“The mind is inherently stubborn about change, and seems to snap back to its original position like an elastic band.
But there is catch: when we truly comprehend in our guts the finality and truth that THIS is IT, right now, no matter how our life is, then we grasp what Werner Erhard was always screaming about:
that no magic pill or workshop or experience of any sort is ever going to come along and finally “fix” you or me or make us permanently happy, and in that very moment of giving up the search for transformation, a transformation paradoxically does in fact occur.
One recognises that one was never broken in the first place, and suddenly all the energy previously devoted to seeking a way out of or through the problem of the unfulfilled self is freed up to power one’s mission and vision, which is a gesture of giving and contribution rather than one of searching, waiting, and hoping.
And that is a good thing, if a bit sobering, because it means we are asked to step up to the plate in life with what and who we already are. We have been given our piece in the game, and it only remains to play wholeheartedly.”
I invite you to show up and operate from an uncommon context. Which context? Please take a look at the following, short, presentation from an ex-colleague of mine, Bruce Kasanoff.
I invite you to go one step further. I invite you to to live from the context “Help this person, with love”
Why have I added “with love” to Bruce’s “Help this person”. Because there is a world of difference between helping this person with love, or helping without love. This world of difference shows up both for the helper and the helped. I am not talking theory. I am share my lived experience.
I guarantee that if you show up and operate from the context “help this person, with love” your experience of your living will be transformed. And so will the nature, number, and quality of your relatedness and relationships.
Are you up for testing this out and taking me up on my guarantee? Perhaps, you are up for joining me just because it speaks for you. Or it shows up as being a great way to live: a way that opens up adventure, invites relationship, and fun.
Finally, I invite you to consider that a new realm of possibilities open up for me, for you, for us, for the world of which we are an integral part, when you and I show up from “Help this person, with love”.
I share with you a talk worth listening to again and again. If you are a Landmark graduate then this talk may show up as welcome reminder of some fundamentals. If you are not a Landmark graduate then you are in for a mind opening talk. Enjoy.
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:
Inventing possibilities is not sufficient
It is not enough to invent possibilities; inventing possibilities does not lead to a transformation in the experience of my/your living. If you/I are to experience a transformation in our experience of our living then the access to that transformation is inventing possibilities that leave us moved-touch-inspired. Why?
It takes something say “activation energy'” to get us to be/act differently to the default that you/I have become accustomed and addicted to. To use the analogy of the rocket, it takes a certain amount of energy to overcome gravity and get the rocket those two inches off the ground. If that “activation energy” is not there then the rocket will continue resting on the ground. Put differently, our habits run us – they run us without us even being aware that they run us. Like the rocket, it takes a certain amount of mindfulness/effort/energy (“activation energy”) for you/I to break loose from these habits. And you/I are most likely to put in the required effort when we are moved/touched (emotionally) and inspired to act.
I am inspired by the possibility of communication & relatedness with my children
A couple of months ago I invented the possibility of being intimately related to my children and vice versa such that we spent more time together and enjoyed the time that we spent together. I was so moved-touched-inspired that I told my children that I would be available and present for them every day between 7pm and 9pm – to do whatever they wanted to do. And that is exactly what I did.
How did it turn out? Not as I had expected. In the main the children were looking for me to play entertainer – to come up with ideas that appealed to them and then put on the show. I soon ran out of ideas! Truthfully, disappointment was present. And I was struggling with how to generate that interaction and thus relatedness between us.
The hidden power of the context/situation/environment to call forth and shape behaviour
Then one evening I came home and noticed that the dining table had been converted into a table-tennis table. It just so happens that we can all play table-tennis and most of us do enjoy playing it. What showed up? We showed up at the table-tennis table playing table-tennis. Not only between 7pm and 9pm but also at other times. The ‘table-tennis’ was calling us to play table-tennis and in the process relatedness was showing up – indirectly!
