Hurt: An Existential Meditation


I dedicate this conversation, as it is deeply important one, to Teresa Zelmanovits. She is a person of deep humanity and considerable insight into the human condition. And, the source of this conversation.

“Don’t Fuck Up!”

Stephen Margarito, a friend, is fond of saying “DON’T fuck up!!” Is such a stand – way of showing up and travelling in the journey of life – possible? Let’s say for the sake of argument you (or I) are perfect – we never ever fuck up. Does this mean that you (or I) will lead a perfect life – a life without hurt, a life with only happiness?

I say “No!” Get real, you (and I) are going to get hurt. Hurt is a certainty for every human that has walked, does walk, ever will walk on this Earth. Why? Because, you (and I, and every other person) is a being-in-the-world-with-others.

As a being-in-the-world-with-others my existence is intricately tied to that of this world, and to that of others. Take others, if one’s life partner fucks up then one is impacted. If those who act as teachers to one’s children fuck up then one is affected. If one’s employer fucks up then there are likely to be redundancies and one is affected. Now, let’s take the World. Covid-19 broke out and how many have been affected?

The Existentialist Perspective: Fucking Up and Hurt Are Intrinsic to Human Existence, There is No Escape

One (you, I, the other) will fuck up. There will be consequences for the one that fucked up and others. And where there are fuck-ups there is likely to be hurt – not always, but likely. Hurt, you know as in “I hurt!” When I say “hurt” I am not pointing at pain. When I sliced my thumb open, there was blood everywhere, and pain was present. Even today, some 3 weeks later pain in my thumb is present.

By “hurt” I point at emotional hurt as in when one feels hurt. Example, your loved one leaves you, or dies. Beyond the emotional there is a deeper hurt. Of what do I speak? Of the hurt in one’s soul – in one’s very being. Example, you really really wanted to be say a dancer yet you became a lawyer because that is what your father or mother did. Or you did not seize the moment to pursue the only that truly mattered to you – the one that lit up your very soul and left it dancing joyously.

What Matters Is How One Deals With Hurt

Hurt is an existential fact: everyone of us will experience hurt. It’s what we do with this hurt that matters. Put differently and more powerfully: it’s how we choose to use hurt that makes all the difference.

What are the standard (playing small) options in relation to hurt?

1-One can withdraw from life – into one’s shell so that one does not allow the other, or the world, to inflict more hurt. Some go one better, they withdraw, comfortable in that withdrawal, they stay there for a lifetime.

2-One can play victim – feel sorry for oneself, look/demand sympathy from others, one can go further and expect others to drop what they are doing and looking after me, the victim of life. By playing victim one can inflict one’s hurt onto others – almost always on those who are closest to us, those who love us. Why? Because they are the only ones willing to accept the injury and almost always the domination; the victim gets to dominate by playing weak and demanding loved one look after him/her. Failure to play this game leads the victim to ambush loved ones with guilt as in “If you loved me…..” Often the victim does not even need to do this, cultural upbringing already conditions one to feel guilty if one does not do their all for loved ones who are down.

3-One can burn with resentment, anger, even rage. These will lead to the corresponding actions For example, where one resents another, distance, blame, and critiscism of the other/s follows. I call this “inflicting death by a thousand cuts.” Anger can lead to lashing out at the other/s. Whether that is the abusive tongue or the abusive hands.

What Are The Playing BIG, useful, Options in relation to hurt?

1-One uses hurt to connect with one’s fellow human beings – recognising our mutuality, our shared human existence and condition. By connecting thus one opens the gate to compassion – for the other/s who are just like me hurting in some manner.

2-One goes into the hurt to enquire, to learn – about oneself, about the other/s, about the world. Example, one seeks to understand why it is that one’s spouse is emotionally distant or cutting. What is going on here? What burdens/scars does the spouse carry that lead to his/her behaviour? How am I being, and/or what is it that I am doing, that contributes and perhaps is even the source of my spouse being distant or cutting? At the end of the learning process one is almost always in a much more powerful place in relation to the hurt. And often the hurt is gone, at the very minimum it is diminished. Example, I see how my recent way of showing up and travelling in life (say being impatient and critical or just plain indifferent to him/her) has awakened the spouse’s scars and fears. And led to the spouse’s emotional distance or cutting remarks. S/he hurts me because I, unknowingly, hurt him/her.

