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

 

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


tothewonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Ebert (film critic, deceased)

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

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

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

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

Damon Linker (senior correspondent at theweek.com)

Nelson Mandela: A Master of Being?


I am not in a position to say anything about Nelson Mandela. Why? I didn’t know him at all, I simply know of him. What I notice is that a big deal is being made of his death. Why?

It occurs to me that Nelson Mandela embodied a certain way of being. A way of being that is uncommon in our age. What kind of being am I pointing at?   Being a stand for a possibility that speaks to many of us, a possibility that moves-touches-inspires many of us at the very deepest level:

“I think his main legacy will be instilling confidence among all people in South Africa, instilling the knowledge that people are equal, all people regardless of colour; that people can live in peace and harmony and love.”

-Fellow ANC political prisoner Ahmed Kathrada

Looking through is ‘work’ I find myself deeply touched by some of his saying. These I share with you for they may also call to you, touch you, and open up new possibilities and avenues. It occurs to me that if you and I are to generate value from these quotes then we have to live them not just read them.

There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.”

“There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we led.

“There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status.”

One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.

“There are few misfortunes in this world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill.”

A winner is a dreamer who never gives up

What If We Lived From This Context: This Is IT & Every Moment Matters?


“The mind is inherently stubborn about change, and seems to snap back to its original position like an elastic band.

But there is catch: when we truly comprehend in our guts the finality and truth that THIS is IT, right now, no matter how our life is, then we grasp  what Werner Erhard was always screaming about:

that no magic pill or workshop or experience of any sort is ever going to come along and finally “fix” you or me or make us permanently happy, and in that very moment of giving up the search for transformation, a transformation paradoxically does in fact occur.

One recognises that one was never broken in the first place, and suddenly all the energy previously devoted to seeking a way out of or through the problem of the unfulfilled self is freed up to power one’s mission and vision, which is a gesture of giving and contribution rather than one of searching, waiting, and hoping.

And that is a good thing, if a bit sobering, because it means we are asked to step up to the plate in life with what and who we already are. We have been given our piece in the game, and it only remains to play wholeheartedly.”

Eliezer Sobel, The 99th Monkey

“It is so because you consider it to be so”


Here in the UK, what we collectively agree as constituting “summer” has passed away. And what we agree upon and call “autumn” has arrived and is present. That is simply what is so. And this what is so can be measured in a number of way: the time of sunrise and sunset, the temperature, the amount of rain, the leaves on some trees turning from green to a yellow-red colour ….

The more interesting question, for me, is this one: what does autumn mean? Let me put the same question differently: how should I show up in relation to the arrival of autumn and the passing away of summer? Is it an occasion for rejoicing-dancing or is it an occasion for sadness and a longing for what has been lost?  Put more simply, is it good or bad, an opportunity or a setback, a blessing or a curse?

“It is so because you consider it to be so”

– Werner Erhard

I am clear that what is so is that autumn is present – nothing more and nothing less. Everything in relation to autumn being present it open to consideration – my consideration, your consideration.  Put more simply:

  • autumn is a time of opportunity and an occasion for rejoicing if I consider it to be so;
  • autumn is the time of loss and an occasion for lamenting all that has been lost with the passing away of summer if I consider this to be so;
  • autumn is ‘no big deal’ if that is what I consider it to be so.

How do I consider autumn to be ‘this and not that’?  I make autumn ‘this and not that’ by the story that I tell myself, and tell others. I can tell the story to myself in many ways. I can tell it through the thoughts I focus on, through the words that I speak to myself, and through what I do or do not do.

Let’s leave aside autumn and ask, what is it that I am pointing at here?  I am pointing out the following:

  • My life is as it is (great, wonderful, good, ok, awful) because I consider it to be so (great, wonderful, good, ok, awful);
  • The work that I do is as it is (good, an opportunity, bad, a dead end) because I consider to be so (good, bad, opportunity, dead end);
  • My wife is as she is (kind, beautiful, intelligent, selfish, ugly, stupid) because i consider her to be so (kind, selfish, beautiful, mean, intelligent, stupid);
  • Life is that which it is (an opportunity to take the road less travelled, or follow the path travelled by my kind) because I consider it to be so;
  • The Earth is that which it is (beautiful, to be taken care of, lived in harmony with, dominated, harvested, plundered, exploited) because I consider it to be so;
  • I am who I am because I consider myself to be ‘this who I am’.

When I get this, when I really get this, I get that I am the magician. With my consideration I get to shape my world. And at any moment I can reshape by world simply be reconsidering it.  How do I reconsider it? By choosing the stories I tell myself and others.  This telling (to be truly powerful) has to be in the living of my life.

An Invitation to Live On The Edge


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

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

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

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

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

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

Which Context is Determining How You (and I) Show Up?


