Playing BIG: Largely A Matter Of Giving Up, Not Of Self-Development


Many of us stop ourselves from playing BIG in life because we have bought into misleading stories about what it is, and what it takes, to play BIG in life.  Most of us take the stand that to play BIG (in life) one needs to develop oneself – this stand (which is at the same time a limitation) suits the personal development industry.  Is it a truth that in order to play BIG one needs to develop oneself? At best it is a half-truth; any half-truth is a misleading one.

I say that playing BIG is NOT a matter of personal-development. I say that playing BIG is almost exclusively a matter of GIVING UP. Giving up what?  Giving up that which you/i put in the way of you/i playing BIG in life.  How best to brings this to life?  Allow me to tell you a story – a real story.

Allow me to start with the context first.  Yesterday, wife and the two ‘boys’ left for France in the early hours of the morning. My teenage daughter’s plan was to spend the weekend with her cousin. As there was a fire that broke out at her cousin’s on Friday evening, my daughter found herself with me.  So on Friday evening I asked my daughter (Clea) what she wanted to do on Saturday. Her answer “Go shopping!”.  I didn’t want to go shopping – spend Saturday in shopping malls with lots of people. And if I was going to do it then I was determined to make it the least hassle possible. So Clea and I agreed that we would leave at 8:30am so that we could be at the town centre for 9:00 – hopefully when many people might still be asleep.

Saturday morning came: half past eight in the morning and daughter is still sleeping. So I got busy doing my stuff saying to myself that I had honoured my side of the bargain. At 10:15 my daughter came down. I was reading. She asked to go shopping. I was confronted with choice: to be right, to make her wrong for not keeping her promise, to refuse to take her shopping, or to accept her request.  I gave up my sense of righteousness. I gave up my desire to teach her a lesson on what happens when one does not honour one’s word. I gave up my desire to complete that which I was doing. And in giving up, I told my daughter I was ready to go shopping with her whenever she was ready.

What allowed me to give these things up and accept Clea’s request? I was committed to co-creating a wonderful day together – a day where she experienced the love of her father (me).  What kind of commitment: no matter what kind of commitment – whatever I have to put into the game I am committed to putting in the game, whatever sacrifice is necessary I am committed to making that sacrifice.

We arrived in the town centre and my daughter led me forward into her shopping trip. Normally, when I am dragged shopping, wife-daughter-‘boys’ enter the shop and I stand outside.  This time, Clea wanted me inside the shops with her, so I entered the shop and stood beside her. And importantly took an interest (got involved) in what she was doing: choosing presents for others.  To do this I found myself having to give up this thought “I am no good at choosing presents. Choosing presents is a waste of time as at least 50% of the time we get it wrong. And then the other person has to fake liking the present.”

I am looking at the sales assistants in the store – all female – as they serve customers at the counter.  One of them is alive – really alive – and she is serving Clea.  She smiles, she has a song in her voice she is warm, she is animated… When she finishes serving Clea (with a smile), I find myself saying “You are an original. Thank you for being an original. You have made my day. I wish you a great Christmas and the very best for 2015.”  She beams; it occurs to me that I might just have made her day simply by acknowledging her greatness.

What did it take for me to do that  – to speak up, to acknowledge in the midst of many people?  I gave up my fear that Clea would think I was flirting with this young lady. I gave up my fear that I would embarrass this young lady. I gave up my fear that this young lady would think I was hitting on her …. I gave up my concerns and fears.

It is the evening. Clea and I are at home and she tells me that she would like to eat pizza. She wants to sit with me, eat pizza, drink coke, and watch X Factor.  So I go onto the internet, find the phone number for Papa John’s (as she likes Papa John’s pizza) and I order two large pizzas and a bottle of coke for 8:30 when X Factor starts.  Thereafter, we spent a delightful evening in each others company: sitting on the sofa, eating pizza, drinking coke, and watching the X Factor. It showed up as one of the best evenings I have ever spent with Clea.

What was the access to the evening turning out as it turned out – great? A large part of it involved me giving stuff up. What kind of stuff? I gave up my fixed view that pizza is junk food. I gave up my view that coke rots your teeth. I gave up my insistence that one does not eat food sitting on the sofa – one eats food sitting at the dining table with no television!