3-One uses hurt constructively on the journey of becoming. As the Existential philosophers point out a human being is, alway and forever, a being and a becoming: for one always has the freedom to choose to become other than what one is today. So, having approached the hurt through the mode of enquiry / learning (option 2) one can act: to change oneself; to influence others; and/or to make a change in the world. Taking the example of the distant cutting spouse, I go up to my spouse and apologise – really apologise for my behaviour and the impact of my behaviour on him/her. And in this very act a new possibility, a new future, is created: one of connection, harmony, intimacy.

Summing Up

No human being, who lives a normal human life, can escape fucking-up and that which often comes with it: hurt. Playing BIG, involves choosing the path less travelled: expecting hurt, accepting hurt, looking into hurt to enquire and learn about myself, about others, about the world. And, then using this learning to take action – action that heals me, heals the other, and ideally heals the world.

If you have gotten this far then I thank you for your listening for I know that my speaking is not easy to hear. And, I wish you the very best. Until the next time…..

Why We Love You


 

I did not grow up with the experience of feeling loved.  Valued for the opportunity I represented for my parents, yes. Loved for my human being ness (as it was and was not), definitely not.

It is hard to shake off this baggage.  I am now a middle aged man and I still experience great difficulty in accepting-feeling loved.  Which is why the following gift from family touched the deepest part of me and I found myself with tears raining down my cheeks:

why-we-love-you

I got plenty of presents bought from the shops. Some of them even turned out to be useful.  Yet, these words are the present that cannot be bought and show up as priceless.

Play BIG. I invite you to play BIG by doing something similar.  Search inside for the words that express why you love those you love. I find that the simplest words are the best.  Write these words down, so that your words leave footprints in the sand, and hand them over to your loved ones.

Go further, make it a daily practice to reach out and touch a life by sending an SMS that expresses your appreciation for a fellow human being that is part of your life. Words cost so little yet make such an enormous impact. Why? I am not alone, I suspect most of us are just like me – feeling unappreciated, feeling unloved, or finding it hard to love ourselves.

I thank you for your listening, and I ask you to play BIG in your daily living.  Until the next time….

 

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”.

 

 

Put Aside ‘Story’, Be Present To The Phenomenon


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening As A Source of Radical Kindness and Access to Great Joy


It is some two weeks since I created the possibility of being a source of and clearing for kindness-gentleness-harmony-aliveness.  What is it that which I have become present to over the last two weeks?  I have become present to the power of listening.  And I have noticed that I do not listen – not listening, really listening, is my default way of showing up in the world.  

The seed flowers into a plant when the soil and climate provides a suitable listening for the speaking of that particular seed. It occurs to me that is exactly so for the relating that shows up between myself and my fellows when I create a listening for their speaking. 

Over the last two weeks there have been moments where I have chosen to listen. To truly listen. To be a source of listening for whatever is being spoken or is awaiting a suitable listen in order to speak.  Those, in many ways, show up as the most meaningful-uplifting-gratifying moments of my existence.  It occurs to me that real listening is a small yet radical act of kindness.  Why?

“All humans want to be narrators, but many have difficulties finding listeners.”

– Jalees Rehman

What is it that a human being wishes to narrate?  My experience is that as human beings you/i  wish to narrate (tell the story of) our existence: our hopes and dreams; how the projects that matter to us are going; our joys and sorrows; our ambitions; our triumphs and struggles; our confusion-pain-suffering; and sometimes  just our day as it unfolded for us.  Let’s listen some more to Jalees Rehman:

“Illness is often a time of vulnerability and loneliness. Narrating stories during this time of vulnerability is a way to connect to fellow human beings, which helps overcome the loneliness. The listeners can be family members, friends or even strangers. Unfortunately, many people who are ill do not have access to family members or friends who are willing to listen.”

It occurs to me that illness is not the only time that many of us feel vulnerable and experience loneliness. I say that the existential condition of the ordinary person (that I encounter) is that of vulnerability and loneliness.

I feel vulnerable, you feel vulnerable, we feel vulnerable. And we hide it as best as we can, putting on a brave front and dealing with what needs to be dealt with as best as we can.  Even amidst many I experience loneliness. My experience suggest that many of my fellows experience loneliness when they allow themselves to be present to it.

