Play BIG: What Showed Up On My Recent (51st) Birthday?


Who/what really matters to you?  Who/what is the true focus of how you show up and travel in life? Who/what is the focus of your existence?  For me, it is my children.

It matters to me how well I am doing in relation to caring for my children. The voice within is highly critical of how well I am doing as a father: I find that I never live up to it’s standard of what constitutes a good father.

So how well am I doing as a father on the central project of my life: bringing up my children so that they feel accepted, loved, valued and care for/consider others not just themselves?  I share with you, and leave tracks in the sands of time, the report cards that my children issued to me on my recent birthday celebration.

Rohan: First Born

Birthday Card From Rohan“I wish you a happy birthday and I love you very much. I want to say thank you very much for helping me and supporting me with everything. And especially with my application for BP. You have done more than I could expect from anyone. I thank you for the physio treatment as this will help, hopefully, with the pain.

Thank you, Rohan”

 

Marco: Second Born

BdayCardMarco“Dear Papa,

I wish you a relaxing birthday being surrounded by all your family. I can’t believe your 51!

Thank you for all the times you have been kind to me, given me advice and support, and a huge supply of hugs. I enjoy spending time with you in the evenings after work and just sharing fruit together. With you and me, the little things like that are the big things.

I want you to know that I feel loved and accepted by you and I know that you care and worry about me a lot.

I want you to know that I love you lots and appreciate you being there for me.

You’re also one in a million and couldn’t ask for dad that’s as crazy and funny as you!!!

P.S. I have given you some money so that you can give money to people on Kiva.

Love,

Marco”

 Clea: Last Born

BdayCardClea“Dear Papa

Happy Birthday.

Firstly, I would like to take the time to tell you just how much I love you!

Honestly, you mean the world to me. I love how you are always there, even if it’s just after school and you ask me how my day was. Or just being able to sit down and watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer with you. It MAKES MY DAY!

The last year I think we have really become close with each other. The truth is that you and me are a team, a bit like the 3 musketeers – but there is only two of us. We face the world together!

Papa, you are the best advice giver, the best thinker, the best everything! But most of all the best dad. I love you to bits. No words could describe, no images could show you just much your brain continues to amaze me, your sooooooo smart, which can get annoying when you prove me wrong!

I am proud to be your daughter and to carry the Iqbal family name. When I’m older and I get married, trust me, the guy will have to change his last name because I’m keeping Iqbal.

Papa, you are my safety net, when I fall somehow you arms catch me – which is good because I fall a lot! It seems that you are always there for me. No matter how hard I might push you away, you always come fighting your way back. As I mention fighting, you should know that even when we fight and argue, I still love you. That includes all the slamming of doors, shouting and screaming, loud angry music.

When I am older I want to be just as kind and loving as you are. Your heart is so big it stretches across Africa.

I love you papa, I love you, I love you, I love you, don’t forget it.

Clea”

Sophia: One Who I Have Adopted As A Daughter

BdayCardSophia“To Maz,

Thank you for everything you have done for me in the past year. Even though we don’t always talk, I know no matter what, you’ll always be there for me & that you do love me. It tok me a while to believe it but I definitely do now.

I also want you to know, though it is hard for me to say it, I do love you.

Hope you have a really good birthday! …..

Lots of love,

Sophia”

What is it that I wish to say to my children?

Your existence, and my role in it, grants me a powerful sense of meaning and purpose. Your existence contributes to my existence: you enrich my existence.  I love each of you.

And Finally

It occurs to me that this year’s birthday celebration was a special one. Why? For the first time, I planned out my birthday celebration, I invited the folks around the table, I did all the cooking, and I did all the washing up.  This may not be milestone for many. It is for me. Why?  Because it is was not to long ago that my being did not include cook. Now it does. By taking on the project of cooking I have expanded by being. I have grown older, am one year closer to death, yet my sense of self (as a source of contribution/power to make a difference) has grown, not diminished.

Birthday Gift: Quotes To Savour?