Was this giving my stuff worth it?  Yesterday was the best day I have spent with my daughter for a long long time. It is day that I will cherish to the end of my days. As for Clea she hugged me and told me that it had been a wonderful day. I think she said something like “I love you daddy, I’ve really enjoyed by day with you”.

Summing up:

The access to playing BIG in life right now – today – is giving up that you/i lack anything to play BIG.  It is giving up the dominant myth that you/i have to do some personal development before we are ready to play BIG.  No! All it takes to play big is to step into future possibility with absolute commitment and give up all that stands in the way of walking the path: fixed ways of being (personality, habits), cherished beliefs, and fears.

When you step into playing BIG you will find that all the learning and development that is necessary, will simply occur.  Put differently, you do not develop-learn first then play BIG. No! You play BIG and with that playing BIG you develop and learn all that is necessary. Phil Crosby, the quality guru, in advocating a particular way of being in the organisational world used to say that if you took on that way of being in the world then “Quality is free.”  I say that if you play BIG in life then “Learning and self-development is free.”

I suggest that you play BIG in life from the stand that you are ‘whole-complete-perfect’. What do I mean? That you are – just as you are and are not – all that is necessary to play BIG in life. You are an awesome ‘learning and creating machine’ that learns and often creates all that is necessary when there is a fierce will to accomplish something worth causing: a possibility that leaves you touched-moved-inspired-elevated.

I invite you to consider that playing BIG in life is both transformation (as in one’s lived experience of oneself and life is transformed) and leadership (as in one shows the way for others to follow in one’s way of being).

 

Each Of Us Is More Than S/he Seems


During my participation in the Landmark Forum (many years ago) I found myself deeply touched by that which was unconcealed once the social masks that are us, in our everydayness, lost their grip on me and my fellow participants.

What showed up in this unconcealment?  Allow me to introduce that through the following story:

Some years ago a young resident psychiatrist ……. who wanted to learn more about people at the edge of life was observing one of my sessions.

A former gang member whose hands were covered with tattoos was speaking of the deep love he now felt for his young wife who was dying of cancer, the ways in which this capacity to love had caught him unawares and so had healed him.

As he shared his insights about himself and his experiences of intense intimacy and tenderness with his wife, I glanced over at the young Freudian psychiatrist. He had stopped taking notes. His eyes were filled with tears.

After the patient left, I asked him if he had learned anything useful from the session. He smiled ruefully, “We are all more than we seem,” he said.

Actually, we are all more than we know. Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten. Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves: it is more an undoing than an doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to “fix” ourselves …..

Often in reclaiming the freedom to be who we are, we remember some basic human quality, an unsuspected capacity for love or compassion or some other part of our common birthright as human beings. What we find is almost always a surprise but it is also familiar; like something we have put in the back of a drawer long ago, once we see it we know it is our own.

– Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom

 

 

 

 

The Opening Of Possibility In The Presence Of Misfortune


“My knowledge of the self-healing qualities of misfortune with a shocking injury to my spine that left me lying helplessly…… I would never again do any sustained carpentry or turn clover under in the garden … I would never backpack ….. I would never nail another ceiling…….

The life I had lived all those years was impossible now and I had no option but to let it go. And in that yielding I saw more clearly than ever before what ceilings and walls I had been building all these years.

I saw that I had tried to construct my life as I had built this house, with some fixed and lasting sense of myself nailed securely in place.  I saw that no life so constructed could be held secure against the exigencies of time and circumstance, that I must inevitably exhaust myself in futile maintenance of such a structure.A lifetime of certainties fell about me in disrepair. I could no longer conceptualize who I was, and in that very loss the healing was found.

….. I found myself on a prominence that lay an unobstructed horizon about me on all sides. I turned slowly, 360 degrees. In all that space there was nothing, not even a trace of the very steps that had bought me there, to suggest where one might go next. I understood that I could, at that moment, walk in any of all possible directions. 