I share with you a talk worth listening to again and again.  If you are a Landmark graduate then this talk may show up as  welcome reminder of some fundamentals. If you are not a Landmark graduate then you are in for a mind opening talk. Enjoy.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genuine listening is the foundation of caring and relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improving the workability of our lives, our relationships, our world


Laurence Platt over at Conversations For Transformation (Inspired by the Ideas of Werner Erhard) has written a fabulous piece: The Illusion of I.  Here I simply wish to share with you the two paragraphs which occur as being particularly enlightening about life:

Try this on for size: the world doesn’t work when run as a “you or me” world. It’s not designed to be run that way. And if we unknowingly try to run it as a “you or me” world when it clearly doesn’t work as a “you or me” world, there’s no use claiming we didn’t know it doesn’t work as a “you or me” world. That doesn’t fix it. That doesn’t make it work any better. For the world to work, a shift is required in what we don’t know  about making it work.

At the heart of what we don’t know about making the world work, is an error akin to unknowingly trying to run a diesel powered Mercedes-Benz with gasoline. Running the “you and  me” world unknowingly as if it’s a “you or me” world, is this error. This error is based on an illusion. Yes an illusion. It’s the illusion of I. I is an illusion. And it’s the illusion of I which leads to individual territoriality instead of individual co-operation – which leads to political parties’ territoriality instead of political parties’ co-operation, which leads to nations’ territoriality instead of nations’ co-operation.

This is what I make Laurence’s essay mean:

We are given birth, embedded in, and living in a ‘you AND me’ world.  A world where relationship-interdependence-unity is built into the very fabric/structure/working of the world.  In such a world cooperation and collaboration is the way.

Yet our language, our training, our way of being-doing in the world is to operate from a ‘you OR me’ context.  We divide the world into you and me. And spend the rest of our lives competing with each other –  ‘you OR me’ – and feeling disconnected from one another, and sometimes life itself.

The major issues that show up in our world – personal life, family, work, community, the world – arise from operating from a ‘you OR me’ context when we live in ‘you AND me’ world.

Shifting from the ‘you OR me’ way of being-in-the-world to a ‘you AND me’ way of being-in-the-world gives us access for transforming the quality of life, for all, on this planet that gives us life. And making this shift  personally and inspring-empowering others to do so is the ultimate act of leadership.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions that provide access to transformation


Ordinary question generate ordinary living: an ordinary way of being and showing up in life.

Extraordinary questions stop us in our tracks, bring us out of our hypnotic state of everydayness, and provide a window to possibility and transformation.  The access to possibility and transformation is always questions: questions that rock us, shake us, tremble us.

If you are up for living a transformed life here are the questions to be with – totally and wholeheartedly:

1. Who am I?

2. Who am I for myself?

3. Who would I be if I lost my memory and had no past?

4. If I had no memory, who would I chose to be?

5. What calls to me when I am silent and courageous?

6.  Who would I chose to be if I knew with absolute certainty that I am whole-complete-perfect?

 

Breakdowns as an access to breakthroughs


What is our default way of being in the world?  

Listen to the mystics and it is being ‘not awake’ – not awake to the reality of existence.  Listen to Martin Heidegger and it is ‘fallenness’ – fallenness into they ‘they’, the ‘anyone’, the crowd.  Listen to psychology and it is habit.

I say our normal way of being in the world is to be on automatic pilot.  A great illustration is driving a car.  How many times have you driven from A to B and when you get there you cannot remember the journey?

I say our normal way of being in the world is to go about life as one (anyone) goes about life.  That is to say we have fallen into/with the crowd. Which crowd?  Our society. Our social class. Our tribe.  So you/I go about life as one goes about life: you/I dress like one dresses; you/I eat like one eats; you/I walk like one walks; you/I hang out where one hangs out; you/I talk the way that one talks; you/I work they way one works; you/I entertain ourselves the way that one entertains himself; you/I form the relationships that one forms….

Put differently, our normal way of being is for our habits to have us, to be us.  And where do these habits come from?  From our society, tribe, social class.  So in our normal way of being you/I are simply being/showing up as our society-tribe-social class.  At one level this works great. It allows us to fit in with the rest, smooths social relationships, and allows us all to work together and accomplish more than we could accomplish on our own.

And there is price.  The price is at two levels. At the society-tribe-social class level we are blind to that which we are blind.  Put differently, we have no access to what we don’t know that we don’t know.  At a personal level we do not own our lives. And by not owning our lives we do not get the sense of aliveness, of joy, of meaning/fulfilment that comes with being creators of our lives – being, pursuing, creating, bringing about that which matters to us.  We settle instead for a life of drudgery.

