What Does Ralph Waldo Emerson Say On Playing Big?


A little while ago I read Robyn Davidson’s book, Tracks. If you haven’t read it and enjoy reading about real people -about the human spirit and it’s thirst for something beyond the know and the accepted – then I encourage you to read it.  Please don’t play small and settle for watching the movie – the movie is such a shallow version of the book.

Today, I came across a passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson which is in line with the 1700 mile journey Robyn Davidson took across Australia – against all advice – just because the journey was calling her. I share this passage with you in the possibility that it will inspire you and me to play BIG (bolding mine):

“You will hear everyday the maxims of low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. “What is the Truth you seek? What is this Beauty?” men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God has called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, “As others do, so will I. I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season;” – then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand men”

-Emerson, 1838

I thank you for your listening. And I wish you the very best – I hope you will listen and respond to that which calls forth the best, the bigness, in you.  Until the next time..

Insights Into Human Nature & The Human Condition


I want to continue, flesh out, and give some concreteness to that which I shared in this  post: What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?  What better way to do that than share the insights of ‘sensitive’ human being (Ted Simon) who spent four years travelling around the world on a motorbike in order to come face to face with life, and experience-feel all that goes with being truly alive:

The concept of the Self seemed to connect with my own thought …. of being made of the stuff of the universe, all pervading and imperishable.  The Truth was in the stuff itself, revealed in the natural order of things.You have only to merge with the world to know the Truth and find your Self. 

There are shapes and forms which arise out of the natural order. Trees, caves and animal architecture lead naturally to thatched roofs, stone houses and mud walls. If you knew this you would not choose to put up a roof in corrugated iron. Nor would you think of throwing a plastic bag in a stream, not because of what you have been told about pollution, but because the idea of a plastic bag is offensive in itself. Without this sense of what is naturally fitting you can be cleaning up the world with one hand and spreading poison with the other.

It surprised me to discover that this sense of rightness does not appear naturally in people, even though they live in the heart of nature. In my own village in France the same people who fished the stream shoved every possible kind of refuse and sewerage into them, even when offered a convenient alternative. In Nepal, where not a single engine or power line disturbs the mediaeval rusticity of the Himalayan valleys, people shit in the rivers with a dogmatic persistence ensuring that every village is infected by what the people upstream have got.

The Truth obviously does not reveal itself unaided to humans. It has to be uncovered by an effort of consciousness. Or, more likely, it exists only in human consciousness. Without man to recognise it, there is no Truth, no God.

Yet it is not consciousness that governs the world, nor even ideology, nor religious principle nor national temperament. It is custom that rules the roost. In Colombia it was custom to do murder and violence. In a period of ten years some 200,000 people were said to have been killed by acts of more or less private violence. Yet I found the Colombians at least as hospitable, honourable and humane, as the Argentines, whose custom is merely to chat. Arabs have the custom of showing their emotions and hiding their women. In Sudan it is customary to be honest. In Thailand dishonesty is virtually a custom, but so is giving gifts to strangers. 

Every possible variation of nudity and prudishness is the custom somewhere as with eating habits, toilet practices, to spit or not to spit; and almost all of these customs have become entirely arbitrary and self-perpetuating. Above all it is customary to suspect and despise people in the next valley, or state, or country, especially if their colour or religion is different. And there are places where it is customary to be at war, like Kurdistan or Vietnam.

Speaking of the more vicious customs, and of men who should have known better, St Francis Xavier  said a long time ago: ‘Custom is to them in the place of law, and what they see done before them every day they persuade themselves may be done without sin. For customs bad in themselves seem to these men to acquire authority and prescription from the fact they are commonly practiced.’

Custom is the enemy of awareness, in individuals as much as in societies. It regularises the fears and cravings of everyday life. I wanted to shake them off. I wanted to use this journey to see things whole and clear, for I would never pass this way again. I wanted to be rid of the conditioning of habit and custom. To be the slave of custom, at any level, is much like being  a monkey, an ‘ape of the wayward senses’. To rise above it is already something like becoming a god.

Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

David Foster Wallace: The Powerful Truth of Human Life?


