to do his PhD…
  • Came across a young man in his 20s. Noticed that he dressed differently to all the other folks in the area that we sat in. He was wearing a suit. So I acknowledged him for how good he looked in his suit. He smiled and we got talking – I learned he is Danish.. One day he came up to my desk (we sat at desks that were nearby) and asked me what I thought of his clothes. I told him that it was the most colourful shirt I had seen. That I loved it – it went well with his suit. And I’d only change one thing. The tie – I’d go for a plain blue tie rather than blue tie with colours…. We had a chat about that….

I could go on and on. I came across so many people and every time an opportunity for a genuine acknowledgement / compliment came up I took it. Why? For me there is a certain beauty that occurs in the world when the folks that I come across smile – genuinely smile. Further, it occurs to me that in England, and English culture, folks are starved of genuine compliments.

So where is the ugliness in this?  I initiated conversations which resulted in many folks smiling. I called forth conversation. I learned something about folks, they learned something about me. Some folks searched me out on LinkedIn and invited me into their network. Other folks I invited to connect up with me on LinkedIn and they accepted. A few of these folks, having worked with me, provided me with endorsements of my skills. All positive. So where is the ugliness in this?

After the assignment was over I had a post engagement review with my manager.  What was his feedback. Folks at the client were really happy with my work: clearly knew my subject area, worked hard, professional, helped them on their problems, and delivered on the scope of the Statement of Work. But one problem. One of the key people – a female manager – had made a complaint. What complaint?  A young lady had come to her and told her that I stopped her in a public area (open plan office) and made remarks about her dress style.  This made her uncomfortable.  Luckily for me, that was the extent of it. No formal complaint had been made of inappropriate behaviour.

How to take this? Allow me to be straight with you: I did not take this well. I found myself in shock. I kind of felt betrayed by my fellow wo/man. I felt like saying “I quit. F**k them. Let the English be a bunch of miserable b*****ds.”  I found myself asking myself what kind of world am I living in. How does it make sense that in an open plan office I can compliment Stefan (the young Danish) guy on his dress sense and build up a ‘buddy’ type relating. And in the same open plan office compliment a young lady (same age range as Stefan) and find myself faced with a complaint. “How the f**k does this world make sense?”

Once I stopped playing the game of victim I a few things hit me:

  • If the game that I am playing was an easy one in the English culture then most folks would be playing it and the English would not be the English.
  • That every game has a price. And the price of the game I am playing (calling forth, adding to the beauty of this world) involves being OK with the ugliness of the world – including the ugliness of folks not being able to take compliments or misinterpreting them.
  • That I have a say in the matter of how I am going to show up and travel given the way that it is and the way it is not.  I can choose to focus on the one complaint or I can focus on the tens of smiles and conversations that I generated over the course of four weeks.
  • That I can choose to ignore this complaint. Or I can learn from it and be more sharply attuned to the person I am acknowledging / complimenting – maybe some folks are simply not ready to be with that which comes with being complimented. Maybe some folks prefer compliments / acknowledgements in a private setting. That I can use that which occurred to be wiser.

I found myself ‘comforted’ by these words of wisdom:

 

stone tiger man y gasset quote

Is there anything more to say? Yes, I continue to play the game of adding to / calling forth the beauty of this world including my fellow wo/man. And I get in the process all kinds of obstacles will show up. That it is up to me as to how to face them. Further, at any time, I can choose to play this game differently. Or choose to play an entirely different game.

I thank you for your listening. I wish you great living. Live beautifully and as the French say “a la procaine”.

 

 

Looking Back Over 2015: The Highs, The Lows, The Lessons

What I have experienced. And What I have learned over 2015.


If you subscribe to this blog then you may have noticed that I have shared little or nothing for most of this year.  What’s been going on? What game have I been playing?  What demands has life been making upon me?  What opportunities have presented themselves? What insights do I have to share with you?

