On exercising the best of our humanity: hospitality toward strangers

I am a ‘softy’ and I am proud to be a ‘softy’ nowadays – this was not always the case!  I cry (sometimes buckets) when I watch a movie (e.g. Gandhi, Schindlers List) that shows the best of our humanity in action.  I cry when I read a story where someone has put their humanity into action (e.g. Three Cups of Tea).  I cry when I listen to someone who shares an inspiring story with passion.

Just now I found my humanity touched.  I found myself inspired and I found myself with tears of joy running down my face.  What brought that on?  I invite you to experience it for yourself.  Watch this TED talk by William Ury: The walk from Yes to No

I believe that most of us are good people – loving and caring human beings.  Most of us really do not want to create conflict or be immersed in conflict.  Yet it happens we find ourselves in the midst of conflict before we know it.  This talk provides a simple but not simplistic path  that we can all follow.  It may even inspire many of us to be hospitable to strangers and not just our close friends and family.

I love the bit about walking together – side by side.  How true it is that when I walk with a fellow human being I do not feel threatened, I even look forward to the experience.

People are more important than things, than religion, than politics, than any ideology

A little while ago I wrote a post People Are More Important Than Things

Since that post I have done some thinking and it strikes me that there is a whole area of stuff that I am attached to, you are attached to, we are attached to and it is not things.  What is that stuff?  Ideology, here is the definition:

ideology refers to habits of mind – beliefs, assumptions, expectations etc – which are placed upon the world in order to give it structure and meaning and which then serve to direct our social and political activities.

This week I read an article on the Guardian:  Repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law and asked myself what is it about us that we place so little value on flesh and blood like us – our fellow human beings – and so much faith in the intangible.  So much that we are willing to kill people if they utter the wrong words. Is our faith so little that as soon as someone questions our beliefs, our practices then seek to silence them, to belittle them, even to kill them.

Or take this post at the Adaptive Path blog: The Pernicious Effects of Advertising and Marketing Agencies Trying to Deliver User Experience Design.  What is particularly noteworthy is the 87 comments or so that this post has generated.  How interesting that so many of them are either attack or defend the point of view that has been put forward.  It is particularly interesting to see the response of the people who feel they have been attacked – they attack back.  Yet, if you read the article, the author is not attacking any specific person.  He is pointing out the system structure that drives specific sets of behaviour.  And it is clear that he disagrees with that behaviour.

What a wonderful world we can create together if we all made the following rule, the primary rule, the golden rule:  Life (people, animals, plants) is more important than things, religions, politics, caste-systems or any other ideologies. Lets cherish each other: lets see, create and bring into being the best in each other.  Please watch this from 4 minute video where  Viktor Frankl (a concentration camp survivor) shares his view of man.  Please listen and really hear what he says!

“If we take man as he really is then we make him worse.
If we overestimate him……overrate man, then we promote him to what he really can be.
So we have to be optimists idealists in way so we wind up as the true realists”

This post is directly aimed at you, my friend, Maz Iqbal!

Each one is doing the best that he/she can at every possible moment

In ordinary – taken for granted every day living – we assume that each of us is in charge of our lives: what I think, what I say, what I do, what I do not say, what I do not do…

In ordinary living we tend to be light on ourselves and heavy on others.  We judge our behaviour and the outcomes we generate by our intentions.  Yet we do not give others the same benefit: we judge them solely by the outcomes they generate.  We let ourselves off the hook and cast stones at others – through our thinking, through our words and through our actions.

Some of us do not differentiate: we are equally harsh on ourselves as we are on others. Some of us are masters of another game: condemning, criticising, blaming others and later spending time feeling guilty and being withdrawn: our loved ones pay the price twice – first when we criticise them and attach their human dignity and second when we withdraw from them rather than put balm on their wounds – the wounds we inflicted.

Over the last few weeks, here and there I have been  at my worst.  I verbally attacked one of my sons and later forgive myself as I was not feeling well. Yet, I have not rested as I know that there is no excuse for what I did.  I did what I did because I was imposing my view of the world on the situation at hand and my son’s role in that situation.  He just wasn’t playing the role that I expected him to play.  And he was wasting my time.  There it is: my time is valuable and how dare he waste my time!

