“You are absolutely correct!”


We go about living as if life is simple.  We assume that life is black and white. We assume that reality and truth is one dimensional, and not multi-dimensional.  We assume that we can access ultimate reality and truth.  We asume that the way that we see it and speak it, is that way that it is. And we are oblivious to these assumptions.  As such, we show up in the world and operate from these assumptions.  In doing so we generate conflict, we fracture relationships, and we hinder our ability to be effective in the world as it is.

Is there an alternative?  Yes, there is and it starts with getting a profound truth about our existence in this world.  It is the kind of truth that is pointed out in the following parable:

The Mulla Nasruddin [a wise fool in sufi teaching stories] was sitting court one day.  A husband and wife came to the court to settle the matter of who should be in charge of their son’s education. The wife argued that she should be given sole custody, giving many fine reasons to support her view.  Mulla Nasruddin said, “You are absolutely correct!” Then the husband spoke to defend his position.  In response, Mulla Nasruddin exclaimed, “You are absolutely correct!”. Immediately, a cleric in the back of the court stood up and cried out, “Nasruddin, they both can’t be right!”  To which Mulla Nasruddin replied, “You are absolutely correct!”

Is it possible that each and everyone of us has some access to truth?  Is it possible that there is some truth in everything?  Is it possible that despite our best efforts all we can ever arrive at is some approximation to truth?  And what would be possible if each and everyone of us showed up in the world being present to and living these questions?

Perfect or imperfect?


Let me share a story with you

Allow me to start the conversation through a story especially as daughter loves stories:

A long time ago in India, a group of disciples (monks) were watching their master make chapatis.     The master would take a small portion of dough and roll it out using a rolling pin. Then he would place it on a hot griddle (pan) and proceed to cook both sides of the chapati. As it cooked he would smile and say, “Perfect.”

The disciples were puzzled.  Each of the chapatis was a different shape, some of them were burnt around the edges, and none were perfectly round.  Finally, one of the disciples said, “Master, how can these chapatis be perfect? Chapatis are supposed to be round, and they are not supposed to be burned!”

The master took the last chapati of the griddle and handed it to the young disciple.  The chapati was more oval than round, and it was burned around the edges. “Perfect,” he repeated.

Is the world perfect or imperfect?

It occurs to me that you and I hold an idealised picture of how things are supposed to be.  In our everyday lives, you and I constantly attempt to fix reality.  We want it to fit into our concept of “perfection”.  How does this leave us?  If you are like me then it tends to leave you disappointed, frustrated, annoyed , ungrateful, joyless and exhausted.

Is it possible that the world is neither perfect nor imperfect?  Is it possible that the world simply is and as such it is beyond any labels we choose to apply to it – including the label “it”?

It occurs to me that the world, the universe, works the way that it works.  It unfolds as it unfolds. It dances to the tune that it dances to.  It occurs to me that the world is indifferent to our ideals, conceptions, and preferences as regards what should be and what should not be.  Just consider the weather!

Which begs the question, “Which stand is more powerful: the world is perfect just as it is and as it is not, or that the world is imperfect?” That is to say, is the stand of the master more powerful than the disciples or vice versa?

It occurs to me that, perhaps, the more profound question is this one, “What would be our experience of living if we dropped all labels and simply worked with reality just as it is and just as it is not?” Is it possible that our experience of living would be transformed?

The way it shows up for us is not the way that it is!


What gets in the way of relatedness and relationship?

Judgement is an automatic way of being in the world.  When we judge we carve up ‘that which is’, into ready-made buckets given to us by language, cultural practices, and our particular stand/situation.  And when we do this we are no longer face to face with ‘that which is’.

Actually, you/I are NEVER face to face with reality – that which is just as it is. Why?  Because the carving up of reality takes place without us being present to doing the carving up!  So you/I are firmly planted in the conviction that what is before us is that which is – reality pure and naked.

Given that is our already always taken for granted stand in the world it is easy to see how relatedness and relationship suffers.  I make you wrong when you do not see.  You make me wrong when I do not see what you see.  And from that place we withdraw from one another creating distance.  Or we attack one another, bent on being right and proving the other wrong.  If that cannot be done through word then we resort to fighting.

The way out of this trap: ‘look out of the other’s window’

I say the access to relatedness and relationship is to get that life/reality cannot ever be grasped accurately.  At the very best you/I are travelling through the ‘woods of life’ and how life, how the world, shows up depends on where you/I are in those woods and in which direction we are looking.

