Play BIG: Focus On Gifts


You and I meet. We talk. And even before we meet and talk, we have made the most important choice that will affect our meeting and talking. More accurately, it is not you and I who have made the choice. Rather, the choice has been made by the culture which shapes the way that you and I show up and travel.

What is this choice?  The choice to talk about what does not work: what does not work about me, about my relationships, about my circumstances, about the world….  The choice that determines that when you and I meet we will talk about problems, deficiencies, dysfunctions, lack…….  A choice about what is wrong about me, about you, about us, about the world.

Is there another way to show up and travel in life?  Is there another way to show up, listen to, and talking with our fellow human beings?  Is there a way that leaves you, i, us playing BIG in life?  I invite you to listen to the speaking of Peter Block:

Focus on gifts. First and foremost …. community is built by focusing on people’s gifts rather than their deficiencies….. Citizens in community want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do.

In the professional world of service providers, whole industries have been built on people’s deficiencies…… if you go to a professional service provider and say you have no deficiencies or problems, that you want to talk about your gifts and talents, you will be shown the door…… Go to an association, or a group or neighbours, and tell them of what your capabilities are, and they get quite interested.

This insight is profound … for it eliminates most of the conversations we now have about problem diagnosis…weaknesses, and what’s wrong with me, you, and the rest of the world. It also underscores the limitation of labeling people…….the act of labelling, itself, is what diminishes the capacity of people to fulfil their potential. If we care about transformation, then we will stay focused on gifts, to such an extent that our work becomes to simply bring the gifts of those on the margin into the centre.

… if we want to make communities stronger, we should study their assets, resources, and talents. It is the attention to these things that something new can occur.

– Community, The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block

I invite me to focus on my gifts. I invite you to focus on your gifts. I invite you and me to call forth, and bring into existence, the gifts of the folks that are in our lives. I invite you and me to label folks by their gifts. And focus our conversations on gifts and what kind of a world we can create by exercising these gifts in cooperation with one another.

Finally, I invite you to get hold of Peter Block’s book – Community, The Structure of Belonging – and read it, thoroughly.

Why Heed The Call & Live The Unlived Life?


The English word ‘devil’ is very beautiful. If you read it backwards it becomes ‘lived’. That which is lived becomes divine, and that which is not lived becomes the devil. 

Only the lived is transformed into godliness; the unlived turns poisonous.

And today you postpone, and whatever remains unlived in you will hang around you like a weight. If you had lived it you would have been free of it. It would not have haunted you, it would not have tortured you.

– Osho

Choosing Audacity Over Indifference And Cruelty


What is it that I notice about the being of the human beings that I find myself in amidst?  Love? No: rare it is that I see loving happening. Hate? No: rare it is that I find hating occurring. Self-expression? No. Rare it is that I see self-expression, in a culture of individuality rare it is to see anything other than ‘Das Man’ – the anybody/everybody. 

It occurs to me that loving, hating, self-expression are signs of aliveness. S/he who loves, hates, expresses oneself in how one shows up in the world, is alive! And aliveness is the quality that I find most absent in my every day dealings with my fellow human beings.  Our way of being-in-the-world (in the West, for the middle classes) is what I call the ‘walking dead’.

What is it that I notice about the being of the human beings with which I find myself?  I notice indifference as the common mode of being-in-the-world. The mode of being-in-the-world is expressed in one pithy word: “Whatever.”  And then there are those who take a stand:

“I choose to bigger than the cruelty and the indifference.”

– Chrisann Brennan

It occurs to me that in the world that I find myself constituting, indifference is in and of itself cruel. And you/i can choose to give up playing small, being indifferent – to the quality of our lives, the lives of our fellow human being, and the quality of life itself    I leave you with the following quote:

We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. 

We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about.

Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us.  It will require courage, audacity and heart. 

It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. 

What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives.

I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.

If not you, who?
If not now, when?
If not here, where?”

Werner Erhard

What Constitutes Giving? And Can Giving Be An Access To Transformation?


Transformation always start with our way of being-in-the-world. And our way of being-in-the-world is a function of cultural practices and what we do or do not do, regularly and how we do what we do.

One route to transforming the quality of our lives and of life itself is to consciously adopt new ways of being and doing. And keep at these until they became habitual and we do not even notice our way of being-in-the-world: how we show up, what we do and how we do it.