Our existence does not need to be experienced this way.  I can make a difference. You can make a difference. We can make a difference.  I can choose to be a listening for you. You can choose to be a listening for me.  We can choose to be a listening for one another and all.  I leave you to with the wisdom of Jalees’ grandfather:

“He told me that the opportunity to listen to others was a mutual blessing, both for the narrator as well as the listener.” 

If you wish to read the full story of Jalees and his grandfather then you can do so here.

Giftivism: Transforming Life Through Small Acts of Radical Kindness


I start by gifting you that which shows up for me as a profound truth:

“What we will do for love will always be far more powerful than what we will do for money. What we can do together will always be far greater than what we can do alone.”

– Pavithra Mehta

This wisdom, this truth, this gift found itself to me through coming across and listening to what shows up for me as the most radical-inspiring talk of recent times.

It occurs to me that the being of the speaker and that which the speaker shares is in complete alignment with that which I share in my speaking through this blog. As such I am paying it forward by sharing this profound-radical-inspiring talk with you.

http://youtu.be/p_QLGvp_stI

Here are some words that have caught my attention, may they speak to you and resonate with you. May they act as an opening for you to enter into and lift ‘giftivism’: small acts of radical kindness 

“So in a world where everything has a price — what happens to the priceless?

We live in a time where we have mastered the art of “liking” each other on Facebook but have forgotten the art of loving each other in real life.

Our purpose doesn’t lie in our commodities it lies in our sense of communion …. Compassion. Empathy. Generosity. Trust….

What practices, systems and designs emerge when we believe people WANT to behave selflessly?

Generosity is generative. Everybody wins because generosity is NOT a zero sum game.”

And I leave you with the speakers invitation:

“We begin to move from being a market economy to being part of a gift ecology.

 It begins with small steps. I invite each one of you to think about what your small step will be. What is YOUR giftivist resolution?

May we each take that step. May we change ourselves, may we change the world.”

At your service and with my love

maz

 

Everything That Shows Up Shows Up In Relationship; Everything Said is Said by Someone


In our default way of being in the world, in the West, we ascribe properties to objects. So without any conscious-deliberative thought, we say:

  • This rose is red;
  • This bag is heavy;
  • My husband-wife-partner is selfish;
  • My boss is harsh-selfish-demanding-stupid;
  • My work is boring;
  • The English are cold-unfriendly people;
  • The Americans are arrogant;
  • This food is delicious;
  • She has such an irritating voice ……

Let’s stop and ask ourselves the question, “Is what I take for granted really what is so?”  Let’s just consider the last assertion “She has such an irritating voice!”, as assertion made by a family member when she heard me listening to a podcast.

When I/you say “She has such an irritating voice!” what is it that I am sharing?  Am I pointing out an objective truth? Am I pointing out to the intrinsic ‘suchness’ of her voice?  It looks that way doesn’t it given that is our cultural practice: we stand aside from the world, looking at it as a scientist does, and describe the properties of the world – including the properties of people, of objects, of groups of people and objects. And in so doing we forget that it is i/you/we who are doing the describing!

It occurs to me that when I say “She has such an irritating voice!” I am not speaking an objective truth. Rather, I am pointing at and sharing my lived experience. If I were to describe this lived experience it would be something like this:

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find that her voice shows up as irritating. “

Do you notice the different between these two statements:

“She has such an irritating voice!” and

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find her voice shows up as irritating.”

Do you notice that the label ‘irritating voice’ points towards and highlights the flavour-tone-touch of  my relationship with her?  ‘Irritating voice’ is not a property of her. Her voice is simply her voice: it is neither melodious nor irritating.  Any irritation that shows me in me arises out of my relating with her voice. 

Summing up:

– man is being-in-the-world-with-others and as such always exist in relationship. Everything that shows up shows up in the space of relationship. There are no objects with intrinsic properties independent of others.  

– all descriptions, all labeling, all asserting is done by someone. Humberto Maturna is reported to have said “Everything said is said by someone”.  By this he meant that all acts of cognition-experience occur, are distinguished by, and spoken by someone.  This also means that “All that is heard is heard by someone.” 

– when you and I get that, really get that, then the space of transformation (in our relating to ourself, to others, to the world in which we dwell) opens up and is available for reinterpretation. Whether you and I step into that space is a choice that we can accept or decline.  