The ExtraOrdinary path is right here in front of me, of you, of us.  It simply involves changing our worldview, living into the following:

  • Each of us is being run 24/7 by our operating system – the operating system that we have inherited through our genes, our culture, our environment, our upbringing;
  • Each of us is doing the best that it is capable of doing at every moment;
  • Each of us  is best able to develop and modify the operating system that runs us through mindfulness (meditation, time out, reflection) and through connection with our fellow human beings;
  • Our fellow human beings can best help us to upgrade our operating system by being strictly gentle with us – consistently sharing with us in a gentle manner the impact of our actions on their lives

“People are more important than things!”

Over the last two days we have been blessed by the company of our good friend Analia and her beautiful daughter Clara. 

Analia comes from Brazil where people, relationships, family and friends really matter.  They are an ingrained part of life: non-one has to teach Brazilian social skills.  Analia is one of the most wonderful human beings that I have a good fortune to know.

When I am with Analia I feel totally comfortable.  No pretense!  None is necessary as I know that she loves me – she accepts me just as I am whilst listening to me as a  person up for being a good human being.  Straight talk flow between us.  Why?  Because all the stuff that gets in the way of straight talk is simply not there.

Over the years I have wondered why I love Analia, why I feel totally comfortable in her company and in her home with her family.  Today I got my answer.  As she was leaving she asked Clara (her daughter) to “give uncle Maz a hug and say thank you”.  Clara is only a little girl and she was understandably more concerned with finding a missing Lego piece from the set she had built.  So Analia asked her again and Clara continued to look for her missing Lego piece.  Then Analia said something that struck at the heart of my soul:

“Clara, people are more important than things!”

Yes, Analia you are absolutely right.  Yet, we, in the west, have put things first and people last.  They way we live things are more important than people.  And that is a terrible way to live.

I thank you my wonderful friend to getting me present to your philosophy, what makes you great.  You live your truth: People are more powerful than things!

My commitment is to live your truth.  Thank you for your gift.

A reverence for life and living

It strikes me that the better off we are the more we are without a reverence for life;  to treat something or someone with reverence is to treat that something or someone with a feeling or attitude of deep respect.

I am rushing, you are rushing, we are rushing from one moment to the next.  Do we really appreciate the coffee we have just bought from Starbucks?  Do you even taste it?  I mean really taste it?  I got present to the fact that whilst I drink tea, I really do not drink the tea: my mind is elsewhere and I do not taste the tea nor create any joy in drinking it.

Do you and I have a reverence for the clean water that arrives instantly via the tap?  No.  Now imagine if you are one the flood victims in Pakistan and do not have access to clean water.  Or if you have to walk an hour to the nearest source of clean water and you can only take the water that you can carry.  If you were in that situation and someone waved a magic wand and gave you unlimited clean water at your fingertips by just turning a tap.  Would you not be simply ecstatic?  You’d treat that tap, that water source, with reverence!

In the West most of us live in abundance. Because so much stuff is ready at hand – the essentials and the nice to have – we simply do not appreciate the stuff that we have.  It strikes me that we have reverence only for the stuff that is rare, hard to obtain. And of course we surrounded by messages that are designed to create dissatisfaction in us so that we buy the latest mobile phone, handbag, shoes, computer, car…..

I have found it is possible to recreate reverence for life and living by simply being present in the moment.  And focusing on what is there as opposed to what is not.  That is to say to feeling the sunshine on my face as the sun shines.  By appreciating the wind kissing my feet as I lay on the bench.  Or tasting each and every sip of tea that I take.  It is not easy as the temptation is to multi-task, to be either in the future or in the past.

We can increase our joy simply by being present to every moment, every experience and every bit of stuff that we have.  I have found that treating each as if it is my last really helps.  My last meal, my last walk, my last cup of tea, my last hug.

Behind our indifference lies deep caring

Yesterday my young daughter and I cooked a meal together; she is keen to learn cooking by doing cooking.  Then we all sat down at the table to eat together – something we do every meal.  As we were eating my sons said they liked the food and thanked us for cooking it.  Then I made the mistake of saying “As you eat this meal think of the millions of people like you, like us, who are starving”.

