Looking Back Over 2015: The Highs, The Lows, The Lessons

What I have experienced. And What I have learned over 2015.


If you subscribe to this blog then you may have noticed that I have shared little or nothing for most of this year.  What’s been going on? What game have I been playing?  What demands has life been making upon me?  What opportunities have presented themselves? What insights do I have to share with you?

We Like Life To Be Neat And Tidy

It is our tendency to put stuff into neat-tidy boxes. To distinguish, to classify, to categorise, to label stuff.  Once we have given something a label we feel safer, we can go about ‘investigating’ it, and then coming up with ways of dealing with stuff.  It is also our tendency to think in contrasts: long/short, good/bad, right/wrong, blessing/curse, success/failure, rich/poor, kind/mean, playing BIG/playing small… You get the idea. Yet life has a certain fullness, boundlessness, messiness, that means it cannot be easily categorised. And any / every categorisation is incomplete.

This Year Has Been An Interesting (Full) Year

It occurs this year has been like the seasons – especially the kind of seasons we have been experiencing lately in the Southern part of England – where multiple seasons present themselves in what should be a single season.

January. Everything was great: health, family, work… The future looked bright and I had plans – plans for playing BIG in life and inspiring others to play BIG in their lives. I even turned out an incredibly well paid (six figures) consulting role with a well known large consultancy. Why? Because, I was happy doing what I was doing.

February. I found that if I sat down I could not get up. I could not get up! I found that I could not put on my shorts, trousers, socks, shoes or take them off. I found that I could not turn from one side to another when in bed. Ordinary living came to a halt. And with this lack of power (self-sufficiency) the demons came out and played: feelings of helplessness, feeling of being a burden, feelings of fear… If you have lived you know what I am talking about.

Yet in the midst of this I sought to turn lemons into lemonade. So I studied often lying down or standing up. By the end of the month I became a Salesforce certified Pardot Consultant.  Wasn’t easy but brought me both distraction and great satisfaction.

March. By the middle of March I was well enough to get back to normal living. And just as I had gotten off my knees, I found myself floored. My source of income dried up – no more work. Folks whom I considered colleagues even friends treated me in ways that left me confused, puzzled, and deeply hurt.  Illness happens, I can deal with that and in fact have been dealing with it since I was a child. The kind of stuff that I experienced by friends and colleagues – that I had not experienced. And struggled to find my ground, my footing. I was in a kind of a daze for some weeks.

April, May, June. Busy, busy, busy. Busy looking for opportunities for consulting work, for Salesforce work, for project and programme management work. Plenty of conversations with all kinds of people. Even got three verbal offers of employment. None of them worked out.

Also experienced what occurred to me as the second largest (most important) betrayal of my life. That is too personal to go into. But I can tell you it hurt – really hurt.  It brought forth genuine sorrow – of the deepest kind.  The first person who showed up as betraying me was my mother when I was a child. That had a deep impact on me – I made it a rule never to trust what people say for I had seen the dramatic difference between words and deeds. It took some being to accept and deal with this betrayal.  Yet, it was easier to deal with because this time around I was an adult able to step into the shoes of the other, rather than a child of six or seven. Time does make a difference.

At the same time, I learnt to code in HTML and CSS. I even learnt to write some Javascript.  Some wondered why a strategy guy like me was doing this deep tech stuff. I was clear: in troubled times it is necessary to give myself challenges – so that misery and self-pity has no space to show up. Further, one of the ‘dark arts’ of digital was no longer dark. And, I enjoyed the achievement of building a replica of the BBC home page. Further, it became clear that whilst I could do this work, it was not work for me. I need work that provides interaction with people.  With ideas. With helping folks effect change with a view to causing a better world in some dimension.

July and August. I was busy with various ‘projects’. Some of these projects were great in that they allowed me to do what I do well: help folks think through and grapple with challenges.  Other projects were not great: dealing with difficult folks- folks who lacked knowledge/expertise, folks who talked big but did not keep their promises. These were also months of uncertainty as the work wasn’t generating the kind of income that I needed to generate. And I was keenly aware that I was burning through the family’s safety net.

Whilst the family was holidaying in various parts of France, I was busy studying for a Salesforce certification. When I got my Salesforce Sales Cloud certification – well it is day I remember well. I had taken that same exam a year ago and failed. It was the first exam I had failed in my life. But this time around I learned from the past, did the work (over and over), and I passed!  Further, I used up some of the time to dive deeper into the whole User Experience Design thing. I found that I enjoyed learning about it. And that I already knew quite a bit – but by no means all of it or anywhere near.  Further, I learned that I enjoyed the UX design thing given that it is a useful tool for creating better digital interactions and interfaces.

Oh and I made my decision. I Gave up freelance project management type of work that I had been doing (because it was so easy to do). And accepted an offer of employment with a large consultancy / systems integrator.

September. I found myself back to the kind of lifestyle that I had chosen to leave behind five or so years ago.  Why go back?  Despite the ‘new age’ stuff my life has not always worked out the way I have wanted it to work out. It has just worked out the way it worked out.  And given my experiences between March and September – including working with folks that showed up as ‘idiots’ – I was grateful to be back to proper consulting work with folks that had showed up as pleasant, helpful, interesting during the interview process.

Yet, this month was a kind of shock to the system. New organisation, new people, new ways of doing things, regular travel, waking up at four in the morning, catching the 6:30 aeroplane to a foreign country, working away from home – from several days at a time, to the whole week. Yet, amidst that I got to re-experience Copenhagen – a city that I had lived in for three months some 10+years ago. The city still showed up as beautiful. And the Danish people seemed to be the same kind of people. Only this time, I realised how fortunate I had been 10+years ago. The last time I stayed-worked in Copenhagen I had stayed in one of the very best (most expensive, beautiful) parts of the city. Sometimes you can only appreciate what you had long after you had it.