 

 

 

What Does It Take For Me To Understand You?


Let’s explore understanding. Let’s make this specific and explore what it takes for me to understand you.

The default: I understand you conceptually and instrumentally

It occurs to me that the default way of understanding is cognitive-conceptual-detached. Put more plainly, it is head stuff.  This is the kind of understanding that I am after when I ask, “Why did you do that?” This is the kind of understanding that leaves me feeling safe-satisfied when I have placed you into an existing category. A great example of this is Myers-Briggs typologies. This is the kind of understanding that shows up when I stand facing you, observing you. You and I are distant standing in different places. It is akin to the understanding that the scientist generates in the laboratory: the observer and the observed.

Having gone about understanding you in this manner, in what sense have I understood you?  Perhaps, a more insightful-pentrating question is this one, have I understood you at all? I assert that I have not understood you.  Now this would not be an issue (in the workability of my life, your life, our relationship) if I got (and you got) that this default mode of understanding you, leaves me not understanding you.  Yet, in life as lived, it does show up as an issue because I do NOT get that I can never understand you if I use this default mode of understanding you.

At best I understand you instrumentally.  Which is to say that I understand you like understanding a car – good enough to drive it. Understanding you instrumentally allows me to get along with you. And make use of you.

What does it take for me to really understand you?

Does understanding you require me to ‘walk in your shoes’? No, because I am not you and you are not me. Even if I walk in your shoes it is highly unlikely that that the world will show up for me as it shows up for you, and that I will experience that which you experience.

I say that it takes a certain kind of context for me to understand you.  What kind of context?  A context where you feel safe opening up and sharing yourself with me.  How do I generate that context? By showing up and relating-listening to you as a fellow human being who is whole-complete-perfect. It occurs to me that Carl Rogers called this ‘unconditional positive regard‘.  Whilst this is necessary, it is not enough.  Generous listening, deep curiosity, sufficient time, and patience are also required.

What kind of questions open up a space for me to understand you?  

It occurs to me that the following questions are pointers towards the right kind of questions:

  • How does this person-event-situation-world show up for you?  And how would you like it to show up for you?
  • How do you show up for yourself? And how would you like to show up for yourself?
  • What exactly is your experience (bodily sensations, moods, feelings, thoughts …..) of your life, your living? And what would you like your experience to be?
  • What kind of a future are you living into? How does the future show up for you?
  • What kind of future would you like to be living into?  What will it take for you to generate this future?
  • What are your dreams? What would you take on if money was no object, if you had absolute confidence in yourself?  Who would travel this path, take on this challenge with you?
  • What are you struggling with right now? How are you experiencing this struggle? Who is helping you face these struggles?
  • Which events-activities-persons in your life leave you most satisfied-fulfilled?
  • What message would you like your living to speak?
  • What legacy would you like to leave? For who?
  • What/who are you grateful for?

And finally

In being present to these questions, I get, vividly-experientially, that I do NOT understand you.  Being thus present, not deluded, I can choose to walk the path of genuine understanding or not.

So what does it take for me to understand you?  It takes genuine caring. It takes genuine-deep curiosity. It takes time and it takes effort. It takes giving me the notion that I already understand you. It takes giving me the notion that you are a static object – once understood, always understood. It takes a certain kind of generosity of being.

Why should I make the effort to generate this kind of understanding?  Connection. The access to genuine connection to you, is through this latter type of understanding.

I Am Always The Source of My Experience


“How dare she talk to me this way?”

It was evening, I was sitting in my comfortable chair working on my laptop. I heard my wife’s voice and she said something like “Maz, the French TV is not working! Clea says you played around with it yesterday!”  I felt the frustration and anger in her voice.

I didn’t take it well at all. I found myself telling myself “I cannot be the cause of the French TV not working. If you push the standby button, like I did, you do not break it!”  And there was a mood/tone underlying all this.  What was this tone?  “How dare she talk to me this way!”

People are only ever saying “Please” or “Thank You”

There and then I was in a place of no power. None at all. I was in my head telling myself that my wife was wrong, that I was not the cause of her problems, and that she was wrong for making me wrong.  I noticed that one minute I was kind of feeling sorry for myself. And the other minute I was feeling angry with my wife.

