Joy-Sorrow: An Existential Meditation


It is 8 am. I am on holiday. Two of the people who matter the most – Marco, Clea – are here on holiday with me. And, I cannot help but notice that sorrow is present in the house of my being. It’s a sorrow that leaves me unavailable to listen to up tempo songs / music. It’s a sorrow in the presence of which any and all dance (that resides within me) has vanished.

Not Joy, Not Sorrow, Only Joy/Sorrow

We tend to think, indeed we are brought up to think, that there is joy and there is sorrow – as discreet entities. From an existential perspective, this is not the case. It’s better to refer to them as one unit – joy/sorrow – like two sides of a coin. For only if one experiences sorrow can one appreciate/value the presence of joy. And, only if one has experienced joy that one can truly experience/feel genuine sorrow.

When joy is present, as in you find yourself joyous, what is your response? Is it not to accept it and live: just be joyous, enjoy being joyous, and share your joy with others.

So what is the appropriate response to sorrow? It occurs to me that it is accept it when it arrives. Allow it to be there – for me to experience all that comes with sorrow. Be patient – allow sorrow to do its work. And, to learn – learn that which sorrow has to teach me about myself, about others, and about the world. Today, I am choosing to share my experience and learning with you. Why? No reason other than it’s the best use I can make of my sorrow – to dive into it and see what I can learn.

A Critical Existential Need: To Be Understood, Accepted, and Valued

I am unusual. I am odd. I am a maverick……Take your pick, it amounts to the same thing. And, the consequence has been a life long feeling of loneliness – a kind of loneliness not filled by the presence of people in my life. I made peace with this a long long time ago. Explains why it is I have over a thousand books. And, only a handful of friends – good friends.

Recently on an online course on Uncertainty and Complexity, I found that this loneliness was no longer absent. In its place joy is present – a kind that I have never known before. Why? The joy of being understood by another human being. An understanding that has allowed me to share that which I have not shared with any other – for no other was in a position to really listen to it and get it.

It occurs to me that at an existential level, the longing to be understood – truly understood – is a deep one for all of us. It is so deep, that I find the following quote resonates with me:

“Some people underestimate how erotic it is to be understood” – Mary Rakow

If one can be both understand AND valued on the basis of that understanding then that is, in a sense, the whole deal. It doesn’t get any better. Why? In a sense that is the fullest-deepest sense of being loved: seen, understood, accepted, valued.

What Brings Sorrow To The House Of My Being?

It occurs to me, that for me, there is no sorrow like that of being misunderstood by someone who truly matters. What makes it sorrow rather than mere sadness is this: the fact that my conduct arising from good intent has been seen and treated as something other than that which it is. That I am so misunderstood is especially difficult to bear when it is one or more of my children who misunderstand me.

Allow me to give an example and make this come alive. Yesterday, on the way back from Lugano to Central Switzerland, my son Marco insisted upon driving. I told him that it was a 2 hour drive – some of it tricky and that he needed to make sure that he was willing to concentrate. And, using a moderate (Swiss) driving style rather than his aggressive English driving style. He agreed – no conditions, just agreement. All was going well until we arrived at the Gotthard tunnel.

In the tunnel, I noticed he was driving too close to the car in front. So, I asked him to stick to the speed limit (80km/h) and the requisite distance 150m. And, asked gently but firmly. Marco did not take this well. The opposite – told me not to tell him how to drive. I did not take this well either. And, I shut my mouth as there is no point arguing with he who is absolutely convinced he is right. And, that you are the fool.

We arrive at Fluelen in Central Switzerland. The road is carved into the side of the mountain. It bends. And, it is not that wide. So attention to the road and to the driving conditions is required. There, right there, is Lake Luzern – so close that you can practically touch it. Suddenly I saw myself shouting “Watch out!” Why? Because the car was headed into the mountain. Why? Because Marco was looking at the lake.

How did Marco react? With a thanks? No. That is – often – asking too much of us human beings: it requires owning up to the fact that we are messing up or have messed up. Instead, I got a lecture on: how I scared him; how I over-reacted; on what a burden it is to drive my car under the conditions I impose and so on.

How To Deal With This Sorrow?