October and November. I find myself in the hell I had experienced back in February. I felt my back go on a return flight from Copenhagen to London. This time I did not behave as foolishly as I did back in February. I learnt from that experience and started taking measures immediately – like standing up to work, like taking medicines, like going for walks….  Yet, that did not make it easy. My lower back and legs were in constant pain. I got through the days with the maximum dose of painkillers.

Just when it looked like things could not get worse they did. My neck, shoulders and left arm started playing up – might have had something to do with the fall that I took on the stairs due to being drugged up!  Despite expensive visits to the Chiropractor, the neck, shoulders, and arm did not improve. It got worse. I had constant pain in my left arm, I lost fine motor control (could not button up my shirt or insert cufflinks into my shirt sleeves), and I lost power in that arm. Due to all this I didn’t sleep much – an hour here, two hours there. Yet, despite all of this I kept working full or pretty full days.

I worked from home. I worked at a client site. One day I was walking just outside the client site in November, my right lower leg lost power, and I found myself flat on the pavement.  Luckily my hands broke the fall.  Because my left arm/hand was inoperative (could not type for example, or hold a flip-chart market), I ended up doing almost all of my writing up on flip charts.  I illustrated, I explained, I recorded decisions, next steps, strategies… on the flipchart. And then gave these charts to helpful folks at the client to write-up.

December. Finally got round to seeing the neurosurgeon. My chiropractor and the emergency doctor (that I had to see at the weekend after a very difficult Friday) brought home to me the serious of the situation toward the middle to end of November.  After that it took a while to get the necessary appointments: my predicament occurred as urgent to me, the world of insurance companies, secretaries, consultants, and hospitals was rather indifferent to the needs of one single being.  Life kind of works like that: we want so much to be given special treatment, all seven billion of us….

This week, finally got the MRI scans done. One shows that I have a pretty impressive bulging disc pressing into my spinal cord in my lower back. Hence the sore lower back, inability to sit for long, pain down my legs, loss of power in my right lower leg. The other MRI scans show I have a bulging disc in my lower neck which is also pressing against my spinal cord. Hence the loss of function in my left arm…

What to do?  Do I take the surgery knowing that there is two out of hundred people who have that surgery end up paralysed: two out of 100 for the back, two out of hundred for the neck.  Or do, I cling to the possibility that my body will heal itself (enough to live a normal life) given time and the right type of activity?  The neurosurgeon advised the latter and I find myself in agreement with him.  Surgery as a last resort.

So What Is It That I Have Taken Away From This Year And All That Has Come With It?

It occurs to me that sometimes playing BIG is simply handling life as best as one can. There have been periods in this year that I was in so much pain that when I noticed I was about to go to sleep, a part of my wished that I would never wake up. Yet, I did wake up, and with that waking up life made its demands on me.  Further, when I did wake up I felt bad that I wished the night before that I would not wake up. Why? Because of my wife and children – they count on me in so many ways.  They want me around – for a long time. To leave them just to avoid some physical pain (even a lot of physical pain) occurs as selfish.  As weak.

If I have played BIG this year then what I acknowledge myself for is modelling the way I hope that my children will deal with the demands (unexpected surprises, difficulties) that life will throw at them:

  • My children have seen/heard me cry, shout with pain, walk across the kitchen in the middle of the night – night after night, drugged out at the end of the day, fallen-helpless-bleeding at the bottom of the stairs yet unbeaten, ask for help in putting on my socks and shoes….
  • They have seen me work every day – every day as best as I can, as creatively as I can, to meet my obligations to my clients, my colleagues, my employer, and my family.
  • They have seen me accept the pain, accept the demands of life, and deal with them with stoicism. Sometimes even with laughter.
  • Most of all, I hope that I have shown my wife and children how important they are to me, and how much I love them.

And finally, the blessing amidst all the difficulties? I know that I will die. And yet the most important part of me (that which I value, how I aspire to conduct myself) lives in my children. I experienced the most amazing kindness, generosity, love, helpfulness, encouragement emerge from my children.  They have left me feeling loved in a way that is beyond words.  And I have witnessed and experienced the same from my wife.  

How extraordinarily fortunate I have been this year!  How often does one get to really experience the beauty of ordinary everyday living?  How often does one get to experience how much one matters in the lives of others? How often does one get to feel so grateful, so proud of one’s children, of one’s partner/wife?  How often does one get to experience the triumph of the human will over the difficulties and surprises that come intrinsically with life and living?  I got to experience ALL of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play BIG: Be Strong, Give Into Life, Give Into Love, Give Into Hope, Give Into Trust..


Back has been troublesome for two weeks now. Pain. Pain. Pain. Difficulty sleeping. Difficulty sitting. Difficulty moving. Quality of living lacking that quality that goes with good health. Took action to loosen back and cheer myself up: listened to long forgotten dance music.

