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


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

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

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

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

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

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

– Daisaku Ikeda

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

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

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

Everything That Shows Up Shows Up In Relationship; Everything Said is Said by Someone


In our default way of being in the world, in the West, we ascribe properties to objects. So without any conscious-deliberative thought, we say:

  • This rose is red;
  • This bag is heavy;
  • My husband-wife-partner is selfish;
  • My boss is harsh-selfish-demanding-stupid;
  • My work is boring;
  • The English are cold-unfriendly people;
  • The Americans are arrogant;
  • This food is delicious;
  • She has such an irritating voice ……

Let’s stop and ask ourselves the question, “Is what I take for granted really what is so?”  Let’s just consider the last assertion “She has such an irritating voice!”, as assertion made by a family member when she heard me listening to a podcast.

When I/you say “She has such an irritating voice!” what is it that I am sharing?  Am I pointing out an objective truth? Am I pointing out to the intrinsic ‘suchness’ of her voice?  It looks that way doesn’t it given that is our cultural practice: we stand aside from the world, looking at it as a scientist does, and describe the properties of the world – including the properties of people, of objects, of groups of people and objects. And in so doing we forget that it is i/you/we who are doing the describing!

It occurs to me that when I say “She has such an irritating voice!” I am not speaking an objective truth. Rather, I am pointing at and sharing my lived experience. If I were to describe this lived experience it would be something like this:

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find that her voice shows up as irritating. “

Do you notice the different between these two statements:

“She has such an irritating voice!” and

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find her voice shows up as irritating.”

Do you notice that the label ‘irritating voice’ points towards and highlights the flavour-tone-touch of  my relationship with her?  ‘Irritating voice’ is not a property of her. Her voice is simply her voice: it is neither melodious nor irritating.  Any irritation that shows me in me arises out of my relating with her voice. 

Summing up:

– man is being-in-the-world-with-others and as such always exist in relationship. Everything that shows up shows up in the space of relationship. There are no objects with intrinsic properties independent of others.  

– all descriptions, all labeling, all asserting is done by someone. Humberto Maturna is reported to have said “Everything said is said by someone”.  By this he meant that all acts of cognition-experience occur, are distinguished by, and spoken by someone.  This also means that “All that is heard is heard by someone.” 

– when you and I get that, really get that, then the space of transformation (in our relating to ourself, to others, to the world in which we dwell) opens up and is available for reinterpretation. Whether you and I step into that space is a choice that we can accept or decline.  

 

 

 

Life Isn’t Working Out As I’d Like It To Work Out


Life isn’t working out as I’d like it to work out. The question that I am left with is this one, how to be about what is so?  I have been grappling with this (including some help from Gregory Bateson) and I want to share with you what showed up for me.

Lets imagine that I am at a disco and the DJ is playing all kinds of music: pop, soul, rock, disco, R&B, ska, country, jazz…… etc.  Further, let’s imagine I am at this disco to dance – to just dance. What is my experience if I insist that I will only get up and dance to say R&B music?  Is it not likely that I will spend most of my evening dissatisfied – sat in my chair, being dissatisfied with the music being played, complaining that the DJ has not taste, getting drunk ….

Now imagine that I have two normal dice in my hands. And I roll the dice. What shows up? Any combination: two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve.  Right?  That is simply what is so given the nature of the dice and the game that I am playing.

Given the design of the game, I know that if I play this game or find myself playing this game, I will end up with one of eleven outcomes. I know this beforehand. Yet, I cannot know nor determine what I will end up getting when I roll the dice.  Nor can I know what will show up if someone else rolls the dice for me.

two-dice-one-red-and-one-black-landed-on-double-six

What happens to my experience of living if I make my self-expression, happiness, aliveness, fulfilment, conditional on getting two sixes every time I throw the dice?

Have I not limited myself to being happy-fulfilled, on average, once every 11 throws of the dice? Have I not, at the very same time, condemned myself to the experience of dissatisfaction even misery for the other ten throws?  Have I not stacked the odds against myself?

