Playing Big Involves A Certain Kind of Relationship Towards Wrongdoing


A stone has a certain kind of being. What kind?  The being of a stone is stillness. A stone just sit there – it’s way of being has no capacity for acting in/on the world. It is indifferent to what is so and it cannot be otherwise for a stone.

The being of human being is very different.  The way of being of human beings is involvement in the world. And choice in the matter of what shape this involvement takes. Further, this involvement necessarily involves doing – taking action.

Yes, man can be indifferent to that which is but this indifference can never be the indifference of the stone.    The indifference of a human being is an active – chosen – indifference.  Man is implicated in his indifference and thus subject to moral judgement, the stone is not.

 

By nature of the being of human beings you and I are implicated in all that which is and which is not. If the world is not as you and I wish it to be then you and I are confronted with choice – how to be (including the actions we take or do not take) in the face of that which is and is not.  You and I can choose to resign ourselves to that which is, point the finger at others and leave it at that, or take responsibility for shaping the world to be more in line with which we wish it to be.

What has brought up this conversation today?  My confrontation with wrongdoing.

When faced with wrongdoing what do I do?  Do I pretend that it is not happening?  Do I join in with those doing wrong? Do I help those who are the subject of the wrongdoing?  Do I accept that wrongdoing is occurring and say it is not any of my business?  Do I merely go through the pretence of doing something whilst staying in the good books of the wrongdoer?  You get the idea.

When it comes to the matter of wrongdoing Martha C. Nussbaum has something to say:

… where the perpetrators are like General Dyer, human, the consequence of recognising wrongdoing … is clear: the witness must oppose such evil at great cost and denounce it to others...

In our contemporary world, in which it is a good assumption that most of the starvation and much of the other misery we witness is the result of culpable negligence by the powerful, metaphysical resignation would, again, be relatively good news, letting the powerful of the hook.

But the truthful new of Greek tragedy, for us, as for the Athenians, is far worse than that: for the bad news is that we are culpable as Zeus in the Trachiniai, and the Greek generals in The Trojan Women, and Odysseus in Philoctetes, and many other gods and mortals at many times and places – unless we throw off our laziness and selfish ambition and obtuseness and ask ourselves how the harms we witness might have been prevented.  

As Philoctetes knew, pity means action: intervention on behalf of the suffering, even if it is difficult and repellent. If you leave out the action, you are an ignoble coward, perhaps also a hypocrite and a liar. If you help you have done something fine. 

– Martha C. Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness

If you and I turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing then let’s be clear we are playing small.  Playing BIG necessarily involves doing that which Martha says: taking action, opposing evil, helping those subjected to wrongdoing/evil.

Further, I invite you and me to consider that where we are being obtuse, lazy, and selfishly ambitious it is most likely that we are playing small.  Given this recognition you and I have the choice to stop this and play BIG.

I thank you for your listening. Until the next time…

If You Wish To Play Big Then Show Up And Travel In This Manner


It occurs to me that almost all of us, for almost all the time, live as slaves and/or victims.  What are we slaves of? Of reward and punishment. Of praise and blame.

We are slaves of  appreciation, of validation, of praise, of inclusion, of reward.  These leave us feeling good (and BIG) about ourselves and our place-role the world.  They can and often do elevate us from the ‘hell to heaven’.

We are also slaves of blame, criticism, ridicule, exclusion and punishment. These leaves us feeling bad (and SMALL) about ourselves and our place-role in the world. They can and usually do ‘snatch us from heaven and leave us in hell’ sometimes for long periods of time.

As I said you/i/we live as victims. Victims of whom/what? Victims of the people who around us whose opinions matter. Victims of the prevailing conventions and standards around what constitutes a normal-good-successful person.  Let me be clear, the ‘gate-less gate’ (to use a Buddhist expression) will never open for you/i if you/i continue to choose to live like slaves and victims.

It occurs to me that those of who choose to play BIG in life are asked to show up and travel in life in a particular manner. What kind of manner?  I leave you with a quote that points at that which I speak of:

I remember days of difficult labour in a spiritual school where we were encouraged to keep a balanced attention through all kinds of situations. I was given the task of grooming a horse.