Came across Lysa Stansfield singing People Hold On. Find the lyrics soulful: meaningful-moving-inspiring.  I share them with you standing in the possibility of being a source of contribution to you on this beautiful day:

Everybody’s looking for a meaning
Everybody’s doing their own thing
And nobody’s solving the problem
Ain’t nobody helping each other

Some people give into fear
Some people give into hunger
Some of us live for the future
And some of us wonder

Givin’ into life, givin’ into love
Maybe there’s enough for everyone
Givin’ into hope, and into trust
Maybe there’s enough for everyone

People hold on
Don’t do yourself wrong
People hold on
We’ve got to be strong
People hold on

Everybody’s getting frustrated
Why should we live with this hatered
We’ve all dancin’ on a thin line
They’re makin’ out we’re having a good time
So who’s gonna give us the answer
Sister and brother

Givin’ into life, givin’ into love
Maybe there’s enough for everyone

People hold on
Don’t do yourself wrong
People hold on
We’ve got to be strong
People hold on

People hold on, people hold on to it
you know you gotta do it

Givin’ into life, givin’ into love
Maybe there’s enough for everyone
Givin’ into hope, and into trust
Maybe there’s enough for everyone

People hold on
Don’t do yourself wrong
People hold on
We’ve got to be strong
People hold on

Thank You, And A Small Gift For You This Christmas


Without listening there is no value in speaking. Which is my way of saying that I am truly grateful for your listening of my speaking. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I wish you a great Christmas. And I know that my wishing will not make the same kind of impact that your actions will make. So I ask you to the source (cause of) a great Christmas experience – for yourself, for your loved ones, for all whose lives you touch this festive week or so.

What is it that I can offer you as a small gift this Christmas? What kind of a gift is in tune with what this blog is about? I offer you the following:

Yes, the whole conversation is about 7 hours long. If nothing else, I recommend that you listen to (and watch) the first 90 minutes.

I’d like to end this particular conversation with a quote from Werner Erhard. It occurs to me that it is worth listening – really listening to it – and then acting on it.  It occurs to me that acting on that which Werner is speaking, would be a great way to celebrate Christmas and being the New Year. Here is that quote (bolding mine):

People often don’t understand what is involved in forgiving. They think that if somebody does something wrong, and you forgive them, that is like saying that it was alright to do it that time – but don’t dare do it again. But life doesn’t work that way; and it’s stupid or hypocritical to forgive someone on that basis. If somebody does something, you can be sure that he or she will do it again.

“That is why I prefer to talk about ‘making space’ and ‘completion.’ To the extent that forgiveness is involved, it is more like self-forgiving and self-acceptance. When you forgive yourself for something, you have to create the space for that thing to exist. For whatever you resist, and fail to make space for, will indeed manifest itself in you.

“Self-forgiving, and self- accepting, is an essential part of being complete in relationships. If there is something about your past that you are ashamed of, or guilty about – if there is something in it that you are hanging on to – if there is something there that you are using to burden another person – that will prevent you from being complete in your relationships.

“In order to transcend having to be any particular type of person, you have to make it all right with yourself to be that type of person. The moment when you really experience that you have created yourself being whatever way you are, at the same moment you will never have to be that way again.

“This self-forgiving, self-acceptance, goes hand in hand with forgiving others, making space for others, completing your relationships with others. You cannot be complete in a relationship with any person whom you do not admire and respect as he or she is, and as he or she is not – rather than the way you think she is or would like her to be. Love for a person is is acceptance of him or her the way he is and the way he is not.

“So long as you do not know who you really are, this will be difficult. You may have to give up a lot of things to which you may be attached. You may have to give up your resentments, your anger, your upset, your annoyance, your desire to punish.”

– Werner Erhard

At your service | with my love

maz

 

 

What Is The Foundational Practice Of Love?


What Is The Foundational Practice of Love?

In his book, ‘True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart’, Thich Nhat Hanh says that the foundational practice of love is to be there:

“To love, in the context of Buddhism, is above all to be there….. If you are not there how can you love? Being there is very much an art …… bringing your true presence to the here and now. The question that arises is: Do you have the time to love?

What Is The Foundational Practice Of ‘Playing BIG’?

It occurs to me that many of us (including me) misunderstand what it it to ‘Play BIG’ in life. We confuse ‘Playing BIG’ to taking on big projects, going for big outcomes, achieving big wealth/status.

It occurs to me that you/i can ‘Play BIG’ simply by being there. Why do I say this constitutes ‘Playing BIG’?  Here is what Thich Nhat Hanh says: “But being there is not an easy thing.” It takes practice: ongoing practice.

Is being there that important?  Is being there for the people who you/i profess to love that important?  Is being there for those who count on you that important?  I share with you the card I received from my son in relation to Father’s Day:

“Dear Papa,

I am sorry this card is late but now, I feel ready to give it to you. The truth is you’re not a perfect dad by any means but overall you do a good job. You love your family to bits, you do so much for us all, and I for one love you to bits…….. having you at my side when I need you most is a blessing. You are so kind and you have the biggest heart of anyone I know. Thank you for all your hugs, warmth and affection that you have given me. These mean so much to me and make me feel really loved. You help me feel at ease and at peace with myself and your presence is calming.

Also, I hope you know that I look up to you in so many ways. I love the fact you appreciate the simple things in life and are always prepared to count your blessings rather than looking at what you don’t have or what you could have……

Finally, I hope you can believe that you are worthy dad. In my opinion, you are a background person, and so it can be easy to forget that you are there, but this doesn’t mean that people don’t love you or care about you. For me, just you being yourself makes a big difference. Also, remember to inject that random sense of craziness and fun of yours into life!

I guess all I can say is thanks for everything you do for me and just being there for me when I need you the most…… believe in yourself and believe you are a worthy dad.

Love, Marco.”

All I can say is that when times have been the most difficult for my son, and I have not jumped into the ‘fix it’ mode of being-travelling in the world, I have simply been there for my son. To my utter astonishment that has made more of a contribution than if I had turned up and fixed it.

A Priceless Gift On Father’s Day


Today, I wish to ‘record’ and share with you the song that my daughter sang for me yesterday. A song that shows up as priceless for me. And which left me deeply moved, tears rolling down my eyes. Why?