One day, I came home and noticed that the dining table was once more the dining table. Then what showed up? For sure no table-tennis showed up because there was no table-tennis table in the house. I notice that the interaction that had been called forth by the table-tennis was no longer present – the children were in their rooms doing their own stuff. And I was left missing the interaction with my children. Now here is the puzzling thing. I left the dining table as the dining table rather than make the effort to convert it a table-tennis table. And over the course of a week or so I got used to the ‘lack of interaction’.
A week or so later I came home and the table-tennis table was there again. Delighted, I invited one of my children to play table-tennis. He agreed and the interaction was there once more: noticed that in the course of playing table-tennis we talked and laughed with one another – the relatedness was present once more.
Shape the context/environment/situation to call forth that which you wish to call forth in yourself and others
If you/I wish to transform our lives and our experience of our living then we have to act. The default way of acting is to rely on willpower – to will ourselves to do what is necessary. And over the longer term it does not work. Experience and research studies show that willpower depletes itself and once depleted we find ourselves enmeshed in our defaults – our habits. Yet there is another way, smarter way, to call forth the behaviours we desire. What way?
I say the most powerful way is to shape the context/situation/environment to call forth the mode of being/acting that we wish to generate. So if you wish to generate conversation, interaction and relatedness, for example, then stop that subscription to pay-tv, unplug that tv, put in a table-tennis table, make it a custom for everyone to sit around a table and eat together, introduce and play the game of three questions three answers……… If you want to exercise your ethical values then work for a enterprise that shares/exhibits/calls forth those ethical values. If you want to be more laid back then live in a culture/people who are laid back…
When Martin Heidegger (‘the philosopher of being’) was offered a prestigious post in Berlin (the capital of Germany) he refused even though it was his dream job. Why? Because he knew that the cosmopolitan/sophisticated/urban environment would shape him in ways that he was not up for being shaped. He also knew that the provincial and agricultural context/environment in which he lived/worked was the environment that nourished him as a person and as philosopher of being.
This post continues the conversation that I started in the previous post where a ‘sister’ reached out to me for help, for advice, for my point of view as she was and may still be suffering.
Let’s set the ground for this conversation
Look into the matter deeply and you might just find that we human beings do not have access to the truth. If you are scientifically minded then study what has been taken for knowledge and ‘truth’ and you might just find that ‘truth’ is always provisional and ‘truths’ have come and gone. Once ‘truth’ was that the heavens revolved around the Earth and women were held to be inferior to men – some men, tribes and religions still cling to the belief that women are inferior to men and are the property/playthings of men. I remember standing up to my parents so that my sister could go to University and create her own life rather than have a forced marriage thrust upon her.
How best to illustrate, provide your for a feeling for what I am pointing at? Allow me to share a sufi tale with you. A sufi master is said to have told the following story:
‘Finding I could speak the language of ants, I approached one and enquired, “What is God like? Does he resemble the ant?” He answered, “God? No, indeed – we have only a single sting but God, he has two!”‘
Which is not to say that all viewpoints, all the places we choose to stand are equal in value. If you are driving in the UK it makes huge difference as to whether you drive on the left (the UK viewpoint) or the left (USA/Continental Europe). The same applies to Life: some vantage points are simply more useful for tilting the table towards the ‘workability’ of life. So the point of view that I share is not the truth. I make no such claim yet I do assert that living from the vantage point that I am sharing can increase the ‘workability’ of your life. Now that we are clear on this lets move on to the conversation itself.
All kinds of unhelpful/disempowering feelings & thoughts can show up in our lives
Sister I notice that all kinds of thoughts and feelings are showing up in your life: feeling lost; feeling the loss of physical intimacy; feeling lost and alone; feeling the burden of uncertainty/insecurity; feeling unwanted; feeling you don’t belong; longing for the one; thinking and believing there is something wrong with you…….
It might occur to you that you are all alone, that this is only showing up in your life. You are not alone. Many, many of us have experienced these thoughts, these feelings at some point in our lives. How many thousands are thinking/feeling this way right now? Allow me to share a story with you.