From mane to tail, from hooves right up, I worked for hours.

Then the teacher came and after a brief inspection said, “Very poor job, superficial and sloppy.” He and I watched as my heart sank.

But then something rebounded: I knew I had done my best; I knew that I could not be a slave to reward or blame. In that moment, I saw the twinkle in his eye as he turned and left. 

– Kabir Edmund Helminski, Living Presence: A Sufi Way to Mindfulness & The Essential Self

I say that you/i grant ourselves the space to play BIG in life as soon as (and for as long as) you/i show up and travel in this world in a manner that calls to us, walk on the paths that calls us, travel towards destinations/outcomes that call us. And irrespective of what others say and how they treat us, we ask ourselves the following question: “Am I showing up and travelling in life in a manner where in my being-doing I am giving it my all? “

If the honest answer is “Yes!” then I say you/i can be at peace with whatever shows up: reward, punishment, praise, blame, inclusion, exclusion..

If the honest answer is “No” then I say this answer is an opportunity to look into what is missing the presence of which would allow you/i to say “Yes!”.  Is it that the path no longer calls you/me?  Is it that you/i are simply in need of some rest, some time out, to energise?  Is it that you/i need to get creative about generating a different way of travelling the path?

I ask you to play BIG!  I ask you to show and travel in a manner that calls to you. I ask you to be OK with doing your best. I ask the same of myself.

It occurs to me that there is more to say. So I invite you to consider the following as a place to show up and operate from:

  • Only the imperfect demand perfection of themselves in order to feel perfect; and
  • The access to perfection is being OK with your imperfection AND giving your living all the you have to give AND being OK with knowing that you did and are doing your best.

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

Powerful Sorcery Over Ourselves?


“You don’t need to be a sorcerer to cast a spell over yourself by saying, ‘This is how I am. I can do nothing about it.'”

– Alain, French philosopher

It occurs to me that Alain did not go far enough. The way to truly play small in life is to go one step further:

“You don’t need to be a sorcerer to cast a spell over yourself by saying, “This is how I am. This is how the world is. I can do nothing about it – myself and the world.'”

– Maz Iqbal

‘Whole-Complete-Perfect’: Is This The Most Fundamental and Powerful Choice?


When you and I came forth from this world we came forth naked.  Totally naked: without any and all labels.  No name, no gender, no nationality, no religion, no politics…

So how did you and I end up with such a strong identity?  An identity that grips us.  An identity that permeates us.  More accurately, identity that is us.  It simply happened didn’t it as we travelled through the years with people, from one place to another?  Would it be correct to say that the foundations of my identity, your identity, our identity was solidly in place before you and I were in a place to choose, to discriminate, to accept or decline the garments of identity thrust upon us by our parents, family, caregivers?

I ask you to take a good look at the core of your identity?  What do you see?  Do you see ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘American’, ‘Brit’, ‘christian’, ‘muslim’, ‘atheist’, ‘painter’, ‘mom’, ‘CEO’, ‘marketer’….?  Please go and look beyond that.  What do you see?

If you look deep enough and have the courage to see, to listen, I say that you are most likely to find that the core of your identity is that of ‘being defective’.  Is that not our common humanity at the most fundamental level?  You and I see ourselves as ‘defective’, as ‘not good enough’, as ‘something is wrong about me’. Right?  I get that my version of defective may be that ‘I am not good looking’ and that ‘my body is weak’ and that ‘stupid’. Your identity might be that  you are ‘too tall’, ‘too fat’, ‘too shy’, ‘not considerate enough’, ‘poor’…  Do you notice that the details differ and the bigger game is the same between us?  I am defective: I am not whole, I am not complete, I am not perfect.

You and I were born without identity, born naked of all labels, born naked full stop. Naked! So how did you go from no identity, and the lightness and freedom that goes with that, to carrying the huge burden that goes with operating from the stance ‘I am not whole, not complete, not perfect’?  We were programmed.  Why? So that we would fit in with the existing order.  So that we would better comply with the wishes of those more powerful than us. Right?