So we are asleep. Habit owns us. We are the crowd – they anyone, the ‘average’.  Which begs the question, for those of us interested in waking up, what is the access to waking up and owning our lives, to living as creators?

Breakdowns are a great access to waking up and making breakthroughs in our living

Breakdowns are those events and moments in our lives when our ordinary way of being in life – not awake, fallenness, habit having us – breaks down even if that is for a minute or two.  In our ordinary way of being – being comfortable with habit, being on automatic pilot – you/I do not welcome breakdowns. No, we get upset, frustrated, annoyed, angry and even violent.  My son and I experienced a mild breakdown when in the midst of watching a movie the electricity was cut-off.  Another example of a breakdown could be the loss of our jobs, or a relationship with a loved one.

If you/I are up for playing BIG, living ‘extraordinary’ lives then we need to welcome and make the best use of breakdowns.  Why? Because breakdowns provide an access to breakthroughs.  When breakdowns occur we are given sight – without our wishes – to our state of being, our habits, our fallenness.  And if we generate the courage and make the time to get present to the sight that shows up for us then we enable ourselves to make breakthroughs in our living.  Put differently, breakdowns if embraced in the right manner enable us to transform our lives.

Want an example of what I am talking about?  Let me share with you the story that has made many tears flow from my eyes and still bleeds my heart.  Which story?  India and the horrific gang rape by six men of a 23 year old physiotherapy student in Delhi.  From what I read it occurs to me that this is not the only young woman that has been raped.  It occurs to me that many women are raped. Just yesterday I was reading of a young woman, mother of two, who threw herself of a train to escape rape and is critically injured.  Put differently, to be a woman in India is to be ‘one who is subjected to oppression, abuse and even rape’.  That is and has been the default state of existence for a long time.  And this default state has been in the background, invisible, not talked about.

For whatever reason the horrific rape of the 23 year old young woman, Jyoti, and her subsequent death has brought about a breakdown – at least for now – in the taken for granted way of ‘the way the world is in India’.  This breakdown has allowed people in India and outside India sight of the ‘darker side of modern India’ – that side which is not at all modern nor civilised (in the western sense of the word). And for some, this has brought both shame and disgust.  So that is the breakdown that has occurred in India, at least Delhi.

I am saddened at the rape and death of Jyoti. I am saddened with learning that a young mother of two is critically injured because she threw herself of the train to escape rape. And yet I see possibility/transformation amidst this sadness.  What am I talking about? This breakdown in India – a suspension of the ordinary way of being and going about in the world – represents an opportunity to make a breakthrough.  What breakthrough?  A breakthrough in the lives of ordinary women in India – young or old.  I can see a world where Indian women are not oppressed, not abused, not raped. Put differently, I see a world where it is not ok for one to oppress, abuse, rape.

What will it take for people in India to use this breakdown to create a breakthrough and thus transform the lives of the women in India? For enough people to be / show up / operate from the possibility that the women folk are free, are respected, are not abused, not oppressed, not raped.  Put differently, for enough people to climb out of their state of falseness and own/live the possibility of ‘freedom, safety and respect for the women of India’.

To sum up: yes breakdowns are painful, few of us welcome them, and yet if embraced breakdowns offer us the ladder via which we can climb out of our state of fallenness and make breakthroughs in our lives and transform the experience of our living.  Isn’t that true leadership – leading our own lives, owning our lives, being a stand for that which matters to us, being a source of contribution to our fellow human beings and life itself?

On possibility as an access to transformation


What is the access to transformation?  Specifically, what is the access – for you and me – to transform the quality of our living?  Put simply, it is shifting our being-in-the-world, and thus our showing up in the world, from impotent to potent.  What do I mean?  Let’s take a look at the definitions:

impotent

Adjective: unable to take effective action; helpless or powerless

Synonyms: powerless – weak – feeble – helpless – infirm

potent

Adjective: having a great power, influence or effect.

Synonyms: powerful – strong – forceful – intense

Let’s assume that you and I are up for transformation, up for shifting our being-in-the-world from impotent (the default) to potent.  What is the access to making this shift?  Willpower? No, this rarely works as many New Years resolutions show.  Is it setting goals? No, this rarely works because goals tend to rely on the exercise of willpower.  And willpower tends to fade.  So what is a suitable access?

The access to making the shift is inventing and living from one or more possibilities that move-touch-inspire us. Which begs the question “What is a possibility?” A possibility is not a wish.  Nor is it an intention.  A possibility is not a goal, an outcome, an achievement.  Nor is possibility a belief in that which is possible for a human being.

A possibility is like a context from which one shows up and gives life to one’s life.  A possibility is like a stand that one takes upon oneself.  A possibility is like a path that one chooses to walk of one’s own accord and thus gives up the multitude of other paths that are open to oneself.  A possibility is like a declaration one makes on what constitutes one’s life.  A possibility is always a choice one voluntarily takes upon oneself that gives shapes to one’s life and how one shows up in life.