Officially, it is my birthday.  And I have chosen freely to show up and operate from a stance of giving: giving of myself to others, to make a positive contribution, and bring life to the possibility of a world that works for all.

What can I give to you today, the people, the friends, who make the time to listen to my speaking?  Perhaps, a few quotes to be with.

Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.

― Joseph Campbell

I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought AND found how to serve.

– Albert Schweitzer

I had always thought that we used language to describe the world — now I was seeing that this is not the case. To the contrary, it is through language that we create the world, because it’s nothing until we describe it. And when we describe it, we create distinctions that govern our actions. To put it another way, we do not describe the world we see, but we see the world we describe.

— Joseph Jaworski

All things are subject to interpretation, whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. 

– Friedrich Nietzsche

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

– Hannah Arendt

As you meet your limits your limits will expand.

– Robin Sharma

Heroes are ordinary men and women who dare to see and meet the call of a possibility bigger than themselves. Breakthroughs are created by such heroes, by men and women who will stand for the result while it is only a possibility – people who will act to make possibility real.

– Werner Erhard

I thank each and everyone of you for listening to my speaking. And of your sharing.  Please know that your existence makes a contribution to my existence.

At your service and with love,

maz

 

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

What can we learn from the happiest man in the world and Jessie Rees?


A lot of pain has been present in my living over this last week.  So much physical pain that I have done little even though I had plans to do a lot.  Truthfully, I have been much less than I aspire to be.  I found myself distant from my family. I have found myself being snappy with one of my son’s.  I found myself just wanting to be left alone to deal with my pain. And when it got too hard I took the easy way out: I took muscle relaxants which eased the pain and knocked me out.

And in this very week, what shows up in my world?  Inspiration.  Heart touching-moving inspiration from two sources.  The first is from “the happiest man in the world”.  And the second is from 12 year old Jessie Joy Rees.

The happiest man in the world

I find myself watching this man, listening to him and being captivated. Captivated by what?  His stance in life. The way he shows up in life.  The way he counts his blessing.  His philosophy of life. His wisdom. I am clear that he gets it. And as such I am delighted that I have come across him.

Jessie Joy Rees and the Joy Jars

What can I say? I find myself watching this video and there are tears running down my cheeks. I am inspired to ask this question:

How can I help them?

 

I have a question for you: how can I help you?  Please think about it and let me know.

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this real love?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clea I love you 3

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

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

 

Hurt as an access to the possibility of humanity, connection and contribution


Through the news I am aware of the destruction being reaped by Hurricane Sandy.  Where there is destruction there tends to be hurt – people who are hurt and hurting.

We hurt.  We hurt in the sense of experiencing physical pain like that of a twisted ankle. We hurt as in the sense of experiencing emotional pain when it occurs to us that we are looked down upon, excluded, lost a loved one……  We hurt, that is simply what is so and goes along with being human.

What is our default setting towards hurt?  

We do not like to hurt.  I say our idea of the perfect life is life without hurt.   So we go to great lengths to avoid being hurt: we want to survive AND not be hurt.  We want to insulate ourselves from hurt.  Furthermore, we do not see any value in being hurt – hurt shows up for us as purely negative.

Is hurt purely negative?  

Is hurt purely negative?  Is that the way it has to be?  Do we have any choice in the matter of how we act towards and use hurt?  I say that we do. I say that there is another way to be with, and stand in relation to hurt.

I say that hurt can be the access to the possibility of humanity, of connection to our fellow human beings, and of contributing to a world that works.  I got present to this possibility yesterday, let me recount what happened.

Yesterday, reluctantly, I told my eldest son that I would not be able to go with him (today) to see the latest Bond film that he was eagerly waiting to see with me.  He got that I am ill and not in a position to go.

Later, my wife told me that this son of ours (17 years old) had agreed to accompany our youngest (daughter) on her ‘trick and treating’ rounds on Halloween (today).  That showed up as shock for me as the two of them do not get along well. And my oldest does not show up as someone who is into ‘trick and treating’.  Why did my eldest agree?

