Play BIG: What Showed Up On My Recent (51st) Birthday?


Who/what really matters to you?  Who/what is the true focus of how you show up and travel in life? Who/what is the focus of your existence?  For me, it is my children.

It matters to me how well I am doing in relation to caring for my children. The voice within is highly critical of how well I am doing as a father: I find that I never live up to it’s standard of what constitutes a good father.

So how well am I doing as a father on the central project of my life: bringing up my children so that they feel accepted, loved, valued and care for/consider others not just themselves?  I share with you, and leave tracks in the sands of time, the report cards that my children issued to me on my recent birthday celebration.

Rohan: First Born

Birthday Card From Rohan“I wish you a happy birthday and I love you very much. I want to say thank you very much for helping me and supporting me with everything. And especially with my application for BP. You have done more than I could expect from anyone. I thank you for the physio treatment as this will help, hopefully, with the pain.

Thank you, Rohan”

 

Marco: Second Born

BdayCardMarco“Dear Papa,

I wish you a relaxing birthday being surrounded by all your family. I can’t believe your 51!

Thank you for all the times you have been kind to me, given me advice and support, and a huge supply of hugs. I enjoy spending time with you in the evenings after work and just sharing fruit together. With you and me, the little things like that are the big things.

I want you to know that I feel loved and accepted by you and I know that you care and worry about me a lot.

I want you to know that I love you lots and appreciate you being there for me.

You’re also one in a million and couldn’t ask for dad that’s as crazy and funny as you!!!

P.S. I have given you some money so that you can give money to people on Kiva.

Love,

Marco”

 Clea: Last Born

BdayCardClea“Dear Papa

Happy Birthday.

Firstly, I would like to take the time to tell you just how much I love you!

Honestly, you mean the world to me. I love how you are always there, even if it’s just after school and you ask me how my day was. Or just being able to sit down and watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer with you. It MAKES MY DAY!

The last year I think we have really become close with each other. The truth is that you and me are a team, a bit like the 3 musketeers – but there is only two of us. We face the world together!

Papa, you are the best advice giver, the best thinker, the best everything! But most of all the best dad. I love you to bits. No words could describe, no images could show you just much your brain continues to amaze me, your sooooooo smart, which can get annoying when you prove me wrong!

I am proud to be your daughter and to carry the Iqbal family name. When I’m older and I get married, trust me, the guy will have to change his last name because I’m keeping Iqbal.

Papa, you are my safety net, when I fall somehow you arms catch me – which is good because I fall a lot! It seems that you are always there for me. No matter how hard I might push you away, you always come fighting your way back. As I mention fighting, you should know that even when we fight and argue, I still love you. That includes all the slamming of doors, shouting and screaming, loud angry music.

When I am older I want to be just as kind and loving as you are. Your heart is so big it stretches across Africa.

I love you papa, I love you, I love you, I love you, don’t forget it.

Clea”

Sophia: One Who I Have Adopted As A Daughter

BdayCardSophia“To Maz,

Thank you for everything you have done for me in the past year. Even though we don’t always talk, I know no matter what, you’ll always be there for me & that you do love me. It tok me a while to believe it but I definitely do now.

I also want you to know, though it is hard for me to say it, I do love you.

Hope you have a really good birthday! …..

Lots of love,

Sophia”

What is it that I wish to say to my children?

Your existence, and my role in it, grants me a powerful sense of meaning and purpose. Your existence contributes to my existence: you enrich my existence.  I love each of you.

And Finally

It occurs to me that this year’s birthday celebration was a special one. Why? For the first time, I planned out my birthday celebration, I invited the folks around the table, I did all the cooking, and I did all the washing up.  This may not be milestone for many. It is for me. Why?  Because it is was not to long ago that my being did not include cook. Now it does. By taking on the project of cooking I have expanded by being. I have grown older, am one year closer to death, yet my sense of self (as a source of contribution/power to make a difference) has grown, not diminished.

Am I A Success?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Is It That I Experience Myself As A Success? 

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

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

Wife

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

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

Eldest Son

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

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

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

The Younger Son

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

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

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

 Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niece

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

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

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

Why Have I Shared This With You?

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

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

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

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

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

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


tothewonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Ebert (film critic, deceased)

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

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

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

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

Damon Linker (senior correspondent at theweek.com)

Everything That Shows Up Shows Up In Relationship; Everything Said is Said by Someone


In our default way of being in the world, in the West, we ascribe properties to objects. So without any conscious-deliberative thought, we say:

  • This rose is red;
  • This bag is heavy;
  • My husband-wife-partner is selfish;
  • My boss is harsh-selfish-demanding-stupid;
  • My work is boring;
  • The English are cold-unfriendly people;
  • The Americans are arrogant;
  • This food is delicious;
  • She has such an irritating voice ……

Let’s stop and ask ourselves the question, “Is what I take for granted really what is so?”  Let’s just consider the last assertion “She has such an irritating voice!”, as assertion made by a family member when she heard me listening to a podcast.

When I/you say “She has such an irritating voice!” what is it that I am sharing?  Am I pointing out an objective truth? Am I pointing out to the intrinsic ‘suchness’ of her voice?  It looks that way doesn’t it given that is our cultural practice: we stand aside from the world, looking at it as a scientist does, and describe the properties of the world – including the properties of people, of objects, of groups of people and objects. And in so doing we forget that it is i/you/we who are doing the describing!

It occurs to me that when I say “She has such an irritating voice!” I am not speaking an objective truth. Rather, I am pointing at and sharing my lived experience. If I were to describe this lived experience it would be something like this:

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find that her voice shows up as irritating. “

Do you notice the different between these two statements:

“She has such an irritating voice!” and

“In my state of being right now and the listening that automatically flows from my state of being, I find her voice shows up as irritating.”

Do you notice that the label ‘irritating voice’ points towards and highlights the flavour-tone-touch of  my relationship with her?  ‘Irritating voice’ is not a property of her. Her voice is simply her voice: it is neither melodious nor irritating.  Any irritation that shows me in me arises out of my relating with her voice. 

Summing up:

– man is being-in-the-world-with-others and as such always exist in relationship. Everything that shows up shows up in the space of relationship. There are no objects with intrinsic properties independent of others.  

– all descriptions, all labeling, all asserting is done by someone. Humberto Maturna is reported to have said “Everything said is said by someone”.  By this he meant that all acts of cognition-experience occur, are distinguished by, and spoken by someone.  This also means that “All that is heard is heard by someone.” 

– when you and I get that, really get that, then the space of transformation (in our relating to ourself, to others, to the world in which we dwell) opens up and is available for reinterpretation. Whether you and I step into that space is a choice that we can accept or decline.  

 

 

 

What Does It Take For Me To Understand You?


Let’s explore understanding. Let’s make this specific and explore what it takes for me to understand you.

The default: I understand you conceptually and instrumentally

It occurs to me that the default way of understanding is cognitive-conceptual-detached. Put more plainly, it is head stuff.  This is the kind of understanding that I am after when I ask, “Why did you do that?” This is the kind of understanding that leaves me feeling safe-satisfied when I have placed you into an existing category. A great example of this is Myers-Briggs typologies. This is the kind of understanding that shows up when I stand facing you, observing you. You and I are distant standing in different places. It is akin to the understanding that the scientist generates in the laboratory: the observer and the observed.

Having gone about understanding you in this manner, in what sense have I understood you?  Perhaps, a more insightful-pentrating question is this one, have I understood you at all? I assert that I have not understood you.  Now this would not be an issue (in the workability of my life, your life, our relationship) if I got (and you got) that this default mode of understanding you, leaves me not understanding you.  Yet, in life as lived, it does show up as an issue because I do NOT get that I can never understand you if I use this default mode of understanding you.

At best I understand you instrumentally.  Which is to say that I understand you like understanding a car – good enough to drive it. Understanding you instrumentally allows me to get along with you. And make use of you.

What does it take for me to really understand you?

Does understanding you require me to ‘walk in your shoes’? No, because I am not you and you are not me. Even if I walk in your shoes it is highly unlikely that that the world will show up for me as it shows up for you, and that I will experience that which you experience.

I say that it takes a certain kind of context for me to understand you.  What kind of context?  A context where you feel safe opening up and sharing yourself with me.  How do I generate that context? By showing up and relating-listening to you as a fellow human being who is whole-complete-perfect. It occurs to me that Carl Rogers called this ‘unconditional positive regard‘.  Whilst this is necessary, it is not enough.  Generous listening, deep curiosity, sufficient time, and patience are also required.

What kind of questions open up a space for me to understand you?  

It occurs to me that the following questions are pointers towards the right kind of questions:

  • How does this person-event-situation-world show up for you?  And how would you like it to show up for you?
  • How do you show up for yourself? And how would you like to show up for yourself?
  • What exactly is your experience (bodily sensations, moods, feelings, thoughts …..) of your life, your living? And what would you like your experience to be?
  • What kind of a future are you living into? How does the future show up for you?
  • What kind of future would you like to be living into?  What will it take for you to generate this future?
  • What are your dreams? What would you take on if money was no object, if you had absolute confidence in yourself?  Who would travel this path, take on this challenge with you?
  • What are you struggling with right now? How are you experiencing this struggle? Who is helping you face these struggles?
  • Which events-activities-persons in your life leave you most satisfied-fulfilled?
  • What message would you like your living to speak?
  • What legacy would you like to leave? For who?
  • What/who are you grateful for?

And finally

In being present to these questions, I get, vividly-experientially, that I do NOT understand you.  Being thus present, not deluded, I can choose to walk the path of genuine understanding or not.

So what does it take for me to understand you?  It takes genuine caring. It takes genuine-deep curiosity. It takes time and it takes effort. It takes giving me the notion that I already understand you. It takes giving me the notion that you are a static object – once understood, always understood. It takes a certain kind of generosity of being.

Why should I make the effort to generate this kind of understanding?  Connection. The access to genuine connection to you, is through this latter type of understanding.

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”.

Relationship and Connection: Does Every One of Us Needs A Champion?


Rita Pierson is present to the awesome power of relationship, connection, and looking through the lens of possibility.  She sums it up by saying that every kid needs a champion. I say, that every one of us, adult and child, needs a champion.  What kind of champion? Rita provides the answers in her inspiring talk, which I wish to share with you today.

Here are some quotes that speak to me, perhaps they will speak to you as well.

“You know that kids don’t learn from people that they don’t like!”

“Throw in a few simple things like seeking first to understand as opposed to being understood.”

“You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.”

“You see -18 sucks all the life out of you, +2 says I aint all bad.”

“You know Mrs Walker you made a difference in my life. You made it work for me. You made me feel like I was somebody when I knew at the bottom I wasn’t. And  I want you to see what I’ve become…”

“She left a legacy of relationships that could never disappear. Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely….”

 

Listening: is this the most valuable gift we can give one another?


Do I show up for you as one who cares for you?

It is easy for me to say that I care.  It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy for me to reassure you that everything will be fine. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy to tell you what to do. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy to go out and buy stuff for you. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy for me to give you money. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

It is easy for me to fix it for you. It is something else entirely to show up in your world as one who cares.

Genuine listening is the foundation of caring and relationship

I thank you for teaching me that listening is caring. What kind of listening?  When I listen to you as person of worth. When I listen to you as person who matters. When I stop everything that I am thinking-speaking-doing and sit there.  Sit there doing what? Being a listening for you – wherever you are at, whatever you are thinking, whatever you are feeling, whatever you are needing, whatever you are requesting of me and the world

When through my listening I create a space for you to show up and express yourself fully. To speak that which is there to be spoken.  Then you feel gotten. And when you feel gotten you feel connected with me and vice versa. When you feel connected you feel loved. When you feel loved you feel that you matter, that you are safe, that you have a safe platform to take risks.

It occurs to me that if each of us provided empathic listening to the people closest to us, at home, at work, in the local community, then our experience of living would be transformed and collectively we would end up transforming the world.

I invite you to join me in being a source of empathic listening. Being a stand for empathic listening. Just listening: not reassuring, not advising, not telling, not fixing…. just empathic listening of one heart to another heart.

Oh and I get that it is hard. And is it not that way for the baby that struggles to walk. Does the baby give up each time s/he falls?  Does the baby stay content with just crawling just because s/he falls down and hurts herself?  Just about everything shows up as hard until it becomes us and then it is easy even automatic.

If you are wondering what I am making such a big fuss about then I leave you with this quote from Dorothy Moore:

When you ask someone when was the last time a person listened to you, they often can’t even give you an answer. Listening, really listening, is the key to caring!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this real love?


After watching the film The Impossible I found myself to have been affected rather profoundly.  Put differently, I found myself to be ‘all shaken up’.

What shook me was the humanity that showed up in that devastation, that suffering. What showed up for me was how little of a contribution that I am making in the world. What shook me up was the level of pain that is in the world and what little I do to help my fellow wo/man in being with / dealing with pain/suffering.  In short, I showed up for myself as a failure.  Perhaps, even a hypocrite.

So I found myself with tears running down my face. Being with what was so I found myself tired/exhausted. And, I feel asleep in the lounge whilst getting hugs from daughter and one of the sons.

Some hours later I woke up and  looked at the coffee table that was next to me.  What did I find?  I found a box of tissues and this note:

Clea I love you 1This note cheered me up.  I was touched by the love of daughter for me.  Then as I got up off the sofa that I was lying on and made my way to the mantlepiece I found my glasses and the following:

Clea I love you 2By now I was deeply touched.  It occurred to me that perhaps I have not failed to be/make the kind of contribution that I say I am committed to making.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I may be a decent human being doing.  This cheered me up.

As I looked around the room and specifically the dining table I found some stuff.  I wondered why that stuff was there.  Who had put it there and why?  Then I moved closer to the table  and found this waiting for me:

Clea I love you 3

At this point I found myself laughing out loud.  Why? I was totally present to the love that exists between daughter and myself.  It occurred to me that real love exists between daughter and me.  In that space I got that I matter, I make a difference. And as long as my living makes a difference to even one being then my life is not wasted. Nor am I failure.  It occurred to me that the future is wide open to being invented and lived for as long as I have this gift of a life – including the love that I am blessed with.

As I made my way around the rest of the house – the kitchen, the stairs, the bathroom, I found more notes from daughter saying the same “I love you! from Clea”. And in that moment, I got that this is real love.  I got how blessed I am and in getting that I found my being transformed: I straightened up, I was taller, a positive outlook gripped me, smiles and joy were present….

 

Aha: I am cause in the matter of!


I can become crazy annoyed with one of my sons.  What in particular presses my buttons and has me hopping mad?  He is talking about something, sharing something, asking for something, complaining about something.  Listening, I say something like “Enough. I don’t want to hear any more. Stop. This is not the time. No more!”  What does he do?  He continues on interrupted.

What do I take that to mean?  I give it many interpretations, many stories. And it goes something like this: he does not respect me; he is selfish; he lacks social skills; he is stupid!  What does that give rise to?  Either I leave the room or I put him down through labelling or I shout at him.  Whilst I regret this later and apologise it is true that in the moment I feel justified, even righteous.

A funny thing happened today.  Son asked me to take him to buy a torch.  We enter the store, I ask one of the clerks and we get to the section where the torches are hanging.  We pick a torch and head out to the cash tills to pay. It is late, towards closing time.  With the torch in his hand son starts moving towards and checking each of the closed tills.  I tell him they are closed. He continues. I go over take the torch from him head to the only staffed desk (Customer Services), pay and head for the car.

My son is already at the car. I open it and we both enter.  And I say “Son it occurs to me that you lack common sense..” He stops me and say “I don’t want to hear it.”  What do I do?  I carry on uninterrupted. What does he say? He says “I told you I don’t want to hear it.”  What do I do?  I continue saying what I was saying without missing a word!  What does he do?  He puts his hands over his ears.  What do I do? I continue speaking!

We get home.  What hits me?  It hits me for the very first time that I am a hypocrite.  I have just done to my son that which I detest when he does it to me.  Worse still, it hits me that this is not the first time I have done this.  Then this question hits me hard: “Am I the cause of his behaviour? Did he learn it from me?”

The answer?  Yes, it is highly likely that I am the cause in the matter of how my children show up: what they say, what they do, how they say it, how they do it….

What is present for me?  A certain humility. A recognition that I am cause in the matter of my life. And that I am reaping that which I have sown – at least when it comes to the behaviour of wife, sons, and daughter.  Sitting with that I am clear that there is no space for complaining to show up. Nor any space for me to play victim.

How about you?  Where in your life are you the cause of that which shows up in your life and of which you get righteous and complain?

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.

 

 

An ‘extra-ordinary’ life is distinct from an extraordinary life


When I speak, I speak. When you listen, you listen to me speaking.  Yet, I live in my world – a unique world.  And you live in your world – a unique world.  Given that is the case how can I be sure that I have generated the understanding, the experience, that I intend with my  speaking?  And how can you be sure that what you have heard me say is what I actually spoke?

This speaking and the listening brought to the speaking is particularly troublesome when it comes to ideas like extraordinary.  So it is likely that some of you upon hearing me speak of an ‘extra-ordinary’ life or ‘extra-ordinary’ living will have collapsed this with extraordinary life and extraordinary living.   They are not the same, they are distinct.  Allow me to bring the distinction to life through a personal story.

When I was a child, before the age of 5, my life showed up as ‘extra-ordinary’ and there was nothing extraordinary about me or my life.  I grew up in a farming community in a poor part of Pakistani controlled Kashmir.  My mother was poor and we lived in a mud house.  We had just enough to eat.  I remember pleading with my mother for some milk which she would not give me because she sold it to buy stuff that she did not grow. The outward appearance was distinctly ordinary for that part of the world: one boy among many boys; one farmer’s dwelling just like many of the other dwellings in the area.

Yet, when I travel back in time and re-experience my life, at that age and in that place, it shows up as an ‘extra-ordinary’ life. I flowed with life and life flowed through me. In this ‘extra-ordinary’ living I don’t remember ever saying to myself “I am better or worse than someone else”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am good/bad”.  I don’t remember saying to myself “There is something great/defective about me.” And I don’t remember thinking “I need to improve this/that about me.” I don’t remember saying “Something is missing.”  Nor do I remember saying “This is hard work”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am bored, I need to find something to do”.  I don’t remember saying “This is a good person, this is a bad person.” Nor do I remember saying to myself “I am poor or we are poor.”  I am sure that I never said to myself “There is something wrong with my life.”

I do remember that some of the baby chicks that I loved and was responsible for feeding (water and food) died. I don’t remember saying “It is my fault. I am bad.” Nor do I remember saying “It is his/her fault for not giving me the water/food I needed to feed my baby chicks!”

I do remember being absorbed in living.   I remember getting up early and being occupied for the entire day and going to sleep exhausted.  I remember liking some people and not liking others – yet just getting on with them, with living.  I remember liking being with my dog and not liking my mother chaining my dog up and not letting me play with him.  I do remember joy in playing out all day.  And I do remember great sadness when some of my baby chicks died. I remember laughter (lots of it) especially when I was playing with my dog and my friends.  And I remember a waterfall of tears when I woke up to find my dog (my best friend) missing and not finding him day after day.  I remember that one day the tears dried up and I got busy being absorbed in life and living.

I hope that you have gotten the difference between ‘extra-ordinary’ living and extraordinary living.  You and I have the power to transform our experience of living from ‘ordinary’ to ‘extra-ordinary’ whilst living an ordinary life or an extraordinary life.

It occurs to me that so many of us are chasing that extraordinary life (of being the best, of being rich, of being looked up to, of pleasure….) and in the process we sacrifice the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living – the kind of living that I experienced in the first five years of my life.  And I say it is never too late to transform the quality of our lives – to shift from the chase of the extraordinary life to generating the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living.

My life, your life: is this what it is ultimately all about?


We celebrated a birthday in our home yesterday.  It was all going fine – the five of us and my wife’s aunt (Lisa) were sat around a dining table enjoying food, drink and conversation.

The thought popped up, now is the time to play the track.  So I got up and played “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder – it is a track that I play at birthdays and daughter (whose birthday we were celebrating) likes it.  Daughter started moving (sat down) and singing along to the track.  Suddenly, she was up dancing and one of her brothers joined her.  Then she grabbed me and I joined in as well.

When the track came to an end, daughter asked for “You’re a lady” sung by Tom Jones.  So I put that on and she LOVED it.  How do I know?  The way she danced.  And my son, who was dancing too, loved it too. And I loved it too – listening, dancing to it, with it.  When that came to an end, I played “Sex Bomb” and that went down well with with us.

After that my son, who was dancing, complained about the songs that I was playing.  They did not show up as modern enough, as cool enough, as sexy enough – not to his taste.  All the time, daughter was just fine, enjoying the music – dancing and taking it easy.  Struggling to find the right tracks, I got another complaint from my son.  This time, I said with some frustration “How about being grateful that you have a father that cares and does this?”

Later, in the evening as I was getting to go to bed my son searched me out.  He looked me in the eyes, give me a hug and told me that he was sorry.  I welcomed that and was ready to go to sleep.  The he spoke words and I got present to being moved-touched deeply – almost at a primal level, the level of the automatic functioning of the ‘machinery of being human’.  Let me share these words with you:

“Papa, you are special.  I will miss you when you are gone [dead].  I love you. You matter to me, you make such a big difference to my life.” 

I have been thinking and it occurs to me at the primal level of ‘the machinery of being human’, you and I, strive to:

  • be loved and love;
  • live lives that matter, that make a contribution to ourselves and those that we love;
  • know/feel and be told that you and I are special – at least to one person who matters to us.

At the deepest, most fundamental, level of the being of human being is that what matters?  Is that what human life is ultimately all about?  Being loved, living a life that matters, and showing up/feeling special at least to one other person that we are in relationship with?

Is love only love when it shows up as love? And other lessons from my mother and son


Me and my mother

My mother loves me.  She rings me if I do not call her.  She asks about me and gently tells me off for not calling her and letting her know my family and I are.  She asks about my work and how it is going.  She wishes me a safe journey when I travel abroad and she asks how my trip was…

If I am ill and my mother finds out then she is on the phone asking me how I am doing. And what I am doing to take care of myself.  She goes further and starts telling me what ‘medicine’ I should be taking – she is not a doctor.   She can be very insistent on what I should be doing to take care of myself!

My mother is old.  She is losing her memory. And she finds it hard to stand up, to walk, to go up/down the stairs. Yet, when I arrive at her home she gets up and starts fussing over me (if she is not out cold). She will get up to make me a tea. She will ‘run’ to the kitchen to cook me a meal. She will struggle up the stairs to make the spare bedroom so that it is just right for her eldest son

It is when I am visiting my mother that I lose it.  Why?  For two reasons.  First, I end up getting angry that I am there to help her and yet I end up creating work for her – making her life harder.  How/why?  She will not let me help.  You see I am a man and men simply should not do housework.  Second, she is constantly telling me what to do – what to wear, what to eat, how much to eat, how to live my life…..  And I end up saying “I am not a child, stop treating me like a child!”

Seeing her hurt I feel remorse and say to myself “Why can’t you keep your mouth shut!”.  Yet, a part of me does say to me “She brought this on herself. How many times have I told her not to treat me like a child.  Not to boss me around.  And she never listens.  She brought this on herself.”

What have I done?  I have invalidated my mother and justified myself!  Put differently, I am in the right (for making the effort to drive 4 hours to see her and help her out) and she is wrong (for not accepting my help and for treating me like a child).

Me and my eldest son

I have been and am being really busy: thinking-formulating-writing a strategy for a client.  The deadline for the strategy document and the presentation to the directors is fast approaching.  Despite feeling the pressure I volunteered to drive my eldest son (17 years old) to the train station for the first day of his new job.

I notice it is cold.  And I notice that he has no overcoat over his suit jacket.  I think he has got to be cold. He gets into the car and turns the heating up to the max.  I say to myself “Yes, he is cold”.  So I suggest that he goes into the house, he refuses, telling me that he will do without the overcoat.  I drive.

Whilst driving I find myself asking my son why he did not get an overcoat given that it is cold and clearly he is cold.  He tells me that he does not know if there will be anywhere suitable to store it and he does not want to make a fuss on his first day.  I assure him that employers expect employees to come in with overcoats in winter and there will be somewhere to store it.  I say this calmly and occur to myself as loving/caring/helpful.

He loses it with me.  He tells me to stop telling him what to do, how to live his life.  He tells me that he prefers taking the bus rather than have me drive him to places because when we are together I boss him around, I tell him how to live his life.

I notice that hurt is present.  I notice that anger is present.  I catch myself saying “How ungrateful!  I am simply looking out for him – making sure that he does the right things, avoids the wrong things so that his life works out.”

I have got myself caught up in justifying myself, invalidating others!

Suddenly a bolt of insight hits me.  When my mother does what I do and I am in the role of son, I justify myself as the son and make her wrong as the mother.  Yet, in my relationship with my son I invalidate my son in his role as son and I justify myself in my role as father.

Yes, it hits me that I am caught up in ‘justifying myself and invalidating others’ – my mother, my son.  And it hits me that when I get hurt I take it personally and point the finger at my son.  Yet, when I hurt my mother, I do not point the finger at myself.  No, I point the finger at my mother and make her responsible for my behaviour and the hurt that it causes her!

How inauthentic!  As the author of my life, I own how I show up in life, I own my interpretation and thus experience of my life.  My son does what he does.  He cannot cause me to do/feel/speak what I do/feel/speak – that belongs to me.  My mother does what she does.  She cannot cause me to do/feel/speak that which I do/feel/speak.

What is the insight for you and me?

Be mindful. And grant others what we expect them to grant us.

If I expect my son to listen to me, to treat me respectfully, to use kind words, to show gratitude then surely I should call myself to be that kind of son to my mother!   To do that you and I need to be present to the traps that are always there for us because they go with being human.  The traps are ‘I am right, you are wrong’ and ‘justify self, invalidate others’.

And finally, it occurs to me that it is time for me to let my son simply be.  To make his choices and live his choices.  It occurs to me that being loving does not have to mean that I have to look out for and protect my son.  It occurs to me that I can choose to manifest my love for my son as ‘trust in him’ to make his choices and handle the consequences of his choice.  Put differently, I can simply be a stand for my son as a highly capable young man who can make choices and live with their consequences.

It occurs to me that this latter way of manifesting my love set us both free – free to own our lives: choices, consequences, responses, learning, growth…

And finally, is it possible that love is only love when it shows up / is experienced as love?

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.

An extraordinary understanding of and orientation towards responsibility: “I am cause in the matter of …”


The ordinary understanding / orientation of responsibility

What is my ordinary, taken for granted, understanding of and orientation towards responsibility?  I say that it is pretty much captured by the following definition:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something.
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

Is this a powerful place to stand? No. Who wants to be beholden to duty?  Doesn’t duty show up in my world as a burden?  A burden that is imposed on me by someone else?  Isn’t some element of the burden present even if I say I have a duty to do X and not Y? Looking into this further duty is given/imposed upon me by some outside authority including religion and culture.

Then there is the territorial orientation towards responsibility.  I particularly notice this at work where marking out territory and defending it can be and often is important.  Often the orientation is something like “This is my responsibility!” where the hidden message is I own this, it is my business and I don’t want you involved.  Or the orientation is that of “It’s not my responsibility!”  Either way the orientation is territorial.  And we use territory to assert ownership and exclude each other.

Who wants to leave himself open to blame, to criticism?  I don’t, I really don’t, I absolutely do not look forward to being criticised and even when I criticise myself I do not feel good.    Is it any surprise that many of us avoid responsibility and accountability as we wish to avoid being criticised, being blamed?  Isn’t my first response, your first response, something like “It’s not my responsibility.  It’s not my fault, I am not to be blame.  So leave me alone, let me be.”

Werner Erhard makes a great point. Blaming does not work.  Look there is spilt milk all over the floor.  How is blaming myself, or blaming you help with the situation?  No amount of blaming, responsibility pinning, is going to deal with the spilt milk.  The appropriate course of action is to mop up the milk!

Self-help orientation towards responsibility

If you read enough self-help literature you are going to come across the notion of ‘responsibility as response-ability’. That is the notion that between the stimulus (that which triggers your response) and your response (to that stimulus) you have a window of opportunity to choose your response.  That is you have the ability to choose your response.

Look into this deeply enough and you might just find that the phenomenon of stimulus-response is more complicated than that.  It is mood dependant.  When you and I are in the mood of being calm/relaxed then the window of opportunity is large enough to choose our response.  On the other hand if you and I are stressed, pre-occupied, grappling with our stuff, then the response to the stimulus is automatic.  Yes, we can unlearn this behaviour and it is likely that it takes many many hours of practice.

Werner Erhard: an extraordinary understanding / orientation towards responsibility

There is a radically different way of understanding and orienting oneself towards responsibility.  An understanding and orientation that leaves one in a powerful position.  Werner Erhard came up with and articulated this understanding.

The first point to make is that Werner Erhard’s definition/orientation is not a description of what is so. No, his orientation is generative.  What does it generate?  Possibility.  And a powerful place to stand when it comes to how your lives have turned out and how they can turn out in the future.   So what is Werner’s definition/orientation toward responsibility?

For any situation in our lives, in the world, I can freely take the stance: “I am responsible for……” as in “I am cause in the matter of…..”.   And in taking this stand I move from showing up as victim of the situation, or simply a bystander looking on the situation, to being someone who declares himself to be a causal agent, someone who has a say in the situation at hand and how it turns out

Let’s make this real. I have been experiencing disappointment, frustration, anger, bewilderment towards one my sons and how he behaves.  And we had a relationship that goes along with that: mainly one of ignoring one another.  I was clear that he is responsible for his behaviour, I am not responsible for it.  It is he who talks disrespectfully.   It is he who leaves stuff lying around the house.  It is he who walks into and all over the house with dirty shoes making a mess.  It is he who picks on his brother and sister simply because he is bored.  Standing in this ordinary orientation towards responsibility I was left feeling powerless, a victim of my son’s behaviour.  And I was wondering how it was that a child that I lavished love and attention upon turned out this way.

My wife provided the opening for me to get present to and take Werner Erhard’s orientation toward responsibility as regards my relationship with my son. She simply told me that my ‘bad behaviour’ shows up in the absence of relationship.  This got be present to taking the stance, freely/voluntarily, that “I am cause in the matter of my relationship with my son.  I have contributed to what is so.  And I have the power to influence how our relationship turns out.”  With this shift in orientation, I led, I became the causal agent.

I asked myself the question, what is missing the presence of which will make a difference here in my relationship to my son?  The answer was simple, spend 1 to 1 time with him doing what we both enjoy doing.  And give up blaming my son. Since then I have been playing pool with my son several times a week, we have gone to the cinema, we have played badminton and we have cooked together.  Interestingly, I notice that mutual affection and respect is present.  Two days ago my son said “You know Papa you don’t have to do so much for me, I know that you love me”.

Summing up

Coming to grips with and living from Werner’s articulation of responsibility, as in the sense “I am cause in the matter of…”, is fundamental pillar of living an extraordinary life. This understanding, this orientation, allows me/you/us to move from a position of resignation (I can do nothing, I have to put up with life) to one of authorship/leadership (I have a say in how the situation is and how it turns out).  And this shift from resignation to authorship/leadership/causal agent makes all the difference to my experience of living and your experience of living in this world that we co-create and inhabit together.

Suffering: pathway to compassion, relationship and a ‘world the works’?


Suffering is intrinsic to life and living

Suffering has been present in my experience of living for the last few weeks.  Is there anything special about this?  No, to be a human being is to be a being-in-the-world that is indifferent to my existence, his/her existence, your existence:  the world does not deliver my existential needs and/or does not fit into the model of the world should be (according to me, to my culture) and wherever either of these two conditions are present, suffering shows up.

Given that suffering is present in my house-of-being what is a useful way to be with it, to handle it, to work it?  Do I run from this suffering?  Do I embrace it, grasp on to tightly, suffer in silence and thus relate to myself as a martyr and give some meaning to my suffering?  Or do I embrace it, make a joke of it, display it to the world in order to get sympathy or admiration?  Do I lash out to those who I hold to be responsible for the causes of my suffering?  Do I inflict suffering because I am suffering?

Does suffering beget suffering in the ordinary way-of-being in the world?

I found that I was pretending to be OK with suffering when I was not OK with suffering.  And standing in that place I was not at peace and not available to any person who came into contact with me.  Worse, I was ready to blow up at the slightest annoyance.  How do I know this?  I became present to this when I blew up with several people including my mother. Did anyone deserve my behaviour?  No.  These people were doing what they do pretty much always.  Usually, I deal with that as their way-of-being in the world and let it go, swim with it.

What did this suffering my mine allow me to get present to?  Suffering begets suffering unless one is present to one’s suffering, becomes intimate with it, and thus uses it to allow compassion to flourish.   And yet, I really do not wish to be with my suffering.  I wish to run from it, minimise it, rationalise it……  And when I do this then I hurt the people who are around me.  Is it possible that the people in our lives who show up as least deserving of our kindness, our time/attention, of our generosity are those who occur as being selfish, inconsiderate, aggressive?  Yes, it occurs to me that the people who are in most need of our kindness, our generosity, our patience, our benevolence, are the ones that, in the ordinary way of being, we are least likely to be kind towards.  And so I, you, we contribute to the endless cycle of suffering.

Can suffering open a doorway to compassion, relationship and a ‘world that works’?

What else did I get present to as I was suffering?  It occurred to me that my experience of my suffering was similar to that of Ivan Ilych.  I was in a state of suffering and the people around me where busy with their lives.  Were they indifferent to my suffering?  I don’t know.  Did they even know/get my suffering?  I don’t know and I am confident that I hid it well.  Am I blaming anyone?  No.  I have done and probably am doing exactly the same: being not present to or simply indifferent to the suffering of those who live.

Can you and I use suffering powerfully – to generate compassion, build relationship and contribute to a ‘world that works’ with none excluded?   I came across these words of wisdom from Krishnamurti which helped me get a more useful relationship to suffering (mine, yours, his, hers) and they may do the same for you:

Why am I or why are you callous to another man’s suffering?  Why are we indifferent to the coolie who is carrying a heavy load, to the woman is carrying a baby?  Why are we so callous?  To understand that, we must understand why suffering makes us dull.  Surely, it is suffering that makes us callous; because we don’t understand suffering, we become indifferent to it.  If I understand suffering, then I become sensitive to suffering, awake to everything, not only to myself, but to the people about me, to my wife, to my children, to an animal, to a beggar.  But we don’t want to understand suffering, and the escape from suffering makes us dull, and therefore callous….. the point is that suffering, when not understood, dulls the mind and heart; from it, through the guru, through a savior, through mantras, through reincarnation, through ideas, through drink and every other kind of addiction – anything to escape what is…..

Now, the understanding of suffering does not lie in finding out what the cause is. Any man can know the cause of suffering; his own thoughtlessness, his stupidity, his narrowness, his brutality, and so on.  But if I look at the suffering itself without wanting an answer, then what happens?  Then, as I am not escaping, I begin to understand suffering; my mind is watchfully alert, keen, which means I become sensitive, and being sensitive, I am aware of other people’s suffering.”

And finally

1. Let’s own our suffering.  When you and I own our suffering then we stand in a powerful place to be with our suffering correctly and take the appropriate actions.   We move from being helpless / being victims and step into being the authors of our lives.  And as authors we are in a position to invent new possibilities that leave our experience of living transformed.  Even when we cannot escape our suffering we may be able to transcend our suffering by giving meaning to our suffering that leaves us with self-esteem.  Viktor Frankl, who spent two years or so in WWII concentration camps, has much to say on how to be with / transcend circumstances when one cannot escape from them.

2.  Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to the suffering that is all around us.  And with these open eyes and hearts lets be compassionate and act with kindness so as to show up as being caring/considerate human beings in the lives of others.  It occurs to me that the people that most need our compassion are the ones that show up as the least deserving of our compassion.

On disappointment – what it unconceals and how to be with it


To be human is to be the host to disappointment from time to time. Disappointment is a guest that simply shows up – usually unannounced – without invitation. This week I notice that disappointment – with my children, with myself – has been present in the house of my being.

How to be with disappointment and what does it unconceal?

How to be with disappointment when it shows up? I can accept it, I can pretend that it is not there and all is fine, I can try to push it away, I can struggle with it, I can fight with it………….

This week I chose to observe it as I might observe a new/interesting guest at a dinner party. And by observing it the following was unconcealed:

  • my disappointment can occur in relations to people and/or objects;
  • disappointment that lingers, that is more seductive, is in relation to the people who are the closest to me – my wife, my children….;
  • disappointment is distinct from anger – anger has an active quality to it that tends towards hitting out whereas disappointment is passive and has an air of resignation to it;
  • disappointment is not only towards others it can occur in relation to one’s self – how one is being and what one is doing;
  • moving from being disappointed to observing disappointment is the shift that loosens the grip of disappointment and creates a space to simply let disappointment be;
  • in choosing to let disappointment be disappointment (as opposed to adding meaning/significance to it) disappointment loses its grip on me and thus I am free – to get on with my ‘life projects’;
  • disappointment with oneself, one’s life, can be an opening to transformation – the caterpillar has an opportunity to transform into a butterfly;
  • disappointment with people leads to withdrawal and withdrawal is the suffocation of relationship and that in turn is the suffocation of oneself – as I always exist in relationship with others, no escape;
  • disappointment is rooted in expectation – usually, unrealistic expectation born of unrealistic beliefs about self, about people, about human beings.

Ordinary living: addicted to illusions about others (and self)

Disappointment is rooted in expectation is the clue. I notice that when disappointment showed up (in relation to my children) I was engaged in a particular kind of conversation: “When I was that age I was X and s/he is Y! At his age s/he should be more X than Y.” Clearly X is the desired state and Y is the undesired state. It is in that gap that the clearing for disappointment to show up arises. Which begs the question: how realistic our expectations of one another are? This is what Anthony De Mello writes in his book Awareness:

“A young man came to complain that his girlfriend had let him down, that she had played false. What are you complaining about? Did you expect any better? Expect the worst, you are dealing with selfish people. You’re the idiot – you glorified her, didn’t you? You thought she was a princess, you thought people are nice. They’re not! They’re not nice. They’re as bad as you are – bad, you understand? They’re asleep like you. And what do you think they are going to seek? Their own self-interest, exactly like you. No difference. Can you imagine how liberating this is – you’ll never be disillusioned again, never be disappointed again? You’ll never feel let down again. Never feel rejected. Want to wake up? You want happiness? You want freedom? Here it is: Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.

It’s probably too startling for many of you to understand that everyone except the very rare awakened person can expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest whether in coarse or refined ways. This leads you to see that there is nothing to be disappointed about, nothing to be disillusioned about. If you had been in touch with reality all along, you would never be disappointed. But you choose to paint people in glowing colours; you choose not to see through human beings because you chose not to see through yourself. So you are paying the price now. “

Reading this passage from De Mello provided me with a powerful opening to own that I had left the doors open to disappointment by living from/into an unrealistic story. I am delighted to say that my son and I took the first steps today to move past the disappointment with one another. Right now, disappointment is not present, it has flown away and the house of my being is peaceful.

Finally, a warning

Please note: you and I do not need to add any meaning to “everyone except the very rare awakened person can be expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest”. I am not saying that this good or bad, right or wrong. This is as pointless as saying that driving on the right is wrong and driving on the left is right. In the real world, what matters, is to know if you are in a country where people drive on the right or left. And given that understanding you and I are free to choose to fit in with the existing way of doing things or to chart an alternative course and take the consequences that come with that.

Love and Life – not your usual perspective!


Occasionally I read or hear something that introduces a glitch in the ‘matrix of my mind’, lifts me out of my default state of ‘fallenness’ and provides an opening into a ‘new world’, new way of being. Before I share that with you let’s get present to what is so in the ordinary way of living in which almost all of us are embedded almost all of the time.

Ordinary living: love as finding someone special and ‘being in love’

What is ordinary way of think about love?  If you are like me it is likely to be something like:

  • Love as a feeling – as in ‘I love you’ which more accurately said is “I feel love for you”;
  • Love as quest for that special someone – as in ‘I need to find someone to love me for me to feel OK, to feel complete’; and
  • Love as in falling in love – it is not enough for us that someone loves us, we strive to find that someone we love and who loves us!

What shows up when we approach love standing in this clearing: one of wanting, need and feeling?  If you are like me and I say that you are, more accurately most of you are, then it does not work out that great, does it?  It is not that easy to find that someone special.  And even when you do, how long does that feeling of ‘being in love’ last?  How do we react when that feeling is no longer there?  Does frustration, disappointment, anger, bitterness, self-criticism ofr choosing the wrong person (again!), restlessness, feeling cheated, feeling deprived – do these seem familiar to you?

In life and living there is risk and there is pain – that is simply what is so.  What is not within life itself is suffering.  Suffering –  this is what we introduce into our lives because we have a faulty view of life, of reality.  And I cannot think of a domain of life where are as mistaken as we are in the domain of life called ‘love and loving’.  Consequently, we suffer greatly.

Extraordinary living: Clea Iqbal speaks a forgotten ‘truth’

Here are the words that introduce a glitch in the ‘matrix of my mind’, lift me out of my default state of ‘fallenness’ and provide an opening into a ‘new world’, new way of being.

“Love is something everyone wants,

many do not realise they are loved,

someone cares for them lovingly,

and watches out for them.
________________________________________

Many people go out looking for love to be happy,

and they don’t realise,

to be happy,

you don’t need to love someone,

nor have someone love you.

_________________________________________

You need only to love life itself!”

Do you get the wisdom, the beauty, the power, the freedom, that Clea has made available to each of us?  Being alive – see, hear, feel, touch, play, create, taste – is a privilege!  That is what Clea is pointing out.  What would show up in your living if you lived your life from this vantage point, from this stand?

Leadership is about disclosing new worlds, new possibilities and modeling that behaviour.   What impact would you have on those close to you, those you work with, those come across, the world at large?  Would it not show up as a transformation in the quality of your living and of our world?   Are you prepared to be that big and ‘play BIG’?  Are your prepared to be a leader?

About Clea Iqbal

Clea is daughter to me as I am father to her.  From time to time she comes out with profound insights that blow my mind and my heart.  So I invited her to share her voice and her insights with all of us both as self-expression and as contribution.  She took me up on this invitation and we set up a blog for her: Clea’s Blog

A final thought: perhaps one of the practices that we can incorporate into our living and of loving life is allowing/encouraging/enabling our fellow human beings to speak authentically and put that speaking into the world.