Play BIG: Listen To / Embrace The Wisdom Of Viktor Frankl (Part 1)


If you/i are to play BIG and experience ourselves living a vital-vibrant existence then I say you/i can help ourselves by listening to, embracing-embodying the wisdom of Viktor Frankl.  In today’s conversation I share some of this wisdom with you.  I urge you to make the time to watch and truly listen to the following.

Heed The Most Fundamental and Basic Concern of Man

“What is the most fundamental and basic concern of man? Neither pleasure nor happiness. Neither power nor prestige. But, originally, and basically, his wish, his desire to find and fulfil a meaning in his life, or for that matter, in each single life situation confronting him.

And if there is a meaning to fulfil, if he is aware, if he becomes cognizant of such a meaning then he is ready to suffer, he’s ready to offer sacrifices, he’s ready to undergo tension, stress and so forth without any harm being done to his health. But if there is no meaning available, no meaning in his visual field then he takes his life.

Meaning can be found everywhere, in the smallest hut, on the other you can find people who are millionaires .. and billionaires, they have no meaning, they kill themselves….”

Bypassing The Snare Of Self Actualisation, Embracing Self Transcendence

“.. what a individual, a human being needs, is … self-transcendence. That is to say, being concerned with one’s self or one’s one prestige or one’s own happiness is self defeating.….. I deem that ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a contradiction in terms. Because happiness can never really be pursued. Happiness must ensue. Happiness is a side effect, happiness is a byproduct and must remain a byproduct of meaning fulfilment. Of your dedication to a task, a cause greater than yourself, or a person other than yourself…..

The more you give yourself, the more you forget yourself, in love or in work, for the sake of a cause to serve or a person to love, to the very extent you will become happy precisely by not caring for happiness. Precisely by overlooking and forgetting you are happy or not.

It is the same as with the boomerang ….. I had the insight that this is the very symbol of human existence, and the self transcendent quality of the human reality. Because usually … we assume that it is the job of the boomerang to fulfil is to return to the hunter. “That’s not true” the Australian’s told me. Because only that boomerang returns to the hunter, that boomerang that in the first place had failed the target .. the prey. It is the same with man. Only the type of people so intent on themselves and so eager to contemplate to observe themselves, to actualise themselves, to interpret themselves, who in the first place had missed, not a target, but a mission in their life. Who had not found a meaning outward of them. Or a human being other than themselves.

This is self-transcendence. Not being primarily concerned with oneself but something other than oneself. Or, still better, someone other than oneself. Man becomes himself, man is actualising himself, man is human, precisely to the extent man is not concerned with himself or anything to do with himself. But living out his self-transcendence.”

‘Finding’ And Generating The Extraordinary In The Ordinary


When I speak extraordinary you already know what it means.  It means stuff that is not everyday (ordinary) kind of stuff.  So an extraordinary life is one full of extraordinary events, extraordinary achievements, extraordinary possessions…. Right?

I invite you (and me) to park this way of thinking: to take of the clothes of fantasy (just for the duration of this conversation) and look at the way life is and is not.

Ponder, ask yourself, what is your living made up of?  Is it made up of extraordinary (wow!) moments?  Take a deep look at someone who is living an extraordinary life: an actor, a celebrity, a singer, a politician, a business superstar. What makes up the bulk of his/her life?

I say that even one who is deemed to live an extraordinary life finds that his life is filled with ordinary moments: waking up, taking a shower, brushing one’s teeth, dressing, eating breakfast, ‘travelling to the office’, working (even celebrities work!), talking with people, lunch, walking, reading, sex, loving, hating ……..

It occurs to me that one way of Playing BIG, really playing big, is getting present to the fact that life is made up, for the large part, of ordinary moments. And using this insight to live in a transformed way. How? By being present to, finding and/or generating the extraordinary in the ordinary.

What is it that I am pointing at when I speak of ‘finding-generating the extraordinary in the ordinary’?  Allow me to make that real for you and me, by sharing recent lived experiences:

1. I was out in the garden enjoying the sunshine and admiring the plants. A red robin appeared and perched on the branches of a red robin shrub!  I found myself delighted: just gazing with wonder at the beautiful creature. Suddenly the red robin took off and danced so beautifully in the air.  This graceful movement took my breath away.

2. We had a box of fresh vegetables (direct from local farm) delivered.  I washed the cherry tomatoes and bit into one. DELICIOUS!  Even now, as I am present to that experience, I notice that my mouth is salivating.