Hurt.  My wife told me that when she told him that our daughter had no-one else then my eldest agreed to accompany his sister.  Why?  Because he knows the experience of being alone.  He knows the experience of being excluded.  His experience of his later school years was that of being alone, being excluded, being without reliable friends.   Given being present to that experience he could empathise with his sister (humanity), seek her out and tell her that he will take her ‘trick/treating’ (connection and contribution).

I took a look at my life. The hurt of being called a “Paki” and being spat upon (at school) left me with a lived understanding of the impact of intolerance.  And it allowed me to be a stand for tolerance towards my fellow human beings.  To this day, I am proud of the fact that a fellow student and friend chose me as the first person to share his secret – that of being gay.  When I asked him why he chose me?  He told me that he knew I would continue to be his friend and accept him.  I remember the hurt that goes along with being small/powerless and being made to do whatever the authority figures (especially my father) wanted me to do irrespective of my needs, my feeling, me desires for my life.  And this experience of hurt enabled me to experience the hurt of my fellow human beings and thus be a stand for human dignity and freedom.  Which kind of explains why I chose not to have an arranged marriage.  Why I am a life member of Anti-Slavery. Why I placed my children in Montessori education and have encouraged them to speak their minds from the time they were born….. And why I strive to treat my fellow human beings as equals.  Do I always ‘get it right’?  No.  Am I a stand for tolerance-freedom-fairness-equality?  Yes.

Hurt as access to possibility and transformation

Hurt is hurt.  And to be in the world it to live at risk and that includes the risk of being hurt.  That is simply what is so.  What is also so is that our stance towards hurt – how we interpret it, how we use it – is not given.  We have a say in the matter of how we stand in relation to hurt.  You and I can use our hurt and the hurt of our fellow human beings to reach out and connect with one another and be a source of contribution to one another.

Which brings me back to Hurricane Sandy.  I hope that we as human beings will reach out and connect with those of us who are hurting right now in the USA. And I hope that those who are experiencing hurt in the USA will reach out, connect and be a source of contribution who live outside of the USA and are hurting.  You can say that I am a dreamer!

And finally when we use our hurt to put our humanity into the game of life, to connect to our fellow human beings and to be a source of contribution we transform our relationship / orientation / experience towards our own hurt.   Put differently, We can recontextualise our hurt: give it a new meaning, see it in a new light, even see it as a positive.  Perhaps, even something that we would not choose to change even if we were given the opportunity to change it.

 

There is nothing wrong, nobody to blame, and no waste of time!


Mission: get daughter to the outdoors activity centre by certain time

Recently it took it upon myself to drive daughter about 30 miles to an ‘activity-adventure-outdoors’ camp.  Google Maps suggested that this drive would take about 30 – 40 minutes.  Yet, the drive itself took 2 hours 40 minutes.

First it took me longer to finish my work so we set-off 15 minutes later than I had planned.  Then we encountered traffic – lots of it.  So I diverted and worked my way around the traffic.  Delight showed up.  And I still ended up in endless traffic – crawling along.  Daughter noticed that it was faster to walk! Getting that we would not arrive on time and this impacted others, daughter phoned her ‘guide for the weekend’ and let her know that we would be an hour or so late.

It does not work out as planned

An hour and forty minutes later we arrive at the destination according to the GPS.  It is dark, it is wet, it is raining hard, the country roads are small, lighting is poor, tiredness is present.  I notice that tiredness and anxiety are present for me, my experience.  Yet, daughter is positive, optimistic, cheerful and is relating to all of this as an adventure.  And concerned for me.

We cannot find the place!  I drive one way.  I drive another way.  Time goes by.  More and more tiredness is present.  Annoyance, frustration and anger is now present in my house of being.  30 or so minutes later we are really in the middle of nowhere and I get that the GPS is not working.  My daughter calls for help – there is no signal.  Then a fellow human being, walking his dogs, with torch in hand shows up.  I ask for help and he provides it.  Some 15 minutes later we arrive back at the same place that the GPS had taken us to the first time.  Again we cannot find the activity centre.