The Existential philosopher make a BIG deal of freedom. Particularly, that whilst we do not get to choose what happens to us, we ALWAYS get to choose our interpretation (the story we make about what has happened to us). And we get to choose how we show up (attitude) and travel (behaviour/actions) given that which has happened.

So, I am choosing to:

1-Just be with that which has occurred;

2-Not allow my son to drive my car. If he wishes to drive a car here he can simply rent one, he has more than enough money to do so. Further, I am even prepared to pay the rental; and

3-Not go in a car that he drives as often I do not feel safe with his way of driving.

I do not know how he will take this, and that I accept too. And, I am clear that I have made the choice. And in making this choice I find peace – even a smile on my face.

If you have followed me here, to the end, then I thank you for your listening. I wish you the best – may you live well, live beautifully. Until the next time….

Play BIG: Listen To / Embrace The Wisdom Of Viktor Frankl (Part 1)


If you/i are to play BIG and experience ourselves living a vital-vibrant existence then I say you/i can help ourselves by listening to, embracing-embodying the wisdom of Viktor Frankl.  In today’s conversation I share some of this wisdom with you.  I urge you to make the time to watch and truly listen to the following.

Heed The Most Fundamental and Basic Concern of Man

“What is the most fundamental and basic concern of man? Neither pleasure nor happiness. Neither power nor prestige. But, originally, and basically, his wish, his desire to find and fulfil a meaning in his life, or for that matter, in each single life situation confronting him.

And if there is a meaning to fulfil, if he is aware, if he becomes cognizant of such a meaning then he is ready to suffer, he’s ready to offer sacrifices, he’s ready to undergo tension, stress and so forth without any harm being done to his health. But if there is no meaning available, no meaning in his visual field then he takes his life.

Meaning can be found everywhere, in the smallest hut, on the other you can find people who are millionaires .. and billionaires, they have no meaning, they kill themselves….”

Bypassing The Snare Of Self Actualisation, Embracing Self Transcendence

“.. what a individual, a human being needs, is … self-transcendence. That is to say, being concerned with one’s self or one’s one prestige or one’s own happiness is self defeating.….. I deem that ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a contradiction in terms. Because happiness can never really be pursued. Happiness must ensue. Happiness is a side effect, happiness is a byproduct and must remain a byproduct of meaning fulfilment. Of your dedication to a task, a cause greater than yourself, or a person other than yourself…..

The more you give yourself, the more you forget yourself, in love or in work, for the sake of a cause to serve or a person to love, to the very extent you will become happy precisely by not caring for happiness. Precisely by overlooking and forgetting you are happy or not.

It is the same as with the boomerang ….. I had the insight that this is the very symbol of human existence, and the self transcendent quality of the human reality. Because usually … we assume that it is the job of the boomerang to fulfil is to return to the hunter. “That’s not true” the Australian’s told me. Because only that boomerang returns to the hunter, that boomerang that in the first place had failed the target .. the prey. It is the same with man. Only the type of people so intent on themselves and so eager to contemplate to observe themselves, to actualise themselves, to interpret themselves, who in the first place had missed, not a target, but a mission in their life. Who had not found a meaning outward of them. Or a human being other than themselves.

This is self-transcendence. Not being primarily concerned with oneself but something other than oneself. Or, still better, someone other than oneself. Man becomes himself, man is actualising himself, man is human, precisely to the extent man is not concerned with himself or anything to do with himself. But living out his self-transcendence.”

How To Open Yourself Up To The Experience Of Joy


Why bother with all the effort-risk-vulnerability that goes with showing up as a creator – one who creates, cause, authors?  Why not simply continue to go along with our conditioning and the default way of ‘showing up and travelling through life’ – that of a consumer who at best only gets to choose that which others have created?

Look at your lived experience and ask yourself how many people you have experienced as joyous – today, this week, this month?  Have you experienced joy?  Joy, not happiness.

When you/i show up and travel through life as creators (not merely consumers) we open ourselves up to experiencing joy.  When you/i show up as consumers we restrict our experience to moments of happiness and pleasure.

…. man does not grow automatically like a tree, but fulfils his potentialities only as he in his own consciousness plans and chooses…..

….. if a man does not fulfil his potentialities, as a person, he becomes to that extent constricted and ill…. “Energy is Eternal Delight,” said William Blake; “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.”…..