How is it working out?  Put differently, what is the experience of my life, your life, lived from the context of ‘not whole, not complete, not perfect’?  It is that of looking for all kinds of way to be whole, be complete, be perfect.  That is what all the self-help books are about, right?  That is what all the status brands and conspicuous consumption is about, right?  That is what all the pre tense of being perfect and having a perfect life is all about, right?

I say to me, to you, to us, what fools we are!  We can simply give up the game.  We can give it up right now, just like that.  How exactly?  Notice, that we were born naked, without labels, without identity.  Notice, that identity is a choice.  You and I can choose to live from another identity, another context.  Which one?  Where I declare myself as ‘whole-complete-perfect’,  and you declare yourself as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Let’s not stop there.  Let’s declare all of our fellow human beings ‘whole-complete-perfect’.

Imagine how life would show up if you and I did declare ourselves as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Imagine how life would be if you and I declared each and every human being as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Not as a truth but as an identity that we give ourselves. And as a stand from which we show up and operate from this world.  When we relate to ourselves and our fellow human beings as ‘whole-complete-perfect’ a totally new dimension of conversation and action shows up for us; you, me, everyone.  We stop being small! We are free to be BIG: to give wings to our dreams, to act on the world, to co-create a world that works, a world that is wonderful for us all.

Given that we come forth naked of identity, why is it that we have not been conditioned to believe and operate from stand-identity of being at our most fundamental level ‘whole-complete-perfect’?  If we had been conditioned that way, we would operate as ‘gods’ right?  What if those that condition don’t want ‘gods’ and instead want ‘slaves’ who do not know that they are enslaved?  Then giving us the identity of being ‘defective and weak’ would make perfect sense.  So I say choose: slave or god.

Still convinced that you know yourself?  Still convinced that you are defective, small, weak, and powerless? I invite you to watch the following video:

Christmas: a time to be of service and make a difference?


AldinePhotoChristmas2012

I dedicate this post to my wife, Aldine. For me, my wife is the embodiment of that which I want to share with you in this post.

Christmas can be just a ritual we go through or it can be a time to get present.  Present to  what?  Present to being of service and making difference.  Who to?  How about starting with the people who you/I are spending Christmas with.  And then allowing ourselves to ripple out from there to touch all the people whose lives touch our lives, however briefly and lightly.

What does it take to make a difference?

What does it take to make a difference in our lives, in the lives of our fellow human beings, in the world within which we dwell?  It takes courage. What kind of courage?  Let’s listen to a master of the human condition:

“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference… to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself …… and to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.” Werner Erhard

What does it take to make a difference to the people whose lives we touch?

Our ordinary, default, way of showing up in the world does not lend itself to generating great relationships and making a difference.  Why?  Because, if you are like me then you are great with people when they are being great. And not at all great with people when they are not being great.  Put differently and simply, if you are like me then you struggle to put up with people’s garbage – even at Christmas.  What am I pointing at?  I am pointing at the kind of stuff that people say and/or do that drives me up the wall.

Is there another way of showing up in the world that does allow us to be great with people, to generate great relationships, to make a difference.  There is. Here is how Werner Erhard puts it:

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”  

It occurs to me that over the last 20 years I have given my wife plenty of my garbage to deal with.  And the only reason that we are still together is that she has a commitment to me (as a ‘soul whose intentions are good’), to our marriage, and to our family.  Out of this commitment she gives space to my garbage and keeps reminding me of who I am.  And for that I am truly grateful!

And finally

I wish each and every one of you a great Christmas and the very best for the New Year. And I am clear that my wishes make no difference at all!  Who makes the difference?  You do!

How do you make the difference?  By getting present to being the authors of your lives.  By getting present to the fact that you matter in how you show up in the world.  By generating the courage to stop proving that you are small and unable to make a difference.  By being of service – the kind of service that Werner Erhard is pointing at.

Leadership always starts with leading oneself from the place of ‘victim’ to ‘author of one’s life’.  From showing up as unable to make a difference to being committed to making a difference.  From playing small to playing BIG!

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.