My youngest son said that he didn’t like me mentioning the poor, the starving, when we are eating as it makes him upset.  And he cannot then enjoy his food.  My wife said pretty much the same thing.  Whilst I was at first very upset about this as I considered their viewpoint I selfish one, I am now grateful to them as they have opened my eyes.

There is tremendous violence, oppression, destruction, poverty and suffering going on around the world.  Even here in the UK there are people who do not have enough money to feed themselves and their children, so some of them go without to feed their children; there are young women tricked into coming over to the UK and then forced to work as prostitutes and the list goes on….And most of us, for most of the time, close our eyes.  Why?

Not because we do not care.  It is precisely because we care AND we believe ourselves to be helpless to make any impact on this ocean of suffering that we close our eyes, we close our ears, we close our hearts.  Some of us go as far as being hostile to / critical of those that suffer: if they are suffering then they must be responsible.  Why do we do this?  By living into this view we can distance ourselves from the pain – our pain.

I care, you care, we care: if we did not then it would make no difference if we invited in the suffering into our lives.  And yet we feel helpless so what can we do?  This reminds me of the story about a fellow walking along the beach littered with thousands of starfish.  He notices a young woman on the beach who is doing some kind of yoga exercise.  As he draws near he realises that she bends down, picks up a starfish and then throws the starfish into the ocean. And again, and again…

The man laughs.  He walks up to the young woman and tells her that the whole beach is covered with starfish.  She cannot possibly save them all: she is not in a position to make any difference at all.  The young woman picks up another starfish and whilst throwing “it” (a horrible world for any living creature) into the ocean says: “I made a difference to that starfish.”

The lesson is clear for those of us who are ready to step into the lesson.  We can act according to our ability.  We can simply be aware of and present to the violence, destruction, suffering that is going on all around us.  It may not help others and it certainly will help us: we can become more grateful for our circumstances – our life of plenty.

As you travel through life leave behind you the footsteps of kindness

Last week one of my sons was dealing with a friendship issue.  I found myself telling him that there are all kinds of friends: friends you play sports with, friends you hang around with,  friends you invite home, friends you go on holidays with, friends you share your stuff with and friends that you’d die for.

My son asked me a questioned that I had never thought about: “Papa which friend would you die for?”  Without any effort the answer came: my friend Tim.  Now why is that?

Over 20 years ago Tim learnt that my young brother and sister were coming down to London to spend a week with me – holiday.  Tim not only offered me his prized possession – his Saab – he got me insured on it, he drove it down to my place, showed me how to drive it and left me the keys.  Not once did I think about asking for his Saab, nor did I ask for it.  It all came from him – an act of pure kindness.

This incident got me thinking of another incident some years ago.  At my aunt’s funeral I was astonished to find my young brother as one of the pole bearers.  This is a young man who has kept himself aloof from his aunts, uncles and cousins for many many years.  So I asked him why he was present at the funeral and why he had insisted on carrying her coffin and seeing it put into the ground.

He told me that when he was young (age five or less) his foot hurt.  He had told our mother and father and they had paid no attention to his pain.  Yet when he happened to go with our mother to visit this aunt she noticed that there was something wrong with his leg.  She took a look at it and figured out that his ankle was sprained.  So she took him – right away – to see someone who specialised in putting that kind of thing right.  To cut a long story short: my aunt had removed his pain, his suffering and he remembered that for some 30  years!

When I die all that will remain is the footsteps that I have left in the memories of my fellow human beings.  Let those footsteps be the footsteps of generosity, kindness and compassion illustrated by my friend Tim and by my aunt.

How to deal with upset

I am a member of family that is made up of five people; I am a father and a husband; my wife and children look to me to help them deal with their upset; to-date my contribution has been hit and miss.  I also enjoy coaching and thus get an opportunity to help people deal more effectively with their stuff.

In the past I listened for and about the situation and then went on to have a ‘lets think about this differently’ and ‘what are your options’ conversation.  It is the kind of conversation that happens in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).  It is the kind of conversation that appeals to the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex – the reasoning part of the brain.