It is dark, it is foggy, it is wet, I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, angry.  My daughter is calm and helpful: she tells me that it is OK to turn back and go home. Now, it is not an option to quit, to go home.  I stop the car and look at the paper map.  “Aha, we are right next to it.  It has to be here!”  I turn around the car and together daughter and I find it! And I cannot help but notice I have been going round in circles for an hour.

The automatic machinery of being human kicks-in

After dropping off daughter, I notice that I am not looking forward to driving.  Yet, driving is necessary if I am going to get back home.  I notice that I have no confidence toward the Garmin GPS.  I notice that I am blaming Garmin and blaming myself for bringing the Garmin as opposed to the TomTom.  I notice that I am blaming the Girl Guides group who arranged the weekend for being inconsiderate: they should know better than arrange a date/time which involves peak traffic. I blame myself.

If that is not enough.  I notice that I have it that something is wrong (with me, with Garmin, with the world..) and that I have wasted my time.  Look, I could have done something useful with the extra 90 minutes that it took to get to this place!  I notice that I have it that my time is precious and I do not have time to waste.

I get it: I set myself free and peace is present

Driving back, I get it.  I get that all that is showing up in my house of being, my experience, is the automatic machinery of being human.  I get that who I am is the person who is doing the noticing: the one that is noticing the machinery at play.  That opens up a clearing for me to simple be – to be peaceful.

In this clearing I get that I have not wasted my time The trip took exactly the right amount of time: not a second more or a second less than the perfect time for this trip.  How do I know?  Because that is the time it took to get there! I got it, do you get it?  Listen, the 30 – 40 minutes that Google Maps and Garmin suggested did not take into account reality as it showed up on the trip.   Further, I got that the 2 hours 40 minutes had been well used – the mission had been accomplished, daughter was delighted, daughter and I had worked together well and affinity was present between us, I had saved wife 2 hours and 40 minutes…. Most importantly the time had been used in the service of my stand: to put something into the game of life, to be of service, to be a source of contribution to fellow human beings…

Then I got that there was nothing wrong.  There is traffic.  There is rain.  There is fog.  There are tiny country lanes.  There is darkness.  And on a Friday evening in October, all of these can and do show up.  Really, there is nothing wrong.  It is simply the reality that showed up.

I got that there is nobody to blame.  There is no evil person who planned it to work out the way that it worked out.  Everyone in the traffic was doing his/her best to get home.  The Garmin folks built that best GPS that they were in a position to build.  The activity centre folks got that finding their place is and has been an issue.  And they feel unable to do better due to planning laws that restrict the signage they can put up….  Finally, I got that I was not to blame: I showed up and did the best that I was able to do at that time and in those circumstances.

Having gotten, really gotten (as opposed to simply thought about/of) that there is nothing wrong, nobody to blame and no time was wasted I noticed that my being and lived experience transformed: peace, delight and joy were present in my house of being; the annoyance, the blaming, the anger vanished. Relaxed,I drove back home (40 minutes) and spent the evening watching a touching movies with sons and their friend.

Life had showed up whole-complete-perfect!

Step into freedom: Speak


To speak or not to speak?

Freedom is a choice – choosing to speak and live our truth.  Right now I, you, we are presented with a great opportunity to speak, to share, to contribute, to live our truth.  Yet, most of us choose not to step into this opportunity.  Recently, Seth Godin wrote:

“You are invited to speak your mind online.  To post thoughtful comments and tweets and posts.  You’re given a place where you can post your music, or your art or your photography or your take on the state of your industry…..

Most of us refuse.  We don’t want to be a part of a community that would have us, apparently.  So we sit quietly and watch and take notes and absorb instead of joining the club of contributors.  Retweets are more common than tweets, and listeners are more common than singers.  

Because we believe we don’t belong.  That we’re not qualified.  That someone with a louder microphone is better than we are….”