Put simply, over the last couple of years I have experienced a deep sadness and loss. Why? Due to a certain distance with my daughter where once there was simply love and laughter, hugs and connection.

Perhaps, you are experiencing that which I have experienced. Perhaps this song will touch you as it touches me. Perhaps, this song will awaken possibility. What possibility? The possibility of connection with all who matter to you, and to whom you matter.

Father’s Day Song

You would hold me when I was crying

and rock me back to sleep.

Now trust me I ain’t lying

you were the world to me

and you always knew

one day I would grow up and get older.

And, I wanted to be just like my dollies

and be smarter.

I love you, I love you

don’t let anyone tell you different

yes, I need you

daddy, I need you

even though it don’t look like I do.

You would tell me I’m smart

even though I didn’t think it was true,

You would tell me I’m loved

even if you thought I didn’t love you!

And I look at myself in the mirror

just waiting to get older.

But daddy I love you,

I love you

don’t let anyone tell you different.

Yes, I love you,

daddy, I love you

even though it don’t look like I do.

I need you, you need me

I remember all this rubbish you taught me

“For mash get smash”,

‘One Cornetto give it to me,

one Cornetto fresh from Italy!”

It’s rubbish and it’s funny

so I remember it from you.

I love you, I love you

don’t let anyone tell you different.

Yes, I need you

daddy, I need you

even though it don’t look like I do!

– Clea 

For my daughter, I wish simply to say that I am deeply grateful that our lives touched. And I am committed to being around as long as possible. I love you deeply and find you to be amazing.

Am I A Success?


How do I go about determining the answer to this question?

It occurs to me that a starting point is to list that which is commonly associated with success: wealth (money), fame, power, status…..

Wealth. Without hesitation I can say that I am not wealthy. Therefore, I am not a success in this dimension.

Fame. I am perfectly safe walking amongst a throng of humanity: none of my fellow humans would single me out of the crowd.  I am one of seven billion. So I am not a success in this dimension either.

Power. I do not possess the power to act on others, shape their behaviour and direct the course of the future. More precisely, I have no more power than the ordinary man. And we all know that the ordinary man is ordinary precisely because he lacks power.   Clearly, I am not a success in the domain of power.

Status. What goes with being ordinary? Lack of status.  There is nothing about me that calls forth status. Neither do I hold a rank of fill a role that carries status.  I am clear that I am not a success in this domain either.

Given that which I share do you consider me to be a success?  I am clear that by the standards of the society I am not a success. Some in my social circle see me as a person who has not lived up to his potential, others see me as a failure.

How Is It That I Experience Myself As A Success? 

Unannounced and uninvited I find myself seized by the conviction of success. Put differently, in my lived experience I show up for myself as a success.  What is going on here?

What has hit me with considerable force is that the existential projects in which I have invested in myself have turned out along the lines that I worked for them to turn out.  What am I talking about? Let’s look at each.

Wife

My wife and I have been together since 1992 and married since 1995.  She is white and French. I am not white and not French. Despite the misgivings of our parents (and some friends) we are still together. It has not been easy going, we have faced many challenges. I am particularly proud of the way I stood for and helped make happen that which was my wife’s dream and is, today, her passion:

You have always been the king of my heart, even with all that has gone on between us at times……  I also want to thank you for supporting me with my counselling, while this can be a demanding job at times. I cannot wish for any other job … While I don’t always take the time to say, I know who does the washing up, empty the dishwasher ……. when I am not here or just too tired…..

Eldest Son

I have been concerned with the wellbeing of my eldest son since he was about eight years old. Why? That is when it became clear that he was dyslexic. Whilst being smart he struggled in the classroom and this dented his confidence and wellbeing.

I put a lot of myself into my son’s wellbeing including taking the fight all the way (jumping over several hurdles over the course of year or so) to get him the specialist tuition he needed. Today, at the age of nineteen he is well known-liked in the community. Has managed a retail shop for over a year. And has earned-saved enough money to pay for his driving lessons, buy a car and insure it with his earned-saved money.  This is what he writes:

Thank you so much for all the time you have put into looking for a car and to help me drive. I do really appreciate it. I thank you for supporting me through changing jobs. I love you lots even though we have our differences.

The Younger Son

I had great hopes for my younger son when he was around eight years old.  He was so full of life. And where his older brother struggled to put a sentence together, the younger would confidently walk on to the stage and hold everyone’s attention and make us laugh.

Things changed when he moved passed the age of eleven and moved into a new school. It has taken a lot to be with all his struggles especially when he has been in considerable pain and I have found myself experiencing myself totally helpless to fix things.  Sometimes, all I have been able to give is a hug. Here is what he wrote for my birthday:

I love you more than words can describe and thank you for making my days feel happier, easier and more relaxing. I ……… take this opportunity to let you know  how much your calming hugs & massages make a positive contribution in making me feel happier, more at ease with myself, and more positive about life……. No one can make me feel like that through their affection… I couldn’t imagine my life without you.

 Daughter

With the boys I was comfortable looking after them right from birth. That was not the case for my daughter. Why? Because she is female!  With the help-guidance I overcame my fears and was comfortable doing all that needs to be done with a baby.

Somewhere along the way my daughter and I developed an especially strong relationship.  I am into wisdom and tales of wisdom. Most people find them boring. My daughter didn’t, she could not get enough. She loved to hear a different tale every night – just before she went to sleep.

The Buddhists say that life flows, change is what is so, nothing lasts. And it is our attachment/clinging that ultimately generates our sense of dissatisfaction with life.  I didn’t pay enough attention: as my daughter moved towards her teenage years we drifted apart. For a while I was left with a great sense of loss. And I worried for her and wondered what it was that I had done wrong.