…. to the extent that we do fulfill our potentialities as persons, we experience the profoundest joy to which the human being is heir.

When a little child is learning to walk up steps or lift a box, he will try again and again, getting up when he falls down and starting over again. And finally when he does success, he laughs with gratification, his expression of joy in the use of his powers.

But this is nothing in comparison to the quiet joy of when the adolescent can use his newly emerged power for the first time to gain a friend, or the adult’s joy when he can love, plan and create.

Joy is the affect which comes when we use our powers. Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity, who is able to affirm his being, if need be, against all other beings and the whole inorganic world….

– Rollo May, Man’s Search For Himself

I find that I look forward to Sunday mornings. Why? I experience joy in the process of cooking (Sunday lunch) and feeding my loved ones. How did this come about? I give up my beliefs-concerns-fears around cooking. How? By inventing the possibility of showing up as an adept-capable cook. And then I got busy cooking with the help and supervision of my wife.

When Sunday lunch comes around the people around the table experience happiness-pleasure that comes with eating that which has been served to them.  I experience the joy that comes with relating to myself as a creator: the creator of the food and the source of happiness-pleasure occurring around the table.

It occurs to me that there is profound truth in that which Rollo May speaks. Are you up for putting Rollo May’s speaking to the test: trying it out for yourself?

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My life, your life: is this what it is ultimately all about?


We celebrated a birthday in our home yesterday.  It was all going fine – the five of us and my wife’s aunt (Lisa) were sat around a dining table enjoying food, drink and conversation.

The thought popped up, now is the time to play the track.  So I got up and played “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder – it is a track that I play at birthdays and daughter (whose birthday we were celebrating) likes it.  Daughter started moving (sat down) and singing along to the track.  Suddenly, she was up dancing and one of her brothers joined her.  Then she grabbed me and I joined in as well.

When the track came to an end, daughter asked for “You’re a lady” sung by Tom Jones.  So I put that on and she LOVED it.  How do I know?  The way she danced.  And my son, who was dancing too, loved it too. And I loved it too – listening, dancing to it, with it.  When that came to an end, I played “Sex Bomb” and that went down well with with us.

After that my son, who was dancing, complained about the songs that I was playing.  They did not show up as modern enough, as cool enough, as sexy enough – not to his taste.  All the time, daughter was just fine, enjoying the music – dancing and taking it easy.  Struggling to find the right tracks, I got another complaint from my son.  This time, I said with some frustration “How about being grateful that you have a father that cares and does this?”

Later, in the evening as I was getting to go to bed my son searched me out.  He looked me in the eyes, give me a hug and told me that he was sorry.  I welcomed that and was ready to go to sleep.  The he spoke words and I got present to being moved-touched deeply – almost at a primal level, the level of the automatic functioning of the ‘machinery of being human’.  Let me share these words with you:

“Papa, you are special.  I will miss you when you are gone [dead].  I love you. You matter to me, you make such a big difference to my life.” 

I have been thinking and it occurs to me at the primal level of ‘the machinery of being human’, you and I, strive to:

  • be loved and love;
  • live lives that matter, that make a contribution to ourselves and those that we love;
  • know/feel and be told that you and I are special – at least to one person who matters to us.

At the deepest, most fundamental, level of the being of human being is that what matters?  Is that what human life is ultimately all about?  Being loved, living a life that matters, and showing up/feeling special at least to one other person that we are in relationship with?

What does it take to be special?


You and I want to feel special

I want to feel special, you want to feel special and just about everyone wants to feel special.    That is just what is so.  And all would be well if we could just be with what is so: wanting to feel special.

For some or even most of the time you and I do not feel special.  That is also what is so.  And all would be well if we could be with what is also so: not feeling special.

You and I do not leave it at that.  Instead, some of us look for people in whose company we feel special.  When we are with these people then we feel special – life simply shows up as great, we laugh, we feel lighter,  our worries seem to fall away….. Others turn to roles, titles, or positions of power to feel special.  Some of us get to feel special through the triumphs in organisations we support like sports teams and political parties.

“There is something wrong!”

Sooner or later we find ourselves without the company of the people who makes us feel special.  Or without the roles, titles, or positions of power that makes us feel special.  And from time to time our sports teams lose.  Then what shows up?  We experience not feeling special!

