Beyond possibility: shaping the environment to call forth that which you wish to call forth


Inventing possibilities is not sufficient

It is not enough to invent possibilities; inventing possibilities does not lead to a transformation in the experience of my/your living.  If you/I are to experience a transformation in our experience of our living then the access to that transformation is inventing possibilities that leave us moved-touch-inspired.  Why?

It takes something say “activation energy'” to get us to be/act differently to the default that you/I have become accustomed and addicted to.  To use the analogy of the rocket, it takes a certain amount of energy to overcome gravity and get the rocket those two inches off the ground.  If that “activation energy” is not there then the rocket will continue resting on the ground.   Put differently, our habits run us – they run us without us even being aware that they run us.  Like the rocket, it takes a certain amount of mindfulness/effort/energy (“activation energy”) for you/I to break loose from these habits.  And you/I are most likely to put in the required effort when we are moved/touched (emotionally) and inspired to act.

I am inspired by the possibility of communication & relatedness with my children

A couple of months ago I invented the possibility of being intimately related to my children and vice versa such that we spent more time together and enjoyed the time that we spent together.  I was so moved-touched-inspired that I told my children that I would be available and present for them every day between 7pm and 9pm – to do whatever they wanted to do.  And that is exactly what I did.

How did it turn out?  Not as I had expected.  In the main the children were looking for me to play entertainer – to come up with ideas that appealed to them and then put on the show.  I soon ran out of ideas!  Truthfully, disappointment was present.  And I was struggling with how to generate that interaction and thus relatedness between us.

The hidden power of the context/situation/environment to call forth and shape behaviour

Then one evening I came home and noticed that the dining table had been converted into a table-tennis table.  It just so happens that we can all play table-tennis and most of us do enjoy playing it.  What showed up?  We showed up at the table-tennis table playing table-tennis.  Not only between 7pm and 9pm but also at other times.  The ‘table-tennis’ was calling us to play table-tennis and in the process relatedness was showing up – indirectly!

One day, I came home and noticed that the dining table was once more the dining table.  Then what showed up?  For sure no table-tennis showed up because there was no table-tennis table in the house.  I notice that the interaction that had been called forth by the table-tennis was no longer present – the children were in their rooms doing their own stuff.   And I was left missing the interaction with my children.   Now here is the puzzling thing.  I left the dining table as the dining table rather than make the effort to convert it a table-tennis table.  And over the course of a week or so I got used to the ‘lack of interaction’.  

A week or so later I came home and the table-tennis table was there again.  Delighted, I invited one of my children to play table-tennis.  He agreed and the interaction was there once more:  noticed that in the course of playing table-tennis we talked and laughed with one another – the relatedness was present once more.

Shape the context/environment/situation to call forth that which you wish to call forth in yourself and others

If you/I wish to transform our lives and our experience of our living then we have to act.  The default way of acting is to rely on willpower – to will ourselves to do what is necessary.  And over the longer term it does not work.  Experience and research studies show that willpower depletes itself and once depleted we find ourselves enmeshed in our defaults – our habits.  Yet there is another way, smarter way, to call forth the behaviours we desire.  What way?

I say the most powerful way is to shape the context/situation/environment to call forth the mode of being/acting that we wish to generate.  So if you wish to generate conversation, interaction and relatedness, for example, then stop that subscription to pay-tv, unplug that tv, put in a table-tennis table, make it a custom for everyone to sit around a table and eat together, introduce and play the game of three questions three answers……… If you want to exercise your ethical values then work for a enterprise that shares/exhibits/calls forth those ethical values.  If you want to be more laid back then live in a culture/people who are laid back…

And finally

When Martin Heidegger (‘the philosopher of being’) was offered a prestigious post in Berlin (the capital of Germany) he refused even though it was his dream job.  Why? Because he knew that the cosmopolitan/sophisticated/urban environment would shape him in ways that he was not up for being shaped. He also knew that the provincial and agricultural context/environment in which he lived/worked was the environment that nourished him as a person and as philosopher of being.

‘Playing BIG’ – what the heck is that?