Where had I failed as a father?  This is what my daughter told me recently:

To start off I want to thank you for everything that you do for me and everything you have taught me. I want you to know that I LOVE YOU LOTS! You mean the world to me! I wouldn’t be able to live without you!

I want you to know that I will never stop loving you even if we don’t talk as mud or spend time together like we used to. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU!

Niece

I had a decision to make about a year ago. My niece wanted to come and look for a job in London and wanted somewhere to stay for six weeks.  The question that I asked myself was a deeper one: “Am I willing to have my niece stay with us and treat her as my daughter? To treat her with the same consideration-love that I show for my daughter?”

My niece has now been living with us, and as an integral member of the family, for about a year.  This is what she told me recently:

I want to thank you for everything. I am a very lucky girl to have an uncle like you. I am also very proud of you for everything that you have achieved this year, all the challenges and setbacks and you still pulled through. I love your very much!

Why Have I Shared This With You?

I have shared this with you in order to communicate the following:

1. Whether you show up for yourself as a success or a failure depends on how you look at your life and at the point in time that you do the looking. If you are up for a deeper appreciation of that which I am pointing at then read the following post: I Have Failed, Am I A Failure?

2. The staring point of playing BIG is not being ensnared by that which society deems to be success. And choosing your existential projects – that which truly matters to you, authentically! And then putting your all into these projects.

3. Playing BIG can be as simple and as difficult as making a meaningful contribution in the lives of our fellow human beings starting with those nearest-dearest to us.

4. No amount of success is likely to be experienced as success until and unless you/i  invite love into our living: loving other/s and inviting/receiving the love of other/s.

What is Love As A Way Of Being?


On Love As Emotion-Feeling

Love as commonly spoken about, written about, sung about, holds little interest for me.  Why is that? Because it occurs to me that this is ‘love as a feeling’.  Now take a look at that phenomena of feeling-emotion. What shows up?  What shows up for me is the fact that feelings-emotions come and go.  It occurs to me that ‘my feelings-emotions come and go’ rather like guests did in my parents house when I was child.  We almost never knew which guests were going to turn up, on what day, at which time, what mode they would be in, how long they would stay…..

You may find yourself in a sad or happy state, and yet you may be at a loss as to why you are in that particular state now …. emotions are a fairly good index of how conducive the environment is to our well-being, or, at least, how conducive it seems to our minds…

…. the biological “purpose” of the emotions are clear and emotions are not an indispensable luxury. Emotions are curious adaptations that are part and parcel of the machinery with which organisms regulate survival…. emotions actually produce quite reasonable behaviour from the point of view of survival.

At their most basic, emotions are part of homeostatic regulation and are poised to avoid the loss of integrity that is a harbinger of death or death itself, as well as to endorse a source of energy, shelter or sex. And as a result of powerful learning mechanisms, such as conditioning, emotions of all shades eventually help connect homeostatic regulation and survival “values” to numerous events and objects in our autobiographical experience. Emotions are inseparable from the idea of reward and punishment, of pleasure or pain ….. Inevitably, emotions are inseparable from the idea of good and evil.

Antonio Damasio, The Feeling Of What Happens

On Love As A Way of Being / Showing Up In The World

I find myself attracted to the enquiry regarding ‘love as a way of being / showing-up in the world’? Why?  Because, I can choose and thus shape my way of being / showing-up in the world.  What does ‘love as a way of being / showing up in the world look like?’  Here, I say it is worth listening to the wisdom of Werner Erhard

What love actually is, is the experience that someone else is all right exactly the way they are. To love somebody you have to choose for them to be the way they are. Exactly….Now, if you make something all right the way it is and all right the way it’s not, what’s another word for that? Space. The person’s got the space to be. You know, they can be. They can be the way they are and they don’t have to. Because it’s all right with you for them not to be the way they are. And it’s all right with you for them to be the way they are. That’s love.

……..  Let me put it in more fundamental terms. To be able to tolerate someone the way they are and the way they are not – is loving them. The highest expression of love is the experience that you are creating that person exactly the way they are. They are your creation exactly the way they are, and you are creating the space for them to be any other way. That’s an ultimate expression of love. To create the space for people to be the way they are and to create the space for people to be the way they aren’t. That’s it……

….All the rest of it is an illusion. You see “I love you” is an illusion. It really is…… If I walked up and say “I love you” that’s got to come out of the notion that I might not. You see, it’s got to come from a sense that there’s something other than “I love you”.

The fastest way to destroy love is to make a goal out of it, because people who are trying to be loved come from a place that they’re not loved. And people who are trying to love come from a place that they don’t love.

Werner Erhard on the Experience of Love

And if that shows up for you as too philosophical then I leave you with the following:

Love is listening, observing, validating and empathizing.

– Catherine Cadden

Play BIG: Be A Human & Call Forth Each Other’s Humanity


I have been giving a lot of thought to what it means to play big.

Imagine you are out of university, enter the world of work, and set your sights to becoming the youngest ever CEO of your organisation.  And you set out to do exactly that.  Now that could be called playing big, and it does not show up for me that way.

Imagine that you have set up a coffee shop and you dream of having a chain of coffee shops all across the country. And then expanding so that there is one of your coffee shops in every city across the world.  And then you get busy turning this feat of imagination into reality.  This could be called playing big, and it does not show up for me that way.

Imagine that you are down and out with cancer. Yet, you envisage getting back on your bike and winning the Tour De France. Unimaginable to most and you are totally determined to do so. And you do all that it takes to deal with your cancer, get healthy, get fit, race. You win the Tour De France.  Many would call that playing big, and it does not show up for me that way.