What happens if I put myself in a position (through being and doing) where I am as expressed, as happy, as alive, as fulfilled, if I get an eleven as well as a twelve?  It occurs to me that I have doubled the occasions for experiencing being alive, being self-expressed, being happy, being fulfilled.

Now imagine that I have arrived at a place where I am ok with whatever the roll of the dice generates.  What is my experience of living in this case?  Is my experience not transformed?

Knowing this, I have a choice in the matter of how I choose to show up, live and thus experience my life.  I can choose to:

  • dance with whatever shows up and in dancing I can became a better dancer;
  • act on others and the world to get them to conform to my wishes – each and every day; and/or
  • resign myself to being self-expressed, alive, happy and fulfilled when life shows up exactly as I insist that it shows up.

Joy


What does it take to generate joy?  I say this is a question worthy of my attention, your attention, our attention.

Is there an experience that is more nourishing than joy?  The joy of being alive- present to the gift of life?  I say for me there is no experience that nourishes me more than joy.  What about you?

How often do you experience joy? Are you present to joy every moment? No?  How about every minute? No? How about every hour? No? How about once a day?  No? How about once a week? No? How about once a month?  No?

When was the last time you experienced joy?  When was the last time you opened the doors of your being to allow joy enter your life?  When?  Can you even remember?  And if you and I do not experience the joy in living then I ask this: what is the point of our living, of being alive?  Why bother with it all?

As I grapple with this question what shows up for me?  That my default way of being-in-this-world is to be on a journey.  What goes with a journey?  Planning. Preparing. Travelling. Hurdles-Obstacles-Surprise. Dealing with obstacles-hurdles-suprises. Breakdowns. Dealing with breakdowns. Busyness. Arrival at destination. Rest. Onwards to the next destination.  And the cycle repeats.

If you and I are so busy on busyness of life and our focus in on achievement then the doors of our being are locked. What are they locked to? Being present to that which is present. Being present to the miracle that is our existence.  Being present to the wonder of this world. Being present to joy – the joy of being here right now in this world.

I stopped the other day.  I took over the left over bread. Slowly patiently I tore it up into little pieces.  A smile was present on my face and in my being. Then I opened the door, went into the garden, and left these breadcrumbs in the right place – place where I see the birds hopping about.  In that being/doing I was a little child once more. Joy was present.  The joy of being connected with life. The joy of transcending selfishness and being of service.

On returning to the house it occurred to me that it really does not take much for joy to enter my house of being.  All it takes is thinking of my fellow participants in this game of life and engaging in little acts of kindness.  Making a cup of tea for wife or sons. Giving a hug. Receiving a hug. Telling a friend that she shows up as a source of inspiration for me. Cleaning the house so that it sparkles. Reading a book. Watching a movie. Writing. Going for a walk and allowing my face to be touched by sunshine.

Sometimes it doesn’t even take that. It just requires being present. Yesterday, driving daughter over to the gym, she asked me if she could turn on the radio. I said yes. Shortly, she was listening to one of her favourite songs, singing along beautifully and then the following came forth: “I just love music!” Wow! I found myself to be sharing in some of her joy.

It occurs to me that joy shows up when I chose to be joyous. It occurs to me that joy shows up when I wonder that I exist, the sun exists, the sky exists, laughter exists, hugs exist, movies exist, that I can drive…..It occurs to me that joy shows up when I put myself into action and contribute to the wellbeing of others.  How about you?

An ‘extra-ordinary’ life is distinct from an extraordinary life


When I speak, I speak. When you listen, you listen to me speaking.  Yet, I live in my world – a unique world.  And you live in your world – a unique world.  Given that is the case how can I be sure that I have generated the understanding, the experience, that I intend with my  speaking?  And how can you be sure that what you have heard me say is what I actually spoke?

This speaking and the listening brought to the speaking is particularly troublesome when it comes to ideas like extraordinary.  So it is likely that some of you upon hearing me speak of an ‘extra-ordinary’ life or ‘extra-ordinary’ living will have collapsed this with extraordinary life and extraordinary living.   They are not the same, they are distinct.  Allow me to bring the distinction to life through a personal story.

