An Invitation to Live On The Edge


I invite you to show up and operate from an uncommon context. Which context? Please take a look at the following, short, presentation from an ex-colleague of mine, Bruce Kasanoff.

I invite you to go one step further. I invite you to to live from the context “Help this person, with love”

Why have I added “with love” to Bruce’s “Help this person”.  Because there is a world of difference between helping this person with love, or helping without love.  This world of difference shows up both for the helper and the helped. I am not talking theory. I am share my lived experience.

I guarantee that if you show up and operate from the context “help this person, with love” your experience of your living will be transformed. And so will the nature, number, and quality of your relatedness and relationships.

Are you up for testing this out and taking me up on my guarantee?  Perhaps, you are up for joining me just because it speaks for you. Or it shows up as being a great way to live: a way that opens up adventure, invites relationship, and fun.

Finally, I invite you to consider that a new realm of possibilities open up for me, for you, for us, for the world of which we are an integral part, when you and I show up from “Help this person, with love”.

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.

 

 

In the context of relatedness/affinity it really takes something to say “No”


An insight into the machinery of being human

There is a certain joy that is present when I encounter someone who occurs as being a “fruit of the same tree”. There are only a handful of people that I know who show up that way in my world. As you can imagine these people occur as special and so the inclination (off the automatic machinery of being human) is to say yes to the invitations and their requests. Put bluntly, the automatic machinery (of being human) does not wish to put the relatedness/affinity at stake by saying “no”.

A person whom I like/admire/respect makes a request of me

This week such a person, a person who I like/admire/respect, reached out to me and requested an endorsement. Upon receiving this request I noticed surprise and delight: “Wow, this person considers me worthy of endorsing him.” As as I grappled with this request I found myself in a bind.

I felt torn between competing values and commitments. How do I honour the distinction “endorsement” (not devalue it) and at the same time take on the request made of me by friend? The issue was not an issue of the competence of my friend: I am confident that he is competent, highly competent. Rather, the issue is that I have never worked with my friend and as such I am not in a position to provide an endorsement without devaluing the endorsements that i have already given to people with whom I have worked.

The bigger issue underlying this issue was the fact that I did not wish to say “no” to the request and thus hurt the feelings of my friend. And I did not want to put our relationship at risk. I noticed the temptation to pretend that I had not received this request for an endorsement. So I did nothing for a couple of days.

Eventually, I chose to be authentic, to act in accordance with my stand. So I wrote back to my friend thanking him for his invitation to endorse him. I explained how I found myself in a difficult position. And I told him that I was choosing not to accept his invitation/request. Once I hit the send button I was at peace knowing that it will work out the way that it will work out. And, that both of us are big enough to be with what there is to be with.

Is there an insight here?

It takes courage to be true to our stand especially when it occurs to us that we are at risk in some way. And it is very deep caring and commitment to our stand which provides the courage to be and to do that which is in authentic alignment with our stand when our automatic machinery is yelling/screaming at us to take the short cut, to give in, to please, to not put self at risk.
I notice that self-respect and a sense of being powerful shows up when I am being in accordance with my stand. The opposite is also true for me: when I fail to be my stand then I notice a loss of power (in my being / showing up in the world) and self-esteem.

Is it possible that when I stand for that which I have chosen to stand for, and do that in a manner that honors the dignity of my fellow human beings, I am creating an opening, an invitation, for my fellow human beings to express their voice and stand for that which matters to them?

If the right listening is there then this is all it takes to restore relatedness


A couple of days ago there was a disagreement between two of my children.  Being next door and hearing the heated voices, I intervened to stop hurt taking place.  Nonetheless, hurt took place.  Daughter was so upset, so angry that she threw the iPad and ran out of the room crying; the iPad was a present from my sister; the two of them were fighting over the iPad and Netflix.

Confusion and upset was present in my house of being.  The thought that I had been unfairly treated, that I did not deserve that which I had received surfaced.  I picked up the iPad and went back to my study and got on with what I had been doing.

Later that evening the following was pushed under the door and into my study:

That is all it took for the healing to take place between daughter and me, for the relatedness to be restored.  How is it possible that my daughter would write this card so quickly after being so upset?  And how is it possible that I would receive it with gratitude as quickly as I did?  How is it possible that we would ‘forgive’, putting the past in the past, and move forward together with our relatedness intact, perhaps even stronger?

LISTENING!  I listen to daughter as one who loves me unconditionally.  And she listens to me as as one who loves her unconditionally.  And we listen to each other as souls whose intentions are good.  And we listen to human beings as beings who make mistakes.

What is the insight here that is of value?  The listening is the background that gives meaning and shapes that which shows up in the foreground.  Too many of us get busy on ‘fixing / dealing with’ the foreground (the events that occur) and few of us work on the background: the listening.  Yet, the power, the leverage, is in the listening!