Still looking for a pointer as to what constitutes a ‘possibility’?  Then let me share this quote from Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba The Greek):

“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The non-existent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”  Nikos Kazantzakis

And when he speaks of believing he is talking about the following kind of believing:

“A belief is not merely an idea that is thought, it is an idea in which one believes. And believing is not an operation of the intellectual mechanism, but a function of the living being as such, the function of guiding his conduct, his performance of his task.”  Jose Ortega Y Gasset

A possibility gives meaning to one’s life and power to one’s being-in-the-world.  As such it does more than provide one with a reason to get up in the morning.  It provides one the access to transcend one’s psychology and push the limits of one’s biology as and when this is necessary.  It calls forth one to be unreasonable when unreasonable is what it takes.  In short, it the access to living a life that shows up as fulfilling.  A life worth living.

Why do I write this blog as opposed to put my feet up, watch a move, hang out in a bar?  Because I invented a possibility. What possibility?  The possibility of playing BIG, living an ‘extraordinary’ life, of being a source of contribution to a ‘world that works, none excluded’.  How about you?  What possibility leaves you moved-touched-inspired to be and create that which does not exist today?  What possibility are you up for inventing/living this year?

Please note, that all acts of leadership start with inventing a possibility that leaves one moved-touched-inspired to disclose and create that which does not exist today.

Finding the inner seed: getting back to “I Am”


Who am I?  This is the fundamental question.  This the most important question that I can grapple with and get clear on.  Few of us have a powerful answer to this question. Almost all of us are trapped in delusions – delusions that imprison/constrain us in some way.  I call these ‘prison bars of our being/showing up in the world for ourselves and others’.

How do you and I build these prison bars?  Whenever you/I add anything to “I am”.  For example, I am a woman.  I am a middle class. I am extroverted. I am a manager.  I am unattractive.  I am respectable.  I am intelligent. I am reliable.  I am honest.  I am a good friend.  I am a poor mother/daughter/wife…….  Truth be told, you/I are not the ones that add all of this stuff to “I am”. No, it is done by our parents, our sibling, our relatives, our teachers, our neighbours, the media ……….. It is that without knowing any better we think that the game of life is adding stuff to “I am” and so we get busy adding stuff until the prison bars are complete and we have lost our freedom to be and instead have a fixed identity.

Does it have to be that way?  Can you/I regain our freedom?  Can you and I let go of all that we/others have added to “I am” and get back to “I am” and rejoice such that it our experience shows up for us as “I am!”?  Allow me to share with you one of the most moving passages that I have ever come across:

“I remember walking that day under the elevated tracks in a slum area, feeling the thought, “I am an illegitimate child.” I recall the sweat pouring forth in my anguish in trying to accept the fact. Then I understood what it must feel like to accept, “I am a Negro in the midst of privileged whites,” or “I am blind in the midst of people who see.” Later on that night I woke up and it came to me this way, “I accept the fact that I am an illegitimate child.” But “I am not a child anymore.” So it is, “I am illegitimate.” That is not so either: “I was born illegitimate.” Then what is left? What is left is this, “I Am.” This act of contact and acceptance with “I am,” once gotten hold of, gave me (what I think was for me the first time) the experience “Since I Am, I have a right to be.”

What is this experience like? It is a primary feeling – it feels like receiving the deeds to my house. It is the experience of my own aliveness not caring whether it turns out to be an ion or just a wave. It is like when as a very young child I once reached the core of a peach and cracked the pit, not knowing what I would find and then feeling the wonder of finding the inner seed, good to eat in its bitter sweetness…. It is like a sailboat in the harbour being given an anchor so that, being made out of earthly things, it can by means of its anchor get in touch again with the earth, the ground from which its wood grew, it can lift its anchor to sail but always at times it can cast its anchor to weather the storm or rest a little….. It is my saying to Descartes, “I Am, therefore I think, I feel, I do.”

It is like an axiom of geometry – never experiencing it would be like going through a geometry course not knowing the first axiom. It is like going to my own Garden of Eden where I am beyond good and evil and all other human concepts. It is like the experience of poets of the intuitive world, the mystics, except that instead of the pure feeling of and union with God it is the finding of and the union of my being. It is like owning Cinderella’s shoe and looking all over the world for the foot that will fit and realising all of a sudden that one’s own foot is the only one it will fit.  It is a “Matter of Fact” in the etymological sense of the expression. It is like a globe before the mountains and oceans and continents have been drawn on it. It is like a child in grammar finding the subject of the verb in a sentence – in this case the subject being one’s own life span.  It is ceasing to feel like a theory toward one’s self…..”