Play BIG: Show Up And Operate From The Stand “It Is ALL invented!”


If you wish to play BIG: live a life of freedom, a life of possibility, of creativity and self-expression then Invite you to really listen to the following words of wisdom:

“Since the birth of humanity, people have created many phantom worlds in which to live. In fact, our most powerful inventions are technological at all; they are conceptual.  Every culture needs structure and values in order to function as a cooperative effort, and commonly held beliefs and assumptions provide a central unifying force. In response to the questions of existence, such as “Who are we, and why are we here?” a staggering number of belief systems, values, religions, cosmologies, and worldviews have been invented, lived, and taken very, very, seriously. For the most part these “inventions” occurred organically or collectively over a period of time, but despite their unpremeditated beginnings, they are inventions nevertheless…..

Every subculture with a set of beliefs clamours to have the last word on the subject, claiming themselves guardians of the Truth. Many of the different factions are willing to war over their inventions, but no one is willing to confess that they simply don’t know what the truth is

Everything we invent in this way and live as if it were real or true will have repercussions.  While we might understand and accept that there are consequences to the actions we take, it’s difficult to grasp that our beliefs and assumptions also have a cost. To recognise this, one would first have to forego attachment to his or her own personal opinions and admit that the ideas at issue are beliefs rather than the truth. Acknowledging this point is scary for anyone. It opens the door to doubts, and few people can tolerate the possibility of their whole belief system unraveling before their eyes…..

We’ll shoulder all the woes of the world as long as they fit in with our way of holding reality. But what if a great deal of our suffering is based on assumptions that are false?”

– Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

I invite you to consider that if it is invented then there is nothing sacred about it, it is man made.  That which is man made, can be remade – study history and you will find that this has happened countless times.  How is this relevant to me/you/us?

  1. When you/i/we get that it is ALL invented, then the space is wide open for you/i/us to invent the kind of life/world that we wish to see, live in, live from.
  2. You/i can let go of assumptions, beliefs, values, practices, structures, standards, ideals that cause us to play small, to suffer, to live lives of quiet desperation. Yes, this involves loss – of the familiar, the comfortable. In return we grant ourselves freedom; the price of ‘growth’ is loss.

Play BIG By Granting Yourself Permission To Be Fractured/Broken


My parents were great at beating me up. How so? By pointing out where I failed to match their expectations. My school teachers were great at beating me up. How so? My pointing out where I failed to meet their standards? In the business world, my managers have been great at beating me up. How so? By pointing out my deficiencies / weaknesses during the appraisal process.

It worked. Over the course of time I became a master of beating myself. Never content to be and to enjoy that which I have. Always striving to do (more, different), become (more, better, different) and look like I have it all together (for myself, for others).

One day I got it. I gave myself permission to be, including the permission to be broken, imperfect.  Someone told me that I lacked ambition. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be not-ambitious”. Someone told me that some work project had not turned out to her satisfaction. I found myself saying “I take full responsibility”. Someone charged me being selfish. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be selfish”.  Someone told me that which I write at The Customer & Leadership Blog has typos. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to make mistakes including typos.” The response was something like “But you will taint your personal brand!”. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be ok with a tainted personal brand.”

I give myself permission to be. It occurs to me that giving oneself the permission to be is the access to freedom. It is liberation from the tyranny of the “should”: I should be this, not that. This is not popular with the many who seek to shape me to their image of who I should be through their “should”.  Yet, I notice that when I grant myself permission to be, I grant myself peace.

I leave you with words of wisdom:

“It’s a naked thing to show we are fractured, the we do not have it all together. Broken all the way through to the bottom. What freedom that is, to be what we are in the moment, even if it’s unacceptable…..

Think about it. We are always doing a dance – I’m good,  I’m this, I’m that. Rather than the truth – I don’t know who I am. Instead, we scurry to figure it out. We write another book, buy another blouse, exhaust ourselves. Imagine the freedom to let it be, this not-knowing. How vulnerable. This is why I love the attendant. He said who he was – a broken man …. When his teacher asked for more, the monk didn’t do a jig to win him over. There was no more. Usually, we will do anything to cover up a reality so naked.”

– Natalie Goldberg, The Best Buddhist Writing 2008

It occurs to me that when I granted myself permission to be, I did not just grant myself peace, I also granted myself power.  That is another conversation, for another day.

Each Of Us Is More Than S/he Seems


During my participation in the Landmark Forum (many years ago) I found myself deeply touched by that which was unconcealed once the social masks that are us, in our everydayness, lost their grip on me and my fellow participants.

What showed up in this unconcealment?  Allow me to introduce that through the following story:

Some years ago a young resident psychiatrist ……. who wanted to learn more about people at the edge of life was observing one of my sessions.

A former gang member whose hands were covered with tattoos was speaking of the deep love he now felt for his young wife who was dying of cancer, the ways in which this capacity to love had caught him unawares and so had healed him.

As he shared his insights about himself and his experiences of intense intimacy and tenderness with his wife, I glanced over at the young Freudian psychiatrist. He had stopped taking notes. His eyes were filled with tears.

After the patient left, I asked him if he had learned anything useful from the session. He smiled ruefully, “We are all more than we seem,” he said.

Actually, we are all more than we know. Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten. Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves: it is more an undoing than an doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to “fix” ourselves …..

Often in reclaiming the freedom to be who we are, we remember some basic human quality, an unsuspected capacity for love or compassion or some other part of our common birthright as human beings. What we find is almost always a surprise but it is also familiar; like something we have put in the back of a drawer long ago, once we see it we know it is our own.

– Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom

 

 

 

 

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.

Freedom and Self-Expression


“Most of us think that freedom means to keep our options open, stay loose and available, and often that strategy does give you a little space temporarily. Eventually, though, keeping your options endlessly open becomes its own prison. You can never choose…..You can never really discover you destiny because you are afraid to commit fully.

If you look back on the experience of freedom in your life chances are that it wasn’t when you were measuring the options against one another, or making sure you weren’t getting stuck with a decision. It was when you were fully expressed, playing full out. It was when you chose fully and completely, when you knew you were in the place you were meant to be in, when perhaps you felt a sense of destiny. That’s when we’re free and self-expressed, and joyful or at peace with circumstances – when we choose them. ”

Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money

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 Bus Driver’s Gift


Our default way of being-in-the-world is to deny our freedom. Which freedom?  The freedom to choose.  Whilst I can talk about this philosophically, I prefer to point this out using a story.

The Bus Driver’s Gift

One afternoon a bus driver was taking 40 children home from school. As the bus made its way down a steep grade, the brakes failed. The driver was unable to steer the bus to the left because of a high embankment or to the right because of a steep cliff.

As the bus hurtled down the hill, the driver recalled that there was a narrow gate at the bottom which led into a field. He decided to try to steer the bus through the gate and into the field, figuring it would eventually come to a safe stop.  He hoped that no cars or other obstacles would get in his way before he got to the gate.

When the bus reached the bottom of the hill, the driver saw the gate approaching fast. But to his horror, he noticed a small child sitting on the gate, waiving at the bus.