We Like Life To Be Neat And Tidy

It is our tendency to put stuff into neat-tidy boxes. To distinguish, to classify, to categorise, to label stuff.  Once we have given something a label we feel safer, we can go about ‘investigating’ it, and then coming up with ways of dealing with stuff.  It is also our tendency to think in contrasts: long/short, good/bad, right/wrong, blessing/curse, success/failure, rich/poor, kind/mean, playing BIG/playing small… You get the idea. Yet life has a certain fullness, boundlessness, messiness, that means it cannot be easily categorised. And any / every categorisation is incomplete.

This Year Has Been An Interesting (Full) Year

It occurs this year has been like the seasons – especially the kind of seasons we have been experiencing lately in the Southern part of England – where multiple seasons present themselves in what should be a single season.

January. Everything was great: health, family, work… The future looked bright and I had plans – plans for playing BIG in life and inspiring others to play BIG in their lives. I even turned out an incredibly well paid (six figures) consulting role with a well known large consultancy. Why? Because, I was happy doing what I was doing.

February. I found that if I sat down I could not get up. I could not get up! I found that I could not put on my shorts, trousers, socks, shoes or take them off. I found that I could not turn from one side to another when in bed. Ordinary living came to a halt. And with this lack of power (self-sufficiency) the demons came out and played: feelings of helplessness, feeling of being a burden, feelings of fear… If you have lived you know what I am talking about.

Yet in the midst of this I sought to turn lemons into lemonade. So I studied often lying down or standing up. By the end of the month I became a Salesforce certified Pardot Consultant.  Wasn’t easy but brought me both distraction and great satisfaction.

March. By the middle of March I was well enough to get back to normal living. And just as I had gotten off my knees, I found myself floored. My source of income dried up – no more work. Folks whom I considered colleagues even friends treated me in ways that left me confused, puzzled, and deeply hurt.  Illness happens, I can deal with that and in fact have been dealing with it since I was a child. The kind of stuff that I experienced by friends and colleagues – that I had not experienced. And struggled to find my ground, my footing. I was in a kind of a daze for some weeks.

April, May, June. Busy, busy, busy. Busy looking for opportunities for consulting work, for Salesforce work, for project and programme management work. Plenty of conversations with all kinds of people. Even got three verbal offers of employment. None of them worked out.

Also experienced what occurred to me as the second largest (most important) betrayal of my life. That is too personal to go into. But I can tell you it hurt – really hurt.  It brought forth genuine sorrow – of the deepest kind.  The first person who showed up as betraying me was my mother when I was a child. That had a deep impact on me – I made it a rule never to trust what people say for I had seen the dramatic difference between words and deeds. It took some being to accept and deal with this betrayal.  Yet, it was easier to deal with because this time around I was an adult able to step into the shoes of the other, rather than a child of six or seven. Time does make a difference.

At the same time, I learnt to code in HTML and CSS. I even learnt to write some Javascript.  Some wondered why a strategy guy like me was doing this deep tech stuff. I was clear: in troubled times it is necessary to give myself challenges – so that misery and self-pity has no space to show up. Further, one of the ‘dark arts’ of digital was no longer dark. And, I enjoyed the achievement of building a replica of the BBC home page. Further, it became clear that whilst I could do this work, it was not work for me. I need work that provides interaction with people.  With ideas. With helping folks effect change with a view to causing a better world in some dimension.

July and August. I was busy with various ‘projects’. Some of these projects were great in that they allowed me to do what I do well: help folks think through and grapple with challenges.  Other projects were not great: dealing with difficult folks- folks who lacked knowledge/expertise, folks who talked big but did not keep their promises. These were also months of uncertainty as the work wasn’t generating the kind of income that I needed to generate. And I was keenly aware that I was burning through the family’s safety net.

Whilst the family was holidaying in various parts of France, I was busy studying for a Salesforce certification. When I got my Salesforce Sales Cloud certification – well it is day I remember well. I had taken that same exam a year ago and failed. It was the first exam I had failed in my life. But this time around I learned from the past, did the work (over and over), and I passed!  Further, I used up some of the time to dive deeper into the whole User Experience Design thing. I found that I enjoyed learning about it. And that I already knew quite a bit – but by no means all of it or anywhere near.  Further, I learned that I enjoyed the UX design thing given that it is a useful tool for creating better digital interactions and interfaces.