If like me you find yourself called to the possibility of kindness, gentleness, harmony, aliveness, and a world that works for all then I leave you with the following:

The essence of human revolution is overcoming our lack of compassion.

Giving yourself wholly to the person in front of you – everything begins with this; it is the fundamental path of humanist philosophy.

Philosophy comes down to standing up for the principles you believe in no matter what.

– Daisaku Ikeda

It occurs to me that the most profound, truest giving, that one can give is to ‘give oneself wholly to the person in front of oneself’.  And that usually is the people we find ourselves living with, working with, interacting with on a daily basis: wives, husband, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousin, nephews, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, colleagues, customers, suppliers, neighbours …..

What would show up in my life if I gave myself wholly to the person in front of me?  What would show up in your life if you gave yourself wholly to the person in front of you?  What kind of world would be find ourselves in if enough of us gave ourselves wholly to the person in front of me?  It occurs to me that ‘giving yourself wholly to the person in front of you’ is transformation: it transforms our experience of our living.

So easy to write, to say. So hard to do – at least for me. And I know that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. And the journey of giving starts with the next person I encounter. And is never ended, never a failure, for as long as I continue to ‘walk the path’.  It occurs to me that ‘walking the path’ is transformation.

What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?


What is our essence, our nature, human nature?

If there is one question that truly matters and thus pervades our existence it is the question concerning human nature: what is our essence, our nature, human nature?

essence
ˈɛs(ə)ns/
noun
  1. 1.
    the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character.
    “conflict is the essence of drama”

There are no shortage of answers. It occurs to me every speaker who speaks on the essence of human nature is convinced that there is a such a thing as human nature. And that he/she has the right answer:

  • Some say that human nature is selfish and competitive. In this school of thought even altruistic acts are recast and explained as selfish.  Others say that human nature is fundamental kind, altruistic, cooperative.
  • Look underneath western management and you will find the taken for granted truth that human beings are fundamentally lazy and will do the least work they can get away with: theory X.  Then there are others who say that human beings are eager to learn, to improve their condition, to contribute and do work – as long as the works shows up as meaningful, worth doing.
  • There are those who say that essence of human beings is reason and rationality.  And others who say with equal conviction that the essence of human beings is emotion/affect.
  • Some say that our essence is to pair bond and live in monogamous relationships. Others say that the polygamous relations are more in tune with nature and the imposition of monogamous relationships has come about through the white man’s domination of the world.

Who has generated the right answer to the essence of human nature?

I don’t know and I have little interest in debating right-wrong.

What I can share with you is the insight that hit me when I was around 8 years of age. To make sense of this insight it is worth pointing out that I was born in the East into a muslim culture. And at the age of 5 I arrived in the UK with my mother and younger brother. So by the age of 8, I had been living a dual existence: one way of thinking-living at school (the English way) and other way of thinking-living at home (the Pakistani Muslim way).  What was this insight?

The insight that struck me forcefully, which blew away my confusion-bewilderment, which set me free was this: “It’s all made up!”  

Once I got this, I got that I was free to choose the practices, from each culture, that worked best for me. As a result I chose not to have an arranged marriage.  I also choose not to drink for the sake of drinking – just to show that I am a man and be one of the boys ……

What is a great place to stand in relation to the question of human nature?

Back to the question of human nature: what is our human nature?  What is natural to us, our essence?  What is not natural to us, not in line with our essence? Heidegger, the 20th century philosopher and some say one of the two most important philosophers of the 20th century, says:

“The ‘essence’ of Dasein lies in its existence.”

– Heidegger

If you do not have background in philosophy then what Heidegger is getting at may not be clear. So allow me to share, what shows up for me as, the most pithy insight into the human condition:

“Custom is our nature”

– Blaise Pascal (1632 – 1662)

Put simply, human beings don’t have a fixed nature, we do not have an essence. We are shaped by the cultural practices (customs) into which we are born. This shaping starts from the moment of our birth (possibly earlier) and happens without our consent.  By the time we are in a position to think for ourselves our nature has already been shaped-moulded towards a certain style of being-living, and away from other styles of being-living.

I say that this is a great place to stand in relation to my nature, your nature, human nature. Why? By taking this stand we liberate ourselves and our fellow human beings.  If you/i stand and operate from this stance then we get that you/i can shape our nature (no matter what we say it is today) by who we live amongst and what we do and do not do. Put differently, if i/you want to change our natures we simply have to change our customs. Furthermore, in this stand you get that a powerful access to influencing others is to effect changes in customs.