It was too late to change plans now. If the driver tried to avoid the gate, 40 children would die. He cried out in anguish as the bus slammed directly into the game. The innocent child died instantly in the collision, but that bus and all of its passengers were saved.

Emergency vehicles were the first to arrive on the scene, followed shortly by relieved parents and grandparents. Many of them wanted to show their appreciation and gratitude to the driver who had kept the bus under control long enough to save their children. But the driver was nowhere to be found. They asked the police officer where he had gone.

“They’ve taken him to the hospital,” the officer said. “He’s suffering from severe shock.”

“Well that’s understandable, ” they replied.

“No, you don’t understand, ” said the officer. “You see, that little boy on the fence was his own son.”

To be human is to be be free, condemned to choose

We play little, we find excuses, we pretend that we are merely ‘victims’ or ‘passengers’ in the game of life. What this story does is to remind us of a truth that we’d rather not see nor face up to. Why?

Because with this truth, comes responsibility: responsibility for the way our life is, responsibility for the way our community is, responsibility for the way our organisations are, responsibility with the way life is.

Stuff happens, that is simply the way the universe works.  Sometimes, even often, we don’t get to choose what happens.  And always we get to choose how we will respond to that which the universe puts our way.  This is the essential truth that this story brings alive for me.

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…..”

Is love only love when it shows up as love? And other lessons from my mother and son


Me and my mother

My mother loves me.  She rings me if I do not call her.  She asks about me and gently tells me off for not calling her and letting her know my family and I are.  She asks about my work and how it is going.  She wishes me a safe journey when I travel abroad and she asks how my trip was…

If I am ill and my mother finds out then she is on the phone asking me how I am doing. And what I am doing to take care of myself.  She goes further and starts telling me what ‘medicine’ I should be taking – she is not a doctor.   She can be very insistent on what I should be doing to take care of myself!

My mother is old.  She is losing her memory. And she finds it hard to stand up, to walk, to go up/down the stairs. Yet, when I arrive at her home she gets up and starts fussing over me (if she is not out cold). She will get up to make me a tea. She will ‘run’ to the kitchen to cook me a meal. She will struggle up the stairs to make the spare bedroom so that it is just right for her eldest son

It is when I am visiting my mother that I lose it.  Why?  For two reasons.  First, I end up getting angry that I am there to help her and yet I end up creating work for her – making her life harder.  How/why?  She will not let me help.  You see I am a man and men simply should not do housework.  Second, she is constantly telling me what to do – what to wear, what to eat, how much to eat, how to live my life…..  And I end up saying “I am not a child, stop treating me like a child!”

Seeing her hurt I feel remorse and say to myself “Why can’t you keep your mouth shut!”.  Yet, a part of me does say to me “She brought this on herself. How many times have I told her not to treat me like a child.  Not to boss me around.  And she never listens.  She brought this on herself.”

What have I done?  I have invalidated my mother and justified myself!  Put differently, I am in the right (for making the effort to drive 4 hours to see her and help her out) and she is wrong (for not accepting my help and for treating me like a child).

Me and my eldest son

I have been and am being really busy: thinking-formulating-writing a strategy for a client.  The deadline for the strategy document and the presentation to the directors is fast approaching.  Despite feeling the pressure I volunteered to drive my eldest son (17 years old) to the train station for the first day of his new job.

I notice it is cold.  And I notice that he has no overcoat over his suit jacket.  I think he has got to be cold. He gets into the car and turns the heating up to the max.  I say to myself “Yes, he is cold”.  So I suggest that he goes into the house, he refuses, telling me that he will do without the overcoat.  I drive.

Whilst driving I find myself asking my son why he did not get an overcoat given that it is cold and clearly he is cold.  He tells me that he does not know if there will be anywhere suitable to store it and he does not want to make a fuss on his first day.  I assure him that employers expect employees to come in with overcoats in winter and there will be somewhere to store it.  I say this calmly and occur to myself as loving/caring/helpful.

He loses it with me.  He tells me to stop telling him what to do, how to live his life.  He tells me that he prefers taking the bus rather than have me drive him to places because when we are together I boss him around, I tell him how to live his life.

I notice that hurt is present.  I notice that anger is present.  I catch myself saying “How ungrateful!  I am simply looking out for him – making sure that he does the right things, avoids the wrong things so that his life works out.”

I have got myself caught up in justifying myself, invalidating others!

Suddenly a bolt of insight hits me.  When my mother does what I do and I am in the role of son, I justify myself as the son and make her wrong as the mother.  Yet, in my relationship with my son I invalidate my son in his role as son and I justify myself in my role as father.

Yes, it hits me that I am caught up in ‘justifying myself and invalidating others’ – my mother, my son.  And it hits me that when I get hurt I take it personally and point the finger at my son.  Yet, when I hurt my mother, I do not point the finger at myself.  No, I point the finger at my mother and make her responsible for my behaviour and the hurt that it causes her!

How inauthentic!  As the author of my life, I own how I show up in life, I own my interpretation and thus experience of my life.  My son does what he does.  He cannot cause me to do/feel/speak what I do/feel/speak – that belongs to me.  My mother does what she does.  She cannot cause me to do/feel/speak that which I do/feel/speak.

What is the insight for you and me?

Be mindful. And grant others what we expect them to grant us.

If I expect my son to listen to me, to treat me respectfully, to use kind words, to show gratitude then surely I should call myself to be that kind of son to my mother!   To do that you and I need to be present to the traps that are always there for us because they go with being human.  The traps are ‘I am right, you are wrong’ and ‘justify self, invalidate others’.

And finally, it occurs to me that it is time for me to let my son simply be.  To make his choices and live his choices.  It occurs to me that being loving does not have to mean that I have to look out for and protect my son.  It occurs to me that I can choose to manifest my love for my son as ‘trust in him’ to make his choices and handle the consequences of his choice.  Put differently, I can simply be a stand for my son as a highly capable young man who can make choices and live with their consequences.

It occurs to me that this latter way of manifesting my love set us both free – free to own our lives: choices, consequences, responses, learning, growth…

And finally, is it possible that love is only love when it shows up / is experienced as love?

Putting the past in the past opens up the future and the experience of freedom


One of the most important insights that I got out of my participation in the courses offered by Landmark Education is this one: the default mode of being-in-the-world is one where you/i walk into a future that is already given, already bound, already constrained.  And as such the domain of freedom, the freedom to invent a future that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts us, is small and sometimes non-existent. Therefore, if you/i want to increase our zone of freedom / open up our future we have to put the past in the past.  Put simply, putting the past in the past is the access to opening up new realms of freedom, of possibility.  How to make this real/concrete?  Let me tell you a story.

I notice that I am fearful about going to the USA

One of the roles I have chosen to play in life is that of management consultant – it requires a willingness to travel.  Towards the end of September it became obvious that I had to travel to Texas, USA.  I noticed that something was up, I did not want to travel.  Why?  I had it that it was going to be an ordeal and fear/worry was present.  Why?