3. Lying outside in the garden with the sun on my the skin of self.  I notice that the sun is hot and getting hotter. Then the wind blows through the garden, the chimes sing, and I notice the kiss of the breeze on my skin. Wonderful – so soothing. And a little ticklish.  What a perfect world! That is the thought that hits me.

4. It is towards the end of the afternoon and the back garden is now in the shade. I get out the lawn mower and mow the lawn. It is hard work, I find myself sweating. I take off my t-shirt and continue mowing the lawn. Thirty minutes later I finish.  I find myself so pleased with myself. Why? The garden looks beautiful and this sense of order, of beauty, leaves me feeling peaceful and provokes joy.

5. I find myself listening-watching a course on Coursera. I find myself thinking what an amazing world: all this knowledge available on my phone, my tablet, my laptop. And it is totally free!

6. Reading Philip Gould’s book When I Die, I find myself deeply touched about that which he shares about his battle-experience of cancer.  I find myself laughing, I find myself crying. I find myself grateful that this man used his dying days to share his experience of cancer and provide hope for those of us battling cancer or other ‘diseases’.

7. I join the family in the kitchen. I am listening to my niece speaking about interviews and interviewing. Whilst listening I am doing my stretch exercises (‘bad’ back). Suddenly, I cannot stop myself laughing all the way from my stomach; Marco (son) is just made an insightful-witty remark as to what it would be like for someone to be in an interview with me. I am laughing so much that I have to stop my stretching exercise…..

It occurs to me that you/I can play BIG right now simply by being present the ordinary moment. And in so doing finding and/or generating the extraordinary within the ordinary.

I get that the voice in your head may be doubtful. Asking how it is that one finds-creates the extraordinary in the most ordinary of moments. This evening, I cleaned the sinks and toilets in my home. I experienced joy-delight. How so? I listened to beautiful music whilst cleaning. I danced whilst cleaning. And all the time I was present to this: I was in the process of bringing beauty into the world – for me and my family; and I was keeping my word to myself and my family which left me relating to myself as a person whose word counts.

I thank you for your listening. Live well. Experiment with being present to, finding and/or creating the extraordinary in the ordinary. I say you a life (a transformed living) to gain. And nothing to lose.

 

I leave you with this quote from Dan Millman’s The Peaceful Warrior:

There are no ordinary moments!

 

Opening Ourselves To The Impossible And Living A Life Of Possibility


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why Heed The Call & Live The Unlived Life?


The English word ‘devil’ is very beautiful. If you read it backwards it becomes ‘lived’. That which is lived becomes divine, and that which is not lived becomes the devil. 

Only the lived is transformed into godliness; the unlived turns poisonous.

And today you postpone, and whatever remains unlived in you will hang around you like a weight. If you had lived it you would have been free of it. It would not have haunted you, it would not have tortured you.

– Osho

Choosing Audacity Over Indifference And Cruelty


What is it that I notice about the being of the human beings that I find myself in amidst?  Love? No: rare it is that I see loving happening. Hate? No: rare it is that I find hating occurring. Self-expression? No. Rare it is that I see self-expression, in a culture of individuality rare it is to see anything other than ‘Das Man’ – the anybody/everybody. 

It occurs to me that loving, hating, self-expression are signs of aliveness. S/he who loves, hates, expresses oneself in how one shows up in the world, is alive! And aliveness is the quality that I find most absent in my every day dealings with my fellow human beings.  Our way of being-in-the-world (in the West, for the middle classes) is what I call the ‘walking dead’.

What is it that I notice about the being of the human beings with which I find myself?  I notice indifference as the common mode of being-in-the-world. The mode of being-in-the-world is expressed in one pithy word: “Whatever.”  And then there are those who take a stand:

“I choose to bigger than the cruelty and the indifference.”

– Chrisann Brennan

It occurs to me that in the world that I find myself constituting, indifference is in and of itself cruel. And you/i can choose to give up playing small, being indifferent – to the quality of our lives, the lives of our fellow human being, and the quality of life itself    I leave you with the following quote:

We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. 

We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about.

Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us.  It will require courage, audacity and heart. 

It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. 

What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives.

I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.

If not you, who?
If not now, when?
If not here, where?”

Werner Erhard

What Constitutes Giving? And Can Giving Be An Access To Transformation?


Transformation always start with our way of being-in-the-world. And our way of being-in-the-world is a function of cultural practices and what we do or do not do, regularly and how we do what we do.

One route to transforming the quality of our lives and of life itself is to consciously adopt new ways of being and doing. And keep at these until they became habitual and we do not even notice our way of being-in-the-world: how we show up, what we do and how we do it.

If like me you find yourself called to the possibility of kindness, gentleness, harmony, aliveness, and a world that works for all then I leave you with the following:

The essence of human revolution is overcoming our lack of compassion.