I can relate to what Seth is pointing at

For many years I thought about speaking my truth and I did not.  What stopped me?  I had decided that I had nothing worthwhile to contribute.  I was convinced that I could not write.  And most importantly who would want to listen to my speaking, a nobody amidst ‘the giants’.  I would walk over to CustomerThink and admire the work of others, ‘the giants’.  And walk away convinced that I simply did not have what it takes to be there amongst the ‘giants’.

In September 2010 I chose to write – to write as a form of self-expression and to learn blogging by blogging.  I had no big plans, no dreams, just a commitment to share my authentic voice.  And to write a minimum of two posts a week.  Around March 2011, the Editor of CustomerThink noticed my blogging and invited me to syndicate my blog to CustomerThink.   Yesterday,  I took a look at the website and noticed something that took me by surprise and delighted me.  Take a look (click on the visual) and see if you notice what I noticed:

Have a look at the Top 10 authors.  Who is included in that Top 10?  It turns out that enough people find my speaking worth listening to.   Perhaps I am not a pygmy after all.

My challenge for you

Perhaps I, you, we are not and never were pygmies amongst giants.  Perhaps we are simply ‘hidden giants masquerading as pygmies’.   Why not put on the boots of courage,  take a step into freedom and speak?  Really, what do I, you, we have to  lose?  Do you want to get to your deathbed and wonder how your life might have turned out if you had been courageous and shared your gift, your point of view, your truth?

A good friend translated this poem from Urdu and sent it to me.  And I want to share it with you standing in the possibility that it may inspire you to speak, to speak your truth.

Speak

“Speak…..

Speak, for your lips are free
Speak, the tongue is still your own

Your delicate body is your own
Speak for life is still your own

Look for in the blacksmith’s shop
Fierce are the flames, the iron glows red

The jaws of the locks begin to open
Every chain has spread open its self

Speak, this brief time is enough
Before the death of body and tongue

Speak for truth is yet still alive
Speak, say whatever you have to say”

Son, is this who I am? Let me be truthful with myself and with you


A birthday card that makes me cry!

This month we celebrated my birthday and as usual the question was “What do you want for your birthday?”.  As usual my answer was “I am blessed, I don’t need anything.  Really, I don’t need anything.  What I’d like is heartfelt, handmade card from you to me.”  And that is what I got.  The one that really captured my heart is this one:

When I read this card for the first time I was deeply touched and moved to tears.  Every time I read this card I am deeply touched – the tears just flow down my cheeks.  Great, this card makes me feel good.  The deeper, more interesting, question, for me, is this one: “Is it true?  Is this an accurate description of me?”

Who am i?

I am clear that “i” does not live up to the picture that my son paints.  What do I mean by “i”?  What / who am I pointing at/towards?  When I use the term “i” I am pointing at the automatic machinery of human beings.  The machinery that is always there, always running, and which runs me.  What are the characteristics of this machinery, this “i”?  In my case I associate the following with my “i”: selfish, critical, safety seeking, negative, impatient, intolerant, aggressive, unhelpful, manipulative, looking for approval, seeking admiration, lying, pretense, cowardly, focussed on me, me, me and my survival.  Not a flattering picture is it?  Yet, if I am to accept the picture painted by my son it occurs to me that I must also be present to and mindful of this aspect of me.

Who am I?

I am clear that who I am is not “i”.  That is to say that I am clear that I am not my automatic machinery – the “i”.   I am clear that I am the conscious, self-determining being, who declares that I am the author of my life.  I am the person who totally gets “At all times, under all circumstances, I have the power to transform my life”.   I am clear that I am the person who has invented and entered myself into ‘playing BIG’ of living an ‘extraordinary’ life, of being of service, of being a source of contribution, of co-creating a ‘world that works’ none excluded.

What does that mean for me, my living, my life?

To show up as the kind of person that my son writes about, is proud of, and loves it takes something.  First, I have to be constantly mindful that the default condition of human existence is “i” and the game that goes with that ‘playing small’.  Second, I have to create myself as the “I” that is committed to be ‘playing BIG‘; living an ‘extraordinary’ life; being of service / contribution to my fellow human beings; putting something into life; being a stand for a ‘world that works’ none excluded.   Third, I have to keep “I” and the game that I is playing in existence.  And a fundamental part of keep “I” and the game I is playing in existence is telling the truth.