It was July 2008 and I was on my way to Detroit to meet my new boss.   On the way through security I was singled out and made to wait for some 45 minutes.  Why?  To be given the approval to fly to the USA by the US authorities.  I got it and boarded the aeroplane.  After a long journey, I was delighted to get off the aeroplane and looking forward to making my way through passport control and onwards to the hotel.  It didn’t work out that way.

I was asked the same questions (as I had been in London, UK) and I provided the same answers.  The ‘immigration officer’ asked me to follow him and lead me to large rectangular room.  It was full of people who did not look white Anglo-Saxons, all waiting, all looking at the ‘immigration officers’ who sat on an elevated platform to make them look bigger/stronger/more powerful than the rest of us.

The rational part of me told me that it was all a game and I had nothing to worry about as I was no threat to anyone and never had been.  Yet, another part of me did worry and was fearful wondering if I would be shipped off to Guantanamo.  So it took something for me to be calm and read a book for two hours or so.  Eventually, I was called up, asked questions, answered the questions, which they verified with my boss and let through.

What did I do with that experience? 

What did I say to myself as I made my way out of the airport and to the taxi stand?  I told myself that I could so easily have ended up in Guantanamo.  And that if I had ended up there I would not have survived (not having anything in common with the inmates or the guards) and as such would have let my wife and children down. Did I stop there?  No.

I made the decision that I would avoid travelling to the USA.  I told myself it was unwise and selfish to travel to a country whose default position is to assume that people like me are terrorists and have to be locked up without evidence, without trial.  And I acted in accordance with that decision including turning down invitations to visit friends in the USA.

I draw your attention to what happened and what I did.  I experienced what I experience and what happened happened at Detroit airport.  Yet, I did not leave it there.  I took that experience and made a decision out of it.  And where did I put the decision?  In the future: going forward, in the future, I am going to / I have to avoid travelling to the USA!

What was the impact of that decision?  It closed down the zone of freedom, of possibility, in the future.  Put bluntly, in my future a visit to the USA was out of the question.  So even when I got invites to visit the US, from friends or business organisations, I turned them down.

How did I put the past into the past and open up my future

First, it is worth pointing out that circumstances played their part. I had to go.  There was nobody who could go and do what I do.  And I was not prepared to let my client and colleagues down.  It occurs to me that sometimes unwelcome circumstances are exactly what we need to get us present to and out of the rut that we have fallen into.

Second, I put the past in the past.  How?  I examined the Detroit incident by looking at what actually happened and gave it a liberating interpretation.  After some questioning, the US immigration handed me my documents and sent me on my way.  Throughout the encounter he was professional – neither kind nor mean.  And I left my drivers licence with him, by mistake, and he forwarded it to my boss! The new interpretation that I gave this experience is this one: the immigration officer did his job and everything worked out just fine.  All that really happened is that I was delayed by two hours which could easily have happened on the flight itself and if it had happened it would not have put me off travelling on an aeroplane!

Third, I found out that to get into the USA you have to go and apply online.  Which I did and within a few minutes I got a written confirmation that I was authorised to enter the USA. This strengthened my confidence, my resolve, my interpretation that it was ok/safe to travel to the USA.

Fourth, I remembered the ‘kindness of strangers’ the last time I had travelled through Texas and so I invented a future that was full of the possibility of kindness/generosity and a great experience.

How did I turn out?

It turned out delightfully.  Texas was warm and the people that I encountered were warm.  And during my time there I was bathed in fellowship. I got to experience the ‘big heartedness’ of the folks that I encountered.  And when the time came to come back I was a sad to leave and looking forward to my next visit to the USA.

What can you/I take away from this?

You/I might think/act as if our past is in the past.  And that is not the way it is for us human beings because we put the past into the future.  We do that by making decisions on/about the future.  This in turn constrains our options around being/doing and thus limits our freedom, our self-expression, the possibilities that we can invent and live from/into.  And it does not have to be this way!

You and I can chose, as a deliberate act, to take the past that is sitting in the future and put it in the past.  And we can incorporate this practice into our way of being-in-the-world: on the look out for the past that has got misfiled in the future and keep putting it in the past.  Thus we end up with future that is wide open to invention and we experience a freedom to be/do that we may have not experienced for a long time.

And finally

You could sum up the work of Werner Erhard and the work of Landmark Education (“Transformation”) as being exactly this: enabling the human being to take his/her past out of his/her future and put it into the past thus leaving absolutely nothing in the future – a future wide open to being invented unconstrained by the past.

Death: the awareness of the possibility of death as the access to owning one’s life and living powerfully


“The life of riches, ambition, pleasure, is in reality an intolerable servitude in which one “lives for what is always out of reach,” thirsting “for survival in the future” and “incapable of living in the present.””  Thomas Merton

This week I came across TED talk, titled “Before I die I want to….”

Watching/listening to this talk I was struck by the fact that someone had written “Before I die I want to live.”

When I saw this, sadness gripped me.  It occurred to me that you and I are given a tiny window of opportunity to partake in the glorious drama called existence.   As far as I know we are on the only planet that supports/generates life as we know it.  Just compare the images of Mars to those of Earth: ours is a breath taking world!   Yet, so many of us are totally not present to this.  We do not experience this beauty.  We do not experience this gratitude. And our living does not reflect any urgency in living well.   And for the most part we do not live well.  If we are honest, brutally honest, for most of us, our lives do not show up, in experience, as lives worth living.  Why because we are chasing those riches and/or engrossed in surviving/fixing.

Is there a way out of the trap?  Yes, the possibility of death offers us the door out of the trap into a vivid experience of living.   I have experienced this vividness, this wonder, this gratitude, this week.  How/why?  Two people who I know/like/care about are close to dying.  Being told that they are dying resulted in sadness and tears showing up in my house of being.  And along with sadness, Death brought with it, into my house of being, a vivid appreciation of the wonders of being alive.

We dread death, individually and as a culture.  We dread death so much that we don’t talk about it, we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t allow people whose quality of life is so poor to get help to end their lives.  We keep death hidden behind the curtain.  Yet, is this the wisest course of action for living well?

It occurs to me, and I am not the first one that this has occurred to, that the possibility of death is like no other possibility.  Possibilities other than ‘no possibility’ (which is the all to common default way of being in the world for many/most of us) have to be invented by us.  If I want to lead a life full of life I actively need to invent possibilities that I can live from/into that lift me up, inspire me to be, to put myself fully into the world and take a hand in shaping it.  When it comes to death, you and I do not have to invent the possibility of death.

The possibility of death is there, always there, right from the moment we are being pushed out / thrust into this world.  The challenge is to create/generate the right relationship to it.  The challenge is to invite the possibility of death into our house of being so that it influences/shapes our way of being in the world.  And to keep doing: keep being present to it.  Why?  Because when we are present to, really present to and experience the possibility of death then it shapes our living, our way of being in this world.  The presence of the possibility of death pushes us to live, really live, to appreciate the beauty of this world.