Oh and I made my decision. I Gave up freelance project management type of work that I had been doing (because it was so easy to do). And accepted an offer of employment with a large consultancy / systems integrator.

September. I found myself back to the kind of lifestyle that I had chosen to leave behind five or so years ago.  Why go back?  Despite the ‘new age’ stuff my life has not always worked out the way I have wanted it to work out. It has just worked out the way it worked out.  And given my experiences between March and September – including working with folks that showed up as ‘idiots’ – I was grateful to be back to proper consulting work with folks that had showed up as pleasant, helpful, interesting during the interview process.

Yet, this month was a kind of shock to the system. New organisation, new people, new ways of doing things, regular travel, waking up at four in the morning, catching the 6:30 aeroplane to a foreign country, working away from home – from several days at a time, to the whole week. Yet, amidst that I got to re-experience Copenhagen – a city that I had lived in for three months some 10+years ago. The city still showed up as beautiful. And the Danish people seemed to be the same kind of people. Only this time, I realised how fortunate I had been 10+years ago. The last time I stayed-worked in Copenhagen I had stayed in one of the very best (most expensive, beautiful) parts of the city. Sometimes you can only appreciate what you had long after you had it.

October and November. I find myself in the hell I had experienced back in February. I felt my back go on a return flight from Copenhagen to London. This time I did not behave as foolishly as I did back in February. I learnt from that experience and started taking measures immediately – like standing up to work, like taking medicines, like going for walks….  Yet, that did not make it easy. My lower back and legs were in constant pain. I got through the days with the maximum dose of painkillers.

Just when it looked like things could not get worse they did. My neck, shoulders and left arm started playing up – might have had something to do with the fall that I took on the stairs due to being drugged up!  Despite expensive visits to the Chiropractor, the neck, shoulders, and arm did not improve. It got worse. I had constant pain in my left arm, I lost fine motor control (could not button up my shirt or insert cufflinks into my shirt sleeves), and I lost power in that arm. Due to all this I didn’t sleep much – an hour here, two hours there. Yet, despite all of this I kept working full or pretty full days.

I worked from home. I worked at a client site. One day I was walking just outside the client site in November, my right lower leg lost power, and I found myself flat on the pavement.  Luckily my hands broke the fall.  Because my left arm/hand was inoperative (could not type for example, or hold a flip-chart market), I ended up doing almost all of my writing up on flip charts.  I illustrated, I explained, I recorded decisions, next steps, strategies… on the flipchart. And then gave these charts to helpful folks at the client to write-up.

December. Finally got round to seeing the neurosurgeon. My chiropractor and the emergency doctor (that I had to see at the weekend after a very difficult Friday) brought home to me the serious of the situation toward the middle to end of November.  After that it took a while to get the necessary appointments: my predicament occurred as urgent to me, the world of insurance companies, secretaries, consultants, and hospitals was rather indifferent to the needs of one single being.  Life kind of works like that: we want so much to be given special treatment, all seven billion of us….

This week, finally got the MRI scans done. One shows that I have a pretty impressive bulging disc pressing into my spinal cord in my lower back. Hence the sore lower back, inability to sit for long, pain down my legs, loss of power in my right lower leg. The other MRI scans show I have a bulging disc in my lower neck which is also pressing against my spinal cord. Hence the loss of function in my left arm…

What to do?  Do I take the surgery knowing that there is two out of hundred people who have that surgery end up paralysed: two out of 100 for the back, two out of hundred for the neck.  Or do, I cling to the possibility that my body will heal itself (enough to live a normal life) given time and the right type of activity?  The neurosurgeon advised the latter and I find myself in agreement with him.  Surgery as a last resort.

So What Is It That I Have Taken Away From This Year And All That Has Come With It?