I’ve noticed something interesting.  There appears to be default listening around what constitutes ‘Playing BIG’ when it comes to the people that I know and have shared this Possibility with.  This default listening involves a vision of the future, bold goals, striving after achieving those goals.  There is also an element of ‘being someone’ rather than simply another human being.  So a great example of ‘Playing BIG’ within this listening would be to set up a vision of being at the top of Mount Everest, setting up the goal of being there at the top say by the end of this year and then getting busy making that happen.  And when that vision is achieved then I become someone ‘BIG’ – as now I am someone rather than anyone!

That is not how I speak or listen to ‘Playing BIG’ – not for me, not for you. I am clear that ‘Playing BIG’ will show up differently for different people.  For me ‘Playing BIG” occurs primarily in the domain of who I am being rather than what I am doing or what I am getting out (achieving) of life.   For you ‘Playing BIG’ may occur in the realm of achieving e.g. generating a $1 million in this calendar year, climbing Mount Everest or lifting 100 children out of poverty.

Looking more deeply into ‘Playing BIG’ I see that for me ‘Playing BIG’ involves the following:

a) Allowing my fellow human beings and especially my family members (who I interact with daily and share a living space) to be – just as they are and just as they are not. This occurs as a BIG ask as my default position is not to do this – it is ‘force’ them to fit into my point of view on how they should be.  I am noticing that I have been failing at this often despite my commitment to ‘Playing BIG’.

b) Allowing the world to be – just as it is and just as it is not.  Just the other day I was in a hurry to buy a phone case and I noticed the volcano of frustration and annoyance building up in me.  I get that my default position is that the world should work so as to accommodate my desire, my wishes – instantly.

c) Expanding my circle of concern beyond myself.  WOW – whilst meditating this morning I got that I have been so attached to ‘Playing BIG’ that in the process I have been ‘attached to not losing my face’ with the people who I have shared my stand in life (including that of ‘Playing BIG’) and as such I have been being selfish.  Specifically, I have not been being generous (compassionate listening, making time available, doing what was natural to do in the moment) with my family.

d) Expanding the zone of my self-expression and vulnerability.  Specifically, breaking out of the prison that I have allowed to build up around my self-expression.  In the process of expanding this circle of ‘self-expression and vulnerability’ I have opened up this blog to Google (before you had to know it existed to find it).  I have been singing.  I have been dancing.  I have been giving hugs.  I have been playing table-tennis.  I have been disclosing parts of myself that I have not disclosed before.

e) Dealing with my emotions (and upsets) in a way that creates harmony with self and fellow human beings rather than creates upset and discord.  When immersed in ‘Playing small’ i tends to let emotions fly and land where they land.  i does not take responsibility for what it is doing and the impact it is having on self and others.

f) Coming from the stand that I am responsible for my life (how it occurs to me, what phenomena show up) and letting go of the position ‘I am small and simply one of the pawns in the game of life‘.  That is a big one especially when I notice that I am automatically immersed in a world where the default condition is that almost no-one (from the ‘top to the bottom’) takes responsibility for their lives and the world that we live in.  We are all so busy ‘playing victim’, being self righteous and pointing the finger.  When it comes to that game, my i is as good at playing that game as anyone else that I know on this Earth.

To sum this up I’d say that for me ‘Playing BIG’ occurs as ‘mastery over my ‘self’, the ‘i’ that tends to run me.  For you it might be ‘mastery over the world or some aspect of it’.  And that is OK.

Now when I say that this is how ‘Playing BIG’ occurs to me.  Specifically, I mean that is how it occurs to me right now.  If new stuff  shows up then I am open to letting that influence how ‘Playing BIG’ occurs for me and how I play ‘Playing BIG’. And that means letting go of attachment to ‘my face – winning it or losing it’.  If you are remotely like me then you will know that is a HUGE ask: being who you are being, doing what you are doing, having what you are having without consideration of ‘looking good and avoiding looking bad in the eyes of others’ is truly ‘Playing BIG’.  How many of us play that BIG?

Getting, owning and letting my disappointment be sets me free!