It occurs to me that, for me personally, playing BIG is transcending that which goes with ego: self-centredness and vanity at best; selfishness, greed, indifference and/or cruelty at worst.  It occurs to me that to play BIG is to put the best of my humanity, our humanity, into action. And in thus doing make a contribution to lives and life itself.  Which is why, I find myself deeply moved by the following words for one who lives-walks the path of god:

Be a human, bring out each other’s humanity.

Get rid of hunger, get rid of poverty. Don’t be materialistic, and you will have money, even to give to America.

I have a love of humanity. A love for any person.

Truthfully, I am a refugee from India, but I call myself a human being.

I have become famous for being a human being.

– Abdul Sattar Edhi, Edhi Foundation

I encourage you to watch the short film and allow yourself to be touched by that which is the best in and of us:

If you find yourself touched then I ask that you honour our shared humanity by truly being a human being and calling forth the best of our shared humanity.  Here is an idea that has just come to me, how about for one day:

  • that which you spend on yourself (say a coffee, a lunch, a restaurant meal…..) you also spend on a fellow human being with a open heart; and
  • put into the world and thus share the non-materialistic bounty of life – a smile, a kind word, deep listening, a helping hand.

I am taking on this game, joyfully.  And it would be great to play this game with you, play it together.

It occurs to me that you/i/we have a choice. What choice? A fundamental choice: to live as gods or to live as beggars. What is the difference? God gives.  The beggar, in whichever guise is always looking for that which he can receive/gain from others.  Please notice even a ‘beggar’ can be god. How? Simply by smiling and allowing that smile to light up the lives of those who pass by and receive the gift of that smile.

I thank you for the listening that your create. It is your listening that keeps me in this conversation and calls forth that which finds itself spoken here, at this blog.

Giftivism: Transforming Life Through Small Acts of Radical Kindness


I start by gifting you that which shows up for me as a profound truth:

“What we will do for love will always be far more powerful than what we will do for money. What we can do together will always be far greater than what we can do alone.”

– Pavithra Mehta

This wisdom, this truth, this gift found itself to me through coming across and listening to what shows up for me as the most radical-inspiring talk of recent times.

It occurs to me that the being of the speaker and that which the speaker shares is in complete alignment with that which I share in my speaking through this blog. As such I am paying it forward by sharing this profound-radical-inspiring talk with you.

http://youtu.be/p_QLGvp_stI

Here are some words that have caught my attention, may they speak to you and resonate with you. May they act as an opening for you to enter into and lift ‘giftivism’: small acts of radical kindness 

“So in a world where everything has a price — what happens to the priceless?

We live in a time where we have mastered the art of “liking” each other on Facebook but have forgotten the art of loving each other in real life.

Our purpose doesn’t lie in our commodities it lies in our sense of communion …. Compassion. Empathy. Generosity. Trust….

What practices, systems and designs emerge when we believe people WANT to behave selflessly?

Generosity is generative. Everybody wins because generosity is NOT a zero sum game.”

And I leave you with the speakers invitation:

“We begin to move from being a market economy to being part of a gift ecology.

 It begins with small steps. I invite each one of you to think about what your small step will be. What is YOUR giftivist resolution?

May we each take that step. May we change ourselves, may we change the world.”

At your service and with my love

maz

 

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


tothewonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Ebert (film critic, deceased)

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

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

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

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

Damon Linker (senior correspondent at theweek.com)

Nelson Mandela: A Master of Being?


I am not in a position to say anything about Nelson Mandela. Why? I didn’t know him at all, I simply know of him. What I notice is that a big deal is being made of his death. Why?

It occurs to me that Nelson Mandela embodied a certain way of being. A way of being that is uncommon in our age. What kind of being am I pointing at?   Being a stand for a possibility that speaks to many of us, a possibility that moves-touches-inspires many of us at the very deepest level:

“I think his main legacy will be instilling confidence among all people in South Africa, instilling the knowledge that people are equal, all people regardless of colour; that people can live in peace and harmony and love.”

-Fellow ANC political prisoner Ahmed Kathrada

Looking through is ‘work’ I find myself deeply touched by some of his saying. These I share with you for they may also call to you, touch you, and open up new possibilities and avenues. It occurs to me that if you and I are to generate value from these quotes then we have to live them not just read them.

There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.”

“There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we led.

“There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status.”

One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.

“There are few misfortunes in this world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill.”

A winner is a dreamer who never gives up

With Love or Without Love?


I want to share with you two distinctions ‘with love’ and ‘without love’.  Why am I sharing these distinctions? Because distinctions shed light on what is so and at the same time open doorways to new possibilities.

Today, it occurred to me that everything that you and I do, is done either ‘with love’ or ‘without love’.  And there is a profound difference between doing something ‘with love’ or ‘without love’.

When I listen, am I listening ‘with love’ or am I listening to you ‘without love’?

When I speak, am I speaking with love or without love?

When I write, am I writing with love or without love?

When I cook, am I cooking with love or without love?

When I serve the food that I have cooked, am I serving it with love or without love?

When I eat, am I eating with love or without love?

When I clean the house, am I cleaning with love or without love?

When I turn up to collect my children from school, am I turning up with love or without love?

When I help you with something, am I helping you with love or without love?

When I walk, am I walking with love or without love?

When I sit, am I sitting with love or without love?

When I sleep, am I sleeping with love or without love?

When I work, am I working with love or am I working without love?

It occurs to me that the default is ‘without love’.  It is so much the default that I don’t see that I act ‘without love’. My acting just shows up as acting: I do that which I do as I have always done it. And I think no more of it. I do what I do mindlessly. Yet, the person on the receiving end does notice whether the action was taken with love or without love. When I act with love the other tends to feel accepted-appreciated-loved and I also experience joy. When I act without love, the other is left feeling that s/he does not matter.