It occurs to me that sometimes playing BIG is simply handling life as best as one can. There have been periods in this year that I was in so much pain that when I noticed I was about to go to sleep, a part of my wished that I would never wake up. Yet, I did wake up, and with that waking up life made its demands on me.  Further, when I did wake up I felt bad that I wished the night before that I would not wake up. Why? Because of my wife and children – they count on me in so many ways.  They want me around – for a long time. To leave them just to avoid some physical pain (even a lot of physical pain) occurs as selfish.  As weak.

If I have played BIG this year then what I acknowledge myself for is modelling the way I hope that my children will deal with the demands (unexpected surprises, difficulties) that life will throw at them:

  • My children have seen/heard me cry, shout with pain, walk across the kitchen in the middle of the night – night after night, drugged out at the end of the day, fallen-helpless-bleeding at the bottom of the stairs yet unbeaten, ask for help in putting on my socks and shoes….
  • They have seen me work every day – every day as best as I can, as creatively as I can, to meet my obligations to my clients, my colleagues, my employer, and my family.
  • They have seen me accept the pain, accept the demands of life, and deal with them with stoicism. Sometimes even with laughter.
  • Most of all, I hope that I have shown my wife and children how important they are to me, and how much I love them.

And finally, the blessing amidst all the difficulties? I know that I will die. And yet the most important part of me (that which I value, how I aspire to conduct myself) lives in my children. I experienced the most amazing kindness, generosity, love, helpfulness, encouragement emerge from my children.  They have left me feeling loved in a way that is beyond words.  And I have witnessed and experienced the same from my wife.  

How extraordinarily fortunate I have been this year!  How often does one get to really experience the beauty of ordinary everyday living?  How often does one get to experience how much one matters in the lives of others? How often does one get to feel so grateful, so proud of one’s children, of one’s partner/wife?  How often does one get to experience the triumph of the human will over the difficulties and surprises that come intrinsically with life and living?  I got to experience ALL of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growth Involves Dealing With Monsters


Playing BIG (and one’s growth as a being-in-the-world) necessarily involves boldly going where one has not gone before. To go where one has not gone before always involves coming across and dealing with monsters that appear. It is this dealing with monsters that is the access to and source of one’s growth as a human being.  Interestingly enough once you have dealt with a monster the monster no longer looks as scary as it did when you first came across it. Further, the dealing with the first monster on your path often leaves you in a stronger position to deal with the next monster that comes along.

Allow me to bring this to life for you and me by sharing the following story:

“Gondar is the target, the point where i rejoin the main highway system……. All of my thoughts are still dominated by the physical battering that I and the machine are taking on this road. Before leaving today I have to clean up a terrible mess in one of the boxes…..

The fourth day of the ride from Kassala begins. The road here is like a cart track on a mountainside, not bad on the level sections, but treacherous on the inclines…. What new monster must I wrestle with today?

Here it comes. A river I stop to look at it, and my heart sinks to my boots. How can I ever get across it? There is a ford about thirty feet wide. The water is not deep, a foot or two at most, though fast running, but the river bed looks impossible for two wheels. It is littered with black boulders the size of football fields. How can I possibly expect the bike to stay upright, even if the tyres can grip the stone, which looks slippery.

I am very frightened of what will happen, almost certain of disaster. Only the thought of those thousands of miles behind me forces me to confront the problem. I have never forded a river before. For five or ten minutes I walk up and down, looking for a better way, trying to stifle the panic in my breast and find some calm and resolution. It comes. The fear is somehow anaesthetised. I know that if I am going to do it, it must be now. 

‘There is a first and last time for everything,’ I tell myself and launch into it, trying to guess the right speed. There is nothing for me to do but hold on tight and pray. The bike leaps about like a mad thing. To my complete astonishment, I find myself riding up the other side. I stop quivering with relief. All the strength has left me and my leg will hardly hold up the bike while I fiddle with the stand.

What a wonderful place this world is.  It really does look as though I am meant to get through.

My boots are full of water, and I go back to the stream and wash my feet, wring out my socks and take a drink. The ford looks more manageable now that I’ve crossed it, but there will be others. For sure.