When I was a child, before the age of 5, my life showed up as ‘extra-ordinary’ and there was nothing extraordinary about me or my life.  I grew up in a farming community in a poor part of Pakistani controlled Kashmir.  My mother was poor and we lived in a mud house.  We had just enough to eat.  I remember pleading with my mother for some milk which she would not give me because she sold it to buy stuff that she did not grow. The outward appearance was distinctly ordinary for that part of the world: one boy among many boys; one farmer’s dwelling just like many of the other dwellings in the area.

Yet, when I travel back in time and re-experience my life, at that age and in that place, it shows up as an ‘extra-ordinary’ life. I flowed with life and life flowed through me. In this ‘extra-ordinary’ living I don’t remember ever saying to myself “I am better or worse than someone else”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am good/bad”.  I don’t remember saying to myself “There is something great/defective about me.” And I don’t remember thinking “I need to improve this/that about me.” I don’t remember saying “Something is missing.”  Nor do I remember saying “This is hard work”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am bored, I need to find something to do”.  I don’t remember saying “This is a good person, this is a bad person.” Nor do I remember saying to myself “I am poor or we are poor.”  I am sure that I never said to myself “There is something wrong with my life.”

I do remember that some of the baby chicks that I loved and was responsible for feeding (water and food) died. I don’t remember saying “It is my fault. I am bad.” Nor do I remember saying “It is his/her fault for not giving me the water/food I needed to feed my baby chicks!”

I do remember being absorbed in living.   I remember getting up early and being occupied for the entire day and going to sleep exhausted.  I remember liking some people and not liking others – yet just getting on with them, with living.  I remember liking being with my dog and not liking my mother chaining my dog up and not letting me play with him.  I do remember joy in playing out all day.  And I do remember great sadness when some of my baby chicks died. I remember laughter (lots of it) especially when I was playing with my dog and my friends.  And I remember a waterfall of tears when I woke up to find my dog (my best friend) missing and not finding him day after day.  I remember that one day the tears dried up and I got busy being absorbed in life and living.

I hope that you have gotten the difference between ‘extra-ordinary’ living and extraordinary living.  You and I have the power to transform our experience of living from ‘ordinary’ to ‘extra-ordinary’ whilst living an ordinary life or an extraordinary life.

It occurs to me that so many of us are chasing that extraordinary life (of being the best, of being rich, of being looked up to, of pleasure….) and in the process we sacrifice the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living – the kind of living that I experienced in the first five years of my life.  And I say it is never too late to transform the quality of our lives – to shift from the chase of the extraordinary life to generating the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living.

Beyond possibility: shaping the environment to call forth that which you wish to call forth


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…

And finally

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.

What is the greatest gift you can grant another (and yourself)?


Do you really want your life to work?

Do you want your life to work?  Really, truly, deeply do you want your life to work?  Do you really want your life to work or do you want to be right, dominate, have the world work to your wishes, your whims, your point of view?  If you are honest then you’d be present to the latter – your focus on being right, validating yourself, dominating others, insisting that the world work according to your fantasies.  How has that been working out?  Has it brought you peace, freedom to be, self-expression, vitality, connection, love, joy?   Are you up for, really up for, having peace, vitality, connection, love, joy present in your life?  If so then this post is for you.

People matter – are central to the quality of our life, right?

Have you noticed that you are not alone?  Have you noticed that the Earth (amongst other processes) ‘peoples’ and so wherever you are you there are people?  People show up wherever you are, right?  At home, at work, whilst your are walking, driving, shopping, eating, sleeping watching television……  Is it accurate that you cannot escape from people even when you are on a deserted island?  Even on a deserted island, do people show up in your thoughts, do they show up in your feelings?  People matter, our relationships with people matter, connection or the absence of it matters, friction-full or friction-free relationships matter to your living, our experience of life.  Right?

What is the greatest gift you can grant another?

How do you build great relationships with people?  What is the secret?  The secret is to grant them a gift, the greatest gift that you can grant another.   What is this gift?

1.  Let people be.  Let every person that shows up in your world be just as he is and just as he is not.  What is the access to letting people be?  Accept them (looks, clothes, voice, speaking, behaviour, history..) just as they are and just as they are not.  Choose to be totally OK with them just as they are and just as they are not.  If you let people be just as they are and just as they are not what is likely to show up in your world?  Peace?  Freedom?  Ease?