We invent ourselves that we might know who we are and what we are to be. But the consistency we seek in these inventions can’t be maintained against the fabulous inconsistency of actuality. Sensing this, we clutch at cherished constants ever more urgently. The builder of the house of ego can never rest, for he is ever at work to control outcomes and limit alternatives. His structure makes its appeal to our longing for the familiar and the safe, but in the end, he delivers only diminishment. I am weary of maintenance.”

– Lin Jensen (The Best Buddhist Writing 2006)

 

 

 

The Edge That Comes With Embracing Extraordinary ‘Projects’


What comes with stepping into and operating from an extraordinary context and/or taking on an extraordinary ‘project’ or possibility?

Two thoughts occurred to me above all others: first, how fortunate I was to be able to make myself so comfortable in an emergency…… And second, how little interest people showed in my bike compared with 1973. Back the everyone was curious; today a heavily laden motorcycle is commonplace, and I received little attention …..

Not that I craved the attention for its own sake but I remembered how it had helped me in the past to feel that I was doing something extraordinary, and how that feeling had given me an edge which made everything seem more significant. 

Ted Simon, Dreaming of Jupiter

Insights Into Human Nature & The Human Condition


I want to continue, flesh out, and give some concreteness to that which I shared in this  post: What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?  What better way to do that than share the insights of ‘sensitive’ human being (Ted Simon) who spent four years travelling around the world on a motorbike in order to come face to face with life, and experience-feel all that goes with being truly alive:

The concept of the Self seemed to connect with my own thought …. of being made of the stuff of the universe, all pervading and imperishable.  The Truth was in the stuff itself, revealed in the natural order of things.You have only to merge with the world to know the Truth and find your Self. 

There are shapes and forms which arise out of the natural order. Trees, caves and animal architecture lead naturally to thatched roofs, stone houses and mud walls. If you knew this you would not choose to put up a roof in corrugated iron. Nor would you think of throwing a plastic bag in a stream, not because of what you have been told about pollution, but because the idea of a plastic bag is offensive in itself. Without this sense of what is naturally fitting you can be cleaning up the world with one hand and spreading poison with the other.

It surprised me to discover that this sense of rightness does not appear naturally in people, even though they live in the heart of nature. In my own village in France the same people who fished the stream shoved every possible kind of refuse and sewerage into them, even when offered a convenient alternative. In Nepal, where not a single engine or power line disturbs the mediaeval rusticity of the Himalayan valleys, people shit in the rivers with a dogmatic persistence ensuring that every village is infected by what the people upstream have got.

The Truth obviously does not reveal itself unaided to humans. It has to be uncovered by an effort of consciousness. Or, more likely, it exists only in human consciousness. Without man to recognise it, there is no Truth, no God.

Yet it is not consciousness that governs the world, nor even ideology, nor religious principle nor national temperament. It is custom that rules the roost. In Colombia it was custom to do murder and violence. In a period of ten years some 200,000 people were said to have been killed by acts of more or less private violence. Yet I found the Colombians at least as hospitable, honourable and humane, as the Argentines, whose custom is merely to chat. Arabs have the custom of showing their emotions and hiding their women. In Sudan it is customary to be honest. In Thailand dishonesty is virtually a custom, but so is giving gifts to strangers. 

Every possible variation of nudity and prudishness is the custom somewhere as with eating habits, toilet practices, to spit or not to spit; and almost all of these customs have become entirely arbitrary and self-perpetuating. Above all it is customary to suspect and despise people in the next valley, or state, or country, especially if their colour or religion is different. And there are places where it is customary to be at war, like Kurdistan or Vietnam.

Speaking of the more vicious customs, and of men who should have known better, St Francis Xavier  said a long time ago: ‘Custom is to them in the place of law, and what they see done before them every day they persuade themselves may be done without sin. For customs bad in themselves seem to these men to acquire authority and prescription from the fact they are commonly practiced.’

Custom is the enemy of awareness, in individuals as much as in societies. It regularises the fears and cravings of everyday life. I wanted to shake them off. I wanted to use this journey to see things whole and clear, for I would never pass this way again. I wanted to be rid of the conditioning of habit and custom. To be the slave of custom, at any level, is much like being  a monkey, an ‘ape of the wayward senses’. To rise above it is already something like becoming a god.

Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have become famous for being a human being.

– Abdul Sattar Edhi, Edhi Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daring Greatly: Moving From The Stands And Into The Arena


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

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

Introducing The ‘Quotes’ Tab


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming Life Through ‘Direct Action In Love’


Is action the only access to impacting life?

Let’s start the conversation with a quote. Not any quote, quote that contains the seeds for transforming the quality of life (my life, your life, our lives, life itself):

“It is important that you get clear for yourself that your only access to impacting life is action. The world does not care what you intend, how committed you are, how you feel or what you think, and certainly it has no interest in what you want and don’t want. Take a look at life as it is lived and see for yourself that the world only moves for you when you act.

Hold this quote in mind, allow it to be the grounds of our conversation. And let’s turn the conversation to love.

What is love as action?

Catherine Cadden has grappled with this question. And in so grappling she provides the following answer:

“I defined Love as listening, observing, validating and empathizing. All action.” 

Listening for what?  Observing what? Validating what? Empathizing with what? The answer is to that which he have in common with our fellow human beings: our universal human needs.

Notice:

– listening is an action and i/you can choose, at any-every moment, to listen for the human needs that are giving rise to my behaviour, your behaviour, his behaviour, her behaviour, our behaviour, their behaviour;

– observing is an action and as such you/i can choose to observe human behaviour (as it is and as it is not)  and use that as an access to the human needs that lie at the source of the behaviour;

– validating is an action and as such i/you can choose, at any-every moment, to validate the human needs that lie at the source of my behaviour, your behaviour, his behaviour, her behaviour, our behaviour, their behaviour;

– empathising is an action and you/i can choose to empathise with ourselves and our fellow human beings at the level our universal human needs.

What is love as ‘direct action in love’?

It occurs to me that Catherine Cadden has not stopped at ‘love as an action’ like so many of us have done.  She has gone further. She calls it ‘direct action in love’.  What kind of love is ‘direct action in love’?  It occurs to me that this is conveyed by her, in her TEDx talk, through the following quote which she shares in her talk:

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar, it sees that the edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. ”

– Martin Luther King Jr, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence”, delivered 4 April 1967

At this point, I share with you Catherine’s TEDx talk and ask that you offer yourself the gift of listening, truly listening, to her speak:

Given that I find that myself so easily sucked into a criticising mode of being (even if I do not verbalise and act it out) I leave myself (and you) with the following quote.

“Boy, I sure hope whoever threw this tantrum gets heard so they won’t think they need to do it again.”

– Eva, 9 years old

To get the transformational quality of this utterance, this mode of being-in-the-world, it is necessary to listen, truly listen, to Catherine’s talk.

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

 

To The Wonder: A Beautiful Meditation On Life, Love, And The Wonder Of Existence?


tothewonder

Yesterday, I found myself watching Terence Malik‘s latest film: To The Wonder.  Terence Malik is not a conventional director, he is a philosopher in the disguise of a film director.  To The Wonder is not a film, it shows up for me as philosophical meditation on life, on love, on God, and on existence itself.  It just so happens that this meditation is communicated through film.

If you find that that which I speak finds a listening in you then I recommend that you make the time  to ‘read’ To The Wonder. And as for any philosophical reading it is necessary to do so when one either creates for finds oneself in the right mood and with the right listening – a listening that allows the speaking to show up as meaningful.

What more is there to say on To The Wonder?  Allow me to share with you snippets of the sayings (on To The Wonder) that speak to me and shed some light.

Every one of us, no matter how damaged or abnormal or shut down, we’re all looking for love. Every person needs love in this world, but our views on what love is vary enormously. Which is the joy and the problem.”

Olga Kurylenko (one of the main characters in the film)

“Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren’t many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren’t many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn’t that almost worse than never having had them in the first place?”

Roger Ebert (film critic, deceased)

“On a deeper level, the film is Malick’s meditation on the Christian vision of loveand the obstacles that we perversely place in the way of satisfying our irrepressible longing for it. Anyone who’s fallen in love is familiar with the feeling: The world appears transfigured. In the first words of the film, Marina describes it as being “newborn,” called “out of the shadows……..