What I have noticed this week is that with death being present, vividly,  I have lived vividly.  I have really tasted the tomato salad.  I have really tasted the delicious ice cream made by my wife.  I have really listed to the music and got joy out of it.  I have delighted in holding the table tennis bat and playing tennis with my children.  I have enjoyed the wind and the sun stroking/brushing against my naked body and so forth.  I have even enjoyed the sweat pouring off my face as I work the exercise bike.

The real sadness of life is not death.  It is to live in such a way that when you are presented with the question “Before I die I want to..” you answer “LIVE”.  It does not have to be that way.  Just getting present, authentically present, to the possibility of death can/does make all the difference.  Put differently, authentic presence to the possibility of death, has the potential to transform our lives.

Are you up for that?  Or do you prefer to continue chasing the horizon, living for someday?  If so you might want to remember the wise words of Thomas Merton, the words that I opened this post with:

“The life of riches, ambition, pleasure, is in reality an intolerable servitude in which one “lives for what is always out of reach,” thirsting “for survival in the future” and “incapable of living in the present.””

On freedom, choice and responsibility


A conversation with a young woman

I was in communication with a young woman recently and the conversation went something like this (this is the best I can do from memory):

Me: “Is the light on inside?   Is joy present on the inside?”

Her: “No.  It hasn’t been present for a long time.”

Me:  Why not? What is getting in the way?”

Her: “I feel trapped – living this life, here with my parents, my family. Sometimes, I think about running away and starting a new life, my life.”

Me: “What is preventing you from taking that step, moving out, living your own life?”

Her: “The impact it will have on my parents, what it will do to them.  Sometimes, I get so angry with them that I hate them for keeping me here, living this life.”

Me: “I see, you get that you have choice and you have made the choice to live with your parents and the life that goes with that.  I don’t get why you are blaming your parents.  Your parents are not responsible and do not deserve your blame/bitterness/anger. You are free to leave any time you wish.  Yet, you choose to stay.  So you are the person who is responsible for the life that you live and your experience of living.  You are responsible for your unhappiness, you bring this on to your self.”

Her: “Don’t say that.  If  believed that then I’d want to kill myself!”

Freedom, choice and responsibility

Yes, we are thrown into this world and we don’t get a say in where we are born, whether we are born male or female, healthy or unhealthy, who are parents are, what kind of circumstances we are born into, what culture we are born into, what schools we go to (if we go to school) etc.   Yet at some point we grow up and are no longer children, no longer dependent and at the mercy of others.  Like this young woman we leave home, we go to university, we get an education, we dabble/experience the bigger world, we get to stand on our own two feet….

I say that the process of ‘growing up’ is coming face to face with freedom, choice and responsibility. As beings-in-the-world we are faced with choice.  You could say being confronted with choices and making a choice is the evidence of our freedom. Even in the most difficult of circumstances where what we can and cannot do is severely limited we still get to choose: we get to choose our attitude towards ourselves, others and the circumstances in which we are embedded.  Put differently, sometimes we get to choose between two flavours of ice cream say chocolate or vanilla.  And sometimes life presents us with only chocolate and even though we get only chocolate we are free to choose  our attitude, our stance towards chocolate being present in our lives.

With choice comes responsibility.  Put differently, we are responsible for our lives and our experience of living – just as it is and just as it is not. Look, sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I look at how my children behave.  And when I look at the situation honestly/courageously I see that I am totally responsible for what is so.  When my children were younger, many people – wife, parents, parents-in-law, friends – pointed out that I was allowing my children too much freedom, not setting strong boundaries, not being controlling enough.  And I ignored all of them. Why?  I was committed to allowing my children the widest degree of freedom. And I reasoned that as they got older I could talk with them, reason with them and they would regulate their behaviour so as to get on/along with the people around them.  My theory did not work out as I had anticipated that it would work out.

What is the ultimate choice that confronts us?

I say that the ultimate choice that confronts us is the choice of owning our lives or not.  Owning my life is owning freedom, choice and responsibility.  I am free to make choices and I am responsible for the choices that I make and that which flows from and shows up from the choices that I make.  So, ultimately, each of us takes, is taking a stand towards freedom, choice and responsibility – whether we are present to making this choice or not.

You and I can look honestly at lives and face up to/get that we are the authors of our lives:  that we get a say in how we live our lives, how our lives turn out, our experience of living.  As such we can invent/project/live from and live into possibilities that move-touch-inspire us.

Or we can pretend that we are victims (like this young lady) and when we are confronted with ownership/authorship of our lives, our experience of living, we can strive to shut out this conversation  that confronts us with our freedom, choice and responsibility.

What choice are you making?  Are you owning your life and your experience of living?   If you are owning and being responsible for your life just as it is and just as it is not then who is owning / being responsible for your life?  

I know where I stand: the most powerful place to stand for me, is to own my life and my experience of living just as it is and just as it is not.  And being the owner, the author, of my life I am free to imagine and take different paths through it. This matters because it puts hope, possibility, new worlds into my life, my living. It is this stance that opens up a transformation in our living, in our world.

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”

On the distinction between ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’. And why it matters


Taking a fresh look at helping

Is it possible that in helping you I am, underneath it all and hidden from view, fanning the flames of my ego?  Put differently, is my helping there to bolster my sense of self-worth, to display that I am better/stronger/knowledgeable… than you?  Is it possible that in the game of helping you are there for me as opposed to me being there for you?

Is it possible that when I reach out to help it is to sooth/extinguish my own pain – the pain that I experience when I am present to you experiencing pain? Neuroscientists claim that ‘mirror neurons’ dwell within us / are an essential part of us.  And when I see/hear your pain the same pain shows up in my world, I experience it. It is by experiencing this pain that I act.  Put differently, where the mirror neuron circuitry is impaired people do not show empathy, they do not act.

Is it possible that when I help you I am not being helpful to you?  Put differently, is it possible that when I read for you I get in the way of you learning to read and reading for yourself?  Is it possible that when I cook for you I get in the way of you learning to cook and cooking for yourself?  Is it possible that when you fall and I lift you up I am getting in the way of you getting up yourself by yourself and getting present to being capable of lifting yourself of the floor?  Is it possible that when I supply you with food handouts I am getting in the way of you learning and taking responsibility for growing/coming up with your own food?

‘Helping’ and ‘being helpful’ – two different beasts?

It occurs to me ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’ are two very different beasts yet in the way we carry ourselves we collapse them into the one and the same.  It occurs to me that when we are ‘helping’ it is most likely that we are not ‘being helpful’.  And that by confusing ‘helping’ with ‘being helpful’ we are doing harm to our fellow human beings.  How?

By sharing, by telling, by advising we are ‘pushing’ our views on to our fellow human beings and thus robbing them of their responsibility and their freedom. What responsibility?  The responsibility to search for/come up with their own views.  By doing stuff for others we are robbing them of their responsibility for doing the work.  By making the choices for others we are not only robbing them of their freedom (to make their own choices and live with these choices) we are robbing them of their responsibility for making choices.  I hope you get the idea.