I invite you to imagine what your experience of living would be like if you listened with love, spoke with love, and took action with love. What would show up if you brought love to all that you do?

Today, I am inventing the possibility of listening-speaking-acting ‘with love’. I invite you to join me.

 

 

 

Friendship and Love


We spent a large part of last weekend at the home of our friends: Gisela, James, and Jasper.  As Gisela says, it is our home in the countryside. It strikes me that coming from someone else this would strike me as mere words, intentions, or simply being nice, being polite.  Yet, Gisela’s words do not show up that way for me: they show up for me as truth – my home in the countryside.

What is it about Gisela, James, and Jasper that leaves me feeling loved and loving them as I do?

1.  I notice that there is genuine joy in their being when I show up in their home. And vice versa.

2. It never occurs to me that I am being judged: right-wrong, good-bad… And I do not judge them. What is presence is acceptance and the space that creates for us: to simply be.

3. One-upmanship is absent: nobody is out to show that they are better, or not, than anyone else.  Yes, we rejoice in each others gifts. And we leave it at that: there is no judgement about those gifts. We take delight in each other, not judgement/evaluation.

4. I am not being advised nor educated about life.  Nor am I being questioned or interrogated.  There simple is no space in our being for that kind of conversation to show up.

5. Nothing shows up as being forced.  It does not occur to me that anyone is doing their best to please others against their own feelings-needs. It occurs to me that there is an absence of pretence. And as a result there is a certain ease and gracefulness.

6. There no faking, no bullshitting, no preening, no grandstanding, no falseness going on – none that I pick up or have picked up yet.  What there is, is, even if it is deemed to be “bad” or “inappropriate” by conventional wisdom and morality

7. We share. We share the shopping if there is shopping to be done. We share the cooking if there is cooking to be done.  We share our speaking and listening.  We share our joy in being present with one another. We share smiles. We share hugs.  We share what we have found on TED, or elsewhere, that speaks to us.  We share the joys, challenges, disappointments and heartaches of life: that which works and that which does not work in our lives.

8. Smiles, hugs, laughter and even play is present.  And what an amazing difference that makes.  To get up in the morning and be greeted with genuine warmth/affection made visible through smiles and hugs.

I am left asking myself, “What if I showed up for all the people in my life, the way that I show up with Gisela-James-Jasper?” And the thought occurs that it would be “Awesome”. What a way to show up in the world!

It occurs to me that if you and I treat everyone that we meet the way we treat our very best friends then together we would transform our lives and the world. What do you say?

What showed up for me this week? “I am love!”


There is a young man called Jasper.  He is the son of my friends Gisela and James.  There is a big difference in age between Jasper and me.  He is still playing with toy cars and watching cartoons. Yet, I find that I love being with him. In particular, I love the way that he is in my presence – comfortable. And the way he hugs me – with love, complete love.

This week a questions grabbed me: why is it that Jasper shows up as so special for me?  It hit me that Jasper is a bundle of love.  That is what he is for me – a bundle of love.

As I got present to this another question came up: why does this bundle of love make such a huge impact on me?  And then the following three words came up from deep inside me and took me by surprise: “I am love!”.  And getting present to this insight took me back to my childhood – before I came over to the UK.

At first I struggled with this – to accept this.  A part of me stepped in to say “This world is no place for someone whose being is I am love!”  And I got to see what had happened to “I am love!” and how it got suppressed.

Now, I get what is so. What is so is  “I am love”.

“I am love!”  Yes, I can be with that.  Being with that I can choose better strategies to express “I am love!”

What are you?  When you strip away the layers that you have built over yourself, then what are you?

The Art of Asking: asking in a way that creates a wonderful world


When you and I are first given our part on the stage of life, life shows up as wondrous.  We live in possibility. More accurately, we are infinite possibility.  Nothing occurs as unreasonable, unrealistic, naive, silly.  We are not present to criticism. Nor have we suffering rejection. Slowly and surely possibility is driven out of us and its place is taken up with right/wrong, good/wrong, appropriate/not appropriate, success/failure. And our house of being is filled with shame, guilt, duty, obligation..

Today, I’d like to get each and every one of us present to possibility once more.  What is possible in the music business if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and simply ask?  That is the answer that Amanda Palmer shares in this fabulous TED talk. I challenge you not to be touched-moved-inspired-uplifted.

This talk gets me present to that which is much neglected: asking/receiving can be a source of contribution when our asking shows up as giving.  The kind of giving that generates possibility – a possibility that enables connection and mutual contribution – and enables a transformation in our experience of living.

Is it possible that the defining act of leadership is generating possibilities that call to our fellow human beings, engender connection, and create an opening for people to join together and co-create a world that works for us all, none excluded?

Am I willing, are you willing, to put in that which is required to play the game of possibility, transformation & leadership?  What am I pointing at?  The courage to connect with our deepest call, the courage to respond to this call, the courage to be vulnerable – to share that which calls us and ask for our fellow human beings to contribute.

Put differently, are you and I willing to generate the courage to ‘play BIG’ and give up ‘playing small’? To choose to be ‘extraordinary’ and risk criticism, even abuse, rather than stay comfortable (and dead) in the ordinary?

Distinguishing love from love


What is this phenomenon called love?  Investigate this phenomenon and you will find that it is not just one experience (phenomenon).  No, it is manifold, many different experiences (phenomena) hidden under one label – love.