What do you and I do with that experience of not feeling special?  Do we accept it? No!  We make it mean “Something is wrong!”  Something is wrong with me, with you, with the world….  And when we do that what shows up in our experience of living?  Misery shows up: we create misery for ourselves and these ripples of misery infect others that we come in touch with.

Masters of creating misery

Then there are some amongst us who are masters of creating misery for ourselves.  Those of us who are ‘masters of misery’ insist that we can only be happy if we have someone in our lives who makes us feel special. Or that we can only be happy if we have certain roles, certain titles, certain positions of power etc…

Notice what has happened here.  We, the masters of misery, make our happiness conditional on someone else and/or something else showing up in our lives and making us feel special. And in the process we give up our responsibility and our freedom. Instead we  enslave ourselves.  Why do I say that?  Because it is the world that then determines how we get to experience our lives.

Is there a way out of this prison?

If you/I find that we are one of these ‘masters of misery’ then you/I can let ourselves out of the prison that we have created for ourselves.  How? By giving up the demand that we feel special.  And by giving up our commitment, our addiction, to the point of view that we can only be happy if someone/something makes us feel special.

Look around you and notice that it is the ‘ordinary person’ who is at ease with who he is, what he does and the circumstances of his life, that shows up as special.  Notice, It is the person who is at ease with his ‘ordinariness’ that shows up as special.  Notice, it is the person who can be with people or be with him/herself that shows up as ‘special’.  Notice, it is the person who can be with and make the most of the sunshine and the rain that shows up in his/her life that shows up as special.

The paradox of special

Here is the paradox, when you/I give up the need to feel special and the demand that the world makes us feel special it is then that you/I become and show up as special.

It takes a special person to be totally ok, and even delight in, being ‘ordinary’.  It takes a special person to choose to show up in life happy – to put happiness into life – for no reason whatsoever except that he has chosen to live this way.

You are the cause of your suffering / are you running a ‘racket’? (Part III)


This post continues the conversation that commenced earlier and which you can find below:

How can you be about/deal with ‘tiredness’ and ‘hopelessness’? (part I)

You are neither the thoughts nor the feelings that show up (part II)

Let’s get present to where your are at (or were at)

“I tend to always fall for men that are dominant and players. It is difficult for me to be attracted to someone who is less witty and dominant, as I have a strong character. Although I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment, am like a moth to a flame.

This is one aspect of your life that you shared with me. You also shared the following with me:

  • “I guess I am feeling the loss of physical intimacy, someone to just be there to hold me when I’m feeling lost and alone.”
  • “Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one.”

You are the cause of your suffering and you can give it up this instant

There is what you want to be so. There is what is so. There is a difference between what you ‘want to be so’ and ‘what is so’. This difference shows up as ‘painful’ – an issue to be dealt with / a problem to be solved. And you are probably telling yourself that once you have solved this one, met the ‘one’ your life will work out and you will live happily ever after.

Do you notice something interesting? There is no ‘issue’ no ‘problem’ in the world as it is. You are generating this ‘issue’, this ‘problem’, this ‘upset’ and the suffering that goes with it. Let me be plain: YOU are the cause of your own suffering! And you can choose to not suffer – you can do that right now. Let’s take a look at this in more detail:

You have bought into and are living out of a myth. Here is how it goes: I can only be happy if/when I find the ‘one’; the ‘one’ is out there; once I find the ‘one’ or he finds me then all will be great and I will live happily ever after. I know many people who have found the ‘one’ and then found out, later, that life has not worked out and bliss is not ever present. I know of people who have found the ‘one’ only to lose the ‘one’ through death – and they are left grappling with that. I know of people who have found the ‘one’ and then the ‘one’ has cheated and/or left them for another – and these people are left grappling with that. What if you let go of this myth? What if you let go of putting conditions on happiness? What if you choose to be with the fact that right now the ‘one’ is not in your life and you choose to put happiness into your life? Notice that when you put these conditions onto life you are constructing your own prison.