Then the word of Marshall Rosenberg came back to me.  These word went something like “Be yourself, be true to yourself, be true to your values. Don’t let people throw you off your centre.  And remember that underneath it all people are only ever saying “Please” or “Thank You””.

I got it. Underneath her anger lay frustration. She was clearly frustrated that she could not watch her French TV whilst she was on her exercise bike. Watching French TV was the way she exercised.  She had tried to put the French TV on and had not made it happen. So she was reaching out to me and saying “Please help me get the French TV working!”

Instantly, I was in different reality and my experience was totally different. I was calm. And the question that arose was a simply one: “Do I accept the request?”

I accept the request and help out

After consideration, I chose to come downstairs into the living room and figure out what was the matter.  I did the usual stuff like pressing the power-on button, checking the connection between the French satellite decoder and the smart TV…  I got the same results that my wife had gotten.

Then I went back to the source – the two power sockets in the wall that were feeding all the electronics – to see if the issue was at the source of with the French satellite decoder.  By switching the power plugs from one socket to another I got the French satellite decoder working. And after some help from my wife I had the decoder working with the TV.  I left the lounge and headed upstairs, back to my comfortable chair. What state was I in?  Happiness was present.

What are the insights here?

It occurs to me that there are two helpful insights here. Insights which have the potential to help us transform our relationships and our experience of living.

First, as Marshall Rosenberg says people are only ever communicating “Please” or “Thank You” irrespective of how they go about communicating this.  If I, get this, really get this, and show up for this perspective then I can be with whatever anyone says and how s/he says it. How? Because, I am only ever listening for the “Please” or “Thank You” that lies hidden in their communication.

Second, I am ALWAYS the source of my experience. As this experience illustrates I have choice in the matter of how I listen to others and how I interpret the circumstances.  When I listened to my wife as blaming me unjustly I got angry. When I listened to my wife as making a request “Please get the French TV working for me.” I became calm and helpful.

Relationship and Connection: Does Every One of Us Needs A Champion?


Rita Pierson is present to the awesome power of relationship, connection, and looking through the lens of possibility.  She sums it up by saying that every kid needs a champion. I say, that every one of us, adult and child, needs a champion.  What kind of champion? Rita provides the answers in her inspiring talk, which I wish to share with you today.

Here are some quotes that speak to me, perhaps they will speak to you as well.

“You know that kids don’t learn from people that they don’t like!”

“Throw in a few simple things like seeking first to understand as opposed to being understood.”

“You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.”

“You see -18 sucks all the life out of you, +2 says I aint all bad.”

“You know Mrs Walker you made a difference in my life. You made it work for me. You made me feel like I was somebody when I knew at the bottom I wasn’t. And  I want you to see what I’ve become…”

“She left a legacy of relationships that could never disappear. Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely….”

 

“You are absolutely correct!”


We go about living as if life is simple.  We assume that life is black and white. We assume that reality and truth is one dimensional, and not multi-dimensional.  We assume that we can access ultimate reality and truth.  We asume that the way that we see it and speak it, is that way that it is. And we are oblivious to these assumptions.  As such, we show up in the world and operate from these assumptions.  In doing so we generate conflict, we fracture relationships, and we hinder our ability to be effective in the world as it is.

Is there an alternative?  Yes, there is and it starts with getting a profound truth about our existence in this world.  It is the kind of truth that is pointed out in the following parable:

The Mulla Nasruddin [a wise fool in sufi teaching stories] was sitting court one day.  A husband and wife came to the court to settle the matter of who should be in charge of their son’s education. The wife argued that she should be given sole custody, giving many fine reasons to support her view.  Mulla Nasruddin said, “You are absolutely correct!” Then the husband spoke to defend his position.  In response, Mulla Nasruddin exclaimed, “You are absolutely correct!”. Immediately, a cleric in the back of the court stood up and cried out, “Nasruddin, they both can’t be right!”  To which Mulla Nasruddin replied, “You are absolutely correct!”

Is it possible that each and everyone of us has some access to truth?  Is it possible that there is some truth in everything?  Is it possible that despite our best efforts all we can ever arrive at is some approximation to truth?  And what would be possible if each and everyone of us showed up in the world being present to and living these questions?

What Is The Cost of Being Right About Being Right?


I like to be right about being right

I say:

I like to be right,

I like to be right about being right,

I like to be right about being right about being right….