“One day a mother turned up to the abode of a holy man clutching the body of her dead baby. She was in so much pain and she pleaded, again and again, with the holy man to bring her baby back to life. The holy man listened patiently and then told the mother that indeed he could help her. And in order for him to help her he needed her to go back to her village and bring back a glass of water – but only from a household which had never experienced death.
The mother went back to her village and started knocking on doors. Each household was more than willing to give her a glass of water. Yet the water was of no use as every household had lost someone – grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, friend……
After knocking on all the doors and finding no household, no person, left untouched by loss of someone dear the mother returned to the holy man. This time she was lighter because she had gotten that loss, sorrow and death touch us all – an intrinsic part of human life.”
How about living from this stand: whole-complete-perfect?
So ‘sister’ you are no less than anyone else on this planet. Suffering is not a sign that there is something wrong with you, that you are defective. Loss, pain, sorrow, suffering come as intrinsic to human existence on this planet of ours. You are whole-complete-perfect just as you are and just as you are not. How about standing in that space? The space of “I declare myself to be whole-complete-perfect just as I am and am not!”
You (and I) are neither our thoughts nor our feelings
Sister, being a woman, it is quite possible that you may find the following a struggle. And I say there is value in listening to what I am about to say. I say that you and I are neither our thoughts nor our feelings! That’s right I get that thoughts and feelings are present and I say that you are not these thoughts nor these feelings. Do you disagree? Does this upset you? Bear with me and let’s explore.
Do you choose the thoughts that pop up into your mind? Just sit and meditate even for five minutes, keep a blank mind, think no thoughts. What happened? Did a stream of thoughts simply show up? Did you choose to think these thoughts? If you are honest you know that you did not choose these thoughts, they simply pop up in your house of being without your bidding. Look deeper and you will find that some of these thoughts hook you and others don’t – they show up, they disappear.
What about your feelings? Do you choose them? Do you choose to feel sad, miserable, joyful? If you look deeply you will find that feelings show up in your house of being uninvited just like your thoughts. And you will find that some feelings show up more often than others. You are also likely that some feelings hook you more than others – they stay longer, you connect with them more deeply. And all feelings fade away whether you want them to or not.
Do you still find what I say difficult to accept? Imagine that you are throwing a party and a you get a village load of people turning up at this party – some invited and some ‘gatecrashers’. Does your Self expand to include these people? Do you ever say to yourself I am all – me, the people that I have invited and the ‘gatecrashers’? No, you do not. What is more once you noticed the ‘gatecrashers’ you would ask them to leave and if they did not you would call the police so as to eject these unwelcome ‘gatecrashers’, right?
How are the thoughts and feelings that show up in your house of being any different to the ‘gatecrashers’? And why do you collapse them with yourself and call them your feelings, your thoughts? I say that you do that because you have been born into a culture that says and teaches you that the thoughts and feelings that show up for you are yours – they constitute an integral part of yourself. And that is why you latch onto them and confuse them with yourself. Yet you are not the thoughts and feelings that show up and then disappear!
Do you want access to freedom?
If you want access to freedom then I invite you to live from this sand: “I am the context and not the content. I am the house of being not the furniture that turns up, stays around, wears it, is thrown out. I am the chooser not the chosen (content) nor the ‘gatecrashers’ (thoughts/feelings/moods) that show up in my house of being uninvited . I choose and declare myself to be the possibilities that I project and the stand/s that I take in life!”
You might be wondering how that gives you freedom. Allow me to illustrate with a personal example. Last week I was in considerable pain – some days I spent curled up in bed, some nights I did not sleep at all. Then Friday morning arrived and it was the first morning that I felt OK. Months ago I had agreed to meet a ‘friend that I had not yet met face to face’ and his guests for an informal chat in London. That informal gathering was due to start at 4pm. What to do? Do I take a chance and drive into London – an hour drive? Or do I play it safe and rest given that I have already let my friend know that I am ill and might not make it? The day showed up as being miserable: dark clouds and heavy rain.
What thoughts and feelings showed up? Thoughts: don’t go, stay at home, it is safer (more accidents on the roads in this kind of weather), it is the right thing to do as I need to rest, and if I do go and am unwell then my wife/family will criticise me. Feelings: confused, worried, scared – about doing the wrong things, making my health situation worse.