Or as Irvin Yalom says ‘Look out the other’s window.’ What does he mean?  Here is what he says in his book The Gift of Therapy:

“Decades ago I saw a patient with breast cancer ….. been locked in a long, bitter struggle with her naysaying father.  Yearning for some form of reconciliation …. she looked forward to her father’s driving her to college – a time when she would be alone with him for several hours. 

But the long-anticipated trip proved to be a disaster: her father behaved true to form by grousing at length about the ugly, garbage littered creek by the side of the road. She, on the other hand, saw no litter whatsoever in the beautiful, rustic, unspoilt stream. She could find no way to respond and eventually, lapsing into silence, they spent the remainder of the trip looking away from each other.

Later, she made the same trip alone and was astounded to note that there were two streams – one on each side of the road. ‘This time I was the driver’, she said sadly, ‘and the stream I saw through my window on the driver’s side was just as ugly and polluted as my father had described it’.

But by the time she learned to look out of her father’s window, it was too late – her father was dead and buried.’

Last words

Please get that we NEVER have access to that which is.  That kind of access is NOT available to us.  What shows up for us is determined by our biology.  What shows up for us is shaped by our the assumptions and categories build into our language.  What shows up for us is determined by our culture – the cultural practices. What shows up for us is a function of where we are standing at a particular point in our journey of life.

If you/I are present to this then we have access to WOW.  What am I pointing out? WOW, how extraordinary that the world, that which is, shows up differently and uniquely to each and every human being.  Let’s find out how the world shows up for my mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, colleagues, boss…… Let me see what you see through your window.  How extraordinary!  When you/I stand in that place we stand in the place of wonder, relatedness and relationship.

Be humble. How you see it is NOT ‘the way it is’!  You NEVER see it ‘the way that it is’!  Be humble, listen to the other, respect the other: strive to look through the other’s window.  Do that and you will never be alone, never walk alone.

 

 

If you want your life to work then connect with reality as it is


“Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.” Jack Welch

This week I had a difficult conversation with a young man that is struggling.  This young man experiences little or no joy in his experience of living.  He finds his work boring/hard and his experience is that he is always behind.  It occurs to him that he is so far behind where he needs to be that his ‘ship is sunk’ and cannot be recovered.  He says he has no friends.  When he looks towards the next day he experiences sadness.  And when this man looks towards the future he sees doom – he is doomed to be at the mercy of the world, to live an unhappy/hard life, one without friends, one without joy…

That is not the way that this young man shows up for me.  That is not the way that his life, his circumstances, his future shows up for me.  I see a strong willed young man who stands up for the values he stands for.  I see a young man who is tenacious/determined to do well and who has done well by working hard.  I see a young man that can be light and bring magic/laughter/joy into the lives of others when he is not being so serious.  I see a young man who has so much potential.  And that which limits him, is himself and in particular the story that he tells himself about himself, about others, about the world, about the future and how is life will turn out.

Which brings me back to the Jack Welch quote at the beginning of this post.  Why did Jack Welch utter such an obvious statement?  Because when he took over the reins at GE he found that time after time he was presented with briefings that had no sound relationship with the ‘facts on the ground’.  Put differently, everyone seemed to think that the world ran to his view of the world, his agenda, his preferences, his wishes.

Why is it that each of us has such a poor relationship with reality as it is?   Let’s listen to someone who shows up for me as having an insightful grasp of the human condition:

“Man keeps looking for a truth that fits his reality. Given our reality, the truth doesn’t fit.” Werner Erhard

Let’s unpack the profound insight here.  What is man’s reality?  The first point is that man’s reality has no relationship to reality as it is and as it is not.  Man’s reality is always personal and unique – it is how the world (including self) shows up for him.  That is to say man authors his reality through the story that he tells himself about himself, about others, about the world at large.  Man’s story has such a grip on him that man is hostile to truth that does not fit with / disturbs his story.  Why?  Because man is his story.  And any threat to the story is a threat to man himself – his identity, his self.

Back to my conversation with this young man.  After some time the young man uttered with frustration “The reality is too painful to face!” After further discussion he asserted “It is easier to make myself believe that there is something wrong with me, the way that I am made, the way that my brain works, then to take responsibility for my life as it is.”

As we continued the conversation the really story came out. “If I accepted that I have a say in the way that my life turns out then I have to accept responsibility for the way that my life has turned out.  And the way that I am experiencing my life.  And I would have to do something about it.  Whereas it is easier to believe that I am simply made this way.  That I am unlucky and that is simply the way the world works.”