Are you up for going further – putting more into life, making a bigger contribution and indirectly being granted much more than peace, freedom and ease?  Then take on / live / be the following practices:

2.  Be a stand for the wonder and greatness of people – believe in them more than they believe in themselves.  How can I best point out / show what I am talking about?  Read and get present to the following words by Viktor Frankl who has a profound lived understanding /experience of our fellow human beings in all of their manifestations:

If we take man as he really is then we make him worse.  If we overestimate him……overrate man, then we promote him to what he really can be. So we have to be optimists idealists in way so we wind up as the true realists”

If you are willing to make four minutes available to yourself, to treat yourself, then watch this video: http://youtu.be/fD1512_XJEw

3.  Belive in and be enthusiastic about the ‘life projects’ that matter to people.  Your fellow human being, the one that you are thinking about right now, is not simply defined by who he is, where he came from or what he does.  He is much more.  A huge part of him is the future he is living into and the ‘life projects’ that inspires him.  Yes, I get that he is a teacher, a family man, in his late forties.  Do you get that one of his most crucial ‘life projects’ is to be a musician – to pursue a dream he gave up early in life and which really matters to him?  ‘Life projects’ are simply possibilities that we imagine, create and project in the future.  They are hugely important because they give shape to our being today and influence/shape our choices including how we spend our attention/energy/time.  So leave aside your critical mind, your fears, your insecurities and step into the possibilites that you fellow human being (wife, husband, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, neighbour, colleague, manager…) has created and which give him and his life meaning.  Step into that possibility and be enthusiastic. If you are in position to do so then go further – lend a helping hand, help to open doors, to provide resources (including your encouragement), carry some of the load.

4.  Be there for the people that show up in your life.  Be there during the good times to celebrate – celebrate with them, acknowledge, congratulate, laugh, lift them high ‘onto your shoulders’.  Be there for them during the difficult times when stuff does not turn out as they would like it to.  Provide: an empathic ear;  a solid-warm-friendly shoulder for them to rest their head; create a ladder/scaffold and help them climb up when you judge that the time is right; lead the way up the scaffold, give them your hand and help them to climb up.   Do this freely and wholeheartedly and you and your relationship will never be the same again.  One of my most enduring relationships was built by literally helping a ‘friend’ climb a mountain – giving up the lead, letting others take the lead, providing encouragement to this friend in words, being a little ahead of him when I needed to be and offering him my hand when he found it difficult to climb up the mountain.  We may not speak for many months and the love is there – neither of us have forgotten that day, that experience.

What is the greatest gift you can give yourself?

OK, by now you should be clear that the greatest gift that you can grant the people in your life is made up the following: letting them be just as they are and just as they are not; believing in them more than they believe in themselves; being enthusiastic about and contributing to their life projects; and being there for them.

Now I have as surprise for you.  The greatest gift you can give yourself is to grant this ‘greatest gift’ to the people that show up in your life!  You might be wondering “What?”  Think about it.  When you grant this gift to the people that show up in your life and living you get the following treats:

Peace / Ease / Freedom – you no longer struggle with people because you have giving up ‘resisting’ them as they are and as they are not and that shows up as a heavy burden lifted off your shoulder!

Relatedness / Connection / Enthusiasm / Love / ‘Sense of Adventure‘- by choosing to let people be and enter into their lives through encouraging/supporting/contributing to their ‘life projects’ as well as being there for them through the good times and the difficult times you create the space for relatedness, connection, love, enthusiasm and a sense of adventure to show up in your experience of living.  Whenever we take part in ‘life projects’ we take part in ‘giving birth’ to something new and this shows up as a sense of adventure – we feel more alive!

My guarantee to you and my challenge for you

I guarantee you that the moment that you grant this ‘greatest gift’ your experience of living will be transformed – the quality of your life will be transformed.  To keep this transformed live you have to consciously keep granting this ‘greatest gift’ again and again – every day, every moment.  Are you up for transforming the quality of your life?  Are you up for taking me up on my guarantee?