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

There is nothing wrong, nobody to blame, and no waste of time!


Mission: get daughter to the outdoors activity centre by certain time

Recently it took it upon myself to drive daughter about 30 miles to an ‘activity-adventure-outdoors’ camp.  Google Maps suggested that this drive would take about 30 – 40 minutes.  Yet, the drive itself took 2 hours 40 minutes.

First it took me longer to finish my work so we set-off 15 minutes later than I had planned.  Then we encountered traffic – lots of it.  So I diverted and worked my way around the traffic.  Delight showed up.  And I still ended up in endless traffic – crawling along.  Daughter noticed that it was faster to walk! Getting that we would not arrive on time and this impacted others, daughter phoned her ‘guide for the weekend’ and let her know that we would be an hour or so late.

It does not work out as planned

An hour and forty minutes later we arrive at the destination according to the GPS.  It is dark, it is wet, it is raining hard, the country roads are small, lighting is poor, tiredness is present.  I notice that tiredness and anxiety are present for me, my experience.  Yet, daughter is positive, optimistic, cheerful and is relating to all of this as an adventure.  And concerned for me.

We cannot find the place!  I drive one way.  I drive another way.  Time goes by.  More and more tiredness is present.  Annoyance, frustration and anger is now present in my house of being.  30 or so minutes later we are really in the middle of nowhere and I get that the GPS is not working.  My daughter calls for help – there is no signal.  Then a fellow human being, walking his dogs, with torch in hand shows up.  I ask for help and he provides it.  Some 15 minutes later we arrive back at the same place that the GPS had taken us to the first time.  Again we cannot find the activity centre.

It is dark, it is foggy, it is wet, I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, angry.  My daughter is calm and helpful: she tells me that it is OK to turn back and go home. Now, it is not an option to quit, to go home.  I stop the car and look at the paper map.  “Aha, we are right next to it.  It has to be here!”  I turn around the car and together daughter and I find it! And I cannot help but notice I have been going round in circles for an hour.

The automatic machinery of being human kicks-in

After dropping off daughter, I notice that I am not looking forward to driving.  Yet, driving is necessary if I am going to get back home.  I notice that I have no confidence toward the Garmin GPS.  I notice that I am blaming Garmin and blaming myself for bringing the Garmin as opposed to the TomTom.  I notice that I am blaming the Girl Guides group who arranged the weekend for being inconsiderate: they should know better than arrange a date/time which involves peak traffic. I blame myself.

If that is not enough.  I notice that I have it that something is wrong (with me, with Garmin, with the world..) and that I have wasted my time.  Look, I could have done something useful with the extra 90 minutes that it took to get to this place!  I notice that I have it that my time is precious and I do not have time to waste.

I get it: I set myself free and peace is present

Driving back, I get it.  I get that all that is showing up in my house of being, my experience, is the automatic machinery of being human.  I get that who I am is the person who is doing the noticing: the one that is noticing the machinery at play.  That opens up a clearing for me to simple be – to be peaceful.

In this clearing I get that I have not wasted my time The trip took exactly the right amount of time: not a second more or a second less than the perfect time for this trip.  How do I know?  Because that is the time it took to get there! I got it, do you get it?  Listen, the 30 – 40 minutes that Google Maps and Garmin suggested did not take into account reality as it showed up on the trip.   Further, I got that the 2 hours 40 minutes had been well used – the mission had been accomplished, daughter was delighted, daughter and I had worked together well and affinity was present between us, I had saved wife 2 hours and 40 minutes…. Most importantly the time had been used in the service of my stand: to put something into the game of life, to be of service, to be a source of contribution to fellow human beings…

Then I got that there was nothing wrong.  There is traffic.  There is rain.  There is fog.  There are tiny country lanes.  There is darkness.  And on a Friday evening in October, all of these can and do show up.  Really, there is nothing wrong.  It is simply the reality that showed up.

I got that there is nobody to blame.  There is no evil person who planned it to work out the way that it worked out.  Everyone in the traffic was doing his/her best to get home.  The Garmin folks built that best GPS that they were in a position to build.  The activity centre folks got that finding their place is and has been an issue.  And they feel unable to do better due to planning laws that restrict the signage they can put up….  Finally, I got that I was not to blame: I showed up and did the best that I was able to do at that time and in those circumstances.

Having gotten, really gotten (as opposed to simply thought about/of) that there is nothing wrong, nobody to blame and no time was wasted I noticed that my being and lived experience transformed: peace, delight and joy were present in my house of being; the annoyance, the blaming, the anger vanished. Relaxed,I drove back home (40 minutes) and spent the evening watching a touching movies with sons and their friend.

Life had showed up whole-complete-perfect!

The value of dropping it, all of it!