At this point I did become vocal, I thundered “YOU are the ONLY person who can change your life, to the kind of life that you want to live.  Nobody else is going to do it for you.  I know that you are secretly hoping that someone will do it for you.  And that is not going to happen.  Your future lies in your hands, in the story that you tell yourself: about yourself, about your future, about the world.  Choose: choose to live a life of joy or a life of misery.  It is your life!”

Today, I met up with this young man and he told me that he had experienced a great day.  The best day for some time.  He had found his work easy and had got a lot done.  He had been invited to play sports and liked two of the three people he had played with.  He said that he had enjoyed his day.

I say that the deepest truth of reality when it comes to me and you is this one:

“At all times, under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.” Werner Erhard

Are your ready to face reality as it is, as spelled out by Werner Erhard?  Your life, your choice!

I have failed, am I failure? (part II): Werner is right, I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, do you?


This post is a follow up to the last post I wrote:  I have failed, am I a failure?   The source of this post is a friend that reached out to me after my last post.  Before I speak/share that with you allow me to prepare the ground by sharing some of Werner Erhard’s sayings on our relationship to Reality.

What does Werner say about our relationship to Reality?

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.”

“There is no necessary relationship between the way you feel, the way you think, the way you are, the way you’ve figured it out and the way it really is.”

“This lady lives her life as if when she feels a bear there’s really a bear…… I want you to get that this is the way you live your life: as if reality is what is real to you?”

Werner is right: I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground

In my reality (as opposed to Reality) it does occur to me that I have failed in so many ways. And I shared that with you in this post:  I have failed, am I failure? 

The question is what is the relationship between my reality (how things show up for me, my thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs) and Reality (what is really so)?  If you read my post you will notice that it occurs to me that I have failed at being the kind of friend that I imagined I would be and was up for being.   I’ll let you judge – one of my friends read my post and sent this email:

I read your post and wanted to say that I think you are a wonderful friend. There are very few people who have been there consistently for me over the last 20yrs in the way that you have been – especially given my overall crapiness in keeping in touch and given that I know it is not something I have returned.  I read a poem a few years ago and at the time I read it I thought of the way in which you have been there for me so I’m sending it to you. I know you don’t do the whole feelings are important thing but please take it in the spirit in which it’s intended.

If there was ever one

Whom when you were sleeping

Would wipe your tears

When in dreams you were weeping;

Who would offer you time

When others demand;

Whose love lay more infinite

Than grains of sand.

 

If there was ever one

To whom you could cry;

Who would gather each tear

And blow it dry;

Who would offer help

On the mountains of time;

Who would stop to let each sunset

Soothe the jaded mind.

 

If there was ever one

To whom when you run

Will push back the clouds

So you are bathed in sun;

Who would open arms

If you would fall;

Who would show you everything

If you lost it all.

 

If there was ever one

Who when you achieve

Was there before the dream

And even then believed;

Who would clear the air

When it’s full of loss;

Who would count love

Before the cost.

 

If there was ever one

Who when you are cold

Will summon warm air

For your hands to hold;

Who would make peace

In pouring pain,

Make laughter fall

In falling rain.

 

If there was ever one

Who can offer you this and more;

Who in keyless rooms

Can open doors;

Who in open doors

Can see open fields

And in open fields

See harvests yield.

 

Then see only my face

In the reflection of these tides

Through the clear water

Beyond the river side.

All I can send is love

In all that this is

A poem and a necklace

Of invisible kisses.”

This email, this reaching out by my friend gets me present to the this fact: at least in the domain of friendships and as regards this friend in particular I do not know my ass from the hole in the ground.  No I have assumed.  The Reality is that my thoughts/feelings about myself as a friend do not tie up with what is really so.  Which makes me wonder, am I making the same ‘error’ (mistaking my reality for Reality) in other domains of life?

Is Werner right about you?  That you too do not know your ass from a hole in the ground?

Are you as convinced, today, as I was yesterday that your thoughts/feelings are an accurate representation of Reality?  If so it is highly likely, I say certain, that Werner is right about you as well: you do not know your ass from a hole in the ground!  Just in case you haven’t figured it out let me state it bluntly: you don’t have to be stuck with your reality you can let it go. If your are up for that, if you want to have your life work then I invite you to read the following post: Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….

Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….


Reality and our relationship to reality

What is real?  What is our relationship to reality?  Here is what Werner Erhard had to say on this matter:

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.” 