If your relationships are not working out then focus on the listening that you bring to it.

Want to cultivate great relationships? Embrace the stand “people matter more than stuff”


How to cultivate great relationships with people and enrich your life

Relationships enrich our living.  That is simply so, if it was not so then most of us would be living the life of hermits – isolated from our fellow human beings.

If you accept that relationships enrich our existence then you would want to generate goodwill with you fellow wo/man,  With some you’d want to go further to become more entangled with one another and thus co-create intimacy.  How do you do that?  What is the insight that allows us to come up with the right practice?  The insight is that each of us wants deeply to matter!  We want/need/ strive to matter to the people with whom we interact.  That includes family, friends, work colleagues, our neighbours and our community.

Given that insight what is the core practice that builds relationships with our fellow human beings?  The core practice is encapsulated in a saying that I heard my friend Analia say to her young daughter:  “People matter more than things!”  I rephrase this “People matter more than any stuff that you are up to and any things that you want/own!”

How does this work in the real world? A personal story

Yesterday I was watching a movie with my wife and my youngest son.  We were really immersed in the story that was being told.  Then my eldest son came into the room and asked me for a hug.  What was my first reaction?  It was to say no! ” No, I am right in the middle of watching a really interesting movie.  I cannot just stop it and give you a hug upstairs in your room – your mother and brother are watching it with me.” And that is the approach that I took though I put it more politely than that.  After a couple of minutes I got present to “People matter more than stuff!”.  So I told my wife and youngest son to continue watching the film without me and headed upstairs to find my eldest son.

He was delighted!  He got that he matters to me, that I love him, that he is more important to me than stuff.  And here is the truly beautiful piece of this story:  I got that I matter to my son – his whole face lit up when I lay down on the bed and put my arms around him.  It is when we put aside our “stuff” and give ourselves to our fellow human beings that they get that they matter.  I was only upstairs with my son for 5 minutes – just 5 minutes out of “stuff” and those 5 minutes make all the difference to our relationship.  We both know that we matter to each other.

Why is it important to put people before stuff?

The being of human being is a social one.  What am I pointing at?  I am saying that human beings are ‘herd animals’ – we are truly ourselves when we are in relationship with one another: speaking, listening, sharing, giving, taking, offering help, receiving help…  Put differently, we exist in relationship.  Even our ‘individuality’, our ‘self’, flowers and exists in relationship.  There is no-one alive who is alive without the help of another human being.  There is no-one alive, no matter how ‘individualistic’ he sees himself, who has not been shaped by other living beings – usually parents, siblings, school students, school teachers, neighbours…..  Individuality is response to and flowers out of relationship and connectedness!

Yet, in the West, we ‘throw into and life from’ a worldview that does not recognise nor value our relatedness – mutually interacting and influencing one another.  It does not recognise the impact we make on another.  And whilst it speaks about individual rights it does not speak of our responsibilities to one another.  The dominant idea is to allow everyone to do his own thing provided he/she does not interfere (actively) with other people and what they are up to.   What we are not present to is that we matter to our fellow human beings: what we do or do not do matters –  it affects the health, the well being, the happiness of our fellow human beings.  Think about the rampant loneliness, the existential angst of leading ‘meaningless’ lives, the boredom that youngsters increasingly experience.  How does this show up?  Look around you the signs of social decay (ruptured human bonds) are all around us: excessive drinking, drugs, crime, corruption, gated communities, inner cities falling apart……

Are you ready to live from the stand “people matter more than stuff!”?

Is it time to hold a correct view of the world and our being as human beings?  Is it time to embrace and live the stand “People matter more that stuff – whatever form that stuff takes and no matter how seductive it is!” ?  Whatever you chose, notice that my choice affects you and your choice affects me – we are interdependent.

A powerful access ‘extraordinary living’: whole, complete and perfect


Before I share with you a powerful access to ‘extraordinary’ living  I want to share with you what is so about ordinary living: the point of view that keeps is embedded in ordinary living and the price we pay.

Ordinary living: I am flawed, you are flawed

Dig into your experience, dive deep, and you will find that the culture tells you that you should be whole, complete, perfect.  Yes, you should!  Yet, the message that you (and I) have been getting from our parents, our school teachers, our colleagues, our media, our places of work, even our religions is that we are not whole, we are incomplete and we are imperfect.  Christianity is the dominant religion in the Western world and what does it say?  You are born a sinner and you have to seek redemption!  That is exactly what most of us buy into and do yet we fail to find that redemption because we are no a fool’s errand, we have a mistaken view of us, of life (more later in the post).