One of the most insightful talks on the human condition is a speech “This is Water” given by David Foster Wallace in 2005.  Having read and listened to it, it occurs to me that David Foster Wallace got life in a way that few of us do.  And as such I share this short video of his talk with you.

 

Here is an adaptation of the speech that he gave courtesy of Shane Parrish:

A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here’s one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it’s so socially repulsive, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real — you get the idea. But please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to preach to you about compassion or other-directedness or the so-called “virtues.” This is not a matter of virtue — it’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.

People who can adjust their natural default-setting this way are often described as being “well adjusted,” which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphal academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default-setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about college education, at least in my own case, is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract arguments inside my head instead of simply paying attention to what’s going on right in front of me. Paying attention to what’s going on inside me. As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliché about “teaching you how to think” is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: “Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.

That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. So let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in, day out” really means. There happen to be whole large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired, and you’re stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home — you haven’t had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job — and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the workday, and the traffic’s very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store’s hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can’t just get in and quickly out: You have to wander all over the huge, overlit store’s crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day-rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can’t take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register.

Anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your check or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn’t fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etcetera, etcetera.

The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default-setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I’ve worked really hard all day and I’m starved and tired and I can’t even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid g-d- people.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious form of my default-setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic jam being angry and disgusted at all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers, who are usually talking on cell phones as they cut people off in order to get just twenty stupid feet ahead in a traffic jam, and I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and disgusting we all are, and how it all just sucks, and so on and so forth…

Look, if I choose to think this way, fine, lots of us do — except that thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic it doesn’t have to be a choice. Thinking this way is my natural default-setting. It’s the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities. The thing is that there are obviously different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stuck and idling in my way: It’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past and now find driving so traumatic that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive; or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to rush to the hospital, and he’s in a way bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am — it is actually I who am in his way. Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have much harder, more tedious or painful lives than I do, overall.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you’re “supposed to” think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it, because it’s hard, it takes will and mental effort, and if you’re like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat-out won’t want to. But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-lady who just screamed at her little child in the checkout line — maybe she’s not usually like this; maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who’s dying of bone cancer, or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the Motor Vehicles Dept. who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a nightmarish red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible — it just depends on what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important — if you want to operate on your default-setting — then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren’t pointless and annoying. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars — compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship…

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.

“You are absolutely correct!”


We go about living as if life is simple.  We assume that life is black and white. We assume that reality and truth is one dimensional, and not multi-dimensional.  We assume that we can access ultimate reality and truth.  We asume that the way that we see it and speak it, is that way that it is. And we are oblivious to these assumptions.  As such, we show up in the world and operate from these assumptions.  In doing so we generate conflict, we fracture relationships, and we hinder our ability to be effective in the world as it is.

Is there an alternative?  Yes, there is and it starts with getting a profound truth about our existence in this world.  It is the kind of truth that is pointed out in the following parable:

The Mulla Nasruddin [a wise fool in sufi teaching stories] was sitting court one day.  A husband and wife came to the court to settle the matter of who should be in charge of their son’s education. The wife argued that she should be given sole custody, giving many fine reasons to support her view.  Mulla Nasruddin said, “You are absolutely correct!” Then the husband spoke to defend his position.  In response, Mulla Nasruddin exclaimed, “You are absolutely correct!”. Immediately, a cleric in the back of the court stood up and cried out, “Nasruddin, they both can’t be right!”  To which Mulla Nasruddin replied, “You are absolutely correct!”

Is it possible that each and everyone of us has some access to truth?  Is it possible that there is some truth in everything?  Is it possible that despite our best efforts all we can ever arrive at is some approximation to truth?  And what would be possible if each and everyone of us showed up in the world being present to and living these questions?

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’?

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. 


Are you ready to face the scariest truth of all? You matter


Intentionally blind to the truth of our existence?