What is the critical difference between ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’? 

When I am ‘helping’ you then I am the lead actor, I cast myself in the most powerful role, it is about what I am doing to you/for you, I am the active force acting and you are the passive one simply receiving that which I am handing out.

Helping requires little thought, reflection, intentionality – it is easier, it is quicker, it does not require you and I to work in partnership, to cultivate strong bonds. I am the parent, you are the child, I lead you follow, I dictate you obey…… I say ‘being helpful’  is totally different ‘game’ – one that is rare simply because most of us collapse ‘being helpful’ with ‘helping’.  Put differently, our automatic way of being is such that it occurs to as that ‘helping’ is by definition ‘helpful’.   And because ‘being helpful’ really takes something (hard work, sacrifice) as opposed to ‘helping’ which is rather easy in comparison.  

What constitutes ‘being helpful’?

‘Being helpful’ requires that I let go of my ego, that I do not rush to act.  ‘Being helpful’ requires that I stand in the place that I see/act towards you as a person who is whole-complete-perfect, a human being who has all that life demands of him/her.  ‘Being helpful’ requires that I never encroach on your responsibility for your life.  ‘Being helpful’ demands that instead of taking away your freedom, I confront you with your freedom: to invent possibilities for your life, to take a stand in life, to make your choices, to walk the path you have chosen for yourself.   That I act to increase your capacity to be responsible and to exercise your freedom.  And importantly, that I act to increase your capacity to act powerfully on yourself and your circumstances.  Once this context is in place and I act from this context then any help that I provide will show up as contributing to the game of ‘being helpful’.

Imagine that you are confronted with a poor person.  Giving that person money is ‘helping’.  Buying that poor person food, clothes… is helping.  Now asking yourself what would constitute ‘being helpful’ to this poor person?  I say you are ‘being helpful’ when you ask and enter deeply into the following questions:

“What would enable this person to help himself, to lift himself out of poverty?”  Another way of thinking about this is to ask yourself the question “What is getting in the way of this person not being poor, being OK, being prosperous?”  A great place to start is with the person himself and the story that he has created (about himself, his circumstances) and lives from/into.  Then take a look at the circumstances of his life and the environment in which he is embedded.

“How do I ensure that at all times this person gets that s/he is whole-complete-perfect and gets s/he is in the driving seat?”  That s/he gets that s/he does not need fixing –  s/he is all that it takes to deal with/transcend her circumstances.  Notice: I deliberately wrote is and not has.  That s/he is confronted with the responsibility with lifting himself out of his poverty.  That it is s/he who chooses if s/he wishes to lift herself out of poverty – to make fresh choices, to walk a different path, to do the work that goes with walking this new path

“How do I ensure that I keep my ego out of the picture?  And if it is in the picture what can I do to ensure that it contributes to the game of ‘being helpful’ rather than undermining it?”  Just being present to this question, being mindful of it on a daily basis, keeping it existence is often enough to ensure that I show up as ‘being helpful’ as opposed to indulging in ‘helping’.

“What is missing the presence of which would make a significant difference?” Here I am talking about resources.  For many it is simply belief in themselves as whole-complete-perfect.  You and I can supply that much needed resource by relating to these people as whole-complete-perfect and not acting in any way to undermine this.  For example, in a Montessori School if a student goes and asks a question then the teacher, if she is embodying Montessori principles, will ask the student what he things the answer to the question is.  If the student says he doesn’t know then the teacher is likely to ask the student where/how we can find out for himself and encourage him to do so.  It may be that the resource that is missing is money to buy equipment to start a small business.  This is what Kiva does – enable people to lift themselves out of poverty by tapping into microloans.  It may be that the resource that is missing is simply education: “please teach me to catch fish so that I am able to catch fish by myself for the rest of my life. And teach others to catch fish!”  I hope you get the idea.

Warning

‘Being helpful’ requires a certain kind of play and generates certain kinds of results.  ‘Helping’ requires a different kind of play and generated different kinds of results.   I am not making the assertion that one is better than another.  Nor am I making the claim that one is good and the other bad.  I am definitely not telling you what do do not even under the guise of ‘helping you live better lives’.  You are responsible for your life, you are free to choose how you live your life. I am simply making it clear that ‘helping’ and  ‘being helpful’ are distinct and should not be collapsed.  That we should not kid ourselves that when we are ‘helping’ that we are by definition ‘being helpful’.  And that when we ‘help’ others we can actually be undermining them and thus not ‘being helpful’ to them.

Finally and importantly, I am not saying that you and I should not ‘help’.  If a young child falls into a fire I will take that child out immediately.  I will not wait to figure out how I can ‘be helpful’ to this young child.   If I come across a starving person I will ‘help’ that person by feeding him. And then I might just choose to play the game of ‘being helpful’.

And Finally

It really takes something to listen to my speaking.  I deliberately make it so – my commitment is to ‘be helpful’ and not simply ‘help”.  If you are listening to my speaking then I thank you. And in particular I thank the 30+ of you who subscribe to this blog.  Without you there would be no value in my speaking.  So once again I thank you for you listening.

 

 

If the herd is headed for the cliff the sane thing is to break free from the herd no matter how uncomfortable you feel!


What am I to be, to do, to have in this world?

How do I decide what/how I am to be in this world?  How do I decide what to do, how to conduct myself, what to chase after in this world?   Of all questions these are the most important questions and they do not have easy answers.

Given that these are the most difficult questions and there are no ready made answers how do I answer these questions?  The default is simply to follow the herd: look around me and buy into the way of life that everyone around has bought into. Look deeply and you will notice that we human beings are herd animals.  We just don’t use the word herd instead we use softer more appealing words like ‘community’, ‘profession’, ‘vocation’, ‘nation’…..

“It’s all made up!”

If we are fortunate there will be glitches in the ‘matrix of the taken for granted every day life’ and we will notice these glitches.

I noticed these glitches.  I would go to school and be told “X is great, this is the right way to be, the right thing to do…”  and I’d get home and I would be told “X is totally wrong!  It is the wrong way to be, the wrong thing to do, the wrong thing to chase after…”.   At home I would learn a set of views/practices and upon arriving at school I’d be told that these were wrong.  I was lucky enough to be born into one culture and live in it whilst at home and then be embedded in a different culture during school hours.

At the age of about 8/9/10 I remember thinking “Its’ all made up!”  That was the most liberating thought of my life – it changed/directed the course of my life.  I focussed on school work rather than religion.  I studied Physics rather then Biology and thus dashed my parents hopes of becoming a doctor.  I went to a university far from my parents home rather than one nearer home.  I chose my wife rather than get an arranged marriage.  I made friends irrespective of their colour, their race or their religion instead of sticking with my ‘own kind’.  I questioned things and asked difficult questions rather than accept the ready made answers….