“I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment”. Is this so? Let’s take a look at hurt, specifically how you (and I) create hurt. Notice that hurt arises in relation to people and pets. How does it come about? We create and live out of expectations around people – especially those who we are close to / those close to us. We may or may not share these expectations with them. They may or may not agree to our expectations. When the expectations are not met what shows up? Hurt. The bigger the gap between the demands we place on people (whether communicated or not) and what we get/do not get from these people the bigger the hurt. If you and I genuinely want to be free from hurt then we can do that right now: give up any and all expectations of people. You can even go further and ‘expect’ that every single person will act to get what he/she wants out of life – to act ‘selfishly’. Don’t you do the same? So what is the big deal when others do the same as you, same as me? If you practice this you will notice that there is no space for ‘abandonment’ in your life. ‘Abandonment’ is a function of making demands on people, on life, that life does not fulfil. Put differently, it is label for a specific kind of hurt.

Are your running a “racket”?

During my participation in Landmark Education I was exposed to the distinction “racket”. What is a racket? I say a racket is made of the following:

  • Fixed way of being e.g. being demanding, being critical, being helpful, being miserable…
  • Fixed set of behaviour – doing the same things over and over again
  • Recurrent complaint – about someone, something, about yourself
  • Payoff – usually hidden, not acknowledged – what you get out of being/doing what you are being/doing

Let’s get clear on this: you find a certain type of man attractive; you go for this type; you get what you get and you take it; at some point the ‘hurt’ and ‘abandonment’ shows up in your life’; you ‘beat yourself up’ in some way or form; you do the same again and again; and then you plead that you are simply a ‘moth to a flame’.

Well you are not a ‘moth’! You are human being who can envisage future, see possibilities, be other than that which you are being, pursue possibilities/paths other than what you are on today, do stuf that you are not doing today, stop doing stuff that you are doing…. you can even choose to give up your life. To be a human being is to be ‘the one that is always the chooser, always, not that which is chosen nor that which shows up or is imposed’. You can play at being ‘small’, ‘helpless’ even ‘pathetic’, that might work with you friends/family – it does not work with me. I relate to you as a ‘force of nature’ who can at any and all times invent and live into futures that leave your experience of living transformed. You are ‘BIG’, you really are. The question is, when will you choose to ‘play BIG’?

So now that we have distinguished the upper most level of racket – playing ‘small’ and asking for ‘leniency’ or ‘help’ let’s move on to the second level of your racket as I see it. Notice, I am not making truth claims. I am simply sharing my perspective with you, you might not like it and I say that is fine, try it out and see if it works. If it works then keep it, if it does not then you can drop it – I am not attached to it, you won’t hurt my feelings. Back to racket.

I say that you ‘ok’ with what is so including the ‘hurt’ and ‘abandonment’. Why? Because whatever it is that you are getting is of more value to you then the cost that you are paying. Put differently, the ‘payoff’ exceeds the ‘cost’ and so you continue doing what you are doing. Do you want to create the space in which you can choose to give up this game? Then look ruthlessly at the payoff – this will taking brutal honesty with yourself and we, human beings, are poor at that. What might that ‘payoff’ be?

  • You get to be right about men – they cannot be trusted, they are selfish;
  • You get to be right about yourself – you are small, helpless, cannot help yourself, cannot control yourself, you are passionate-different-trusting…..
  • You get sympathy – you can tell the story of how life is not working out and get attention, get sympathy………..
  • You get out of demands that you or others would otherwise place on you – after all if you are ‘hurt’ and ‘abandoned’ then you can give yourself a ‘get out of jail for free’ card and others typically do the same for you
  • By playing this ‘game’ you keep yourself occupied rather than being bored – it is better than ‘nothing’
  • Your belief in the myth of the ‘one’ continues intact and your dreams are not shattered……

The list is endless yet the buckets are not. What do I mean? Some wise folks have pointed out that human behaviour is driven by:

  • Looking good avoiding looking bad – which is why walk around with masks and are almost never truly ourselves
  • Being right and making others wrong – even if that means going to war and millions get killed
  • Dominating others and avoiding being dominated – in a family there is no-one as dominant as the one that gets the others to believe that he/she is helpless, ‘small’ and needs to be given special exemptions and be looked after!
  • Validating yourself (everything including your beliefs and points of view) and invalidating others – I experienced a great example of this morning when Matthew, Jehovah’s witness came to my door to show me the error of my ways and convert me.