The other day, I was listening to someone sharing their upset with me.  I was able to help this person deal with the upset and move forward.  Afterwards I took a look at why this encounter had been so positive.  I got that I had approached it very differently to other times.  Specifically:

  1. I was in a good state of mind-body – I was relaxed, calm, present and actually wanted to listen and be of service;
  2. I listened, allowed and focussed on the upset itself, specifically the emotions – “If I understand you correctly then you are feeling this way and this is having this impact on your body…..” – and thus enabled the upset person to get to grips with the emotions and the impact they were having;
  3. I validated the upset persons emotions and the story that he/she was telling – “I get that you feel this way and it is ok to feel that way” – and by doing this the upset person became visibly less emotional and more rational;
  4. When I sensed that the tide of emotions had passed through I moved the conversation to talking about the ‘real world situation’ that was the ’cause’ of the upset – “Is now a good time to have a look at the situation that has led you to this upset?”;
  5. I then worked with the upset person to explore the ‘real world situation’ that they were finding difficult: what is so, how can you look at this differently, what are your options, which option appeals to you and is likely to make a big enough difference?

What I distinguished is that it is impossible for a person to put their thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) into action when that person has been hijacked by their emotional (limbic) brain. And that is as true for me (the listener, the coach) as it is by the person who is upset.

The approach that I have outlined is effective and not quick – it takes time, around forty-five minutes.

Why can’t ‘I’ see and act on what is so obvious to others

Despite being ill – we think it is the flu – my wife made her way to the nearest John Lewis store yesterday.  After parking she had to carry a large, heavy cardboard box containing a Dyson vacuum cleaner through the John Lewis store, make her case and get a refund.  The task was not yet finished. She then drove over to Costco and bought her chosen replacement and drove back home.  All in all she spent some four hours doing this – whilst being quite ill.

That is not all the effort that went into it.  She had spent several hours on Friday evening working out what Dyson vacuum cleaner would make a suitable replacement.  This task was tedious and done whilst she was ill – she did not enjoy doing it.

To summarise: my wife has spent some six hours replacing her recently purchased Dyson and the new one is sitting in our hallway (unpacked).  And she has done all this whilst she is ill with the flu.

Let me provide you with some context to make sense of the story that I telling.  We have on old Dyson that worked well for several years.  Our decision to replace it was not because it did not work, it was because it had become difficult to use and store as a bit of it – a plastic bit – had broken.  That prompted by wife to take action and buy a new one from John Lewis in the first week of September.  When she unpacked it my eldest son pointed out a glaring weakness of this new model:  the plastic bit that had made the old model difficult to use was looking even more flimsy on the new model.  So he shared his view with his mother and advised her to take it back and get a different model – one that can better take the knocks of life. My wife dismissed his concerns.  On that day or several days later, I made the same observation and advised my wife to take it back: “It is going to break that is clear.  What is uncertain is when.  I suspect that it will be earlier rather than later so I suggest you take it back.”  Or words to that effect. My wife acknowledged that the plastic clip on part did indeed look weak.  And she did nothing.

Now this is what I find interesting.  At least three of us told my wife that the product had a design flaw; she acknowledged that the clip on part that had failed in the old Dyson looked even weaker on the new Dyson; and she did nothing.  In the end she was forced to act because the part we expected to fail broke in less than four weeks; the dyson is normally used once or twice a week.  Why did she ignore what was visible, predictable and had been predicted?

At a broader level why is it that ‘I’ fail to see and act on what is so blindingly obvious?  I suspect that the answer is along the lines of:

I would have to take action – expend energy in dealing with the situation at hand and I may not want to do that right now; and

The story I make about the action that is needed – how much effort it will take, how difficult / unpleasant it will be etc; and

I’d have to acknowledge that I had made a mistake and that causes me emotional upset as I question my judgement, I question my fitness, I am diminished in my own eyes – the story I make about myself.

In my experience it is stories that I make – story about what needs to be done  AND the stories that I make about myself – that stop me doing what we know needs to be done.  So the access to doing what needs to be done is simple – give up the stories or better still make up stories that inspire me to take action.

If you want family then remove the tv

The tv broke down some days ago.  I was delighted as I had been hoping that it would break down and I could access to using the living room – my favourite room for reading, talking and just relaxing.  For one of my children – the oldest – the world had suddenly caved in – he is addicted to watching tv.  For the youngest – it is a survivable pain.  And the middle one – who is used to entertaining himself – is not that bothered.