Am I addicted to being right about being right?

It occurs to me that I have just told a lie, so let me put it more accurately.

I am addicted to being right,

I am addicted to being right about being right,

I am addicted to being right about being right about being right …

Are we addicted to being right about being right?

I say that you are addicted to being right. Why am I confident that what shows up as being true for me is also true for you?  Because you and are both human beings; the same human machinery runs us.  Standing in this place it occurs to me that I still haven’t told the ‘truth’. So let me see if I can get nearer to the truth. I say:

It is in the nature of the human machinery that runs us,

to be addicted to being right,

And being right about being right,

And being right about being right about being right ….

What is the cost of being right about being right?

Yet, you and I are not merely human machinery.  We have the capacity to transcend the human machinery.  How? By seeing the human machinery. By being present, at the level of feeling, with the cost of the human machinery.  Right now I am present to the cost of being right about being right …..

What is the cost?  The cost is the lack of affinity between myself and me wife.  The cost is a certain melancholy that is present right now in my house of being.  The cost is a wasted evening yesterday. And a day without intimacy-friendship-laughter-joy today.

The choice facing me, facing you

I have a question for me, for you, for us.  What is the cost each of us have paid for being right?  What is the cost each of us have paid for being right about being right?  How many relationships have we sacrificed?  How much affinity have we given up?  How much joy have we given up?

And what is the cost am I, are you, are we, paying right now for being right about being right?

All of which reminds me of something I heard in Landmark Education some 10 years ago:

You can be right, 

Or you can be in relationship,

Choose. 

Listening: is this the most valuable gift we can give one another?


Do I show up for you as one who cares for you?

It is easy for me to say that I care.  It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy for me to reassure you that everything will be fine. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy to tell you what to do. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy to go out and buy stuff for you. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy for me to give you money. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy for me to fix it for you. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

Genuine listening is the foundation of caring and relationship

I thank you for teaching me that listening is caring. What kind of listening?  When I listen to you as person of worth. When I listen to you as person who matters. When I stop everything that I am thinking-speaking-doing and sit there.  Sit there doing what? Being a listening for you – wherever you are at, whatever you are thinking, whatever you are feeling, whatever you are needing, whatever you are requesting of me and the world

When through my listening I create a space for you to show up and express yourself fully. To speak that which is there to be spoken.  Then you feel gotten. And when you feel gotten you feel connected with me and vice versa. When you feel connected you feel loved. When you feel loved you feel that you matter, that you are safe, that you have a safe platform to take risks.

It occurs to me that if each of us provided empathic listening to the people closest to us, at home, at work, in the local community, then our experience of living would be transformed and collectively we would end up transforming the world.

I invite you to join me in being a source of empathic listening. Being a stand for empathic listening. Just listening: not reassuring, not advising, not telling, not fixing…. just empathic listening of one heart to another heart.

Oh and I get that it is hard. And is it not that way for the baby that struggles to walk. Does the baby give up each time s/he falls?  Does the baby stay content with just crawling just because s/he falls down and hurts herself?  Just about everything shows up as hard until it becomes us and then it is easy even automatic.

If you are wondering what I am making such a big fuss about then I leave you with this quote from Dorothy Moore:

When you ask someone when was the last time a person listened to you, they often can’t even give you an answer. Listening, really listening, is the key to caring!

The Art of Asking: asking in a way that creates a wonderful world


When you and I are first given our part on the stage of life, life shows up as wondrous.  We live in possibility. More accurately, we are infinite possibility.  Nothing occurs as unreasonable, unrealistic, naive, silly.  We are not present to criticism. Nor have we suffering rejection. Slowly and surely possibility is driven out of us and its place is taken up with right/wrong, good/wrong, appropriate/not appropriate, success/failure. And our house of being is filled with shame, guilt, duty, obligation..

Today, I’d like to get each and every one of us present to possibility once more.  What is possible in the music business if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and simply ask?  That is the answer that Amanda Palmer shares in this fabulous TED talk. I challenge you not to be touched-moved-inspired-uplifted.

This talk gets me present to that which is much neglected: asking/receiving can be a source of contribution when our asking shows up as giving.  The kind of giving that generates possibility – a possibility that enables connection and mutual contribution – and enables a transformation in our experience of living.