Breaking free from your “racket”

‘Sister’ be ruthless with yourself and get clear on the ‘payoff’ and the ‘cost’ of playing this game. When it comes to ‘cost’ look at both the cost that you pay now, that you are paying longer term, and the cost that the people in your life pay. When you have written that out then get present to it – step into it, experience it. Once you have done that – are clear on the ‘payoff’ and ‘cost’ as experienced – then choose. Choose to play this game of falling for/going for the dominant men, the players, and if you do this then you give up complaining. Or choose to give this game up. If you choose to give it up then you create space to invent a more inspiring-moving-touching-uplifting game.

Finally, remember what I said earlier – you are creating your own suffering and you can give that up right now. How? Be with life as it is and as it is not. I wish you well and it will not make a difference. You, only you, are the difference that can make a difference to your experience of your living. Your destiny lies in you.

What really matters?


“If only” and “Someday”

What is it you tell yourself?  Isn’t it something like “If only I had the money/food/love/sex/fame/power/status…. then I’d be happy and everything would be perfect”?  Which tends to go along with “Someday when I have the money/food/love/sex/fame/power/status/perfect partner…. everything will be just great, I will be happy”.

Are you and I chasing after the right stuff?

I have a question for me, for you: “How do you know that when you get what you are after – money, fame, love, sex, power – you will be happy?”  Put differently, before you spend your life chasing something in order to be happy might it not be useful to question if you are chasing after the right stuff?  Lets take a walk with Timothy D Wilson in his book Strangers to Ourselves:

“Imagine that you are part of a grand experiment in which you are provided with everything you need.  At regular intervals you are given gifts of money, food, love, sex, fame – whatever you want.  The only catch is that you can do nothing that increases or decreases the likelihood of obtaining these rewards.  In fact, in order to receive the rewards, you have to spend eight hours a day in a room doing nothing – no career to occupy your time, no one to talk to, no books to read, no paintings to paint, no music to compose – in short, nothing to engage you.” 

How do this show up for you?   Look you are being offered everthing that you are chasing!  Not only that, you get everything that you are chasing after with no effort on your part.  That’s right, sit back and put your feet up.  Are you raring to go, to take the plunge wholeheartedly, to take up this offer?

Even though you can get any reward you want, this would be a hellish life.  Compare it to quite different existence, in which the tangible rewards are modest.  You make only enough money to meet your basic needs and have few luxuries.  But you spend every day absorbed in activities you love.”

What do you really love doing?  What do you enjoy doing simply for the doing?  What is it that so involves you that lose your self, you lose track of time, even if you end up being ‘tired’ you are not tired, you are uplifted?

“In such extreme cases few of us would choose the first life over the second.  In everyday life, however, I think people sometimes opt for lives more like the first one.  I see undergraduates striving for careers that will pay them lots of money but doom them to mind-numbing daily routines (tax law comes to mind but that might just be me). The second kind of life is that of the struggling artist, a social worker who loves to make a difference in people’s lives, or, I suppose, tax attorneys who are really turned on by the latest changes in Roth IRAs.  Daily absorption is more important than the paycheck at the end of the month, as long as the paycheck covers our basic needs.

Which brings me back to the central questions – for me, for you, for us

How do you know that when you get what you are after – money, fame, love, sex, power – you will be happy?

Are you ok with living a life of drudgery, of meaninglessness, in order to simply fit in, be comfortable, be approved of and in the hope that someday you will have all that you need to be happy?

What do you really love doing?  What do you enjoy doing simply for the doing?  What is it that so involves you that lose your self, you lose track of time, even if you end up being ‘tired’ you are not tired, you are uplifted?

Here is my experience :  I have been profoundly happy/fulfilled – singing and smiling – cleaning toilets.  And I have been profoundly unhappy staying at a five star hotel, in a ‘beautiful’ city, driven around in fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants!  I have been profoundly bored in ‘safe places doing safe stuff’ and on the edge of my seat, fully alive, fully immersed, totally fulfilled and joyous sitting a jeep being driven along one of the worlds most scenic and dangerous routes.   This blog is just another vehicle for access to joy, to self-expression, to be the stand I have chosen to be:  I love sharing what I have learned, I love sharing my experience, I love being of service/contributing to my fellow human beings.