Ultimately, for Malick, the experience of falling in love grants us a glimpse of the divine — of a “Love that loves us”…… But love is not only rapture. In Malick’s Christian view, it also calls on us to sacrifice, to give ourselves over fully to the one we love…… Father Quintana says it is: “Love is not only a feeling. Love is a duty. You shall love… You feel your love has died? It is perhaps waiting to be transformed into something higher.” 

Father Quintana achieves a spiritual epiphany during a sequence toward the end of the movie that is unlike any I have ever encountered in film……As the priest comforts a succession of suffering people — the old, the anguished, the crippled, the sick, and the dying — he recites a devotion of St. Patrick: “Christ be with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ in me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ in the heart.”

Humanity was made for God. And he is present all around us — in the transfiguring, wondrous joy of romantic love, in self-giving sacrifice, in our suffering and the suffering of others, in the charity we offer to those in pain, in the resplendent beauty of the natural world — if only we open our eyes to see him. That, it seems, is Terrence Malick’s scandalous message.”

Damon Linker (senior correspondent at theweek.com)

On Kindness And The Transformative Power Of Praise


“Adults are starved for a kind word. “

– Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Kindness. The possibility of kindness and being both a source of and an opening for kindness speaks to me, calls me, moves-touches-uplifts me.  Standing in and living from this possibility I notice that you/i/we are kind at a deeper level.  And at the deeper level we long to express this kindness to put into the world and to receive it.  So why is it that kindness has yet to blossom?

It occurs to me that fear is the biggest obstacle to the blossoming of kindness. What fear?  To get this fear it is essential to get that you and I are ‘thrown’ into this world and in this world one does not show kindness. There is no agreement for kindness to show up.  It takes something to allow kindness to come forth and flower. What does it take? Courage.  Not being ‘naturally courageous’ I find that I must generate this courage.

I find the following ‘story’ a source of courage and a call to stand firm in the possibility of being an opening for kindness to show up in this world. And as such I share it with you.

“One young lady …… was so frightened that she literally couldn’t form words. In the cool, air conditioned room, beads of sweat ran from her forehead down to her chin and dropped on the carpet….. A few words came out, just barely, she returned to her seat defeated, humiliated, broken.

Then an interesting thing happened. I rank it as one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. The instructor went to the front of the class and looked at the broken student. The room was dead silent. I’ll always remember his words. He said, “Wow. That was brave.”

My brain spun in my head. Twenty-some students had been thinking this woman had just crashed and burned in the most dramatically humiliating way. She had clearly thought the same thing. In four words, the instructor had completely reinterpreted the situation. Every one of us knew the instructor was right. We had just witnessed an extraordinary act of personal bravery, the likes of which one rarely sees.

I looked at the student’s face as she reacted to the instructors comment. She had been alone in her misery, fighting a losing fight. But somehow the instructor understood what has happening inside her and he respected it. I swear I saw a light come on in her eyes. She looked up from the floor….  The next week she volunteered to speak again…

There are several things to learn from the story. The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism. I’ve had a number of occasions since then to test the power of praise, and I find it an amazing force, especially for adults……. adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery and sucking up), you realise withholding it border on the immoral….”

“Wow. That was brave,” is the best and cleanest example I’ve seen in which looking at something in a different way changes everything. ….”

– Scott Adams, How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big

It occurs to me that if you-i-we reframe how we look at kindness then it changes everything.  We can choose to see kindness as an opportunity to turn on the light inside ourselves and our fellow human beings, to bring joy into our daily existence,  and contribute to creating a world that works for all, none excluded.

As I write the closing words, I find myself totally present to the kindness that has shown up in my existence this week. The kindness of my wife, the kindness of my daughter, the kindness of my sons, the kinds of my niece, the kindness of my colleagues, the kindness of those of you who have reached out to me to let me know that my speaking here on this blog makes a contribution.  Thank you.  I am truly grateful that you existence and deeply moved by the contribution to make my existence.

Life Works If You Work With It


The story: what do you do when workability is compromised?