Let’s take a look, a closer look.  Is the Sun real?  Is the Moon real?  Is that road real?  Is that car real?  Is that tree real?  Are your hands real?  Are your eyes real?  Are your feet real?  Have you noticed that those questions are easy to answer.  Are you aware that you don’t ask yourself these questions?  Do you notice that we don’t get into heated discussions about whether the sun exists or whether you have two feet? So why does Werner make the statement that he makes?  Because you confuse beliefs (what we say is true, what we say is real) with truth/reality!

Beliefs and our relationship to our beliefs

Why do you and I need beliefs?  Think about this deeply and you will see that we do not need to believe in the Sun, the Moon that car in front of you or your arms.  Notice that what is real does not require a belief!  Go further and you inevitably come to the conclusion: beliefs are simply statements about us, about people, about the world, that cannot be proven.   Put differently when we enter the land of beliefs we are dreaming whilst being awake yet not present to the fact that we are dreaming.  Belief land is fantasy land – it is the fantasy land that we have been granted by our culture, your parents, our schoolteachers, our media, our friends and it is also a land that we shaped by constructing our own beliefs.

We give up our freedom by constructing the bars of our prison through beliefs

Look we have established that reality does not need beliefs.  We have also established that beliefs only arise when they are not supported by reality.  That is to say beliefs arise and can exist only if there there is no evidence, in the real world, that confirms that beliefs.  Lets go to the point:  beliefs are superstitions!

What happens when we construct beliefs?  We give up our zone of freedom.  Allow me to illustrate:

I believe that I my religion is the only true religion.  Consequence: I cannot be with, explore, learn from the other religions.

I believe that I am superior to you, know more, am better than you.  Consequence:  I will not enter into a real relationship with you, I will not listen to you, I will not learn from you, I will take on behaviours that are opposite of yours.

I believe that musical instruments, singing and dancing are the ‘devils work’.  Consequence:  I will not own/play a musical instrument nor sign nor dance.  And I will segregate myself from people who do engage in the ‘devils work.

You get the idea.  Every belief narrows down the zone of Possibility and of our relatedness and of our freedom to be, to participate in life, to live fully!

Now here is the really bizarre thing.  When our fellow human beings show up and ‘challenge’ our beliefs we get upset, we sulk, we withdraw, we condemn, we get angry, we shout, we maim and we kill.  That is how determined we are to keep ourselves enslaved.  If we were sane, if we had a sound relationship to reality, we would welcome people who exposed our beliefs, our prison bars, and thus allowed us to set ourselves free.

Let go of your beliefs and set yourself free

We did not come into this world with beliefs,  Once upon a time, you and I were in intimate contact with reality and simply flowed with it.  And as such everything was permissible to us.  Then little by lit we assimilated beliefs, constructed our prison bars and gave up that freedom we were born with .

You and I can reclaim our freedom right now by letting go of our beliefs.  Every time we encounter a belief we can let it go – we can point at it and shout “Superstition” Every time we do that we dismantle another prison bar and thus increase our zone of freedom.  To do that we have to be willing to stand in a very different place: a place from which we see beliefs not as truths, nor as useful tools but as a prison bar that constricts our freedom.

Struggling with this?  Please get to present to the fact that reality is reality and a belief is a belief.  When our beliefs don’t match the reality then we suffer.  Allow me to share a quote that I came across recently:

“My heart says people are inherently good, it is my experiences that speak differently.” Angela Sturm

When a wise person notices the mismatch between his beliefs and reality (what is so in terms of our experience) he gives up his belief.  If you and I let go of beliefs and be with what is so we increase the ‘workability’ of our lives and thus minimise our ‘suffering’.  This benefit is in addition to be reclaiming our freedom.  Do you wish to be that wise person or do you wish to continue to be the fool?  That is a choice for each one of us to make and live with.

How to live powerfully: replace beliefs with Stand, with Possibility

If I was Angela I would let go of the belief “People are inherently good”.  Why?  It is false – all beliefs are false!  Instead I would recognise reality “Some people exhibit behaviours I say are ‘good’.  Some people exhibit behaviours that I say are ‘bad’.  The same person can exhibit both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviours.”  Going further, I can let go of the belief and invent a Stand:

“I am Stand for recognising the good in people and calling that forth in my thinking, in my speaking, in my actions, my behaviour”.