What did I do? I chose to be my stand: to honour my word as myself. I got into the car at 14:45 and headed into London in the pouring rain. Half and hour later the noticeboard showed speed restriction and a blocked lane, long delays – an accident had indeed occurred on the motorway. This was a great excuse to turn the car around and head back home. Those thoughts did pop up in my mind: look you have done your best, you have kept your word, no disgrace in heading home. What did I do? I chose to play full-out to honour my word. I diverted onto minor roads and found myself a different route into London. I arrived 15 minutes late and yet I did turn up and I am proud of myself: I choose not to allow the uninvited thoughts and feelings to deflect me from my stand in life.
You, I , we can choose to relate to ourselves as the possibilities that we invent live from/live into and the stand/s that we take in life. You, I, we can get and live from the stand that we are not the thoughts and the feelings that pop up, stay a while, disappear, reappear in our minds/bodies/lives.
Living from this context we can let go of “I am feel insecure or helpless” and replace it with “How interesting I notice insecurity and helplessness are present, I wonder how they ended up in my house of being.” And living from this context you can let the thoughts and feelings that show up, simply be, whilst you continue to be ruthless in living from/into the possibilities that you have invented and the stands you have taken.
I guarantee that if you live from the context that I have outlined above your experience of living will be transformed. You will relate to yourself as a powerful human being. If you do that then you can drop the need to take more courses to fix yourself. How/why? Because you are already whole-complete-perfect and as such there really is nothing to fix and no course will fix it!
Ultimately it comes down to choice. Whether you choose to live from the context of whole-complete-perfect, living from/into the possibilities that you invent and the stands you take. Are you up for that ‘sister’?
Ordinary living: we play ‘victim’, we avoid responsibility for what is so and what is not so, we are left complaining
Engaged in a conversation on leadership, my partner in this conversation asked something like “What is the cause of poor leadership and how is it that poor leaders stay in power?” I replied something like “Us”, he looked puzzled so I continued “I am the cause, you are the cause, we are the cause!” This response took him by surprise. So I continued “By following ‘poor leaders’ we tell these leaders that they are ok, their leadership style is ok. And as such we encourage them to continue being who they are being and doing what they are doing. We are the cause of poor leaders and poor leadership”
He got it instantly and dropped the conversation – the ‘complaint’ around/about poor leaders stopped instantly. I saw that my partner got access to the ‘truth’ and that this ‘truth’ opened his eyes and set him free – free from his ‘complaint’. This got me thinking that it is time for me to share, with you, some powerful distinctions and insights which are the pillars of this blog.
‘Extraordinary’ living: what is the access to living powerfully, living a transformed life?
The access to ‘playing BIG’, living powerfully, living an ‘extraordinary’ life and generating a transformation in the quality of living requires that one creates a map of the territory (of our lives, the situations we find ourselves in, the world at large) that is both ‘accurate’ and which leaves one being an ‘author’ rather than a character (or characters) in the play of Life.
Let’s listen, profoundly, to a master of living – Werner Erhard. Why? Because you want to have your life work. Right? Because you understand that you only get one go at living and you want that living to count. Right? Because you don’t simply want to live you want to feel ALIVE. Right? If that does not resonate with you then stop reading and go do something else. If it does then stop everything, be silent, be present and soak in the mind-blowing insight / wisdom that Werner Erhard unconceals for us. Why? Because you and I are locked inside the prison of ordinary living and Werner is giving us the keys to our freedom, to living an ‘extraordinary’ life.
Responsibility: is the access to being powerful and living an ‘extraordinary’ life?
“Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. All of these include judgments of good and bad, right and wrong, or better and worse. They are not responsibility.
