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.

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


tothewonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Ebert (film critic, deceased)

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

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

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

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

Damon Linker (senior correspondent at theweek.com)

Death As Access to Zestful-Intelligent-Compassionate Living


Death has been with me, a companion, since the day that I came out of this world and into it – the day of my birth.  Since then many years have gone by and friend Death is getting closer – catching up with me. One day, perhaps even today, he will catch up with me, and embrace me.  No second chances, no re-runs, no repeats, no encores. Just this one life – this one opportunity to participate in the melody-play called Life.

Can Death Be An Ally in Mindful-Zestful Living?

Is death necessarily negative?  Or can you/i relate to Death as a friend/ally who can provide access to zestful-intelligent-compassionate-meaningful living?  Let’s listen to Don Juan’s wisdom as shared some time ago by Carlos Castenada:

Without the awareness of death everything is ordinary, trivial. It is only because death is stalking us that the world is an unfathomable mystery……

Death is a wise adviser that we have… One… has to ask death’s advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to men that live their lives as if death will never tap them!

You have little time and no time for crap. A wonderful state! The best of us always comes out when we are against the wall, when we feel the sword dangling overhead. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

(The warrior) knows that death is stalking him or her and won’t give time to cling to anything… And thus with an awareness of death,… and with the power of own decisions, the warrior sets life in a strategic manner… and what the warrior chooses is always strategically the best; and thus the warrior performs everything with gusto and lusty efficiency!

What shows up, if i/you are not present to Death and thus do not live strategically? The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

I say it is worth listening to what Bronnie Ware says on the matter:

“For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die…….

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed.…….. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others…. they settled for a mediocre existence …….. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. 

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years……. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.……Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

And Finally

Early Friday morning. I did not sleep well; tiredness is present. After sitting in the train for over an hour, the train arrives into London and I get off. It is another ten minutes to the office.  Outside. It is cold, it is blustery, it is darkish, it is raining. Yet I find at peace and joyous. How/why?  I leave you with this quote from Martin Heidegger:

If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life — and only then will I be free to become myself.

The challenge that remains is to keep this existence. This challenge is made easier every time I look in the mirror and see the face that faces me: the long thick jet black hair is surrendering to the continued advance of the grey.

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.

 

Finding the inner seed: getting back to “I Am”


Who am I?  This is the fundamental question.  This the most important question that I can grapple with and get clear on.  Few of us have a powerful answer to this question. Almost all of us are trapped in delusions – delusions that imprison/constrain us in some way.  I call these ‘prison bars of our being/showing up in the world for ourselves and others’.

How do you and I build these prison bars?  Whenever you/I add anything to “I am”.  For example, I am a woman.  I am a middle class. I am extroverted. I am a manager.  I am unattractive.  I am respectable.  I am intelligent. I am reliable.  I am honest.  I am a good friend.  I am a poor mother/daughter/wife…….  Truth be told, you/I are not the ones that add all of this stuff to “I am”. No, it is done by our parents, our sibling, our relatives, our teachers, our neighbours, the media ……….. It is that without knowing any better we think that the game of life is adding stuff to “I am” and so we get busy adding stuff until the prison bars are complete and we have lost our freedom to be and instead have a fixed identity.

Does it have to be that way?  Can you/I regain our freedom?  Can you and I let go of all that we/others have added to “I am” and get back to “I am” and rejoice such that it our experience shows up for us as “I am!”?  Allow me to share with you one of the most moving passages that I have ever come across:

“I remember walking that day under the elevated tracks in a slum area, feeling the thought, “I am an illegitimate child.” I recall the sweat pouring forth in my anguish in trying to accept the fact. Then I understood what it must feel like to accept, “I am a Negro in the midst of privileged whites,” or “I am blind in the midst of people who see.” Later on that night I woke up and it came to me this way, “I accept the fact that I am an illegitimate child.” But “I am not a child anymore.” So it is, “I am illegitimate.” That is not so either: “I was born illegitimate.” Then what is left? What is left is this, “I Am.” This act of contact and acceptance with “I am,” once gotten hold of, gave me (what I think was for me the first time) the experience “Since I Am, I have a right to be.”

What is this experience like? It is a primary feeling – it feels like receiving the deeds to my house. It is the experience of my own aliveness not caring whether it turns out to be an ion or just a wave. It is like when as a very young child I once reached the core of a peach and cracked the pit, not knowing what I would find and then feeling the wonder of finding the inner seed, good to eat in its bitter sweetness…. It is like a sailboat in the harbour being given an anchor so that, being made out of earthly things, it can by means of its anchor get in touch again with the earth, the ground from which its wood grew, it can lift its anchor to sail but always at times it can cast its anchor to weather the storm or rest a little….. It is my saying to Descartes, “I Am, therefore I think, I feel, I do.”

It is like an axiom of geometry – never experiencing it would be like going through a geometry course not knowing the first axiom. It is like going to my own Garden of Eden where I am beyond good and evil and all other human concepts. It is like the experience of poets of the intuitive world, the mystics, except that instead of the pure feeling of and union with God it is the finding of and the union of my being. It is like owning Cinderella’s shoe and looking all over the world for the foot that will fit and realising all of a sudden that one’s own foot is the only one it will fit.  It is a “Matter of Fact” in the etymological sense of the expression. It is like a globe before the mountains and oceans and continents have been drawn on it. It is like a child in grammar finding the subject of the verb in a sentence – in this case the subject being one’s own life span.  It is ceasing to feel like a theory toward one’s self…..”