When you look at yourself, relate to yourself, experience yourself, you (and I) see ourself as something like this:

What is the price that I pay, you pay, he pays, she pays?  What is to like to know/feel/experience being not whole, not complete, imperfect when the culture around you spins the myth of perfection?  I know what that is like. You know what that is like!  He knows what it is like and she know what it is like.  We keep that shame of imperfection hidden.  We strive and strive and strive to be complete, to be perfect, to be whole.  Yet, the way that we go about is guaranteed to keep us rooted to being incomplete, broken, faulty, worthless, inferior, imperfect.  If you sense of wholeness / perfection is tied to your partner then what happens when your partner becomes unhappy with you, starts an affair, or leaves you?  If your sense of wholeness / perfection is tied to your job then what happens when you lose your job?  If it is tied to your wealth then what happens when you lose your wealth or are in danger of losing it?

The price that we pay is the cost of wearing a mask.  We can never put ourselves in the world as we are – we give up self-expression.  We can never build genuine human bonds – the cost is genuine relatedness with our fellow human beings.  We can never relax into the world – the cost is shows up as alcoholism, drug taking, stress, disease and an early death.  Right?

Access to ‘extraordinary’ living: “I am whole, complete, perfect – just as I am and I am not.  You are whole, complete, perfect – just as you are and just as you are not”

Look into Buddhism and you get a central insight into the human condition: we cause our suffering by living from/into an incorrect/false view of ourselves and the world.  The false view is that I, you, he, she, they, we are broken, incomplete, imperfect!

The correct, the right, view is that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am and just as I am not.  There is nothing to add and nothing to take away!  And that applies to everyone of us.  Sound philosophical to you?  It is.  Let me make it more concrete to you – take a look at the diagram below:

Do you see it?  Do you see / get the beauty of what is so?   Look at the diagram again.  If you look at each shape in isolation you can easily say that it is incomplete, imperfect, something missing – none of the shape are a square or a circle!  Now look at the picture as a whole – how the shapes connect to make a beautiful figure.   And the figure is never completed!  No matter how big it grows the design allows more and more piece to connect.  The design of the design is connection!  You only get this when you stop looking at one individual piece and start looking at the whole show.  Sound abstract?  Think about an orchestra – you can zoom into only one member of the orchestra or you can use a wide angle lens and see the whole orchestra.  Both are there!  Each individual member of the orchestra and the orchestra itself. 

Here is the truth of our design, of our situation, our existence on this planet:  we are social beings: you, me, they, we, have been designed for connection – we are perfectly designed for connection.  We have whole, complete and perfect for connecting with our fellow human beings.  Think about language and the connection it enables: I see you, you matter, you make a difference, your existence matters to me, you contribute, I love you.  Neuroscience tells us that we have mirror neurons:  I see you crying and seeing you crying, my mirror neurons enable me to feel/get your experience and thus I have the access to connect with you.

Look around you, look around you, wherever you want in the world.  What do you see?  People live with one another, people live next to one another, people work together, people trade with another.  Now think about this, you are invited to party you are told how amazing it will be – the food, the drinks, the place (say Hawaii or whatever your favourite place), the music will be just so, exactly they way you want it.  Can you imagine yourself at this party?  How delightful does it feel?  There is catch to this party.  No other human being will be present. The drinks and the food will be served by robots.  The dj taking care of the music will also be a robot.  How excited are you now?  Are you going to that party? No, right?  That is the truth of our being, our design, that we do not see and we are not encouraged to see.  Hell for us is solitary confinement: have you ever wondered why this is the harshest punishment meted out in prison?  Because the prison guards gets what is so – the truth of our design as human beings.  People matter to us. People contribute to us.  We are only human when we are connected to, contributing to, one another.

A movie recommendation: The Way

Are you up to getting present to what I am speaking about?  I recommend that you watch “The Way”: Michael Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to France to collect the remains of his dead son, killed in the Pyrenees while walking The Camino de Santiago.  Driven by profound sadness, and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on this historical pilgrimage.  Tom navigates this 800km journey and soon meets others around the world, all looking for greater meaning in their lives.   This is a moving, inspiring movie that provides a powerful access to the human condition and our greatness.

And Finally

If you are still wondering about your greatness then let me repeat:  our greatness is that we are whole, complete and perfectly designed for reaching out, connecting, uplifting, healing, completing one another and generating a beautiful pattern called life on Earth.  I leave you with this picture to ponder – it is visual metaphor for our lives:

I thank you for your listening.   The context from which I am living my life is “I matter, you matter, they matter, we matter, let’s live extraordinary lives and co-create a world that works, none excluded”.  Are you up for joining me?  You Matter, your answer matters and shapes our world that we share!  I love you. I hope you will join me.