Giving yourself wholly to the person in front of you – everything begins with this; it is the fundamental path of humanist philosophy.

Philosophy comes down to standing up for the principles you believe in no matter what.

– Daisaku Ikeda

It occurs to me that the most profound, truest giving, that one can give is to ‘give oneself wholly to the person in front of oneself’.  And that usually is the people we find ourselves living with, working with, interacting with on a daily basis: wives, husband, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousin, nephews, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, colleagues, customers, suppliers, neighbours …..

What would show up in my life if I gave myself wholly to the person in front of me?  What would show up in your life if you gave yourself wholly to the person in front of you?  What kind of world would be find ourselves in if enough of us gave ourselves wholly to the person in front of me?  It occurs to me that ‘giving yourself wholly to the person in front of you’ is transformation: it transforms our experience of our living.

So easy to write, to say. So hard to do – at least for me. And I know that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. And the journey of giving starts with the next person I encounter. And is never ended, never a failure, for as long as I continue to ‘walk the path’.  It occurs to me that ‘walking the path’ is transformation.

What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?


What is our essence, our nature, human nature?

If there is one question that truly matters and thus pervades our existence it is the question concerning human nature: what is our essence, our nature, human nature?

essence
ˈɛs(ə)ns/
noun
  1. 1.
    the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character.
    “conflict is the essence of drama”

There are no shortage of answers. It occurs to me every speaker who speaks on the essence of human nature is convinced that there is a such a thing as human nature. And that he/she has the right answer:

  • Some say that human nature is selfish and competitive. In this school of thought even altruistic acts are recast and explained as selfish.  Others say that human nature is fundamental kind, altruistic, cooperative.
  • Look underneath western management and you will find the taken for granted truth that human beings are fundamentally lazy and will do the least work they can get away with: theory X.  Then there are others who say that human beings are eager to learn, to improve their condition, to contribute and do work – as long as the works shows up as meaningful, worth doing.
  • There are those who say that essence of human beings is reason and rationality.  And others who say with equal conviction that the essence of human beings is emotion/affect.
  • Some say that our essence is to pair bond and live in monogamous relationships. Others say that the polygamous relations are more in tune with nature and the imposition of monogamous relationships has come about through the white man’s domination of the world.

Who has generated the right answer to the essence of human nature?

I don’t know and I have little interest in debating right-wrong.

What I can share with you is the insight that hit me when I was around 8 years of age. To make sense of this insight it is worth pointing out that I was born in the East into a muslim culture. And at the age of 5 I arrived in the UK with my mother and younger brother. So by the age of 8, I had been living a dual existence: one way of thinking-living at school (the English way) and other way of thinking-living at home (the Pakistani Muslim way).  What was this insight?

The insight that struck me forcefully, which blew away my confusion-bewilderment, which set me free was this: “It’s all made up!”  

Once I got this, I got that I was free to choose the practices, from each culture, that worked best for me. As a result I chose not to have an arranged marriage.  I also choose not to drink for the sake of drinking – just to show that I am a man and be one of the boys ……

What is a great place to stand in relation to the question of human nature?

Back to the question of human nature: what is our human nature?  What is natural to us, our essence?  What is not natural to us, not in line with our essence? Heidegger, the 20th century philosopher and some say one of the two most important philosophers of the 20th century, says:

“The ‘essence’ of Dasein lies in its existence.”

– Heidegger

If you do not have background in philosophy then what Heidegger is getting at may not be clear. So allow me to share, what shows up for me as, the most pithy insight into the human condition:

“Custom is our nature”

– Blaise Pascal (1632 – 1662)

Put simply, human beings don’t have a fixed nature, we do not have an essence. We are shaped by the cultural practices (customs) into which we are born. This shaping starts from the moment of our birth (possibly earlier) and happens without our consent.  By the time we are in a position to think for ourselves our nature has already been shaped-moulded towards a certain style of being-living, and away from other styles of being-living.

I say that this is a great place to stand in relation to my nature, your nature, human nature. Why? By taking this stand we liberate ourselves and our fellow human beings.  If you/i stand and operate from this stance then we get that you/i can shape our nature (no matter what we say it is today) by who we live amongst and what we do and do not do. Put differently, if i/you want to change our natures we simply have to change our customs. Furthermore, in this stand you get that a powerful access to influencing others is to effect changes in customs.

Summing Up

Please remember: Its all made up! If you stand in “It’s all made up!” then you are in a place to remake it – all of it. When you get this, really get this, then I say your experience of yourself, and of life, is transformed.