What are these manifold experiences housed and mingled together under this umbrella called love?  There is the experience of desire which is more accurately labelled lust. And as lust is not acceptable, given our cultural practices, it is called love.  There is plain sex and that is called ‘love’ or ‘making love’.  There is ownership – in the sense of I have exclusive rights to you, your body, your sexuality, your resources, your time – and that is also called love …. and there is love as in care and caring.

It occurs to me that we would help love to flourish if we reserved love only for authentic care for another.  What kind of care?  Care for their wellbeing – in the physical, emotional and spiritual domains of life and living.  Whilst I can talk about this it is better to get there more concretely.  Allow me to give you an example.

In the morning as I was headed out to spend a few days away from home I was got a surprise.  What kind of surprise?  On one of the doors leading to the outside, a door I have to go through, I found a note for me.  What kind of note?  This note:

photo-3My wellbeing requires me to start the day by taking the Levothyroxine tablet.  And to end the day by taking a statin tablet.  That is just so. And more than once I have left my tablets at home.  So my son, late at night, after I had gone to bed had written this reminder for me and left it where he knew I would see it.  Why did he do that?  Because he cares for me – he loves me.

Now, here is the thing to get.  It is quite possible that my son felt strong feelings of love for me that night.  And those feelings would not have shown up in my living nor made any difference.  Why?  Because I do not have access to his feelings.  I do have access to his actions: I got present to the depth of his love when I saw this post it note and it moved me to tears of gratitude and joy!

I say that contrary to what the songs say love is not a feeling.  No, love is verb – it is doing.  Doing what?  Doing that which contributes to the wellbeing of those we claim to love.  And not doing that which gets in the way of the wellbeing of those we claim to love.

So you and I are confronted with choice: to live from the default context where love is a hodge podge of phenomena or to create and live from an ‘extraordinary’ context where we use the label love to mean love – love as in compassionate caring for the wellbeing of those we claim to love.

What choice will I make?  What choice will you make?  In making our choices we should be mindful that love – as in caring for the wellbeing of another – is the access to transformation: of my live, your life, our lives, of life as a whole.

Heroes


Getting access to your authentic self

Have you ever tried to find and connect with your deeper self, your ‘authentic’ self?  Have you ever wondered what kind of values that you should embody?  Have you ever wondered what really matters to you? Have you ever wondered what kind of life you should lead, what kind of ‘projects’ you should engage in and pursue?

I have.  And in the process I read a lot of self-help books with all the exercises including reflecting and finding experiences where I felt most alive, happy, joyous….  Yet, none of that really worked for me.  Are you in the same boat?

If you want to bypass that and connect with your deeper self and get access to what really matters to you then I have a useful shortcut for you.  Answer these two easy questions:

a) which people – real or fictional – are your heroes?

b) what is it, specifically, about each of these persons that makes them heroes for you?

My heroes include the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Up to this week my heroes included: Gandhi, Jinnah, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Maria Montessori, Joan of Arc, Albert Schweitzer, Oscar Schindler, The Prophet ‘Mohammed’, George Adamson, Tony Fitzjohn, and Monty Roberts.

AN13475677Victoria-Soto-27-

This week, I have been deeply touched by the following people, who show up as heroes for me:

– Victoria Soto;

– Dawn Hochsprung;

– Mary Sherlach;

– Maryrose Kristopik;

– Kaitlin Roig;

– Abbey Clements;

– Yvonne Cech; and

– The Sandy Hook school janitor.

In a tragedy these people make me feel proud to be a member of the human race!  These fellow human beings disclose for me the best of what we, human beings, have to offer as a species.  What is that?  They disclose that human being is not simply being-for-onself: the default view pushed by capitalism and modern society.  No, they disclose that what is truly noble about human being is being-for-others: the willingness to put one’s life at risk for fellow human beings.

Out of this tragedy these men and women have disclosed the possibility of love, selflessness, courage and heroism.  These values speak to me – they bring tears to my cheeks.

How to end this?  I acknowledge the courage of each and everyone of the teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook school.  I offer my condolences to each and every person who has lost a loved one.  My heart and my eyes flow with tears – tears or sorrow for all those who have lost loved ones.  And tears of gratitude for all those who put their lives at risk and saved lives.

I am proud to be a member of the human race. And with people such as Victoria Soto, Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach the human race if worth believing in and standing for.

Dearest Clea, my message for you on your 12th birthday


Dearest Clea

On this day, your 12th birthday, I want you to know that love is present between you and me.  I do not choose to love you; love simply flows when I am with you or when I think of you.

I want you to know that you show up in my world like sunshine: you illuminate my life, you brighten my life, you turn up and there is joy present and a spring in my footstep and in my soul.

I want you to know that you show up as simply amazing!  I am amazed at how loving, how caring, how compassionate, how wise you are.  And I have to pinch myself to get present to the fact that you are only 12 years old.   Please know that I am so proud of you.

I want you to know that you can count on me to be here as both a stand for you to show up as great and make an awesome contribution to a ‘world that works, none excluded’. And you can count on me to be your safety net as you walk the tightropes in your life.  I say that you can count on me no matter what.  I say that you can share with me whatever you have to share with me no matter what.  I say that you can count on me to love you no matter what.

Twelve years ago a surprise came into my life, the best surprise that has ever showed up in my life.  You are that surprise.  And I am so grateful that you exist and that it is my privilege to be a father unto you and have you show up as a daughter unto me.

Now please handover your iPod touch – you have been staying up late and today you did not get up on time and I had to wake you.  You broke our agreement and I insist the price be paid.  You can count on me to give it back to you after seven days.  That is the way life works – there are always consequences, and they catch up with you sooner or later.

And finally, I thank you for the kindness that you have shown me and the joy that you have brought and continue to bring to my experience of living!

Your daddy (“Cuddly Bear”)

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?