Is it possible that the defining act of leadership is generating possibilities that call to our fellow human beings, engender connection, and create an opening for people to join together and co-create a world that works for us all, none excluded?

Am I willing, are you willing, to put in that which is required to play the game of possibility, transformation & leadership?  What am I pointing at?  The courage to connect with our deepest call, the courage to respond to this call, the courage to be vulnerable – to share that which calls us and ask for our fellow human beings to contribute.

Put differently, are you and I willing to generate the courage to ‘play BIG’ and give up ‘playing small’? To choose to be ‘extraordinary’ and risk criticism, even abuse, rather than stay comfortable (and dead) in the ordinary?

Being a source of contribution: is it as simple as listening?


What does it take to be a source of contribution? Does it take advising?  Does it take fixing?  Does it take doing?

It occurs to me that I can be a source of contribution by simply being present and listening to the other.  What kind of listening?  Non-judgemental listening. Listening without any fixing.  Listening without any telling.  Listening without bringing myself into it. Listening that keeps the light/attention on the person who is doing the speaking. Always on the person doing the speaking.

I just got off a call.  It is not an everyday kind of call.  It was an extraordinary call.  A call that showed up as a contribution in lives. And it is left me humbled.

The first person I spoke with was in pain.  Not as much pain as she was this morning. This morning she cried over the phone.  This evening she did not cry, she shared.  I listened. I listened to her story: of illness; of disappointments; of struggle; of her shame; and the actors that bring her this suffering and heap this shame.

All the time that I was being listening stuff showed up that needed to be dealt with. Whose stuff? What stuff?  The stuff was thoughts, urges, fixed ways of being/doing.  My thoughts, my urges, my fixed ways of being/doing. The temptation to advise was strong.  The temptation to fix was strong. The temptation to minimise her suffering was strong.  And I was in a clearing where I could see this stuff clearly, let it arise, grasp it not, and so let it fall away.

What showed up after this conversation?  I noticed that I had allowed myself to get enrolled in her story. Specifically, I noticed that I had hostile feelings toward a number of actors who behaving badly were the cause of her suffering, her tears.  The next conversation was with one of these actors.

I noticed that I entered into the next conversation reluctantly.  Truthfully, I did not want to speak to him. He showed up for me as ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’ and thus ‘undeserving’ of my time, my listening, my love.  And I simply asked “How are you?” – letting go of the passion to give him a telling off.

He told his story and in the telling of his story he shared his pain and suffering. He burst into tears.  I found myself connected with him through his pain and suffering. I felt his pain, his suffering.  Again, the urge to fix the situation arose and tried to hook me. It fell away, I refused to grasp it.  I simply listened and in the listening got his pain, his suffering.  I just listened. And kept encouraging him to talk. Why was this necessary?

He did not want to take up my time. He did not want me to worry for him.  He did not want to cause me pain and suffering on his account. Ten or so minutes later, he was cried out.  He was no longer carrying his pain and his suffering had lessened. He told me that he loves me.  He told me that my existence matters to him. He told me that he wants to be near me – to get a hug. He told me that he never wants me to die.

A tear falls from my heart and my face.  What is the cause of this tear? I did nothing. I just listened.  I just let the other person tell his story and share his pain/suffering. I just said “I am sad to hear that you are in pain. I am sad that it hasn’t worked out the way you wanted it to work out. I wish I could fly over and give you big hug. I love you. And will it work for you if I ring you tomorrow and they day after?”

I am present to this: listening, pure listening, listening with compassion, shows up as huge source of contribution to the person who gets s/he has been listened to. And to me too.

Is this real love?


After watching the film The Impossible I found myself to have been affected rather profoundly.  Put differently, I found myself to be ‘all shaken up’.

What shook me was the humanity that showed up in that devastation, that suffering. What showed up for me was how little of a contribution that I am making in the world. What shook me up was the level of pain that is in the world and what little I do to help my fellow wo/man in being with / dealing with pain/suffering.  In short, I showed up for myself as a failure.  Perhaps, even a hypocrite.

So I found myself with tears running down my face. Being with what was so I found myself tired/exhausted. And, I feel asleep in the lounge whilst getting hugs from daughter and one of the sons.