Being with the herd does not make you ‘right’, going away from the herd does not make you ‘wrong’

Most of us will experience a series of glitches in the ‘matrix of our taken for granted way of thinking and living’ and one or more of these will grab our attention and open our eyes so that we see beyond the surface.  When we see beyond the surface we may come to the conclusion we are living a false life, a shallow life, a mindless life, a meaningless life, a joyless life, someone else’s life.  Then we are confronted with choice: act/reclaim our life as ours or to go back to being with the herd and pretend we never saw what we saw.

Most of us lull ourself back to sleep and get back to following the herd. And if we don’t do that then the people around us act on us with more and more force to get us back in the pen with the rest of the herd.  Our argument, their argument is often that the herd cannot be wrong, we must be wrong.  With that in mind and with a commitment to leave us with the freedom to transform our lives I share with you the following passage from R.D. Laing’s book, The Politics of Experience:

“From an ideal vantage point from the ground, a formation of planes may be observed from the air.  One plane may be out of formation.  But the whole formation may be off course.  The plane that is ‘out of formation’ may be abnormal, bad or ‘mad’ from the point of view of the formation.  But the formation itself may be bad or mad from the point of view of the ideal observer.  The plane that is out of formation may be also more or less off course than the formation….

In particular, it is of fundamental importance not to confuse the person who may be ‘out of formation’ by telling him that he is ‘of course’ if he is not.  It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that, because a group is in formation, this means they are necessarily ‘on course‘.….. Nor is it necessarily the case that the person who is ‘out of formation’ is more ‘on course’ than the formation……

If the formation is itself off course, then the man who is really to get ‘on course’ must leave the formation.”

Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….


Reality and our relationship to reality

What is real?  What is our relationship to reality?  Here is what Werner Erhard had to say on this matter:

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.” 

Let’s take a look, a closer look.  Is the Sun real?  Is the Moon real?  Is that road real?  Is that car real?  Is that tree real?  Are your hands real?  Are your eyes real?  Are your feet real?  Have you noticed that those questions are easy to answer.  Are you aware that you don’t ask yourself these questions?  Do you notice that we don’t get into heated discussions about whether the sun exists or whether you have two feet? So why does Werner make the statement that he makes?  Because you confuse beliefs (what we say is true, what we say is real) with truth/reality!

Beliefs and our relationship to our beliefs

Why do you and I need beliefs?  Think about this deeply and you will see that we do not need to believe in the Sun, the Moon that car in front of you or your arms.  Notice that what is real does not require a belief!  Go further and you inevitably come to the conclusion: beliefs are simply statements about us, about people, about the world, that cannot be proven.   Put differently when we enter the land of beliefs we are dreaming whilst being awake yet not present to the fact that we are dreaming.  Belief land is fantasy land – it is the fantasy land that we have been granted by our culture, your parents, our schoolteachers, our media, our friends and it is also a land that we shaped by constructing our own beliefs.

We give up our freedom by constructing the bars of our prison through beliefs

Look we have established that reality does not need beliefs.  We have also established that beliefs only arise when they are not supported by reality.  That is to say beliefs arise and can exist only if there there is no evidence, in the real world, that confirms that beliefs.  Lets go to the point:  beliefs are superstitions!

What happens when we construct beliefs?  We give up our zone of freedom.  Allow me to illustrate:

I believe that I my religion is the only true religion.  Consequence: I cannot be with, explore, learn from the other religions.

I believe that I am superior to you, know more, am better than you.  Consequence:  I will not enter into a real relationship with you, I will not listen to you, I will not learn from you, I will take on behaviours that are opposite of yours.

I believe that musical instruments, singing and dancing are the ‘devils work’.  Consequence:  I will not own/play a musical instrument nor sign nor dance.  And I will segregate myself from people who do engage in the ‘devils work.

You get the idea.  Every belief narrows down the zone of Possibility and of our relatedness and of our freedom to be, to participate in life, to live fully!

Now here is the really bizarre thing.  When our fellow human beings show up and ‘challenge’ our beliefs we get upset, we sulk, we withdraw, we condemn, we get angry, we shout, we maim and we kill.  That is how determined we are to keep ourselves enslaved.  If we were sane, if we had a sound relationship to reality, we would welcome people who exposed our beliefs, our prison bars, and thus allowed us to set ourselves free.

Let go of your beliefs and set yourself free

We did not come into this world with beliefs,  Once upon a time, you and I were in intimate contact with reality and simply flowed with it.  And as such everything was permissible to us.  Then little by lit we assimilated beliefs, constructed our prison bars and gave up that freedom we were born with .

You and I can reclaim our freedom right now by letting go of our beliefs.  Every time we encounter a belief we can let it go – we can point at it and shout “Superstition” Every time we do that we dismantle another prison bar and thus increase our zone of freedom.  To do that we have to be willing to stand in a very different place: a place from which we see beliefs not as truths, nor as useful tools but as a prison bar that constricts our freedom.

Struggling with this?  Please get to present to the fact that reality is reality and a belief is a belief.  When our beliefs don’t match the reality then we suffer.  Allow me to share a quote that I came across recently:

“My heart says people are inherently good, it is my experiences that speak differently.” Angela Sturm

When a wise person notices the mismatch between his beliefs and reality (what is so in terms of our experience) he gives up his belief.  If you and I let go of beliefs and be with what is so we increase the ‘workability’ of our lives and thus minimise our ‘suffering’.  This benefit is in addition to be reclaiming our freedom.  Do you wish to be that wise person or do you wish to continue to be the fool?  That is a choice for each one of us to make and live with.

How to live powerfully: replace beliefs with Stand, with Possibility

If I was Angela I would let go of the belief “People are inherently good”.  Why?  It is false – all beliefs are false!  Instead I would recognise reality “Some people exhibit behaviours I say are ‘good’.  Some people exhibit behaviours that I say are ‘bad’.  The same person can exhibit both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviours.”  Going further, I can let go of the belief and invent a Stand:

“I am Stand for recognising the good in people and calling that forth in my thinking, in my speaking, in my actions, my behaviour”.

Do you notice  the power of the Stand?   It is not a belief about me, about you, about our fellow human beings, about the world at large.  No, the Stand is me creating / inventing my role in the drama called Life.  It is a ‘call to arms’ that I give myself.  Notice, that if people were already inherently good (and behaved good) then my Stand makes no contribution.  By taking on this Stand I am calling forth / living out of the Possibility that I can impact how people show up in the world – ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Do you want a concrete example of the difference between reality, belief and Stand/Possibility?  Then watch this 4 minute YouTube clip of Viktor Frankl – Viktor explains the difference in a way that you will never forget.  Why is he worth listening to?  He wrote one of the most profound books (Man in Search of Meaning) when it comes to understanding of the human condition.  And he survived the WWII concentration camps whilst losing everyone – all his family and friends.  Yet, just listen to how he relates to people given his very real understanding of people:

Live a life of freedom: dismantle the prison bars by dismantling positions that limit


Live is full of experiences – some of them painful

Come take a walk with me down memory lane.  Imagine that you are around 7 years of age, it is autumn, it is cold, you have just got off the school bus and you are walking home with you school bag slung over your shoulders.  After a five-minute walk you are happy to arrive home.  You knock on the door.  To your surprise, your father opens the door instead of your mother.  You and your father don’t get along so you are already a little anxious.