I was at my parents home – in the kitchen, cooking.  Just as I had finished cooking one of my brothers came into the kitchen to get some ice cream for his daughter. He opened up the freezer and struggled to take out the tray in which the ice cream rested. After pulling at it, this way and that, he managed to pull the tray out. That is when I noticed that something was ‘wrong’.  The tray was full of water that had turned to ice.  The ice was in the tray, on the sides of the tray, and underneath the tray.

After serving ice cream to his daughter, brother started to put the tray back into the freezer. I protested that the tray needed to be emptied of the ice. So I took out the frozen stuff, washed the tray with water thus unfreezing the ice, cleaned and dried the tray. Then I refilled it with the frozen food and gave it back to my brother.

He struggled to insert the tray back into the freezer. That was not surprising as the freezer compartment was all iced up.  Clearly a defrosting process had occurred in the freezer, water had formed, and then the water had turned to ice.  And this was jamming up all of the trays.  I noticed that one of the freezer trays was broken at the front, near the handle. I assumed that this had happened when someone had tried to get the tray out, was not able to (because of the ice), and had forced the tray out.

Standing there looking at the situation, it was clear to me that the integrity and workability of the freezer had been compromised. And what needed to be done was to defrost the freezer and thus restore the integrity-workability of the freezer.

What did my brother do?  He did what we human beings do when faced with a situation that requires work-effort and we are not up for putting in that work-effort. He found an instrument and start scraping off the softer ice from the freezer so that he could slide the tray back into the freezer.  Once he had done enough to slide the tray back into the freezer he stopped.

What is the lesson, the learning here?

It occurs to me that for many of us there is at least one significant aspect of our living that does not work well. That aspect of our living is stuck-jammed-unworkable in some important manner.  Just at the freezer is at my parents house.

Given that this is the case.  You and I can choose to do what it required to restore workability to that part of our living. The equivalent of defrosting the freezer, throwing away the food that defrosted and got frozen again, clean up the mess, and restoring the integrity and thus the workability of the freezer.

Or we can do what my brother did, do the minimum: deal with the symptoms and ignore the cause – the unworkability that gives rise to the symptoms. It occurs to me that if you and I choose to take the latter course, the short cut, and shirk that which needs to be done to restore workability to our lives then we can expect continued struggle in our lives.

It occurs to me that my life works when I work with it – when I work with the grain of life. It occurs to me that where I continue to struggle with life, it is highly likely that I am creating my struggle (my suffering) by working against the grain of life.

Awaken: It’s Never Too Soon!


Stop bullshitting!

Kathleen Taylor finishes here TEDx talk with the following exhortation:

Discover and express your amazing uniqueness in the world. Stop bullshitting

Why does Kathleen say this? Because she has learned from spending time working with-counselling the dying.

What can we learn from Kathleen?

Dying people teach us that it is never too late to shed what’s false and to become who we truly are.

Do you and I have to wait until our last days to live authentically?

But I’d like to hope that it is never too soon… So here is the challenge …. let’s don’t wait until we are at the end of our lives to find out who we really are.

Have your ever found yourself thinking about the purpose of your life? Wrong Question!

Have you every been confronted with this question: “What is my life about? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” This question is one that I continue to grapple with. And this is what Kathleen has good news for me:

I think that is the wrong question.

I actually think the better question is “Who am I being with my life?”

What is the relationship between being and doing?

There is an intersect between doing and being. But, I’m pretty sure that being comes first.

And what you are supposed to be doing with your life will flow from who you truly are. You really can’t screw that up if you do it that way.

Why bother with living authentically? Why not just fit in and go with the flow?

Action, and creativity, and innovation that comes from true authenticity is what moves the world forward. And it has the lovely side effect …. of creating joy.

Awaken to the preciousness of time! be authentic, stop bullshitting

Living is the process of dying. Please read that again: living is the process of dying. This is what you and I are almost never present to. Yet, this is not true for those who are dying:

It ends up that some of the purpose of facing your mortality is to look back on the body of work of your life and develop a deep sense of self. And really, to finally awaken to the preciousness of time.

This brings us back to Kathleen’s exhortation:

Discover and express your amazing uniqueness in the world. Stop bullshitting

Here is Kathleen’s TEDx talk

By now you may be in a place where you actually want to see-hear-experience Kathleen’s TEDx talk. Here it is, enjoy!