Here is what I have noticed:

  • we talk a lot more with each other and we laugh a lot more;
  • we play games with each other;
  • the children help with household chores – like cooking meals;
  • the children spend more time in their bedrooms doing private activities like reading or drawing;
  • the children go outside more – like taking walks;
  • there is a lot less fighting in the house as there is less to fight about; and
  • I feel at home again.

I am quite clear that introducing or removing television from the home is a revolutionary act.  With it in the house, it becomes the most important thing and the people in the house become slaves to it.  By removing it, our family – all of us – have became creators, authors of our lives.  And we work much better as a family.

The joy of being on the court

Today my wife and I made our way to the tennis court.  After warming up we found that the tennis played us.  Yes, the tennis played us and we both loved it.  There were lots of rallies, lots of smiling, laughter and in my case joy.

Here are the insights that came to me:

a) By simply focussing on the tennis ball, the tennis just happened effortlessly;

b) Whilst I was focussing on the ball my internal chatter stopped and I lost myself = therefore, “I” = internal chatter;

c) A big part of my energy, enthusiasm for life and self expression is playing racket sports and tennis is the sport that leaves me nourished;

d) I simply have not been giving me – the player – the opportunity to play and the cost has been giving up access to joy;

e) On the court I felt at least 10 years younger, put differently the tennis took ten years off my age!

So I am counting on myself to play tennis, badminton and/or table-tennis every week. And it is a great opportunity to get closer to my children and wife!

What did you enjoy about your day?


I was playing the game of Three Questions & Three Answers with my daughter Clea.  When I asked the first question, Clea said something interesting: “Daddy can you ask me a different type of question?  Like what three things did you enjoy about your day today?”.  Fantastic!

What I got from this is that a key part of living well is to enjoy life.  To enjoy walking, to enjoy talking, to enjoy being with our friends, to enjoy seeing the beauty around us, to enjoy listening to friends, to enjoy touching, to enjoy feeling and so forth.

So whilst it is important to be grateful for what we have, to contribute to a better world for all, to learn about ourselves and our world, to consciously focus on what we can be proud of about ourselves, it is also important to approach life with an attitude of enjoying life and living.

Thank you Clea for enabling me to get present to the wonders of living and the importance of enjoying life.  You have shown me a blind spot that is very much a part of Eastern upbringing:  the foregrounding of duty and the backgrounding of enjoying life.

And I will be expanding the game of Three Questions & Answers to include the question: What Three Things Did You Enjoy About Your Day Today?

This post is related to the following posts:

The Game of Three Questions & Answers

The Resistance to Playing the Game of Three Questions & Answers

My original face is playfulness

I have been swimming in Zen Buddhism since my days at university over 20 years ago. One of the Zen type questions is along the line of “What is your original face?”  Up until now I have struggled to understand the question and I have also struggled to answer the question.

Yesterday I was in the kitchen with my wife.  At that moment I had no worries, no concerns, no upsets, no desires, no ambition – in fact no thoughts at all.  Being in that state I found myself clowning around.  In the clowning around I felt totally at home, totally at peace, and joyful.  My wife noticed my lightness and my good naturedness.

This morning I have an answer to the Zen question of “What is your original face?”  My original face is playfulness – lighthearted playfulness.  I suspect that it is the same for my fellow human beings.  When we are present without thoughts of the past or thoughts of the future then we are light and playful, naturally.

The thought that occurs to me is that my wife and children have have felt the most affinity to me when I have been lighthearted and playful; I also like myself the most when I am being lighthearted and playful.

This may be why I enjoy spending time with toddlers:  they tend to call my original face into being.

Resistance to Playing the Game of Three Questions & Answers

This post is related to an earlier post: The Game of Three Questions & Answers

I have had a go at playing The Game of Three Questions & Answers with a number of members of my inner circle.  Interesting.  The people who have high self-esteem are happy to play the game, if it is missed for a day they ask to play it.  Then there are people who simply refuse to play it.   Why?  Because they have low self esteem or low self confidence.  They are not proud of themselves.  They do not believe that they have contributed to a better world.  They do not believe that they have learned anything worth learning that day.  When they play the game they do not look for an opportunity to lift themselves up and play a bigger game.  Instead they use the game to beat themselves up.