Getting present to the ‘awe/wonder’of Existence


“Existence is infinite, not to be defined: and though it seem a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, it is not to be lightly played with and laid down.”  Lao Tzu

I say that if you and I dive into this, really dive into it, our experience of our living is transformed.  To be present to the awe and the wonder of Existence is to move from ‘ordinary living’ to ‘extraordinary living’. Sometimes, when I am present to that which exists between my daughter and I, I am profoundly shaken.  She is my world. And she exists only because my wife had a miscarriage.  It could so easily have been otherwise.

In the West, Existence is no big thing.  Existence slipped into the background centuries ago and most of us are never present to the ‘awe’ of existence.   That the mountains are.  That oceans and rivers are.  That waterfalls are.  That rain is. That snows is.  That the wind is. That trees are.  That grass is.  That deserts are. That lions are.  That birds are.  That fish are……….That I am.  That you are.  That we are together as beings-in-the-world.  That feelings are.  That love is. That sadness is.  That laughter is.  That language is…….

How magnificent Existence is!

“Existence is infinite, not to be defined: and though it seem a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, it is not to be lightly played with and laid down.”  Lao Tzu

If you need some help in getting present to the awe/wonder of Existence I recommend reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Suffering: pathway to compassion, relationship and a ‘world the works’?


Suffering is intrinsic to life and living

Suffering has been present in my experience of living for the last few weeks.  Is there anything special about this?  No, to be a human being is to be a being-in-the-world that is indifferent to my existence, his/her existence, your existence:  the world does not deliver my existential needs and/or does not fit into the model of the world should be (according to me, to my culture) and wherever either of these two conditions are present, suffering shows up.

Given that suffering is present in my house-of-being what is a useful way to be with it, to handle it, to work it?  Do I run from this suffering?  Do I embrace it, grasp on to tightly, suffer in silence and thus relate to myself as a martyr and give some meaning to my suffering?  Or do I embrace it, make a joke of it, display it to the world in order to get sympathy or admiration?  Do I lash out to those who I hold to be responsible for the causes of my suffering?  Do I inflict suffering because I am suffering?

Does suffering beget suffering in the ordinary way-of-being in the world?

I found that I was pretending to be OK with suffering when I was not OK with suffering.  And standing in that place I was not at peace and not available to any person who came into contact with me.  Worse, I was ready to blow up at the slightest annoyance.  How do I know this?  I became present to this when I blew up with several people including my mother. Did anyone deserve my behaviour?  No.  These people were doing what they do pretty much always.  Usually, I deal with that as their way-of-being in the world and let it go, swim with it.

What did this suffering my mine allow me to get present to?  Suffering begets suffering unless one is present to one’s suffering, becomes intimate with it, and thus uses it to allow compassion to flourish.   And yet, I really do not wish to be with my suffering.  I wish to run from it, minimise it, rationalise it……  And when I do this then I hurt the people who are around me.  Is it possible that the people in our lives who show up as least deserving of our kindness, our time/attention, of our generosity are those who occur as being selfish, inconsiderate, aggressive?  Yes, it occurs to me that the people who are in most need of our kindness, our generosity, our patience, our benevolence, are the ones that, in the ordinary way of being, we are least likely to be kind towards.  And so I, you, we contribute to the endless cycle of suffering.

Can suffering open a doorway to compassion, relationship and a ‘world that works’?

What else did I get present to as I was suffering?  It occurred to me that my experience of my suffering was similar to that of Ivan Ilych.  I was in a state of suffering and the people around me where busy with their lives.  Were they indifferent to my suffering?  I don’t know.  Did they even know/get my suffering?  I don’t know and I am confident that I hid it well.  Am I blaming anyone?  No.  I have done and probably am doing exactly the same: being not present to or simply indifferent to the suffering of those who live.

Can you and I use suffering powerfully – to generate compassion, build relationship and contribute to a ‘world that works’ with none excluded?   I came across these words of wisdom from Krishnamurti which helped me get a more useful relationship to suffering (mine, yours, his, hers) and they may do the same for you:

Why am I or why are you callous to another man’s suffering?  Why are we indifferent to the coolie who is carrying a heavy load, to the woman is carrying a baby?  Why are we so callous?  To understand that, we must understand why suffering makes us dull.  Surely, it is suffering that makes us callous; because we don’t understand suffering, we become indifferent to it.  If I understand suffering, then I become sensitive to suffering, awake to everything, not only to myself, but to the people about me, to my wife, to my children, to an animal, to a beggar.  But we don’t want to understand suffering, and the escape from suffering makes us dull, and therefore callous….. the point is that suffering, when not understood, dulls the mind and heart; from it, through the guru, through a savior, through mantras, through reincarnation, through ideas, through drink and every other kind of addiction – anything to escape what is…..

Now, the understanding of suffering does not lie in finding out what the cause is. Any man can know the cause of suffering; his own thoughtlessness, his stupidity, his narrowness, his brutality, and so on.  But if I look at the suffering itself without wanting an answer, then what happens?  Then, as I am not escaping, I begin to understand suffering; my mind is watchfully alert, keen, which means I become sensitive, and being sensitive, I am aware of other people’s suffering.”

And finally

1. Let’s own our suffering.  When you and I own our suffering then we stand in a powerful place to be with our suffering correctly and take the appropriate actions.   We move from being helpless / being victims and step into being the authors of our lives.  And as authors we are in a position to invent new possibilities that leave our experience of living transformed.  Even when we cannot escape our suffering we may be able to transcend our suffering by giving meaning to our suffering that leaves us with self-esteem.  Viktor Frankl, who spent two years or so in WWII concentration camps, has much to say on how to be with / transcend circumstances when one cannot escape from them.

2.  Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to the suffering that is all around us.  And with these open eyes and hearts lets be compassionate and act with kindness so as to show up as being caring/considerate human beings in the lives of others.  It occurs to me that the people that most need our compassion are the ones that show up as the least deserving of our compassion.