There are four more that day, and the last one is the most monstrous of all. The bike stalls just before the other side, but I am able to keep it upright in the water. This ford is doubly unlike the others though because there a people here. Some men come to help me drag the bike out of the river….”

– Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

On Self and World: “They Could Never Be There What They Are Here”


What is your understanding of self? What is your understanding of the strength of relatedness between self and the world that the self finds itself dwelling in?  Can we easily separate self and the world – are they two distinct entities that bear little intimacy with one another?  Or is Heidegger correct in asserting that self and world are one: being-in-the-world.

What about freedom?  Is human freedom unlimited – one can make of oneself whatever one wishes irrespective of the world that one finds himself dwelling in?  Or human freedom always a finite freedom?  Which is to say a human being, any human being, every human being, is only every granted finite freedom: freedom within certain boundaries – boundaries set by the world that one finds oneself dwelling in?  Here the word ‘world’ speaks more than the physical universe.  It refers also and especially to the social world – the world created by man including the world of people (including their God / gods) and the people’s way of showing up and travelling in the world?

I invite you to read and be present to the following words:

“There are four Bescharyin here at the tea house with me, exotic figures, splendidly robed, and armed, their hair teased out and glued into strands……. The contact between us is instantaneous and overwhelming. There is a spirit in this tea, a magic solvent to wash away our differences. This is another reason why I am here: to experience (nothing less) the brotherhood of man. Imagine meeting these men in a London pub or an American Diner. Impossible. They could never be there what they are here. They would be made small by the complexities, the paraphernalia that we have added to our lives..…. I had to come here to realise the full stature of man: here outside a grass hut, on a rough wooden bench, with no noise, no crowds, no appointments, no axe to grind, no secret to conceal, all the space and time in the world, and my heart as translucent as the glass of tea in my hand.

The sense of affinity with these men is so strong that I would tear down every building in the West if I thought it would bring us together like this. I understand why the Arab idea seems so perverse, so fanatical, untrustworthy and self destructive to the Western mind. It must be because the Arab puts an ultimate value on something we no longer even know exists. Integrity, in its real sense of being at one with oneself and one’s God, whoever and wherever that God may be. Without it he feels crippled.”

– Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

I say that wo/man and world are in the most intimate of relationship. No other relationship comes close. And this is so beautifully expressed by Ted Simon when he says “They could never be there what they are here.”  Yet this most intimate of relationship (wo/man, world) is hidden from you, me, us. We are not present to it. Being not present to the intimacy of this relatedness you/i/we pay little or no attention to the world.  And thus no attention to the way that the world influences, moves, shapes us.  Put differently, an enduring  transformation of self necessitates a transformation in world.  For self and world are a unity each flowing into and shaping the other.  Even more radically, the self is not closed, it is open. When you get the level of openness that is the case you see the self for what it is: a fiction. And you see that human freedom can never be selfish – genuine freedom necessarily consideration of the world in which one dwells. The freedom to rape, plunder, pollute the world rebounds on self.

Play BIG: Every Moment Is Precious!


You and I, if we live in the western world, are so embedded-immersed in doing (in order to have ‘stuff’) that we do not pay attention to our way of being. What do I mean by being. For the purpose of this conversation, I mean the way that one shows up and travels in life. Another way of making sense of being is to think what walks into the room when you / i walk into the room? Is it a mood of lightness or seriousness, of care/concern or indifference, of being meticulous or sloppy, of generosity or meanness, of calm or stress….

There is a default way of being that is dominant. What kind of being is that? It is one of taking stuff (that include people, relationships) for granted. It is one of not really paying attention to the present or one’s experience of the present. It is one of going through the day on automatic pilot. It has a certain kind of shallowness / hollowness to it. It is a way of being where one is engaged in fixing, manipulating, controlling, surviving – getting through life through any means that work. It is a way of being devoid of reverence for people, for animals, for plants, for tools, for life itself. It is a way of being that does not marvel that there is a world rather than nothing.

What might be other more powerful ways of being: of showing up and traveling through the process of living with one another? I share with you these wise words from Mark Epstein’s book, The Trauma of Everyday Life:

Ajahn Chah met with us after we share the monastery lunch. We asked him to explain the Buddhist view. What he had learned ….. What could we bring back and share with the West?