Do you notice  the power of the Stand?   It is not a belief about me, about you, about our fellow human beings, about the world at large.  No, the Stand is me creating / inventing my role in the drama called Life.  It is a ‘call to arms’ that I give myself.  Notice, that if people were already inherently good (and behaved good) then my Stand makes no contribution.  By taking on this Stand I am calling forth / living out of the Possibility that I can impact how people show up in the world – ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Do you want a concrete example of the difference between reality, belief and Stand/Possibility?  Then watch this 4 minute YouTube clip of Viktor Frankl – Viktor explains the difference in a way that you will never forget.  Why is he worth listening to?  He wrote one of the most profound books (Man in Search of Meaning) when it comes to understanding of the human condition.  And he survived the WWII concentration camps whilst losing everyone – all his family and friends.  Yet, just listen to how he relates to people given his very real understanding of people:

Our lives work to the extent we give up our stories (and the people/structures which keep them in existence)


“Hey kid, you’re stuck in bad stories. But they’re only stories…” Werner Erhard

Yesterday my wife was spinning her usual story (or the story was spinning her) about going out. I listened to her at the level of story, I did not enter into her story, I did not collude, nor validate her story. Nor did I make her wrong for her story. I simply said nothing until I was asked to say something. Then I pointed out that it was all a story. She did not like that one little bit. Why? The whole point of her telling me her story was to entice me to enter into her story, validate her story, provide sympathy and make her feel good.

To me occurred that she would be free of the need to have someone make her feel good if she simply gave up her story and listened to herself as a highly capable person who is up to that which is at hand. Or if she simply got present to the fact that she will be fine irrespective of how she handles the situation: her life will not come to an end – she will not even catch the common cold! This got me thinking about how many of us are simply stuck in bad stories and yet do not get that they are only stories.

We have a choice – live in/be with reality or live in/from our ‘story’:

We can live in ‘reality’ in so far as it is accessible to us through our senses (see, hear, smell, taste, touch….). Living in ‘reality’ can be described as living in ‘suchness’. The world of suchness is simply what is so. It is a world in which when seeing occurs one can describe what one sees. And words like beautiful and ugly do not exist in this world – beautiful/ugly is a distinction/story we impose on what is there. It is a world in which taste occurs and can be described as sweet, sour, bitter but not as good or bad. I hope you get the idea.

Or we can live in the world of stories. Most of us, for most of the time live in the world of stories. What is remarkable about our existence is that we live in and our living arises out of our stories and we are not present that this is the case. ‘Our’ stories own us and run us and we are not present to it.

It takes something to keep these stories alive. We play a big part in keeping our stories alive – we give them life through our thoughts and our feelings. And importantly through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feelings. It can be even more complicated than that: through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feeling about our thoughts and feelings …… So one access to having our lives work is to give up our stories. Yet, it is not as simple as that for most of us.

We live in relationship – always! Amongst other things it means that we exist in relationship with fellow human beings: our parents, our siblings, our friends, our school teachers, fellow students, our work colleagues, our customers, the church congregation, the media we listen to and watch…….. The interesting thing is that our stories (that own and run us) are kept in existence as much by the people that we are in relationship with as by ourselves. So a powerful access to stepping out of our stories is to ‘move home’. Became a part of a community that has no listening for, no agreement with the stories that run us. Imagine going from a major city and living with the Amish in their communities. Do you doubt that our stories would lost their stranglehold over us? That we would start to see our stories and by seeing them have access to stepping out of them.

You might think that the people who are most likely to help us step outside of our limiting stories into stories that inspire us, give us more freedom, gives us more vitality, more self-expression, more joy would be the people who are the closest to us. My experience is that this is rarely the case. The people who are closest to us are the ones who both shape and help keep our existing stories in existence. This is great if the story creates a life that works for you (joy, self-expression, vitality…) and is not so great if the story bring the opposite into being, into your life.

All of which brings me to the key point: if we want our lives to work then we have to be willing to give up our stories. To give up our stories we have to be willing, prepared and committed to giving me all up all that brings our stories into being, colludes with our stories, keep our stories in existence. In practice that means not only our media, our culture, our religion, our ideologies (e.g. capitalism, socialism….) but also the people who are closest to us. That is a hard ask and that is why most people who even when they know that they are ‘plugged into the matrix’ and their ‘lives our a delusion’ are not willing to ‘unplug themselves from the matrix’. Occasionally, events come along and do that to us – at first we kick and scream, later some of us get that it was a blessing and create new, empowering, inspiring stories.

Finally the access to Possibility and Transformation is letting go of all of your stories forever. When you are standing naked of all Story then there is Nothing and in the space of Nothing you and I can create anything. Put differently in the space of Nothing there is only Possibility – a domain of unlimited possibilities and of freedom.