So here is my truth for you my son.  If I was as great as you say I am then your card would not mean anything to me.  My truth is that often and frequently I am not being the person that you describe and that you are proud of.  Yet, I am clear that my stand is to be the kind of person that you describe, that you are proud of, that you love.  And living from that context I am deeply touched by your card and the the small contribution I have made to your life.  Your act of kindness towards the beggar moves-touches me deeply and inspires me to be my Stand and play full out to be a source of contribution to you, our fellow human beings and Life itself.  And within that context, falling short of the mark encourages me redouble my Being and my effort.  I love you. 


Boredom: how you can use it and transcend it


Is boredom the source of ill?

i finds oldest son ”amazing’ except when he is bored.  i rarely gets bored – from an early age i was beaten into an able reader.  In younger days, i was ‘imprisoned’ inside the house whilst friends were playing outside – cloudy days, sunny days, rainy days.  Home life occurred as dull (neither parent was educated, literate or passionate about anything in particular).  i gained wings and escaped the prison by losing itself in the Greek myths at the age of 7 or so.  Later i moved on to Alistair MacLean novels and so forth…….  To this day, i rarely gets bored – there is a treasure house of amusement in the form of modern stories, classics, philosophy tomes, psychology classics, spiritual thrillers….. i also has access to the internet and through that all manner of interesting stuff like the ‘remarkable talks by remarkable people’ on TED.  When the opportunity arises then i loves to: go for a walk – especially in the mountains; sit by the stream, river or sea; walk on the beach; cycle around; play table tennis; play pool; watch a movie; talk with friends; write blogs and so on.  i simply does not get how it is that people get bored!

When ‘amazing’ son gets ‘bored’ he ‘acts up’: he makes all kinds of noises (which occur as irritating to i); he barges into other people’s rooms without knocking or asking for permission; he ‘picks on his younger brother and sister’; muscles into other people’s activities with no consideration for their needs; he eats junk; he leaves stuff lying around the house; he ‘asks for and insists on’ hugs……..  All of these activities really press the buttons that activate the worst aspects of i: irritation; contempt; withdrawal; shouting……. i has been struggling, really struggling, with situation at hand.  I have noticed that i expects ‘peace, harmony, reasonableness’ and when i does not get it then i does not like it at all and like a two year old child i throws temper tantrums.

Is boredom is the context within which most people in developed countries live / operate out of?

I noticed that i was firmly in control and out of control so I made the choice to take time out – to read some spiritually uplifting stuff.  And in the process I am able to be at peace with my son (just gave him a big hug now).  What was the access to being at peace with my son?  Getting that ‘boredom’ is the condition that drives the modern world.  Yes, most people in the developed countries (those living in towns and cities) are bored with their lives.  Yes, we are: most of us are bored with our lives most of the time.  We hide it by taking tranquilizers and painkillers.  I could go further and say the ‘welfare of the modern economies’ rests on boredom – creating it and alleviating it.

How many of us do the following out of boredom:

  • Flee to the shopping centres and buy stuff we really do not need?
  • Watch mindless stuff on television?
  • Watch DVDs, go to the movies?
  • Read newspapers and magazines?
  • Play around with consumer gadgets?
  • Surf the internet?
  • Read books?
  • Escape to theme parks?
  • Visit art galleries and museums?
  • Have affairs, divorce, find new partners?
  • Change jobs?
  • Go to the pubs, cafes, clubs?
  • Drink and eat unhealthy stuff to unhealthy levels?
  • Do drugs?

Dive into this and you might just find that the list is endless.  Just think of the impact

How to deal with boredom?

First, recognise how ‘boredom’ shows up in your world, in your living, in your experience.  What do I mean?  I mean that you can investigate boredom: when it does it occur, how often does it occur, what specific circumstances give rise to boredom showing up for you.