 

 

A favourite zen story

It goes something like this:

One day an elderly monk and a young monk left the monastery and headed for the village.  After buying supplies, they headed back.  As it had been raining hard a stream had become swollen.  On the edge of it stood a young women in her fine clothes; she was reluctant to cross the stream.  The elderly monk set his load on the ground and offered to carry the women across the stream.  She hopped on his back and he carried over and then came back, picked up his load and headed for the monastery. 

An hour or so later the young monk could no longer contain his his disappointment, his upset, his anger.  He told off the monk for breaking the rules by touching the young woman and carrying her across the stream.  The elderly monk listened calmly and said “I left her by the stream over an hour ago.  Are you still carrying her?”

Ordinary living: you and I are still carrying her!

It occurs to me that you and I are rather like the young monk: we are still carrying her.

What are you and I carrying from the past?  Hurt.  Grudges. Resentment. Anger.  Myths. Beliefs. Injunctions. Must. Should . Should’nt……  These make a heavy load and this load is constantly strapped to our backs.  Worse, as we get older this load gets heavier and heavier.  And we can never really be present in the present: we are worn out from carrying this load around even if we have got so used to this that we no longer notice it.

‘Extraordinary living’: drop it, leave the past in the past!

Want ease, grace, joy present in your living?  Then stop carrying her! Drop it, leave the past in the past.

Feeling like a failure as a mother/father?  Then drop the myth that there is a way to be a perfect mother/father.  Drop the myth that you should be a perfect mother/father.  Drop the baggage!  Just be a mother/father.

Carrying hurt?  Did someone hurt you?  Drop it!  You are hurting yourself today by carrying/clinging to the hurt of yesterday.  Have you never hurt anyone?  Really?  Take a good look: can you be sure, absolutely sure, that you have never intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone?  Go further and question the myth of hurt.  Who promised you that you would not be hurt or that you would not hurt?  Does life, real life, come with that guarantee?

Didn’t live up to expectations?  Drop the expectations!  Notice that expectations are not an inherent feature of the world.  You can drop the expectation that you will live up to expectations!  Yes, you can drop it!  Just live.

Carrying guilt?  What good is that?  Who benefits?  What difference does it make?  Drop the guilt. Act!  Pick up the phone and apologise.  Write a letter and apologise.  Meet up face to face and apologise.    Are you experience existential guilt in the sense of not living an authentic life?  Then act: live that authentic life!

If I / you choose to stop carrying her, to put the past in the past, then I say that our experience of our lives, our living, will be transformed.  Life will show up as being light, lighter.  And you and I will show up light, lighter.  Lightness comes with being at peace with ourselves and the world.  When we stop carrying her we can be present: just walk back to the monastery!

 

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


Do you really want your life to work?

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

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

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

What is the greatest gift you can grant another?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the greatest gift you can give yourself?

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

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

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

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

My guarantee to you and my challenge for you

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

Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself


Until recently I had not thought that much about forgiveness.  Firstly because I have been fortunate in that very few of my human beings have hurt me that much.  Secondly, I have been a master at distancing myself from those – a few that – have caused me pain. Thirdly, I have always thought that forgiveness lets the bad guys off and so gives them an incentive to go and do that again – to me or to others.

For a week or so this month anger, frustration, despair and confusion gripped me tightly.  The working day was not so bad as I was absorbed in tasks that consumed me mentally.  Yet, these feelings, these states of mind would grasp me in the evenings.  And all because I had created a story called Betrayal: I played the part of the wronged person and some of the people who are closest to me were the betrayers.

Being versed in existential philosophy I recognised I had a choice.  Continue with the Betrayal story and thus keep creating anger, frustration, confusion and despair.  Or to create a new story.  And whilst I was in this search I happened to read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh.  The book is subtitled “Buddhist Wisdom for cooling the flames”. The book gave me access to stories that inspired me to step into the ‘shoes of the other’ and to get that if I was feeling hurt, they were feeling hurt.  If I was wrapped up in a story of Betrayal then they were wrapped up in their own story.

So the question arose: who goes first?  Who says I am folding up my story and putting it on the fire?

So I chose forgiveness: I forgave everyone including myself.   Did that make the lives of the people I was angry with easier?  Yes.  Were they the  only people to benefit?  No.  Were they the main beneficiaries?  No.

What I found is that the main beneficiary of this act of forgiveness is me. Yes, me.  Anger, frustration, confusion and despair have flown leaving only peace of mind.  I am at peace with the world and the world is at peace with me: no need to ready the sword to cut others nor the shield to defend myself from others.

So I can honestly say that forgiveness is a gift that I gave myself.

As I human like you I can confidently state that forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. Even when you choose to break from someone – you can do it in a way that bears no grudges of the past.  In a way that leaves you overflowing with a peaceful mind.