Responsibility starts with the willingness to experience your Self as cause in the matter…… Responsibility starts with the willingness to deal with the situation from the point of view, whether in the moment realised or not, that you are the source of who you are, what you do and what you have. This point of view extends to include even what is done to you and ultimately what another does to another. Ultimately, responsibility is a context – a context of Self as source – for the content, i.e., for what is.” Werner Erhard
Wow! Do you get that? Responsibility is a choice. It is a choice that only you can make. It is gift that only you can give yourself. Why is it a gift? Because choosing to view yourself and operate from the context ‘I matter, I have a say in how I am being, how I live, how the world works, how the world turns out’ transforms your being, your experience of yourself and your living. It moves you from being a ‘victim’ and ‘complaining’ to a creator of possibilities, the Director of the play called ‘My Life, My World’ and this leaves you being powerful (powerful as opposed to forceful) in the world. It is really important that you get the distinctions ‘context’ and ‘content’.
Accountability: the access to joy, fearlessness, energy and satisfaction?
“Accountability is the opportunity to live at choice rather than accidentally. Accountability is the opportunity to carve out a future rather than sit back and have it happen to you. Accountability held as stand ‘as one’s word’ is the ground from which one’s own transformation is created ongoingly. Transfomation lives in accountability. Without accountability, without committed speaking, without promises and declarations, there is no transformation…..
A promise has real power. A promise made from the stand that ‘who you are is your word’, engages you as a participant. You cease to be a spectator, and your words become actions that impact the world. With a promise you create a condition that supports your commitment rather than your moods. When motivational dialog comes up about your preferences versus your commitments, and you disregard the dialog in favour of doing what you said you would do solely because you said so, you distinguish yourself from your psychology. In that moment you are your word as an action, rather than only an idea you have. In that moment, the promise becomes who you are rather than something you said and your relationship to the world shifts. You find yourself producing results that seem discontinuous and unpredictable from the point of the view of the spectator. The experience is one of joy, fearlessness, irrepressible energy and satisfaction. ” Werner Erhard
If you get this, really get this then you, your living, how you show up in the world, your experience of living will never be as it was before you read this. If you didn’t get it that way then go back and read it again – read it out aloud to yourself, read it slowly savouring the words. Let the words sink in. If after that you are still left untouched then move on: the master will appear when the student is ready – always.
Integrity: why it matters and the price we pay when we give it up
“You and I go through life and you would be surprised how much of the time, in life, the question, ‘How can I live and have integrity at the same time?‘ is present. It’s very difficult for people to live with integrity. Usually, there seems to be a conflict between integrity and living. The fact is that you give up your life when you compromise integrity.” Werner Erhard
Be careful how you read this because when Werner speaks ‘Integrity’ he is not speaking what you are most likely to be thinking he is speaking. When Werner speaks ‘Integrity’ he is not referring to morals and virtues – being a ‘good person’ or a ‘upstanding citizen’. No. Werner is pointing out / speaking on the subject of wholeness; the match between your word, your being and your actions; the fit between who you hold yourself out to be for yourself and the world and how you show up in terms of your being, doing and having. If I say “I am going to drive over to your home and smash your car tomorrow!” and then tomorrow I drive over and smash you car then in a sense I am in Integrity. Yet, it is not as simple as that. If I declare myself to be “kind, calm, considerate and law abiding citizen” then I am out of Integrity when I say “I am going to drive over to our home and smash your car tomorrow!”
Making a difference: what does it take to make a difference?
“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference….. to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself….. And to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.” Werner Erhard
There it is! If you and I are serious, as in moved-touched-inspired, about making a difference in the world then Werner has left us nowhere to hide. Werner is telling us that we have the capacity to make a difference and to make a difference we simply have to quit ‘playing small’ – quit making excuses, quite playing ‘victim’, quite being small in life.
Summing it up
You and I want our lives to work. You and I want the ‘world to work’. What does it take, what is the access having a a life that works and a world that works? The access, according to Werner Erhard as I understand Werner Erhard, is Responsibility, Accountability and being in Integrity – as explained in this post not as commonly understood and spoken about in our day-to-day living.
Incidentally, when you live into and from these distinctions, and the context that is intimately associated with these distinctions, then you will show up as a leader. Showing up as a leader in the world is simply a side effect of living from/out of Responsibility, Accountability and Integrity.