Summing Up

Please remember: Its all made up! If you stand in “It’s all made up!” then you are in a place to remake it – all of it. When you get this, really get this, then I say your experience of yourself, and of life, is transformed. 

Transforming Life Through ‘Direct Action In Love’


Is action the only access to impacting life?

Let’s start the conversation with a quote. Not any quote, quote that contains the seeds for transforming the quality of life (my life, your life, our lives, life itself):

“It is important that you get clear for yourself that your only access to impacting life is action. The world does not care what you intend, how committed you are, how you feel or what you think, and certainly it has no interest in what you want and don’t want. Take a look at life as it is lived and see for yourself that the world only moves for you when you act.

Hold this quote in mind, allow it to be the grounds of our conversation. And let’s turn the conversation to love.

What is love as action?

Catherine Cadden has grappled with this question. And in so grappling she provides the following answer:

“I defined Love as listening, observing, validating and empathizing. All action.” 

Listening for what?  Observing what? Validating what? Empathizing with what? The answer is to that which he have in common with our fellow human beings: our universal human needs.

Notice:

– listening is an action and i/you can choose, at any-every moment, to listen for the human needs that are giving rise to my behaviour, your behaviour, his behaviour, her behaviour, our behaviour, their behaviour;

– observing is an action and as such you/i can choose to observe human behaviour (as it is and as it is not)  and use that as an access to the human needs that lie at the source of the behaviour;

– validating is an action and as such i/you can choose, at any-every moment, to validate the human needs that lie at the source of my behaviour, your behaviour, his behaviour, her behaviour, our behaviour, their behaviour;

– empathising is an action and you/i can choose to empathise with ourselves and our fellow human beings at the level our universal human needs.

What is love as ‘direct action in love’?

It occurs to me that Catherine Cadden has not stopped at ‘love as an action’ like so many of us have done.  She has gone further. She calls it ‘direct action in love’.  What kind of love is ‘direct action in love’?  It occurs to me that this is conveyed by her, in her TEDx talk, through the following quote which she shares in her talk:

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar, it sees that the edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. ”

– Martin Luther King Jr, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence”, delivered 4 April 1967

At this point, I share with you Catherine’s TEDx talk and ask that you offer yourself the gift of listening, truly listening, to her speak:

Given that I find that myself so easily sucked into a criticising mode of being (even if I do not verbalise and act it out) I leave myself (and you) with the following quote.

“Boy, I sure hope whoever threw this tantrum gets heard so they won’t think they need to do it again.”

– Eva, 9 years old

To get the transformational quality of this utterance, this mode of being-in-the-world, it is necessary to listen, truly listen, to Catherine’s talk.

Giftivism: Transforming Life Through Small Acts of Radical Kindness


I start by gifting you that which shows up for me as a profound truth:

“What we will do for love will always be far more powerful than what we will do for money. What we can do together will always be far greater than what we can do alone.”

– Pavithra Mehta

This wisdom, this truth, this gift found itself to me through coming across and listening to what shows up for me as the most radical-inspiring talk of recent times.

It occurs to me that the being of the speaker and that which the speaker shares is in complete alignment with that which I share in my speaking through this blog. As such I am paying it forward by sharing this profound-radical-inspiring talk with you.

http://youtu.be/p_QLGvp_stI

Here are some words that have caught my attention, may they speak to you and resonate with you. May they act as an opening for you to enter into and lift ‘giftivism’: small acts of radical kindness 

“So in a world where everything has a price — what happens to the priceless?

We live in a time where we have mastered the art of “liking” each other on Facebook but have forgotten the art of loving each other in real life.

Our purpose doesn’t lie in our commodities it lies in our sense of communion …. Compassion. Empathy. Generosity. Trust….

What practices, systems and designs emerge when we believe people WANT to behave selflessly?

Generosity is generative. Everybody wins because generosity is NOT a zero sum game.”

And I leave you with the speakers invitation:

“We begin to move from being a market economy to being part of a gift ecology.

 It begins with small steps. I invite each one of you to think about what your small step will be. What is YOUR giftivist resolution?

May we each take that step. May we change ourselves, may we change the world.”

At your service and with my love

maz