Before saying a word, he motioned to glass by his side. “Do you see this glass?” he asked us. “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.” 

What was he referring to exactly? The glass, the body, this life, the self? …

Ajahn Chah was modelling a different way of relating.  We could use, appreciate, value, and respect the glass without expecting it to last. In fact, we could use it more freely, with more abandon, with more care ….

Since coming across this story, I have found myself appreciating that which is: the blessings of sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, feeling, reason, emotions, reading, writing, moving, playing chess…. The blessings include my family members; I give an ask for hugs from each family member, every day, as I am present to the glass already broken. I have stopped myself rushing on a sunny day, and found myself a place out in the sun at one of my favourite restaurants, enjoyed the food and simply watched the world go by. I have been in touch with folks that I have not been in touch with for many years.

I invite you to play BIG by keeping in awareness that the glass is already broken. And then showing up and traveling accordingly: being present to the preciousness of your life, the people in your life, the world you dwell in and is your home, the stuff that makes life workable, lovable, even joyous.

Play BIG: Focus On Gifts


You and I meet. We talk. And even before we meet and talk, we have made the most important choice that will affect our meeting and talking. More accurately, it is not you and I who have made the choice. Rather, the choice has been made by the culture which shapes the way that you and I show up and travel.

What is this choice?  The choice to talk about what does not work: what does not work about me, about my relationships, about my circumstances, about the world….  The choice that determines that when you and I meet we will talk about problems, deficiencies, dysfunctions, lack…….  A choice about what is wrong about me, about you, about us, about the world.

Is there another way to show up and travel in life?  Is there another way to show up, listen to, and talking with our fellow human beings?  Is there a way that leaves you, i, us playing BIG in life?  I invite you to listen to the speaking of Peter Block:

Focus on gifts. First and foremost …. community is built by focusing on people’s gifts rather than their deficiencies….. Citizens in community want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do.

In the professional world of service providers, whole industries have been built on people’s deficiencies…… if you go to a professional service provider and say you have no deficiencies or problems, that you want to talk about your gifts and talents, you will be shown the door…… Go to an association, or a group or neighbours, and tell them of what your capabilities are, and they get quite interested.

This insight is profound … for it eliminates most of the conversations we now have about problem diagnosis…weaknesses, and what’s wrong with me, you, and the rest of the world. It also underscores the limitation of labeling people…….the act of labelling, itself, is what diminishes the capacity of people to fulfil their potential. If we care about transformation, then we will stay focused on gifts, to such an extent that our work becomes to simply bring the gifts of those on the margin into the centre.

… if we want to make communities stronger, we should study their assets, resources, and talents. It is the attention to these things that something new can occur.

– Community, The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block

I invite me to focus on my gifts. I invite you to focus on your gifts. I invite you and me to call forth, and bring into existence, the gifts of the folks that are in our lives. I invite you and me to label folks by their gifts. And focus our conversations on gifts and what kind of a world we can create by exercising these gifts in cooperation with one another.

Finally, I invite you to get hold of Peter Block’s book – Community, The Structure of Belonging – and read it, thoroughly.

Play BIG By Listening To And Heeding The Call


After fifty or so years of existence I am clear that there is a profound difference between living in resonance with a calling. And the experience of living without a calling.

What project calls you?  What possibility calls you?  What challenge calls you? What endeavour calls you? What opportunity calls you?  What is your calling?

Which person/s call you? Which place/s call you?  Which craft calls you? Which sport calls you?  which adventure calls you? Which vocation calls you? Which projects and/or possibilities call you?

How are you called to be?  How are you called to ‘show up and travel’ in this world?

Are you attuned to that which calls you?  Are you heeding the call?  Are you living the call?

It occurs to me that if you/i are attuned to and living the call, then you/i will experience our living as meaningful – full of meaning, aliveness, fulfilment, even joy.