Second, get that ‘boredom’ like ‘stress’ and ‘fear’ is a phenomenon we can use rather than let it use us.

Third, get that you, I, we are here and we might as well make ourselves USEFUL.

Operating out of a context of being USEFUL is a great access to transcending boredom

You can be USEFUL to others.  What can you do to make a difference, to be of service, to be a source or contribution to others?  Your family, your neighbours, your community, your colleagues, your profession, animals, plants, environment?

You can be USEFUL to yourself. How about taking up a sport – one that you have wanted to play and never have or one that you used to play, enjoyed playing and stopped playing?  How about learning a new skill – something you know that would make a difference to the quality of your life? How about stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something that scares you so that you can be free of that fear?  Does that occur as too much doing for you, too much effort?  Then how about finding a quiet room in you home and just sitting and being with yourself – meditation?  Incidentally, the latter is the hardest!


On Christmas


When I was young, living with my parents, Christmas was simply not being at school and being able to watch lots of interesting / entertaining stuff on the television.  I particularly enjoyed watching action moves. We did not celebrate Christmas as my parents are Muslims.

When I was at university, Christmas was an opportunity to be with my parents, my brothers and my sister.  I remember taking them out to Pizza restaurants and just eating and laughing together.  Occasionally, it was an opportunity to go to a friend’s house and celebrate Christmas with his family.  The friend that comes to mind is James Harvey.  And I thank him and his family to introducing me to an English Christmas.  I enjoyed meeting James’ mother, father, sisters, nephews etc.

When I started my professional career and was single, Christmas was an opportunity to simply be.  To take time out and reflect on the year that had come to an end.  And to think of the year to come.  It was also a time to read books, watch movies and go spend time with friends and family.  I do not remember ever being focussed on buying stuff or receiving stuff.

When I got married into the French and started family, Christmas became a day spent driving to the centre of France.  And once there is became an opportunity to eat fine food and drink fine wine.  Sit at the table, for what seemed like an eternity, and now and then catch flakes of conversation.  And of course about giving and receiving gifts.  Firstly, this  occurred as strange and then it became normal.  Yet somehow it did not seem that Christmas belonged to me: it no longer occurred as an opportunity to be me, to reflect, to be thankful, to choose – it occurred as a duty.

How does Christmas occur to you?  Is it something that you have simply fallen into?  Like I have?

I have been rethinking Christmas.  How about making Christmas a time where I/we:

  • think about each and every person that has made a contribution to our life and experience that contribution and write to and/or call each of these people and thank them for their contribution – what they did, what difference it made in practical terms and how it made / makes you feel;
  • remember and acknowledge all the people  we have criticised, we have excluded, we have trespassed against and then say sorry – by writing or by picking up the phone – and asking what it will take to put the past in the past, to get forgiveness;
  • get present to all the grudges we hold against specific people and then get off our high horse and forgive the imagined or real trespass ideally by calling the other person sharing the grudge and having chosen to forgive – to put the past in the past;
  • take the time to get present to all the millions of people around the world that are not as fortunate as we are and then taking some action even if that is to be grateful for all that we have, that we take for granted;
  • to make a dent – even a small one – in the life of even one human being that we know is suffering, who can do with being seen through kind eyes, listened to with kind ears, lifted up with kind words of worth and validation, and touched by soothing hands; and
  • where we acknowledge ourselves as human beings who strive to do good, to make a contribution, to create a good world for ourselves and our children (whether born, or unborn) and accept that despite our best intentions we fail from time to time and yet what counts is that we pick ourselves off the floor and continue to make good on our commitment to be good and do good.

To put is simply, in the rich western world.  Most people need acceptance and validation – just as they are and are not – then they need presents.   Most people need good honest conversations where they can speak freely without judgement then they do presents. Most people need a heartfelt hug more than they need presents.  And yes, some need a helping heart who will give some of the necessities of life.  If you are looking for inspiration then I recommend watching The Blind Side (the movie starring Sandra Bullock).