Here is,perhaps, the most radical question

What if happiness is something that you bring to the table, that you put into life, rather than something that you have to search for, dig for, to beg for, to build brick by brick?   Really what if you can choose to be happy right now and bring that happiness to the game of life, to your living such that wherever you are happiness shows up? If you are open to entering into this conversation then please check out this post that I wrote some time ago:  “Happiness: a master speaks and shows the way (not for the faint hearted)”

Happiness: a master speaks and shows the way (not for the faint hearted)


As I wrote in one of the earlier posts we can play the game of happiness at many different levels.  One of the levels that occurs as being particularly interesting and inspiring is that articulated by Werner Erhard.   When he speaks there is value in listening and really getting what he is pointing towards and making available to us.  I have been listening to Werner speak and this is what he has to say:

One of the things I am really sure about is nothing will make you happy. Very few things I am really sure about.  That is one of things I am really sure about. Nothing will make you happy.  It may give you give you a jolt. It may make you gleeful but it isn’t going to make you happy.  What does that mean nothing will make you happy.  It means what it says: there is no thing that’s going to make a person happy. Most people think gee when I graduate then life will be great. No. You graduate thats wonderful but life still aint great. When I get married then life will be great. Not true.  Well when I get divorced then it will be ok. Or when I get promoted, whatever it is, when I get a new car….when I get a chance to go on this new vacation… All of you have to do is to watch people on vacation and you can see very clearly vacations do not make people happy. No, no, no.

Most people live their lives working towards something, working for something,  that they think is going to make them happy.  And it’s really the Peggy Lee song “Is that all there is?”.  No matter what it is you get that you think is going to make you happy I can promise you that in a very short time after you get it you’re gonna be  well “Is that all there is?  Is that all there is to that? You mean it’s not filling my life with joy?” Yes, that’s right it, it isn’t. 

You have to bring happiness to life.  You don’t get happiness out of life.  What is there to be happy about? Nothing. When you can be happy about nothing. Just be happy. You know “I am happy” – those words are sacred. It’s like a declaration, it’s like a place from which I come, it’s like a stand I take upon myslf.  Its not I am pretending to be happy, it’s not I am acting happy.  No. I am happy!

If you find value in what Werner has to say then I suggest you check out the following: Transformation, One to One With Werner Erhard – a series of six pay per view interviews with Werner Erhard.  From where I stand they are great value for money.


What is the source of happiness, content and fulfillment? The Amish perspective


Western economies and societies are designed to play ‘lets get more stuff’ to be happy

We can play the game of happiness-contentment-fulfillment (“HCF”) many different levels.  All of us flower in specific landscapes and those landscapes (societies / cultures) determine the HCF level that we automatically find ourselves playing  In the USA and the UK the HCF level has been and continues to be ‘get my hands on more stuff’: more money, higher paid job, more status/power, designer clothes, latest coolest consumer electronics, better car, second car, bigger/better house, second home, vacations, girlfriend/boyfriend, sex……

Why is trap kept in place even though evidence shows that ‘more stuff’ does not make us happier after a certain level of stuff

Why is this the case?  All of us who take part in this game assume (intuitively) that having more stuff will make us happy and the media is happy to supply the hypnotic suggestions to buttress and even create these assumptions.  Governments are happy to go along because making stuff that most of us do not need and which does not make us happy (and can often make us unhappy) provides jobs.  Jobs allow those in power to control the mass of humanity that is not in power.  If you take a look at the economic stagnation facing the West you will notice that less of us are partaking in the drug called ‘buying stuff’ and as a result less stuff is being made, shipped, sold and serviced.  As a result of that there are less jobs and more and more of us are finding ourselves without jobs.  As less and less of us have jobs (and job certainty) more and more of us are questioning the system and especially the privileges the powerful have granted themselves.  In turn the powerful strive to put in place mechanisms (laws, punishments, bribes) to put the powerless back to sleep.  If jobs were readily at hand then these harsh mechanisms would not be necessary.

What goes with being a fish?  The fish do not see the water that they are swimming in.  I could go further and say that the fish are oblivious to the action of swimming – in their world (of thinking and of experience) there is no such thing as swimming.  Put bluntly they do not have access to what they don’t know that they don’t know.  We are in exactly the same situation: ‘we do not know what we do not know’.  One access route to that which ‘we do not know that we do not know’ is interacting with people who are embedded in our reality – they have found themselves thrown into a different reality and take that as the natural way of living.  Which people are sufficiently similar and at the same time sufficiently different: the Amish. So it is with deep interest that I have been watching “Living With The Amish” on Channel 4.