There is a problem: you want to get into the house and your father doesn’t let you.  There he is, a big strong man, standing at the door and refusing to let you in.  “Why?” you ask and he says something like “This is not your home.  You are not my son.  You’re not allowed to come in, go away!”  You are only 8 years old, you are puzzled, wondering what is going on here.  So you ask “Where’s my mum?” and your father tells you she is not at home.  So you wonder what has happened to your mother – you love your mother.

Puzzled, cold, frightened you plead with your father to let you in: you tell him that you are his son, that this is your home and you plead with him to let you in.  He stands his ground insisting that this is not your home and that you not his son.  This goes on for something like 10 minutes.  Then something changes for you – tears flow down your cheeks as you turn around and walk back the way that you came.

Lets stop for a minute.  You the 8 year old child, walking away from home, what do you say to yourself?  Take a moment, given your experience, what is the conversation that you are having with yourself as you are walking away with tears running down your cheeks?

Here is the position that I took and the prison I entered into

I am that 7 year old child walking away thinking that I am all alone.  As I walk I tell myself that I will never see my mother again: maybe she is dead, maybe she has left and taken my brother with her.  I wonder where is my brother, will I ever see him again?  Then it hits me: how am I going to survive?  Who can I count on to help me, to look after me, to care for me?  My mother!  But she is not here and I don’t know where she is.

What would you say to yourself, if you were in my shoes, experiencing what I am experiencing, speaking what I am speaking to myself?

Here is what I said.  From somewhere I heard these words spoken with absolute confidence: “There is nobody that I can count on to help me.  That’s OK, I’ll count on myself.  I will survive, no matter what it takes, and I will find my mother and my brother.  I don’t need anyone, I can do this by myself!”  Repeating these words, the tears dried up, my back stiffened and fierce resolve took hold. That is the day the 7 year old child gave up his childhood and became a ‘man’.

Every position has a payoff

I didn’t just speak those words.  I became convinced that my speaking was a truth about myself, people and the world.  And from then onwards my living, my life was shaped by that position.  What do I mean?  I wouldn’t say that I did not ask anyone for anything, I would say that I never asked anyone for anything that mattered and they might say no.  No way, was I going to repeat the experience that I had experienced with my father.  No way was I going to allow people to let me down and upset me.

So from the age of 7, I stopped asking for and expecting any help from anyone. I was the hero of my life and I was going to do it all myself:  I dived into the Greek legends full of heroes and heroism – I read these legends every day.  I got totally absorbed with Alistair MacLean novels – full of heroes, villans, adventure.  I stopped showing any weakness and focussed relentlessly on doing well. And by the age of 30 I attained everything that I set out to attain: I had my own flat that I loved; I was being paid a great salary and had lots of money;  I was driving a BMW;  I had my own office; and I was managing businesses

Every position has a cost

The position I took at the age of 7 sounds marvellous doesn’t it.  Look at the fruits it delivered: money, status, power, possessions…  Don’t fool yourself and don’t be fooled, every position has a cost: imagine each position as a stick with one end being the payoff and the other end being the cost – a stick always has two ends.  So what was the cost?

The cost was that I was alone.  I stood alone, always.  I relied on no-one and I never asked anyone for anything.   I always had to be strong, I could never be weak:  if any signs of vulnerability, of weakness showed up then I despised myself and stamped upon these weaknesses.  How did that show up? I had a small circle of friends that I had made at university and loved (Tim, Jim, Dave, Andy, John, Simon) and I was distant from just about everyone else.  It would be fair to say that whilst people valued my efficacy then did not want to party with me.   I was lonely whenever I was not occupied with work and personal development.

Ah, personal development, that was my religion – relentlessly focussed on learning and developing myself.  That had come in handy and delivered the fruits and yet in the process I had become addicted:  there was always something more to learn, something to change/improve about myself…..  What did I do with my free time and money?  Spend it on personal development as I had be stronger, more capable, more resilient – after all I am on my own right and I have to face the whole world!

How to dismantle your positions and why I will never forget Karl

I, you, the self is made up of many positions, we call them beliefs.  During my participation in Landmark Education courses I got present to and let go of many of my positions (the prison bars that construct the self) and thus opened myself up to freedom and self-expression that I had never experienced before. Yet, there was one position, the one I have shared with you here, that I would not let go of.  That was until the day that I chose to step out of my position.

I was participating in the ILP course.  To get certified, to achieve the outcome, I had to do a whole bunch of stuff.  I was committed to achieving the outcome and the issue was that I was struggling with the ‘bunch of stuff’ that I had to do.  The more I insisted on doing it myself, not asking for help, the more I struggled and the more I fell behind.  Finally, out of desperation, and at the insistence of my coach I asked for help.  No help came: the first person was busy; the second person was busy; the third person I could not get hold of; the fourth person was busy…. I had left it too late – to the very last minute to ask for help and all of these coaches were busy helping others who had asked for their help.  What did I make it mean?  How stupid of me to listen to my coach and ask for help: hadn’t life taught me that I couldn’t count on anyone else!

Shortly thereafter, I was assisting at a Landmark seminar – setting up the room so that it was just so.  One of the people doing that work was a chap called Karl.  Karl and I got talking and in that talking I shared what I was doing with/at/via Landmark.   When he found out that I was on the ILP course he told me that he had gone through it.  He asked me about how I was doing. I told him the truth – I am good at being straight with myself and others.

To my shock, Karl volunteered to help me.  That’s right, he volunteered to help me, without me asking.  Karl set aside a full day – a full day – of his time to coach me and coach me he did.  Again and again and again: we started the work around 10am and we finished around about 7pm.  I expected the work to last about 2 – 3 hours.  The love oozed out of Karl – he was patient, he was demanding, he was ruthless and behind it all was love.

When I was getting ready to leave, I gave Karl a big hug and thanked him for his contribution to my life.  He had helped me to dismantle the position that had run my life to that day.  Karl had shown me that my position was false.  I can count on people to help me, I do not have to do it all on my own and I cannot do it all on my own.  And I experienced joy in doing the work with Karl – collaborating with a fellow human being.  Karl thanked me.  Yes, he thanked me for spending the day with him.  “What?  I have taken a day of your life and you are thanking me!  What is going on here?  Are you simply being polite?”  Karl told me that life had been a struggle for the last six months or so – some days he had found it hard to get out of bed.  He had lost his job, his marriage had fell apart, his wife had taken the children with her and he only got to see them at weekends…..

Then Karl told me something that opened up my world, offering me an opening to asking for help from a context that I had never considered.  What did Karl say?  Karl told me that me asking for his help, being open to his help, taking his coaching for the whole day it allowed him to experience being worthwhile.  Our interacting had impacted us both deeply.  I was not the only one who had dropped a position that curtailed my freedom and locked me into prison, Karl had done the same.  Through our interexperiencing Karl let go of his position that he was a failure, that he had nothing worthwhile to contribute.  Instead, he experienced being useful and powerful – the Karl that he used to experience himself as.