Doing more of that which brings joy and human connection into my life is part of the game I have created for myself called ‘Playing BIG’.  Coming from that context I booked a table-tennis table at the sports centre for 9:30 am today.  I was so excited at the thought, picture, of my sons and I playing table-tennis together on a proper table and in a room with lots of space to move around freely – as opposed to playing table-tennis in our lounge.

This morning I rang my son at 8:30 to let him know that I’d pick him up from his friends at 9:15.  And that is exactly what I did.  My son appeared to be in good spirits and I took that to mean that all was fine and I could expect a great experience: playing table-tennis with my son who enjoys playing table-tennis!  We got there, I paid £5 and headed to the table-tennis table.  When we got there delight was present for me: single table set-out in a large room (lots of space) just for us.  This is great and this is going to be great – that is the conversation that I was having with myself.

We got playing.  First my son said that he had to hit the ball harder (than home) – he occurred as being surprised and put out by this.  After practicing for five minutes or so he told me he wanted to play a game.  “Fine, let’s play a game” was my response.  When we got playing he kept asking me if I was playing my best and I kept telling him “Yes”.  He was not happy with this – he seemed to be convinced that I was taking it easy on him.  What was happening in my world: “How the heck do you expect me to play better given that you cannot cope with the level that I am playing at right now?  And yes, I am playing the best that I can play given the circumstances.  Quit asking the same stupid question and just focus on playing!”  On the outside I was calm because whilst i was getting activated by what occurred as a ‘poor attitude’ on my son’s part, I was in control and able to transcend i.

I won the first game – no surprise, no significance to it. We started playing the second game.  Now the room was too hot for my son – he kept saying how hot it was.  I offered to open the double doors – he refused. Then he kept telling me he was thirsty and so I offered him money so that he could go and get a drink – he declined.  All the time I kept calm and simply played table-tennis when there was table-tennis to play.  It soon became obvious to me that the table-tennis that we were playing did not match the ‘table-tennis schema’ that my son had in his head and so he did not want to play table-tennis.  Actually, there was no genius on my part – he kept repeating that he was bored.  At 10am – half an hour in reality yet an eternity in my experience I put a stop to it.  I simply said that I could see that the situation was not working for my son and so we should go home.d

What was there for me?  What was happening underneath the surface?  I noticed that I was disappointed and i (my automatic machinery) was disappointed and angry:  i kept wanting to blame and criticise my son; i felt betrayed; i felt that it’s time had been wasted; i did not approve of people who quit especially when that person is my son – i was brought up to finish whatever it started or it got punished big time.

Yet, I stayed calm and did not let i run me like it usually does.  How did that come about?  I was present to the fact that reality was perfectly OK (just great the way it is and the way it is not) and i noticed that the disappointment was a natural result of how i works.  i had jumped into the future and mapped out how it would be (a great game of table-tennis and a great bonding exercise with my son).  And when reality was reality and it did not match up with what i had expected then i had got upset.  I could see that i had created and was continuing to create my disappointment.  When I got this I owned that i was creating this disappointment and not my son.  I noticed that I soon as I got that and owned my disappointment and let it be without resisting it, it vanished.  And I was left with everything is OK – just the way it is and the way it is not – and that set me free to get on with what I needed to do this morning in complete peace!

How about you?  Are you owning your disappointment and thus setting yourself free?

I listened to music, danced and played table-tennis: joy!


When I qualified as a Chartered Accountant the treat that I gave myself was a hi-fi system – a ‘proper one’!  That is how much music used to mean to me.  Today, I listened – really listened – to music.  Joy!

I used to dance.  Some even told me that I was good at it.  What matters is that I thoroughly enjoyed dancing for dancing. Today my son put on dance music and I danced.  I simply moved with the music.  Joy!

I used to play table tennis.  I became great at it.  Playing table-tennis I lost ‘myself’ as I was immersed in it.  Today I played table-tennis with my son and his friend.  Joy!

Today, I am light: tiredness is not present – it simply dissolved.  Joy!

Today, my son said “I love you!” before he went to sleep. Joy!

I love you!