It occurs to me that if you/i find ourselves experiencing a hollowness, a flatness, an emptiness, in our living then you/i are either not listening – attentively, deeply enough – to that which calls us. Or we have heard the call, and have not heeded the call.

So, it occurs to me that the first step in playing BIG is listening to that which calls you; listen deeply / often enough and you/i will find that which truly calls us. The second step is to heed the call – act; our access to making a contribution / impact is through action, our access to causing that which we find ourselves called to cause is through action.

I find that my deepest calling is to: bring nobility to human existence; to bring genuine humanity to a world obsessed with elevating technology and diminishing wo/man; to remind folks that ‘it is ALL made up’ and that which is made up an be unmade-remade by you/me/us; to be of help to those who find themselves less fortunate than me; and to be here for those who count on me to be here for them (children, wife, parents, siblings…).

When I find myself living in resonance with this calling I live powerfully and I am rewarded with a life of meaning, of fulfilment, of aliveness, of joy. I also find that whilst I do not wish for death, I do find myself ready for it.

What about you: what is your deepest calling?

Play BIG: What Showed Up On My Recent (51st) Birthday?


Who/what really matters to you?  Who/what is the true focus of how you show up and travel in life? Who/what is the focus of your existence?  For me, it is my children.

It matters to me how well I am doing in relation to caring for my children. The voice within is highly critical of how well I am doing as a father: I find that I never live up to it’s standard of what constitutes a good father.

So how well am I doing as a father on the central project of my life: bringing up my children so that they feel accepted, loved, valued and care for/consider others not just themselves?  I share with you, and leave tracks in the sands of time, the report cards that my children issued to me on my recent birthday celebration.

Rohan: First Born

Birthday Card From Rohan“I wish you a happy birthday and I love you very much. I want to say thank you very much for helping me and supporting me with everything. And especially with my application for BP. You have done more than I could expect from anyone. I thank you for the physio treatment as this will help, hopefully, with the pain.

Thank you, Rohan”

 

Marco: Second Born

BdayCardMarco“Dear Papa,

I wish you a relaxing birthday being surrounded by all your family. I can’t believe your 51!

Thank you for all the times you have been kind to me, given me advice and support, and a huge supply of hugs. I enjoy spending time with you in the evenings after work and just sharing fruit together. With you and me, the little things like that are the big things.

I want you to know that I feel loved and accepted by you and I know that you care and worry about me a lot.

I want you to know that I love you lots and appreciate you being there for me.

You’re also one in a million and couldn’t ask for dad that’s as crazy and funny as you!!!

P.S. I have given you some money so that you can give money to people on Kiva.

Love,

Marco”

 Clea: Last Born

BdayCardClea“Dear Papa

Happy Birthday.

Firstly, I would like to take the time to tell you just how much I love you!

Honestly, you mean the world to me. I love how you are always there, even if it’s just after school and you ask me how my day was. Or just being able to sit down and watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer with you. It MAKES MY DAY!

The last year I think we have really become close with each other. The truth is that you and me are a team, a bit like the 3 musketeers – but there is only two of us. We face the world together!

Papa, you are the best advice giver, the best thinker, the best everything! But most of all the best dad. I love you to bits. No words could describe, no images could show you just much your brain continues to amaze me, your sooooooo smart, which can get annoying when you prove me wrong!

I am proud to be your daughter and to carry the Iqbal family name. When I’m older and I get married, trust me, the guy will have to change his last name because I’m keeping Iqbal.

Papa, you are my safety net, when I fall somehow you arms catch me – which is good because I fall a lot! It seems that you are always there for me. No matter how hard I might push you away, you always come fighting your way back. As I mention fighting, you should know that even when we fight and argue, I still love you. That includes all the slamming of doors, shouting and screaming, loud angry music.

When I am older I want to be just as kind and loving as you are. Your heart is so big it stretches across Africa.

I love you papa, I love you, I love you, I love you, don’t forget it.

Clea”

Sophia: One Who I Have Adopted As A Daughter

BdayCardSophia“To Maz,

Thank you for everything you have done for me in the past year. Even though we don’t always talk, I know no matter what, you’ll always be there for me & that you do love me. It tok me a while to believe it but I definitely do now.