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….”

 

Planting The Seeds of Kindness


“There is too much anger, and distrust, and fear out there. I’d like the world to be a better place..” Thomas Weller

Sometimes one person who takes action is more inspiring than thousands of sermons or a library of books.  With that in mind I wish to share this short video with you.

“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?

‘Whole-Complete-Perfect’: Is This The Most Fundamental and Powerful Choice?


When you and I came forth from this world we came forth naked.  Totally naked: without any and all labels.  No name, no gender, no nationality, no religion, no politics…

So how did you and I end up with such a strong identity?  An identity that grips us.  An identity that permeates us.  More accurately, identity that is us.  It simply happened didn’t it as we travelled through the years with people, from one place to another?  Would it be correct to say that the foundations of my identity, your identity, our identity was solidly in place before you and I were in a place to choose, to discriminate, to accept or decline the garments of identity thrust upon us by our parents, family, caregivers?

I ask you to take a good look at the core of your identity?  What do you see?  Do you see ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘American’, ‘Brit’, ‘christian’, ‘muslim’, ‘atheist’, ‘painter’, ‘mom’, ‘CEO’, ‘marketer’….?  Please go and look beyond that.  What do you see?

If you look deep enough and have the courage to see, to listen, I say that you are most likely to find that the core of your identity is that of ‘being defective’.  Is that not our common humanity at the most fundamental level?  You and I see ourselves as ‘defective’, as ‘not good enough’, as ‘something is wrong about me’. Right?  I get that my version of defective may be that ‘I am not good looking’ and that ‘my body is weak’ and that ‘stupid’. Your identity might be that  you are ‘too tall’, ‘too fat’, ‘too shy’, ‘not considerate enough’, ‘poor’…  Do you notice that the details differ and the bigger game is the same between us?  I am defective: I am not whole, I am not complete, I am not perfect.

You and I were born without identity, born naked of all labels, born naked full stop. Naked! So how did you go from no identity, and the lightness and freedom that goes with that, to carrying the huge burden that goes with operating from the stance ‘I am not whole, not complete, not perfect’?  We were programmed.  Why? So that we would fit in with the existing order.  So that we would better comply with the wishes of those more powerful than us. Right?

How is it working out?  Put differently, what is the experience of my life, your life, lived from the context of ‘not whole, not complete, not perfect’?  It is that of looking for all kinds of way to be whole, be complete, be perfect.  That is what all the self-help books are about, right?  That is what all the status brands and conspicuous consumption is about, right?  That is what all the pre tense of being perfect and having a perfect life is all about, right?

I say to me, to you, to us, what fools we are!  We can simply give up the game.  We can give it up right now, just like that.  How exactly?  Notice, that we were born naked, without labels, without identity.  Notice, that identity is a choice.  You and I can choose to live from another identity, another context.  Which one?  Where I declare myself as ‘whole-complete-perfect’,  and you declare yourself as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Let’s not stop there.  Let’s declare all of our fellow human beings ‘whole-complete-perfect’.

Imagine how life would show up if you and I did declare ourselves as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Imagine how life would be if you and I declared each and every human being as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Not as a truth but as an identity that we give ourselves. And as a stand from which we show up and operate from this world.  When we relate to ourselves and our fellow human beings as ‘whole-complete-perfect’ a totally new dimension of conversation and action shows up for us; you, me, everyone.  We stop being small! We are free to be BIG: to give wings to our dreams, to act on the world, to co-create a world that works, a world that is wonderful for us all.

Given that we come forth naked of identity, why is it that we have not been conditioned to believe and operate from stand-identity of being at our most fundamental level ‘whole-complete-perfect’?  If we had been conditioned that way, we would operate as ‘gods’ right?  What if those that condition don’t want ‘gods’ and instead want ‘slaves’ who do not know that they are enslaved?  Then giving us the identity of being ‘defective and weak’ would make perfect sense.  So I say choose: slave or god.

Still convinced that you know yourself?  Still convinced that you are defective, small, weak, and powerless? I invite you to watch the following video: