Playing BIG In 2015: Optimism, Possibility, and Self-Expression


You and I are confronted with choice. You/i can play small – the default of serving, fixing, getting ahead, making it… Or you/i can play BIG: life a live of meaning and self-expression. If you are up for the latter than this conversation is for you.

Invitation: Choose To Show Up With Unreasonable Optimism

I say that the source of and access to life of possibility is optimism. What kind of optimism? Optimism in self, in others, in the world, and ultimately in life itself.  Please note, I am not saying that this is ‘truth’. What I am saying is that this is the best ‘place’ to ‘stand’ and  ‘operate’ from. It is the way of being that is the most fruitful for playing BIG in life.  I offer you the following words of wisdom (bolding mine):

“Optimism gives a hopeful attitude to life, while with pessimism one sees darkness on one’s path. No doubt sometimes pessimism shows conscientiousness and cleverness, and it may also show experience. But conscientiousness alone will never be enough to overcome the difficulties one meets in one’s life, it is trust that solves life problems.…

The psychological effect of optimism is such that it helps to bring success, for it is by the spirit of optimism that God has created the world. Optimism comes from God, and pessimism is born from the heart of man. By what little experience of life he has, man learns, “This will not succeed, that will not do, this will not come right.” For the one who is optimistic it does not matter if it does not come right in the end, he will take his chance. For what is life? Life is an opportunity, and to the optimistic person this opportunity is a promise, while for the pessimistic person this opportunity is lost….

Man’s life depends on the object of his concentration, so if he concentrates upon misery, he must be miserable. A person who has a certain habit of which he does not approve often thinks he is helpless before is as it is his nature. But nothing is man’s nature except what he makes of himself. As the whole of nature is is made by God, so the nature of each individual is made by himself; and as the Almighty has the power to change His nature, so the individual is capable of changing his nature. Among all the creatures of this world, man has the most right to be optimistic, for man represents God on earth, God as Judge, God as Creator ….

A man with optimism will help another who is drowning in the sea of fear and disappointment; while on the contrary, if someone who is ill or downhearted comes to a pessimistic person, the pessimist will pull him down and make him sink to the depths along with himself. On the side of the one is life; on the side of the other is death……. It is no exaggeration to say that the very spirit of God comes to man’s rescue in the form of the optimistic spirit.…..

It does not matter how hard a situation in life may be: however great the difficulties, they can all be surmounted…… the greatest greatest reward there can be in life is the spirit of optimism, while the greatest punishment that can be given to man for his worst sin is pessimism. Verily, the one who is hopeful in life will succeed.

There are two attitudes that divide people into two sections. The one is an ever-complaining attitude and the other an ever-smiling attitude. Life is the same: call it good, call it bad, call it right, call it wrong, it is what it is; it cannot be otherwise…. The person with the right attitude of mind tries to make even wrong right, but the one with the wrong attitude of mind will turn even right into wrong. Besides, magnetism is the the need of every soul; the lack of it makes life burdensome. The tendency of seeing wrong in everything robs one to a great extent of that magnetism which is needed very much in life….. the world is place you cannot enter with a pass of admission, and that pass of admission is magnetism; the one who does not possess it will be refused everywhere.

The attitude of looking at everything with a smile is the sign of the saintly soul. A smile given to a friend or even to an enemy will win him over in the end; for this is the key to the heart of man. As the sunshine from without lights the whole world, so the sunshine from within, it it were raised up, would illuminate the whole life, in spite of all the seeming wrongs and in spite of all limitations…. looking at life with a hopeful attitude of mind, with an optimistic view, it is this that will give one power of turning wrong into right and bringing light into the place where all is darkness. Cheerfulness is life; sulkiness is death. Life attracts, death repulses. The sunshine that comes from the soul, rises through the heart, and manifests itself in man’s smile is indeed the light from the heavens. In that light many flowers grow and many fruits become ripe.”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art Of Being And Becoming

Invitation: Devote Yourself To A Possibility That Leaves You Deeply Moved-Touched-Uplifted / Live A Life Of Full Self-Expression

If unreasonable optimism is the ‘background’ of your life then what constitutes the ‘foreground’ of your existence? Put differently, what is the possibility, stand, or ‘project’ that will call forth and provide a suitable vehicle for your full self-expression?  What so calls you that it calls you to play full-out: to transcend your ‘small’ self and be  all that you need to be to give wings to the possibility that calls you? If you are wondering what it is that I am talking about then I offer you this story:

“There was an artist who was so devoted to her art; nothing else in the world had any attraction for her. She had a studio, and whenever she had a moment to spare her first thought was to go to that studio and work on the statue she was making. People could not understand her, for it is not everybody who is devoted to one thing like this. For a time a person interests himself in art, at other times in something else, at other times in the home, at other times in the theatre. But she did not mind; she went every day to her studio and spent most of her time in making this work of art, the only work of art that she made in her life.

The more the work progressed, the more she began to feel delighted with it, attracted by that beauty to which she was devoting her time. It began to manifest to her eyes, and she began to communicate with that beauty. It was no longer a statue for her, it was a living being. The moment that statue was finished she could not believe her eyes – that it had been made by her….. She felt exalted by the beauty of the statue.

She was so overcome by the impression that this statue made on her that she knelt down before this vision of perfect beauty, with all humility, she asked the statue to speak, forgetting entirely that it was her own work…… there came a voice from the statue: “If you love me, there is only one condition, and that is to take the bowl of this poison from my hand. If you wish me to be living, you no more will live. Is it acceptable?” “Yes,” she said, “You are beauty, you are the beloved, you are the one to whom I give all my thought, my admiration, my worship; even my life I will give to you.” ….. She took the bowl of poison, and fell dead. The statue lifted her and kissed her by giving her its own life, the life of beauty and sacredness …..”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art of Being and Becoming

I invite me/you/us to be unreasonable and unstoppable in playing full-out in 2015 to live a meaningful-joyful life: a life of possibility, of full self-expression, of unbounded optimism.  It occurs to me that this is the way to live – to show thanks for this gift of life. And where  you/i find ourselves in difficult circumstances, it occurs to me that this way of ‘showing up and travelling’ is the ultimate rebellion.

Playing BIG: Largely A Matter Of Giving Up, Not Of Self-Development


Many of us stop ourselves from playing BIG in life because we have bought into misleading stories about what it is, and what it takes, to play BIG in life.  Most of us take the stand that to play BIG (in life) one needs to develop oneself – this stand (which is at the same time a limitation) suits the personal development industry.  Is it a truth that in order to play BIG one needs to develop oneself? At best it is a half-truth; any half-truth is a misleading one.

I say that playing BIG is NOT a matter of personal-development. I say that playing BIG is almost exclusively a matter of GIVING UP. Giving up what?  Giving up that which you/i put in the way of you/i playing BIG in life.  How best to brings this to life?  Allow me to tell you a story – a real story.

Allow me to start with the context first.  Yesterday, wife and the two ‘boys’ left for France in the early hours of the morning. My teenage daughter’s plan was to spend the weekend with her cousin. As there was a fire that broke out at her cousin’s on Friday evening, my daughter found herself with me.  So on Friday evening I asked my daughter (Clea) what she wanted to do on Saturday. Her answer “Go shopping!”.  I didn’t want to go shopping – spend Saturday in shopping malls with lots of people. And if I was going to do it then I was determined to make it the least hassle possible. So Clea and I agreed that we would leave at 8:30am so that we could be at the town centre for 9:00 – hopefully when many people might still be asleep.

Saturday morning came: half past eight in the morning and daughter is still sleeping. So I got busy doing my stuff saying to myself that I had honoured my side of the bargain. At 10:15 my daughter came down. I was reading. She asked to go shopping. I was confronted with choice: to be right, to make her wrong for not keeping her promise, to refuse to take her shopping, or to accept her request.  I gave up my sense of righteousness. I gave up my desire to teach her a lesson on what happens when one does not honour one’s word. I gave up my desire to complete that which I was doing. And in giving up, I told my daughter I was ready to go shopping with her whenever she was ready.

What allowed me to give these things up and accept Clea’s request? I was committed to co-creating a wonderful day together – a day where she experienced the love of her father (me).  What kind of commitment: no matter what kind of commitment – whatever I have to put into the game I am committed to putting in the game, whatever sacrifice is necessary I am committed to making that sacrifice.

We arrived in the town centre and my daughter led me forward into her shopping trip. Normally, when I am dragged shopping, wife-daughter-‘boys’ enter the shop and I stand outside.  This time, Clea wanted me inside the shops with her, so I entered the shop and stood beside her. And importantly took an interest (got involved) in what she was doing: choosing presents for others.  To do this I found myself having to give up this thought “I am no good at choosing presents. Choosing presents is a waste of time as at least 50% of the time we get it wrong. And then the other person has to fake liking the present.”

I am looking at the sales assistants in the store – all female – as they serve customers at the counter.  One of them is alive – really alive – and she is serving Clea.  She smiles, she has a song in her voice she is warm, she is animated… When she finishes serving Clea (with a smile), I find myself saying “You are an original. Thank you for being an original. You have made my day. I wish you a great Christmas and the very best for 2015.”  She beams; it occurs to me that I might just have made her day simply by acknowledging her greatness.

What did it take for me to do that  – to speak up, to acknowledge in the midst of many people?  I gave up my fear that Clea would think I was flirting with this young lady. I gave up my fear that I would embarrass this young lady. I gave up my fear that this young lady would think I was hitting on her …. I gave up my concerns and fears.

It is the evening. Clea and I are at home and she tells me that she would like to eat pizza. She wants to sit with me, eat pizza, drink coke, and watch X Factor.  So I go onto the internet, find the phone number for Papa John’s (as she likes Papa John’s pizza) and I order two large pizzas and a bottle of coke for 8:30 when X Factor starts.  Thereafter, we spent a delightful evening in each others company: sitting on the sofa, eating pizza, drinking coke, and watching the X Factor. It showed up as one of the best evenings I have ever spent with Clea.

What was the access to the evening turning out as it turned out – great? A large part of it involved me giving stuff up. What kind of stuff? I gave up my fixed view that pizza is junk food. I gave up my view that coke rots your teeth. I gave up my insistence that one does not eat food sitting on the sofa – one eats food sitting at the dining table with no television!

Was this giving my stuff worth it?  Yesterday was the best day I have spent with my daughter for a long long time. It is day that I will cherish to the end of my days. As for Clea she hugged me and told me that it had been a wonderful day. I think she said something like “I love you daddy, I’ve really enjoyed by day with you”.

Summing up:

The access to playing BIG in life right now – today – is giving up that you/i lack anything to play BIG.  It is giving up the dominant myth that you/i have to do some personal development before we are ready to play BIG.  No! All it takes to play big is to step into future possibility with absolute commitment and give up all that stands in the way of walking the path: fixed ways of being (personality, habits), cherished beliefs, and fears.

When you step into playing BIG you will find that all the learning and development that is necessary, will simply occur.  Put differently, you do not develop-learn first then play BIG. No! You play BIG and with that playing BIG you develop and learn all that is necessary. Phil Crosby, the quality guru, in advocating a particular way of being in the organisational world used to say that if you took on that way of being in the world then “Quality is free.”  I say that if you play BIG in life then “Learning and self-development is free.”

I suggest that you play BIG in life from the stand that you are ‘whole-complete-perfect’. What do I mean? That you are – just as you are and are not – all that is necessary to play BIG in life. You are an awesome ‘learning and creating machine’ that learns and often creates all that is necessary when there is a fierce will to accomplish something worth causing: a possibility that leaves you touched-moved-inspired-elevated.

I invite you to consider that playing BIG in life is both transformation (as in one’s lived experience of oneself and life is transformed) and leadership (as in one shows the way for others to follow in one’s way of being).

 

Freedom and Self-Expression


“Most of us think that freedom means to keep our options open, stay loose and available, and often that strategy does give you a little space temporarily. Eventually, though, keeping your options endlessly open becomes its own prison. You can never choose…..You can never really discover you destiny because you are afraid to commit fully.

If you look back on the experience of freedom in your life chances are that it wasn’t when you were measuring the options against one another, or making sure you weren’t getting stuck with a decision. It was when you were fully expressed, playing full out. It was when you chose fully and completely, when you knew you were in the place you were meant to be in, when perhaps you felt a sense of destiny. That’s when we’re free and self-expressed, and joyful or at peace with circumstances – when we choose them. ”

Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Existential choice: a life in the stands (as spectator) or a life in the arena (as creator/player)?


As beings-in-the world that are thrust into the world there is so much over which we have no choice. We don’t get to choose if we come into this world. We don’t get to choose the timing – we are thrust into this world when we are thrust into this world. We don’t get to choose our family – we get what we get. We don’t get to choose our language – we get what we get. We don’t get to choose our culture – we get what we are given. And so forth. So it is tempting to fall into the pattern ‘I have no say in the matter of how I show up in life!’ and live accordingly

We do have a fundamental choice over how you/I are being as beings-in-the-world. I get that most of us are not present to this choice nor the default setting. Yet, that does not change the fact that we do have this fundamental choice. What am I talking about? I am saying that you and I have a say in how/where we show up. When I say how/where we show up I am talking ontologically – that is to say I am pointing to a way of being-in-the-world. So what exactly is this fundamental choice?

You/I can show up in the stands as spectators watching the spectacle – life – occurring in the arena. And as such we can observe, we can comment, we can criticise, we can enjoy or not enjoy…… Whilst it is less effort, more convenient, it is also the case that for many of us it leaves us unfulfilled, without joy, and from time to time wondering “Is this all there is?” Showing up as spectators in the stands is the default setting

Alternatively, you/I can actively leave the comfort of the stands and step into the arena. Put differently, you/I can choose to show up in the arena and shape how the game (of life) turns out. Being a player on the arena involves more effort, more work. It also requires courage because we are on show standing for what we say matters to us and thus open to criticism, ridicule and even attack. In some cases, we even put our lives at risk like Malala Yousafzai, 14 year old girl, attacked for championing education for girls and highlighting Taliban atrocities.

By this stage, you/I might be wondering why leave the safety/convenience/comfort of the stands for the risk/effort/vulnerability of being in the arena? Because you/I want to experience a certain kind of living, a certain kind of life. A life of meaning, of absorption, of fulfilment, of joy. It matters to us, at some fundamental level, that you/I live lives that matter, that are authentic, that are fulfilling. Those of us who chose to show up in the arena as players/actors/creators are not faced with the question “Is this all there is?”.

As you/I ponder this fundamental existential choice, I wish to share this “Man in the Arena” passage from a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

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


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

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

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

It does not work out as planned

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

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

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

The automatic machinery of being human kicks-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life had showed up whole-complete-perfect!

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?

Alberto Casillas: an ordinary man takes an extrarodinary stand and becomes a national hero


 

 

“There were excessive police forces. I am for compliance with the law, but above the law, there is humanity. I did what I had to do, that’s all.”  Alberto Casillas

Occasionally, I read about, see and hear that which leaves me moved-touched-inspired. This week I came across the Alberto Casillas, an ordinary barman in Madrid, who took an extraordinary stand during the recent anti-austerity protests that took place in Spain.

Why did Alberto put himself at stake?  Why did he put himself between the riot police (not known for gentleness) and the anti-austerity demonstrators & customers that were in the restaurant/bar?  According to Alberto: to protect, to save lives.

The question that calls to me this one: what does it take to take the kind of stand that Alberto took?  It occurs to me it takes compassion-care-courage. And it is interesting to note that Alberto is being celebrated as a national hero.  You can read about it here.   I recommend watching the following short video:

I could leave it here and that would be fine.  Yet, it occurs to me that there is a deeper question here.  And for me, this question is: what does this disclose about the being of human beings?

It occurs to me that how people have responded to the being/doing of Alberto discloses that the being of human beings values and thus honors care-compassion-courage.  Does it unconceal anything more?  I say that it unconceals something about how we would like to be: compassionate-caring-courageous.

What else does it unconceal?  It is what you put into the world that contributes to the well being our fellow human being that counts.  Put differently, the people who will mourn you are the people whose lives you have touched through compassion-care-courage.

 

 

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.

On freedom, choice and responsibility


A conversation with a young woman

I was in communication with a young woman recently and the conversation went something like this (this is the best I can do from memory):

Me: “Is the light on inside?   Is joy present on the inside?”

Her: “No.  It hasn’t been present for a long time.”

Me:  Why not? What is getting in the way?”

Her: “I feel trapped – living this life, here with my parents, my family. Sometimes, I think about running away and starting a new life, my life.”

Me: “What is preventing you from taking that step, moving out, living your own life?”

Her: “The impact it will have on my parents, what it will do to them.  Sometimes, I get so angry with them that I hate them for keeping me here, living this life.”

Me: “I see, you get that you have choice and you have made the choice to live with your parents and the life that goes with that.  I don’t get why you are blaming your parents.  Your parents are not responsible and do not deserve your blame/bitterness/anger. You are free to leave any time you wish.  Yet, you choose to stay.  So you are the person who is responsible for the life that you live and your experience of living.  You are responsible for your unhappiness, you bring this on to your self.”

Her: “Don’t say that.  If  believed that then I’d want to kill myself!”

Freedom, choice and responsibility

Yes, we are thrown into this world and we don’t get a say in where we are born, whether we are born male or female, healthy or unhealthy, who are parents are, what kind of circumstances we are born into, what culture we are born into, what schools we go to (if we go to school) etc.   Yet at some point we grow up and are no longer children, no longer dependent and at the mercy of others.  Like this young woman we leave home, we go to university, we get an education, we dabble/experience the bigger world, we get to stand on our own two feet….

I say that the process of ‘growing up’ is coming face to face with freedom, choice and responsibility. As beings-in-the-world we are faced with choice.  You could say being confronted with choices and making a choice is the evidence of our freedom. Even in the most difficult of circumstances where what we can and cannot do is severely limited we still get to choose: we get to choose our attitude towards ourselves, others and the circumstances in which we are embedded.  Put differently, sometimes we get to choose between two flavours of ice cream say chocolate or vanilla.  And sometimes life presents us with only chocolate and even though we get only chocolate we are free to choose  our attitude, our stance towards chocolate being present in our lives.

With choice comes responsibility.  Put differently, we are responsible for our lives and our experience of living – just as it is and just as it is not. Look, sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I look at how my children behave.  And when I look at the situation honestly/courageously I see that I am totally responsible for what is so.  When my children were younger, many people – wife, parents, parents-in-law, friends – pointed out that I was allowing my children too much freedom, not setting strong boundaries, not being controlling enough.  And I ignored all of them. Why?  I was committed to allowing my children the widest degree of freedom. And I reasoned that as they got older I could talk with them, reason with them and they would regulate their behaviour so as to get on/along with the people around them.  My theory did not work out as I had anticipated that it would work out.

What is the ultimate choice that confronts us?

I say that the ultimate choice that confronts us is the choice of owning our lives or not.  Owning my life is owning freedom, choice and responsibility.  I am free to make choices and I am responsible for the choices that I make and that which flows from and shows up from the choices that I make.  So, ultimately, each of us takes, is taking a stand towards freedom, choice and responsibility – whether we are present to making this choice or not.

You and I can look honestly at lives and face up to/get that we are the authors of our lives:  that we get a say in how we live our lives, how our lives turn out, our experience of living.  As such we can invent/project/live from and live into possibilities that move-touch-inspire us.

Or we can pretend that we are victims (like this young lady) and when we are confronted with ownership/authorship of our lives, our experience of living, we can strive to shut out this conversation  that confronts us with our freedom, choice and responsibility.

What choice are you making?  Are you owning your life and your experience of living?   If you are owning and being responsible for your life just as it is and just as it is not then who is owning / being responsible for your life?  

I know where I stand: the most powerful place to stand for me, is to own my life and my experience of living just as it is and just as it is not.  And being the owner, the author, of my life I am free to imagine and take different paths through it. This matters because it puts hope, possibility, new worlds into my life, my living. It is this stance that opens up a transformation in our living, in our world.

You are neither the thoughts nor the feelings that show up (part II)


This post continues the conversation that I started in the previous post where a ‘sister’ reached out to me for help, for advice, for my point of view as she was and may still be suffering.

Let’s set the ground for this conversation

Look into the matter deeply and you might just find that we human beings do not have access to the truth.  If you are scientifically minded then study what has been taken for knowledge and ‘truth’ and you might just find that ‘truth’ is always provisional and ‘truths’ have come and gone.  Once ‘truth’ was that the heavens revolved around the Earth and women were held to be inferior to men – some men, tribes and religions still cling to the belief that women are inferior to men and are the property/playthings of men. I remember standing up to my parents so that my sister could go to University and create her own life rather than have a forced marriage thrust upon her.

How best to illustrate, provide your for a feeling for what I am pointing at?  Allow me to share a sufi tale with you.  A sufi master is said to have told the following story: 

‘Finding I could speak the language of ants, I approached one and enquired, “What is God like? Does he resemble the ant?”  He answered, “God? No, indeed – we have only a single sting but God, he has two!”‘

Which is not to say that all viewpoints, all the places we choose to stand are equal in value.  If you are driving in the UK it makes huge difference as to whether you drive on the left (the UK viewpoint) or the left (USA/Continental Europe).  The same applies to Life: some vantage points are simply more useful for tilting the table towards the ‘workability’ of life.  So the point of view that I share is not the truth.  I make no such claim yet I do assert that living from the vantage point that I am sharing can increase the ‘workability’ of your life.  Now that we are clear on this lets move on to the conversation itself.

All kinds of unhelpful/disempowering feelings & thoughts can show up in our lives

Sister I notice that all kinds of thoughts and feelings are showing up in your life: feeling lost; feeling the loss of physical intimacy; feeling lost and alone; feeling the burden of uncertainty/insecurity; feeling unwanted; feeling you don’t belong; longing for the one; thinking and believing there is something wrong with you…….

It might occur to you that you are all alone, that this is only showing up in your life.  You are not alone. Many, many of us have experienced these thoughts, these feelings at some point in our lives.  How many thousands are thinking/feeling this way right now?  Allow me to share a story with you.

“One day a mother turned up to the abode of a holy man clutching the body of her dead baby.  She was in so much pain and she pleaded, again and again, with the holy man to bring her baby back to life.  The holy man listened patiently and then told the mother that indeed he could help her.  And in order for him to help her he needed her to go back to her village and bring back a glass of water – but only from a household which had never experienced death.

The mother went back to her village and started knocking on doors. Each household was more than willing to give her a glass of water.  Yet the water was of no use as every household had lost someone – grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, friend……

After knocking on all the doors and finding no household, no person, left untouched by loss of someone dear the mother returned to the holy man.  This time she was lighter because she had gotten that loss, sorrow and death touch us all – an intrinsic part of human life.”

How about living from this stand: whole-complete-perfect?

So ‘sister’ you are no less than anyone else on this planet.  Suffering is not a sign that there is something wrong with you, that you are defective. Loss, pain, sorrow, suffering come as intrinsic to human existence on this planet of ours. You are whole-complete-perfect just as you are and just as you are not.  How about standing in that space?  The space of “I declare myself to be whole-complete-perfect just as I am and am not!”

You (and I) are neither our thoughts nor our feelings

Sister, being a woman, it is quite possible that you may find the following a struggle.  And I say there is value in listening to what I am about to say.  I say that you and I are neither our thoughts nor our feelings!  That’s right I get that thoughts and feelings are present and I say that you are not these thoughts nor these feelings.  Do you disagree?  Does this upset you?  Bear with me and let’s explore.

Do you choose the thoughts that pop up into your mind?  Just sit and meditate even for five minutes, keep a blank mind, think no thoughts.  What happened? Did a stream of thoughts simply show up?  Did you choose to think these thoughts? If you are honest you know that you did not choose these thoughts, they simply pop up in your house of being without your bidding.  Look deeper and you will find that some of these thoughts hook you and others don’t – they show up, they disappear.

What about your feelings?  Do you choose them?  Do you choose to feel sad, miserable, joyful?  If you look deeply you will find that feelings show up in your house of being uninvited just like your thoughts.  And you will find that some feelings show up more often than others.  You are also likely that some feelings hook you more than others – they stay longer, you connect with them more deeply.  And all feelings fade away whether you want them to or not.

Do you still find what I say difficult to accept?  Imagine that you are throwing a party and a you get a village load of people turning up at this party – some invited and some ‘gatecrashers’.  Does your Self expand to include these people?  Do you ever say to yourself I am all – me, the people that I have invited and the ‘gatecrashers’?  No, you do not.  What is more once you noticed the ‘gatecrashers’ you would ask them to leave and if they did not you would  call the police so as to eject these unwelcome ‘gatecrashers’, right?

How are the thoughts and feelings that show up in your house of being any different to the ‘gatecrashers’?  And why do you collapse them with yourself and call them your feelings, your thoughts?  I say that you do that because you have been born into a culture that says and teaches you that the thoughts and feelings that show up for you are yours – they constitute an integral part of yourself.  And that is why you latch onto them and confuse them with yourself. Yet you are not the thoughts and feelings that show up and then disappear!

Do you want access to freedom?

If you want access to freedom then I invite you to live from this sand: “I am the context and not the content.  I am the house of being not the furniture that turns up, stays around, wears it, is thrown out.  I am the chooser not the chosen (content) nor the ‘gatecrashers’ (thoughts/feelings/moods) that show up in my house of being uninvited .  I choose and declare myself to be the possibilities that I project and the stand/s that I take in life!”

You might be wondering how that gives you freedom.  Allow me to illustrate with a personal example. Last week I was in considerable pain – some days I spent curled up in bed, some nights I did not sleep at all.  Then Friday morning arrived and it was the first morning that I felt OK.  Months ago I had agreed to meet a ‘friend that I had not yet met face to face’ and his guests for an informal chat in London. That informal gathering was due to start at 4pm.  What to do?  Do I take a chance and drive into London – an hour drive?  Or do I play it safe and rest given that I have already let my friend know that I am ill and might not make it? The day showed up as being miserable: dark clouds and heavy rain.

What thoughts and feelings showed up? Thoughts: don’t go, stay at home, it is safer (more accidents on the roads in this kind of weather), it is the right thing to do as I need to rest, and if I do go and am unwell then my wife/family will criticise me.  Feelings: confused, worried, scared – about doing the wrong things, making my health situation worse.

What did I do?  I chose to be my stand: to honour my word as myself.  I got into the car at 14:45 and headed into London in the pouring rain.  Half and hour later the noticeboard showed speed restriction and a blocked lane, long delays – an accident had indeed occurred on the motorway.  This was a great excuse to turn the car around and head back home. Those thoughts did pop up in my mind: look you have done your best, you have kept your word, no disgrace in heading home.  What did I do? I chose to play full-out to honour my word.  I diverted onto minor roads and found myself a different route into London.  I arrived 15 minutes late and yet I did turn up and I am proud of myself: I choose not to allow the uninvited thoughts and feelings to deflect me from my stand in life.

Summing up

You, I , we can choose to relate to ourselves as the possibilities that we invent live from/live into and the stand/s that we take in life.  You, I, we can get and live from the stand that we are not the thoughts and the feelings that pop up, stay a while, disappear, reappear in our minds/bodies/lives.

Living from this context we can let go of “I am feel insecure or helpless” and replace it with “How interesting I notice insecurity and helplessness are present, I wonder how they ended up in my house of being.”  And living from this context you can let the thoughts and feelings that show up, simply be, whilst you continue to be ruthless in living from/into the possibilities that you have invented and the stands you have taken.

I guarantee that if you live from the context that I have outlined above your experience of living will be transformed.  You will relate to yourself as a powerful human being.  If you do that then you can drop the need to take more courses to fix yourself.  How/why?  Because you are already whole-complete-perfect and as such there really is nothing to fix and no course will fix it! 

Ultimately it comes down to choice.  Whether you choose to live from the context of whole-complete-perfect, living from/into the possibilities that you invent and the stands you take.  Are you up for that ‘sister’?

Sin revisited


Christian doctrine of ‘original sin

If I have understood the concept of ‘original sin’ then it arises as a result of the ‘ fall of man’ whereby Adam disobeyed God.  As such every human being is born sinful – being sinful is the original condition of human beings.  Put differently, ‘badness’ is our nature and we have to strive to be good.  Who can redeem us from this state of ‘original sin’? God – if and only if he chooses to do so.

The Kite Runner: Baba’s view of sin

Some years ago when I was reading the  Kite Runner.  In this novel a conversation takes place between the principal character and Baba (his father.   This is what Baba says about sin:

“There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

A powerful way of looking at sin

If we are going to create and live from/into stories then how about generating a story that leaves me being powerful in my living?  I say that we are born ‘whole-complete-perfect’ – we are thrown into this world with all that we need to play fully, our part, in the drama called ‘Life’.  Thrown into this world we are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’.  We simply are.

Yet somwhere along the the line each of us does commit ‘sin’:

I sin when I say that I am not ‘whole-complete-perfect‘.  I put myself down in any number of ways: I am not enough, I am weak, I am powerless, I am helpless, I don’t count, I don’t matter…….

I sin when I fail to take responsibility for what is so – that includes my life, my community, my tribe, my nation, the state of the world.  Chaos theory shows that a miniscule change can influence dramatic changes in the world.  And history shows that everything starts with one wo/man – a man that takes a stand and operates from that stand.  Think Jesus, Mohammed, Stalin, Hitler, Luther, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie……..

I sin when I fail to recognise that any moment I can reinvent my life simply by inventing and living from/into possibilities that leave me moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  To be human is to be granted with imagination – the capacity to envisage a life other than one I am living now, I world other than what is so today – and the capacity to act on the world, to live that possibility and bring it to fruition.  The happiness research shows that it is not arriving at the destination that generates happiness.  No, happiness is a byproduct of being on the right journey.

I sin when I hold myself to separate from my fellow human beings, from all other living beings and the earth itself.  When I hold myself as being separate I close to my eyes to the fact that in the drama called ‘Life’ everything, everyone, all of life is interdependent.  Each and everyone is in relationship.  Look deeply into this and it is obvious that I have never been independent – I, you, we would not be alive today if it was not for the air, the water, the plants, the animals, our fellow human beings……..

I sin when I steal and like Baba says I steal in so many ways.  I sin when I withhold my compassion, my love for to be human is to be social – to search for and need compassion and love from my fellow man.  I sin when I treat living beings as merely objects – objects/resources to be used/abused for my benefit.  I sin when I criticise, I condemn, I belittle, I diminish the humanity of the other.  And the other includes all sentient beings e.g. the great apes, elephants, dolphins…..

What is the ‘good’ news?

I do not have to wait for God or for any other entity for any kind of redemption.  Right now and at any moment I can give up my ‘sinful way of being/living’.:

  • I can live from the context of being ‘whole-complete-perfect’.
  • I can choose to be responsible/accountable for my life, for the state of the world.
  • I can invent and live from/into possibilities that leave me ‘moved-touched-inspired-uplifted-joyous’.
  • I can recognise that the nature of existence is relationship – to be alive is to be in relationship – and I can act accordingly.  I can ask myself “How would I like to be treated if I was born cat, dog, monkey, elephant…..?”  And I can show the care that I expect others to show for me.

What really matters?


“If only” and “Someday”

What is it you tell yourself?  Isn’t it something like “If only I had the money/food/love/sex/fame/power/status…. then I’d be happy and everything would be perfect”?  Which tends to go along with “Someday when I have the money/food/love/sex/fame/power/status/perfect partner…. everything will be just great, I will be happy”.

Are you and I chasing after the right stuff?

I have a question for me, for you: “How do you know that when you get what you are after – money, fame, love, sex, power – you will be happy?”  Put differently, before you spend your life chasing something in order to be happy might it not be useful to question if you are chasing after the right stuff?  Lets take a walk with Timothy D Wilson in his book Strangers to Ourselves:

“Imagine that you are part of a grand experiment in which you are provided with everything you need.  At regular intervals you are given gifts of money, food, love, sex, fame – whatever you want.  The only catch is that you can do nothing that increases or decreases the likelihood of obtaining these rewards.  In fact, in order to receive the rewards, you have to spend eight hours a day in a room doing nothing – no career to occupy your time, no one to talk to, no books to read, no paintings to paint, no music to compose – in short, nothing to engage you.” 

How do this show up for you?   Look you are being offered everthing that you are chasing!  Not only that, you get everything that you are chasing after with no effort on your part.  That’s right, sit back and put your feet up.  Are you raring to go, to take the plunge wholeheartedly, to take up this offer?

Even though you can get any reward you want, this would be a hellish life.  Compare it to quite different existence, in which the tangible rewards are modest.  You make only enough money to meet your basic needs and have few luxuries.  But you spend every day absorbed in activities you love.”

What do you really love doing?  What do you enjoy doing simply for the doing?  What is it that so involves you that lose your self, you lose track of time, even if you end up being ‘tired’ you are not tired, you are uplifted?

“In such extreme cases few of us would choose the first life over the second.  In everyday life, however, I think people sometimes opt for lives more like the first one.  I see undergraduates striving for careers that will pay them lots of money but doom them to mind-numbing daily routines (tax law comes to mind but that might just be me). The second kind of life is that of the struggling artist, a social worker who loves to make a difference in people’s lives, or, I suppose, tax attorneys who are really turned on by the latest changes in Roth IRAs.  Daily absorption is more important than the paycheck at the end of the month, as long as the paycheck covers our basic needs.

Which brings me back to the central questions – for me, for you, for us

How do you know that when you get what you are after – money, fame, love, sex, power – you will be happy?

Are you ok with living a life of drudgery, of meaninglessness, in order to simply fit in, be comfortable, be approved of and in the hope that someday you will have all that you need to be happy?

What do you really love doing?  What do you enjoy doing simply for the doing?  What is it that so involves you that lose your self, you lose track of time, even if you end up being ‘tired’ you are not tired, you are uplifted?

Here is my experience :  I have been profoundly happy/fulfilled – singing and smiling – cleaning toilets.  And I have been profoundly unhappy staying at a five star hotel, in a ‘beautiful’ city, driven around in fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants!  I have been profoundly bored in ‘safe places doing safe stuff’ and on the edge of my seat, fully alive, fully immersed, totally fulfilled and joyous sitting a jeep being driven along one of the worlds most scenic and dangerous routes.   This blog is just another vehicle for access to joy, to self-expression, to be the stand I have chosen to be:  I love sharing what I have learned, I love sharing my experience, I love being of service/contributing to my fellow human beings.

Here is,perhaps, the most radical question

What if happiness is something that you bring to the table, that you put into life, rather than something that you have to search for, dig for, to beg for, to build brick by brick?   Really what if you can choose to be happy right now and bring that happiness to the game of life, to your living such that wherever you are happiness shows up? If you are open to entering into this conversation then please check out this post that I wrote some time ago:  “Happiness: a master speaks and shows the way (not for the faint hearted)”

Son, is this who I am? Let me be truthful with myself and with you


A birthday card that makes me cry!

This month we celebrated my birthday and as usual the question was “What do you want for your birthday?”.  As usual my answer was “I am blessed, I don’t need anything.  Really, I don’t need anything.  What I’d like is heartfelt, handmade card from you to me.”  And that is what I got.  The one that really captured my heart is this one:

When I read this card for the first time I was deeply touched and moved to tears.  Every time I read this card I am deeply touched – the tears just flow down my cheeks.  Great, this card makes me feel good.  The deeper, more interesting, question, for me, is this one: “Is it true?  Is this an accurate description of me?”

Who am i?

I am clear that “i” does not live up to the picture that my son paints.  What do I mean by “i”?  What / who am I pointing at/towards?  When I use the term “i” I am pointing at the automatic machinery of human beings.  The machinery that is always there, always running, and which runs me.  What are the characteristics of this machinery, this “i”?  In my case I associate the following with my “i”: selfish, critical, safety seeking, negative, impatient, intolerant, aggressive, unhelpful, manipulative, looking for approval, seeking admiration, lying, pretense, cowardly, focussed on me, me, me and my survival.  Not a flattering picture is it?  Yet, if I am to accept the picture painted by my son it occurs to me that I must also be present to and mindful of this aspect of me.

Who am I?

I am clear that who I am is not “i”.  That is to say that I am clear that I am not my automatic machinery – the “i”.   I am clear that I am the conscious, self-determining being, who declares that I am the author of my life.  I am the person who totally gets “At all times, under all circumstances, I have the power to transform my life”.   I am clear that I am the person who has invented and entered myself into ‘playing BIG’ of living an ‘extraordinary’ life, of being of service, of being a source of contribution, of co-creating a ‘world that works’ none excluded.

What does that mean for me, my living, my life?

To show up as the kind of person that my son writes about, is proud of, and loves it takes something.  First, I have to be constantly mindful that the default condition of human existence is “i” and the game that goes with that ‘playing small’.  Second, I have to create myself as the “I” that is committed to be ‘playing BIG‘; living an ‘extraordinary’ life; being of service / contribution to my fellow human beings; putting something into life; being a stand for a ‘world that works’ none excluded.   Third, I have to keep “I” and the game that I is playing in existence.  And a fundamental part of keep “I” and the game I is playing in existence is telling the truth.

So here is my truth for you my son.  If I was as great as you say I am then your card would not mean anything to me.  My truth is that often and frequently I am not being the person that you describe and that you are proud of.  Yet, I am clear that my stand is to be the kind of person that you describe, that you are proud of, that you love.  And living from that context I am deeply touched by your card and the the small contribution I have made to your life.  Your act of kindness towards the beggar moves-touches me deeply and inspires me to be my Stand and play full out to be a source of contribution to you, our fellow human beings and Life itself.  And within that context, falling short of the mark encourages me redouble my Being and my effort.  I love you. 


You can resurrect yourself, your life, any time you choose: why not do it right now?


As it is Easter the time when Christians acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I simply wish to acknowledge that I / You can resurrect ourselves, our lives at any moment.  And any such resurrection is a choice (that you and I make) and that always occurs righ”t now.  With that in mind I want to share with you (and get present to) a profound truth uttered by a master who travelled the ‘low path’ and thus had a masterful insight into the human condition:

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

Now that is an insight worth memorising and getting present to each and every day perhaps when you start the day by meditating.  Before we move on simply want us to notice the following aspects of the quote:

  • ALL times and under ALL circumstances – not sometimes and under special circumstances;
  • Werner is speaking about our inner experience – how we experience our living, our life, how it shows up for us.

If you are embedded in ‘ordinary living’ then you will not relate to what Werner is saying – the fundamental truth that he is pointing out.  No, you are going to think that he is deluded – he simply does not get the real world that you live in.   Well lets listen to someone who has an intimate connection with the real world.  His name is Viktor Frankl, he is a Jew, during WWII he spent a couple of years in the infamous concentration camps, he lost everyone that was near and dear to him, he saw many die in the concentration camps and he experience horrors that few of us will have every experience.  Here is what Viktor has to say on the matter:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

Are you still missing the connection between the truth that Werner Erhard is point at?  Then let me share and leave with you two quotes from Viktor that show what Werner is getting at:

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Before you reach for your conditions, your circumstances as an excuse to escape from the responsibility to shape / live your life as the author of your life rather than a victim, I want to remind you that it was no picnic living in a concentration camp for two years!  And living from those conditions, this is what Frankl writes / says:

“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”

Which brings me back, neatly, to what we started with:

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

The question is are you going to choose and live your stand or are you going to get busy creating excuses and concocting reasons for continuing to ‘play small’, play ‘victim’ and hand over your freedom to conditions / circumstances?  Your life, your choice.

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


Reality and our relationship to reality

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

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

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

Beliefs and our relationship to our beliefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let go of your beliefs and set yourself free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Walk With Lions: why did we cry?


My youngest loves animals.  A year or so back I read Jane Goodall’s book ‘My Life With Chimpanzees‘ and she loved it.  At the end of the book my daughter made a choice – she chose to stop eating meat.  Why?  She was deeply touched by the story Jane shared and the fact that Jane went from being a meat eater to a vegetarian.   A few weeks back I came across a move on Sky that I thought she would like (because it is a story of people and animals) and I recorded it.

Yesterday, the two of us sat down and watched ‘To Walk With Lions‘ a film that can be described as “Set in Kenya in the late 1980s, British backpacker Tony Fitzjohn is fired from his safari driving stint and lands a job assisting the aging George Adamson at his wildlife reserve. After a shaky start with the lions, Tony soon develops a rapport with the animals and also a strong bond with George who continues to battle the government and poachers to protect the magnificent creatures that mean so much to him.”

Both of us were captivated by the movie: George Adamson’s love of the lions and his absolute commitment to his cause, his stance, the Possibility that had fired him through his life; Terrance (George’s brother) and his love of /devotion to the elephants; and Tony Fitzjohn and his transformation from a lost soul into one fired by his love of George Adamson and the Possibility that George is living into and living from – the right for lions to be exist, to live, to live free in the wild.

At the end of the movie my daughter and I were both crying.  She was crying at the slaughter of the animals (rhinos and elephants for their tusks) and the killing of George Adamson (an 83 year old man) and his associates by the local populations.   She could not make sense of why man does what he does.  Why man cannot let the animals live freely?  Why man kills fellow man just because that fellow man loves animals and insists that they be allowed to exist freely rather than being hunted to extinction or put into prisons called zoos.  And she could not understand how anyone would kill an 83 year old man.

For my part I cried deeply for a very different reason.  George Adamson lived as a ‘God’ and if you do not like that word then lets use ‘ GIANT’.  Each of his days was full of absolute commitment to an unshakeable stand (coming from Possibility that was lived from).  And from that context George lived fully, completely, deeply.  George’s life was simply a vehicle to serve a purpose that touched, moved and inspired him so profoundly that the ordinary pettiness of life (vanity, status, money, power…..) had no place in his life.  And it was this that infected Tony Fitzjohn so deeply that he became George Adamson in the sense of being a ‘GIANT’.  Within and from that context I got that for the bulk of my living has been wasted.  I cried for myself and all the moments, days, years that have been wasted.  Oh to have lived one day as George Adamson did?

And I get that I am still alive and I can invent and live into any Possibility that calls me and causes me to live as a ‘GIANT’.  Yes, I can do that, you can do that, we can do that.  And now that I get that, really get that, I am smiling on the inside and the outside.  Are you?

The Possibility that I am ‘re-inventing’ for myself and my life is that of ‘Playing BIG’: of inspiring myself and my fellow human beings to live an extraordinary life, to be of service (to our fellow human beings, to animals, to plants, to the earth, to the universe itself) and to contribute to a ‘world that works’ for all – no-one excluded.  That moves, touches and inspires me.  What Possibility touches, moves and inspires you?  What Possibility lifts your heart, gives you wings and in the process you find you have transcended your life and current circumstances?

Finally, leadership is simply OWNING your life, your living, what is so, COMPLETELY!  George Adamson was a leader.  Tony Fitzjohn became a leader simply be being around George Adamson.  Enough for now.

I love you, I thank you for listening to what I say.

Are you a ruthless stand for a ‘life that works’


Werner Erhard is a ruthless stand for ‘lives that work’ and a ‘world that works’

Werner Erhard is the man that synthesised a whole bunch of stuff and invented EST.  I have been listening to Werner speak and this is what he says:

“Yes, I am ruthless.  I am ruthless in the sense that I see no need for people to suffer. 

I see no need for people to live lives of if only or I could have been.  Or for somebody to be on their deathbed and realise that they had something to give, they had something to contribute.  They had something of themselves to express that never got expressed. 

I’m ruthless, ruthlessly against that, ruthlessly for people having ALL of it.”  

How about you and I?

Are you and I a ruthless stand for ‘a life that works including having ALL of it’?  For ourselves?  For the people that matter to us?  For the people in our organisations?  For the people in our societies?  For the whole world that peoples us, feeds us, houses us…?

If we are honest then we would say that we are not – we compromise, we live for ‘someday’, for most of us ‘someday’ never comes, and for those that get to ‘someday’ they end up asking “Is that all there is?”.   What will it take for you to be a ruthless stand for your life to work and for you to have ALL of it – meaning, purpose, relationships, vitality, full self-expression?

What will it take for me to play full out for a ‘life that works and having it ALL’?  ? I know that this Christmas I went through the dark night of the soul and coming out of the night I was blessed with seeing my life with such a clarity that I know that I have been ‘playing small’ for the last ten years and that with that came a loss of power, possibility, zest for living, sacrifice of self-expression.  I also know and declare that there is no going back.  Why?  Being present to Possibility (each day) and acting in line with that Possibility my life occurs as a blessing and an opportunity to contribute, to make a difference, to simply dance with life including savoury all the stuff that I took for granted like the smell of soap or the feel of the water on my skin when I shower, or the feel of the leather steering wheel when I drive.

What will it take for you to play full out, to be a ruthless stand, for being/authoring/having a ‘life that works’?

Happiness: a master speaks and shows the way (not for the faint hearted)


As I wrote in one of the earlier posts we can play the game of happiness at many different levels.  One of the levels that occurs as being particularly interesting and inspiring is that articulated by Werner Erhard.   When he speaks there is value in listening and really getting what he is pointing towards and making available to us.  I have been listening to Werner speak and this is what he has to say:

One of the things I am really sure about is nothing will make you happy. Very few things I am really sure about.  That is one of things I am really sure about. Nothing will make you happy.  It may give you give you a jolt. It may make you gleeful but it isn’t going to make you happy.  What does that mean nothing will make you happy.  It means what it says: there is no thing that’s going to make a person happy. Most people think gee when I graduate then life will be great. No. You graduate thats wonderful but life still aint great. When I get married then life will be great. Not true.  Well when I get divorced then it will be ok. Or when I get promoted, whatever it is, when I get a new car….when I get a chance to go on this new vacation… All of you have to do is to watch people on vacation and you can see very clearly vacations do not make people happy. No, no, no.

Most people live their lives working towards something, working for something,  that they think is going to make them happy.  And it’s really the Peggy Lee song “Is that all there is?”.  No matter what it is you get that you think is going to make you happy I can promise you that in a very short time after you get it you’re gonna be  well “Is that all there is?  Is that all there is to that? You mean it’s not filling my life with joy?” Yes, that’s right it, it isn’t. 

You have to bring happiness to life.  You don’t get happiness out of life.  What is there to be happy about? Nothing. When you can be happy about nothing. Just be happy. You know “I am happy” – those words are sacred. It’s like a declaration, it’s like a place from which I come, it’s like a stand I take upon myslf.  Its not I am pretending to be happy, it’s not I am acting happy.  No. I am happy!

If you find value in what Werner has to say then I suggest you check out the following: Transformation, One to One With Werner Erhard – a series of six pay per view interviews with Werner Erhard.  From where I stand they are great value for money.