This makes me think that the reason that many of us do not play a version of The Game of Three Questions & Answers is because we would rather not look ourselves in the mirror.  If we looked ourselves in the mirror then we may not be proud of what we see.  And we would see the need to change but we do not have the will to make the necessary changes.  Instead we prefer not to look so that we can pretend that we are OK whilst secretly thinking and feeling we are not OK.

I cannot help but think that what I am writing about applies to individuals, families, organisations, institutions and societies.

Our true nature is loving kindness

Two days ago I was driving on a main road going 40mph when I saw a pheasant cross the country road.  Instantly, without thinking, I braked whilst intently watching the pheasant cross the road.  When the pheasant made it across the road I noticed that my whole being relaxed – my body relaxed, my breathing eased and the whole of me smiled.

Later that day I went to see my solicitor.  When I left his office it was raining and the rain got harder as I walked to the car park.  Whilst I was walking to my car I noticed a couple of people who were arriving in the car park.  So I opened my car, retrieved the ticket – as it had several hours of parking left – and walked over to man who had just got out of his car and offered him the ticket.  He accepted the ticket, said nothing, looked puzzled.  As he accepted the ticket I felt happy – I had stepped out of my self centred world and did something for someone else.

This one act of kindness lifted my spirits.  What did it cost me?  If I had been selfish I would have paid 60p for the car park ticket.  Instead I had chosen to contribute to a fellow human being and so had paid for a £1.20 ticket knowing that I did not need car parking for several hours.  So it cost me 60p to lift my spirits – to put a smile on my face and to create a kinder world for an instant.   A bargain.

When I examine these two incidents and some of the other incidents that make me proud of myself I get that my true nature is one of loving kindness towards life.   Whilst this is so it is not obvious that it is so – not to myself and not to others.  Why?  Because the mirror gets covered with the dust of every day living until it is no longer possible to see the mirror – only the hardened dirt is evident.

How many of my fellow human beings are in the same boat as me?  I choose to believe that the true nature of almost all of my fellow human beings is loving kindness.  And when they are not exhibiting it, it is only because they are trapped in the daily life of surviving and fixing.  Just like me.

The sweetest words: “I love you papa”

Being a good father is very important to me.  I know this because when my children say or text “I love you papa” then a smile appears across my face, my body becomes relaxed and I feel totally great.  I feel proud of myself.  And nothing else matters – at least in that moment.

What I got from watching The Book of Eli

The other day I watched ‘The Book of Eli’ which is described as a post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.  Whilst the story is engaging enough, I was mostly touched by three life insight / lessons.

Lesson 1. The main character (Eli) had been on a mission to take the book (the Bible) westwards to a home.  This mission had given Eli a reason to live (purpose) and a basis to orient his life (make choices, make decisions, what to do, what not to do). Do I have a clear purpose?  And do I use that purpose to fashion (organise) my living so that it is in harmony, in alignment, with that purpose?

Towards the latter part of the film Eli is presented with a choice to give up the book or to die.  He chooses not to give up the book.  The villain then presents Eli with another choice: to give up the book or let Eli’s companion die.  Eli gives up the book and his companions life is spared.  Later the companion joins up with Eli and asks him why he did what he did.  And Eli’s answers give rise to the next two lessons.

Lesson 2. Eli states that after carrying the book for thirty years and memorising it by heart, he got that the key thing was to live by the principles in it.  To practice what the book preaches.  And in Eli’s case the lesson of the book was ‘to do more for others than you do for yourself’.   What kind of a world would be possible if enough of us were willing to do more for others than we do for ourselves?  Am I willing to be one of these people?  In which areas can I start doing more for others than I do for myself?

Lesson 3. I was struck by Eli’s insight that he had got so gripped by the mission (protecting the book) that he had failed to live by its central principles – the core values such as a respect for life, tolerance, do unto others as you would wish them to do unto to you……  How many of  religious folks get so wrapped up in their religion that they fail to practice the central principles?  How many of our institutions fail this test?  How many of us fail this test?  And of course how I fail this test – especially when I am stressed.