Episode 4: The Amish perspective on happiness and contentment

It is fascinating to look at Amish culture and look at our culture through the eyes of the Amish.  There is so much that I have learned. And in this post I simply want to share with you a conversation between an Amish farmer (Harvey Burkholder, Episode 4) and one of the UK teenagers (George) who is staying with the Burkholder family:

George:  “Would you say you are content ………?

Harvey: “Yes”

George:  “Why is it that farming makes you so happy?”

Harvey:  “You can be happy in whatever you do.  The key to happiness is LOVE.  If you don’t have love, the opposite of love is anger and anger is depression.  If we live in anger or we live in doubt.  If a person lives in doubt he can’t be happy.

George:  “So do you feel having a simpler lifestyle is a key to happiness then?”

Harvey: “A simpler lifestyle plays a big part in happiness because stuff will not bring you happiness.  The more you gain, the more you have, the more you want.  Be content with where you are and with what you have.”

George: “David said yesterday that happiness comes from within.”

Harvey: “Exactly, 100% true.”

Episode 5:  The Amish perspective on riches and community

One of the UK teenagers is speaking with one of the Amish women and conversation takes place that I find fascinating as it discloses what we do not see (or actively ignore) and our society/culture actively downplays and hides:

UK teenager:  “Whilst I have been here I have noticed that everybody is an individual but you have come together to be a community where you value each single person and try very hard to make sure they stay in your community.”

Amish woman: “Riches are fleeting.  What is there to riches?  They can be gone overnight, it happens sometimes. So we do’t build on earthly riches or anything. We build a secure community for our children: the community of tomorrow. So when the children are older they will learn to work together for the good of the community.  And if the community is pulling together then you can really go places.”

My thinking

There is a huge difference between HCF (happiness-contentment-fulfillment) and a number of other phenomena like pleasure, ease, comfort, convenience, entertainment, status, power etc.  In our culture we confuse HCF with the latter – they are NOT the same. If you get this then you can give up the trap that we are automatically thrown into by virtue of flowering into the Western countries.  The door out of the trap is open, it has always been opening – we simply have not pushed on it and walked out.

Remember that money can buy you status and power – not HCF.  If this was not the case then the rich would not be unhappy.   Riches can be you pleasure, convenience, ease, comfort, convenience, entertainment etc – these are distinct from HCF.  The problem with stuff is that it only fills the hole inside (lack of HCF) temporarily – to keep the game going and not notice the lack of HCF you have to keep buying more stuff continuously.  And if you do get present to the fact that stuff does not fill the HCF hole then you turn to sex, drink and drugs.  If that does not work well enough then you take your own life.

How present am I to the moments of delight?


Yesterday I driving the Mercedes with the sunroof and four other windows open.  I was in a little bit of a hurry to get to my end destination as my eldest son was waiting for me.  Then suddenly the breeze kissing my cheeks and playing with my hair was noticed by me.  I stopped: that habitually “I” was stopped in it’s track.  In it’s place was present joy – simple delight in being alive.  And then gratitude gave me a big hug.  gratitude for the brother that bought the Mercedes for me and keeps it in good order.  gratitude for being alive and being able to drive – fast.  gratitude for the breeze on a hot day.  And gratitude for family and friends…….

Then I got present to this simple fact:  most of the time wonder is present in the ordinary moments (like a cup of tea or the smile of a fellow human being)  yet the  “I” is so wrapped up in “getting somewhere”, “doing something”, “making something happen”, “not tripping up”, “making the best use of my time” and such like.  The absurdity is that the “I” says it wants to be happy yet it is so wrapped up for its happiness plan that all the raindrops of happiness land on the desert.

So the answer to the question is that in my everyday automatic way of being I am not present to the moments of delight.  That does not mean that the world is not full of them.  And if I want to experience the joy of these moments then I need simply to be present – to be aware, to be mindful, to move from the mind to the body and simply view the world from the lens of “what works” rather that “what does not work” and the lens of “gratitude” rather than that of “complaint”.