I also want you to know, though it is hard for me to say it, I do love you.

Hope you have a really good birthday! …..

Lots of love,

Sophia”

What is it that I wish to say to my children?

Your existence, and my role in it, grants me a powerful sense of meaning and purpose. Your existence contributes to my existence: you enrich my existence.  I love each of you.

And Finally

It occurs to me that this year’s birthday celebration was a special one. Why? For the first time, I planned out my birthday celebration, I invited the folks around the table, I did all the cooking, and I did all the washing up.  This may not be milestone for many. It is for me. Why?  Because it is was not to long ago that my being did not include cook. Now it does. By taking on the project of cooking I have expanded by being. I have grown older, am one year closer to death, yet my sense of self (as a source of contribution/power to make a difference) has grown, not diminished.

Play BIG: Distinguishing Between Having Money & Being Rich


The ‘gods’ are smiling upon me once more. I find that my back is almost back to normal. Once again, I can sit for more than five minutes without pain. Rich!  After sitting I can get up on my own without searing pain. Rich! Laying on the bed, I can turn from one side to another without any pain nor effort. Rich! In the mornings, I can get up from the bed without having to slide gently on to the floor, use my palms to lift myself up a little, then the bookcase to raise myself to a standing position. Rich!

Most of use confuse making/having money / wealth as in assets that can be sold-turned into money and being rich.  This confusion leaves us livings as ‘beggars’ rather than ‘gods’.  Even the wealthiest man shows up as a ‘beggar’ in his being if he yearns to make more money. The poorest man is rich in his being if he is satisfied with the money he makes, the money/wealth he has.  Wondering what it is that I am talking about / getting at?

I invite you to allow your eyes/heart/soul to be opened-touched by watching this short video – please watch it to the very end:

I invite you to consider that those of us who show up as ‘rich in our being’ are a source of inspiration to our fellow human beings. Through the richness of our being we leave our fellow human beings deeply touched such that they are moved to ask “A hug brother?”.  What is it that they wish to hug?  The very best of us – each of us – our common humanity:  our universal brother/sisterhood with our fellow human beings, with life itself’.  This is beautifully expressed in the words of the samosa seller in this video:

“Sir, I don’t need Rs1000. What I make with my efforts is enough for me. Give this [Rs1000] to someone more needy than me.”

I ask that you/i play BIG. I ask that you/i choose to refashion our being to be as rich as the being of this samosa seller. As with everything, this is an invitation you/i can choose to take up or not.

At your service | with my love

maz

Play BIG: Choose Being Over Having


When do you find yourself alive – truly alive as in bursting with enthusiasm, joy, vitality?  Is it when you have donned on the costume of the successful Vice President? Or the up and coming Manager? Or the good corporate employee?  Is it when you are playing the perfect wife/husband?  Are you bursting with joy when you look at all that you own: the house, the car/s, the clothes, the children, your partner…?  Is it when you are sitting on the right committees?

When do you find yourself alive – truly alive?  Is it when you are cooking, composing a musical score, climbing a mountain, dancing, give a helping hand to those less fortunate than you, learning-speaking a new language, sharing-teaching that which you are passionate about, nursing plants out in the garden, out walking, painting, writing…?

I invite you to listen to listen, really listen, to the following words of profound wisdom. They do not make for easy listening. Which is why they are particularly worth listening to with an inquisitive-open mind:

The less you are and the less you express of your life – the more you have and the greater is your alienated life.

– Karl Marx

Don’t simply accept this! Take a zen approach: look into it and test it out for yourself. How much of you – your authenticity, your self-expression – do you sacrifice-suppress to play the roles that you play in order to have that you have? Do you even remember the last time that you experienced joy? I invite you to consider that you have been asked and have consented to sacrifice you – be less you – in order to be accepted and approved of by your parents, your siblings, your friends, your school teachers, your work colleagues, your employers…

Your life, your choice: being (as your natural self-expression) or having (titles, status, money, holidays..).