Who I Am (Being) Makes A Difference

I was dropping my daughter at school the other day and noticed a hand made sign just outside the classroom. It read ‘Who I Am Makes A Difference’. And it got me thinking.

The sign has been put there because the default setting is the opposite: I am insignificant, I am powerless, I do not make a difference.  Does everyone operate on the default setting?  No.  Does it mean that many many people, probably the majority, operate on the default setting? Yes.

Given that you and I do not come into this world thinking one thing or another how is it that the default within us becomes ‘I am insignificant, I am powerless, who I am does not make a difference’?  Clearly this default gets set in the home and in the school.

If we wake up in the morning and boot up with the operating system called ‘Who I am does NOT make a difference’ then how are we likely to behave?  First and most important as sheep, as followers: we search for and follow authority figures.  Second, we be slot into games and parts that others have created and assigned to us rather than creating the games and parts we want to play. Third, we think, act and feel like victims – at the mercy of other people and circumstances. Fourth, we are unlikely to be generous, caring, inspiring towards any non-authority figures – they are insignificant as well.  Finally, we will not take good care of ourselves.

If on the other hand I woke up and played the game of ‘Who I am makes a difference’ I would strive to be someone – to be an authority figure.  Because I have learnt that authority figures get to create the games, make the rules and get the best parts for themselves.  Clearly, a small minority of us will – through determination or luck – get into authority. Once there we will strive to keep that authority and grow it.  Knocking on our inner door will be the hand of fear – fear of losing our authority and the privileges that go with it.

Personally, I advocate playing the game of ‘Who I am (being) makes a difference’.  The key to this game is being.  At all times and under all circumstances my being is entirely in my hands.  Furthermore, it is impossible to not be. I am being bold or not. I am being inspiring or not.  I am being generous or not.  I am being helpful or not.  I am being active or not.  I am being resourceful or not.  I am being passionate or not.  I am being relaxed or not.

If I played the game of ‘Who I am (being) makes a difference’ I would be mindful of:

  1. Eating – what I eat, how much I eat, how I eat, who I eat with;
  2. Thoughts: what thoughts arise and keep arising
  3. Story Telling – the stories I tell myself (and others) about myself, about others, reality, life;
  4. Resource Allocation – where I spend my time, my attention, my resources – self, family, tribe, humanity, life;
  5. Health – state of my health and particularly the role and extent of physical exercising;
  6. Being – who I am being and how I deal with the high’s and low’s
  7. Posture – how I physically carry myself during the day;
  8. Voice – the tone of my voice;
  9. Feeling – what feelings arise, which I covet and which I ignore;
  10. Mindfulness – being present, being aware, being mindful of the game I am playing, the results that are showing up.

The challenge with playing the game of ‘Who I am (being) makes a great difference’ is to keep being and doing in the foreground – together, simultaneously. In ordinarily living – at least in the West – doing is in the foreground and being is lost in the background.

On violence in day to day living

For a long time I have thought of myself as a peaceful fellow.  I arrived at this conclusion on the basis that I have not and do not seek to inflict physical pain on any living being – human or animal.  Two days ago, I changed my view.

Two days ago I was hit with a sudden insight: violence is more than hitting and killing, it arises in many flavours.  Whilst one of these flavours is obvious and gets most of the attention, the really important flavours escape unnoticed by many of us:

1) Hitting, maiming, torturing and killing;

2) Shouting;

3) Criticising;

4) Labeling – in a way that robs the other of self esteem, self confidence, of dignity;

5) Ignoring;

6) Excluding;

7) Not allowing the other ‘voice’ – to speak or to be heard;

8) Imposing one’s view of the situation, of the world, on another;

9) Failing to acknowledge what is worthy in the other.

Of these sins of violence the one that is most important – for me – is  number 9:  imposing one’s view of the situation, of the world, on another.  Even though I recognised this several days ago, I have found myself doing this again and again – it is simply natural to me and it runs me.

So what have I learnt?  I am automatically violent and I do not see this violence as violence  – it is just standing my ground, standing up for what I believe, correcting/help others to live a better life or simply not to make mistakes……..

What am I doing about being non-violent? Three practices come to mind:

a) Whole, complete, perfect;

b) Treat others as I’d wish to be treated – respect, caring, love;

c) Give up something especially my point of view.

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