Which Context is Determining How You (and I) Show Up?

I share with you a talk worth listening to again and again.  If you are a Landmark graduate then this talk may show up as  welcome reminder of some fundamentals. If you are not a Landmark graduate then you are in for a mind opening talk. Enjoy.

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.

What shows up in our lives when we stand in the clearing called Possibility?

Possibility (or the lack of it) is what gives us being in the present

Possibility (the future we are living into) is what gives us Being (how we are being right now, what we are doing or not) in the present.  What do I mean?  Let’s take a look at Spring.

Spring has arrived in Berkshire and I notice that the people all around me – my family, my neighbours, the folks in the village – are smiling, their faces have lit up, they have a spring in their footstep.  Why this dramatic change?  What is is about Spring that has brought this on?  Isn’t it the Possibility that we associate with Spring?  The possibility of: being outdoors in a T-shirt’; of the sun kissing your face; of flowers blooming…..?  Notice, how the Possibility associated with Spring is radically different to the Possibility associated with Winter.

What is possible?

I am not asking you a theortical question.  I am asking you a personal question: what do you think is possible for you, for us, for life on this planet?  Go deeper and ask yourself: “what is my relationship to Possibility?”  Are you one of those who has an optimistic outlook on life (open to Possibility) or are you a pessimist (‘dead to Possibility’)?  Now I ask you which game, if entered into fully, is more fun to play – ‘open to Possibility’ or ‘dead to Possibility’?

Do you want to reorient your relationship to Possibility?  Then watch the following video (1 minute long) and see for yourself what was once considered impossible and today is simply taken for granted:

The music of Possibility:  a moving, touching, inspiring example of Possibility

What is the Possibility for a baby born to ‘ordinary’ parents?  Now, lets go further.  What is the Possibility if you are that baby and I tell you that you are born without eyes?  That narrows done that zone of Possibility somewhat, right?  Lets, go further because the ‘bad news’ doesn’t stop there.  What if I tell you that you are born such that you have a tightening of your limbs and joints that prevents them from every straightening?  What Possibility is present for you?  What is the future you are living into?   Not much!  Isn’t that what pretty much all of us would say without having to think.  That is my point when it comes to Possibility most of us are wrong most of the time and yet we do not see it.

Allow me to share with you the Possibility that Patrick Henry Hughes and his father co-created, lived from and having been living into, and the results that have showed up for them, for their community and for us.  Please watch this 5 minute video – I am confident that this will open up your world (your mind as to what is possible) and touch your heart:

My question for you?

What would show up in your life if you lived from Possibility rather than Impossibility?    What would show up in your life if like Patrick Henry Hughes you did not accept the labels others put on you (and you have been putting on yourself)?   What would show up if you moved from “disabilities”to “abilities”?   What would show up if you gave up playing “victim” and became totally responsible for you life and played “god the creator”?

I invite you to get present to your living right now?  Is joy present?  Is self-expression present?  Is vitality present?  Is relatedness, connection, belonging present?  Are they all present?  If not then are you willing to be 100% responsible for what is so and is not so in your life?   OK.  Are you present to the cost of not living a life from the context of Possibility?  Great then you are in the right place to to let go of your prejudices, your doubts, you fears to step into the clearing of Possibility and invent possibilities that move-touch-inspire you?


It is the future that you are living into that is giving you your being in the present (right now)!   You can change your being by inventing a future that moves-touches-inspires you.  All leadership starts with your self and the Possibilities that you envisage, commit to and play full out to bring them to fruition.  The paradox is that it is the path that matters more than the outcome!  Being on the path, wholeheartedly, is transformation.  Enough for today.