Putting in place a more powerful position

What happens when you take out all the old furniture from your living room / lounge and send it away?  You are left with an empty room, right?  What happens with this empty room?  It gets full again – either all in one go or in little steps.  Right?

The same applies to the human mind and positions.  So the trick is to replace old positions that limit you and your freedom and replace them with powerful positions that provide you with freedom and self-expression.  What did I do?  I replaced the position “I can’t count on anyone so there is no point in asking anyone for anything; I’ll do it all by myself” with:

  • “I will ask people for their help whenever I need help and sometimes when I do not need the help.  I will give people an opportunity to contribute to me and in so doing I am contributing to them: allowing them to get present to being useful, being powerful, being worthwhile, being great human beings.”

How powerful is that? For me, powerful.

Question for me, for you, for us

Am I, are you, are we willing to search for, examine, let go of the positions(beliefs, fixed points of view, decisions) that limit us, that restrict us, that are the bars of the prison we construct around ourselves?  And replace them with positions that provide the context for freedom, self-expression, joy and power: the power to create the life / the world that we are up for living in?  I know where I stand. What about you?  Are you up for a life of freedom, self-expression, joy and living powerfully?

I thank your for your listening and I love you: I know, that like me, you are a soul whose intentions are good and underneath all the muck you are a ‘god’.  Do you get that?  Really, do you get that?

Our lives work to the extent we give up our stories (and the people/structures which keep them in existence)


“Hey kid, you’re stuck in bad stories. But they’re only stories…” Werner Erhard

Yesterday my wife was spinning her usual story (or the story was spinning her) about going out. I listened to her at the level of story, I did not enter into her story, I did not collude, nor validate her story. Nor did I make her wrong for her story. I simply said nothing until I was asked to say something. Then I pointed out that it was all a story. She did not like that one little bit. Why? The whole point of her telling me her story was to entice me to enter into her story, validate her story, provide sympathy and make her feel good.

To me occurred that she would be free of the need to have someone make her feel good if she simply gave up her story and listened to herself as a highly capable person who is up to that which is at hand. Or if she simply got present to the fact that she will be fine irrespective of how she handles the situation: her life will not come to an end – she will not even catch the common cold! This got me thinking about how many of us are simply stuck in bad stories and yet do not get that they are only stories.

We have a choice – live in/be with reality or live in/from our ‘story’:

We can live in ‘reality’ in so far as it is accessible to us through our senses (see, hear, smell, taste, touch….). Living in ‘reality’ can be described as living in ‘suchness’. The world of suchness is simply what is so. It is a world in which when seeing occurs one can describe what one sees. And words like beautiful and ugly do not exist in this world – beautiful/ugly is a distinction/story we impose on what is there. It is a world in which taste occurs and can be described as sweet, sour, bitter but not as good or bad. I hope you get the idea.

Or we can live in the world of stories. Most of us, for most of the time live in the world of stories. What is remarkable about our existence is that we live in and our living arises out of our stories and we are not present that this is the case. ‘Our’ stories own us and run us and we are not present to it.

It takes something to keep these stories alive. We play a big part in keeping our stories alive – we give them life through our thoughts and our feelings. And importantly through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feelings. It can be even more complicated than that: through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feeling about our thoughts and feelings …… So one access to having our lives work is to give up our stories. Yet, it is not as simple as that for most of us.

We live in relationship – always! Amongst other things it means that we exist in relationship with fellow human beings: our parents, our siblings, our friends, our school teachers, fellow students, our work colleagues, our customers, the church congregation, the media we listen to and watch…….. The interesting thing is that our stories (that own and run us) are kept in existence as much by the people that we are in relationship with as by ourselves. So a powerful access to stepping out of our stories is to ‘move home’. Became a part of a community that has no listening for, no agreement with the stories that run us. Imagine going from a major city and living with the Amish in their communities. Do you doubt that our stories would lost their stranglehold over us? That we would start to see our stories and by seeing them have access to stepping out of them.

You might think that the people who are most likely to help us step outside of our limiting stories into stories that inspire us, give us more freedom, gives us more vitality, more self-expression, more joy would be the people who are the closest to us. My experience is that this is rarely the case. The people who are closest to us are the ones who both shape and help keep our existing stories in existence. This is great if the story creates a life that works for you (joy, self-expression, vitality…) and is not so great if the story bring the opposite into being, into your life.

All of which brings me to the key point: if we want our lives to work then we have to be willing to give up our stories. To give up our stories we have to be willing, prepared and committed to giving me all up all that brings our stories into being, colludes with our stories, keep our stories in existence. In practice that means not only our media, our culture, our religion, our ideologies (e.g. capitalism, socialism….) but also the people who are closest to us. That is a hard ask and that is why most people who even when they know that they are ‘plugged into the matrix’ and their ‘lives our a delusion’ are not willing to ‘unplug themselves from the matrix’. Occasionally, events come along and do that to us – at first we kick and scream, later some of us get that it was a blessing and create new, empowering, inspiring stories.

Finally the access to Possibility and Transformation is letting go of all of your stories forever. When you are standing naked of all Story then there is Nothing and in the space of Nothing you and I can create anything. Put differently in the space of Nothing there is only Possibility – a domain of unlimited possibilities and of freedom.

On significance and how it robs us of lightness, freedom and self-expression


We all want to be signficant – to be someone rather than anyone, to be looked up to rather than looked down on.  And most of us spend our lives striving for significance and in the process we carry a heavy burden – all the time.  The cost of this is huge.  Significance robs us of a lightness in being and the freedom to simply be and do as we wish without worry about how we will be viewed by others.  significance also robs us of the natural way that we learn – by doing, by messing up, by doing again differently, by messing up until we final achieve competence and mastery.

I noticed this in myself recently;  significance is a huge thing for me underneath the surface.  How did I get present to it?  Recently, I have been helping my son to post the local newspaper and this has meant me walking house to house and pushing this newspaper through letter boxes.  First, time I did this I felt uneasy.  Second time I did this I felt uneasy.  And today I did it for the third time and noticed that I was secretly pleased that most of the houses were empty.  Why?  Because I did not want people to see me doing what I was doing: shoving newspapers through doors.  And why did that matter?  Because I had made a story about it: it is a low status activity done by low status people and so forth.

Interestingly, when I saw this I was able to give it up.  When I gave it up I was able to take my time rather than rush and by taking my time I enjoyed the experience.  I actually enjoyed being outside in the sunshine.  I enjoyed looking at the plant and especially the flowers in the different gardens.

I wonder in how many other ways I am being signficant or driven to be significant and so have a loss of freedom, of lightness, of playfulness and simply being fully expressed?  How about you?  Where does this show up for you?  And is the bargain that we have made and continue to make worth it?

Personally, I am up for trading in significance for freedom of being and self-expression.  And there is a long road ahead: addiction, especially when it is so subtle, can be difficult to give up.