Some hours later I woke up and  looked at the coffee table that was next to me.  What did I find?  I found a box of tissues and this note:

Clea I love you 1This note cheered me up.  I was touched by the love of daughter for me.  Then as I got up off the sofa that I was lying on and made my way to the mantlepiece I found my glasses and the following:

Clea I love you 2By now I was deeply touched.  It occurred to me that perhaps I have not failed to be/make the kind of contribution that I say I am committed to making.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I may be a decent human being doing.  This cheered me up.

As I looked around the room and specifically the dining table I found some stuff.  I wondered why that stuff was there.  Who had put it there and why?  Then I moved closer to the table  and found this waiting for me:

Clea I love you 3

At this point I found myself laughing out loud.  Why? I was totally present to the love that exists between daughter and myself.  It occurred to me that real love exists between daughter and me.  In that space I got that I matter, I make a difference. And as long as my living makes a difference to even one being then my life is not wasted. Nor am I failure.  It occurred to me that the future is wide open to being invented and lived for as long as I have this gift of a life – including the love that I am blessed with.

As I made my way around the rest of the house – the kitchen, the stairs, the bathroom, I found more notes from daughter saying the same “I love you! from Clea”. And in that moment, I got that this is real love.  I got how blessed I am and in getting that I found my being transformed: I straightened up, I was taller, a positive outlook gripped me, smiles and joy were present….

 

The way it shows up for us is not the way that it is!


What gets in the way of relatedness and relationship?

Judgement is an automatic way of being in the world.  When we judge we carve up ‘that which is’, into ready-made buckets given to us by language, cultural practices, and our particular stand/situation.  And when we do this we are no longer face to face with ‘that which is’.

Actually, you/I are NEVER face to face with reality – that which is just as it is. Why?  Because the carving up of reality takes place without us being present to doing the carving up!  So you/I are firmly planted in the conviction that what is before us is that which is – reality pure and naked.

Given that is our already always taken for granted stand in the world it is easy to see how relatedness and relationship suffers.  I make you wrong when you do not see.  You make me wrong when I do not see what you see.  And from that place we withdraw from one another creating distance.  Or we attack one another, bent on being right and proving the other wrong.  If that cannot be done through word then we resort to fighting.

The way out of this trap: ‘look out of the other’s window’

I say the access to relatedness and relationship is to get that life/reality cannot ever be grasped accurately.  At the very best you/I are travelling through the ‘woods of life’ and how life, how the world, shows up depends on where you/I are in those woods and in which direction we are looking.

Or as Irvin Yalom says ‘Look out the other’s window.’ What does he mean?  Here is what he says in his book The Gift of Therapy:

“Decades ago I saw a patient with breast cancer ….. been locked in a long, bitter struggle with her naysaying father.  Yearning for some form of reconciliation …. she looked forward to her father’s driving her to college – a time when she would be alone with him for several hours. 

But the long-anticipated trip proved to be a disaster: her father behaved true to form by grousing at length about the ugly, garbage littered creek by the side of the road. She, on the other hand, saw no litter whatsoever in the beautiful, rustic, unspoilt stream. She could find no way to respond and eventually, lapsing into silence, they spent the remainder of the trip looking away from each other.

Later, she made the same trip alone and was astounded to note that there were two streams – one on each side of the road. ‘This time I was the driver’, she said sadly, ‘and the stream I saw through my window on the driver’s side was just as ugly and polluted as my father had described it’.

But by the time she learned to look out of her father’s window, it was too late – her father was dead and buried.’

Last words

Please get that we NEVER have access to that which is.  That kind of access is NOT available to us.  What shows up for us is determined by our biology.  What shows up for us is shaped by our the assumptions and categories build into our language.  What shows up for us is determined by our culture – the cultural practices. What shows up for us is a function of where we are standing at a particular point in our journey of life.

If you/I are present to this then we have access to WOW.  What am I pointing out? WOW, how extraordinary that the world, that which is, shows up differently and uniquely to each and every human being.  Let’s find out how the world shows up for my mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, colleagues, boss…… Let me see what you see through your window.  How extraordinary!  When you/I stand in that place we stand in the place of wonder, relatedness and relationship.

Be humble. How you see it is NOT ‘the way it is’!  You NEVER see it ‘the way that it is’!  Be humble, listen to the other, respect the other: strive to look through the other’s window.  Do that and you will never be alone, never walk alone.

 

 

Distinguishing love from love


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summing up

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

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

Get real!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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