I am blind to something and if you are like me then you are likely to be blind to something.  Why am I blind to this particular truth?  Because, to get present to this truth leaves me no excuses.  When I, you, we get present to this truth there are no escape routes.  I, you, we become responsible for a ‘world that does not work’ and then the usual avenues of excuses and complaining are closed to us.   For most of us that burden is so heavy to bear that we go about absolutely convinced of the opposite of what is so.  Before I share this truth with myself and with you let me share with you what is so in the taken for granted, ordinary, mode of being.

The ordinary mode of existence: I am puny, I do not matter, I am not responsible

In our day to day existence we tell ourselves that we do not make a difference.  That’s right we feel small, we occurs to ourselves as being insignificant in comparison to the powers that matter, that shape the world.  We are puny in comparison to; the nation states; the institutions of the nation state including government, judiciary, the police; the global corporations that often wield more power than many nation states; and the media which decides that which gets attention and what gets ignored.

Take a look at the picture.  Do you not see yourselves as one of those small dots – one amongst an ocean of small dots surrounded by, subservient to the powers that be?  And do you not just give up – go with the flow, accepted practice, doing you best to fit into the way that the world is.  If you have more gumption, more intelligence, you may make the effort to carve out a place for yourself in the world where you can simple be – rather like a hermit or a warlord, depending on your disposition.

Seeing ourselves so puny do we (you and I) not comfort ourselves with the notion that we ‘victims’ of the way that the world is?  Do we not say that the way it is has nothing to do with us?  Do we not escape any and all responsibility to do with the way that it is and the way it is not?  And as such we can comfort ourselves saying the world may be ‘bad’ but we are ‘good’?

A funny thing happened in the office recently

I turned up at the office recently and talking with a member of leadership team I was confronted with what is so and I do not wish to face. What exactly am I talking about?  I was told that my presence in the office was missed!  He was telling me that it matters (to him, to the leadership team, to the company) whether I am present in and work out of the office.  My automatic reaction?  What are you talking about?  I don’t matter to you, to the leadership team, to the company!  I do matter to my clients and I take care of my clients – I make sure that I take care of my clients.

Then it hit me.  How many times have I been told that I matter?  How many people have told me that I matter?  How many people have told me that I have changed their lives simply by being me and doing what I naturally do? What is my response – what goes on in my mind?  Sometimes I discount what I am told, other times I am simply embarrassed and most of the time it is both.  My reaction? “You cannot be talking about me.  I am ordinary.  I make no difference.  You are just being nice.  No, you cannot be serious, I’m just an ordinary fellow getting through life as best as I can.”  Outwardly, I simply say “Thank you”.  The conversation finishes, I am glad it is over and so I can forget about it.

‘Extra-ordinary’ living:  I matter and I take the stand that I am responsible for EVERYTHING as it is and as it is not

I matter, you matter, they matter, we matter!  Through our speaking and our acting – including that which we do not speak of and that which we do not do – we influence, shape and create the world we live in.  Why is that?  Because, our existence is like a wave that ripples and touches many others.  We are waving all the time and so we are touching others all the time Contrary, to our beliefs and our cultural worldview, we are NOT particles.  No, we are waves: we are constantly touching others and being touched by others; we influence others and they influence us – all the time.  This influence extends to our death – we touch others through our dying.  And even beyond the grave we touch others with the legacy that we have left – either through action or inaction.   Allow me to share a quote with you:

“We cannot be deceived.  Men can and do destroy the humanity of other men, and the condition of this possibility is that we are interdependent.  We are not self contained monads producing no effects on each other except our reflections.  We are both acted upon, changed for good or ill, by other men; and we are agents who act upon others to affect them in different ways.  Each of us is the other to the other.  Man is a patient-agent, agent-patient, interexperiencing and interacting with his fellows.”  RD Laing, The Politics of Experience

It matters:

  • whether I work here at home, with my clients at their offices or at the offices of the company I work for;
  • whether I look my fellow human beings in their eyes and smile;
  • whether I choose to let one of my fellow human beings cut into the main road from a side road given that I have the priority;
  • whether I cycle to work or drive a gas guzzling car to work;
  • whether I help the old man in the start that has fallen over and is lying on the pavement;
  • whether and how I speak to you when we encounter each other in the office;
  • where and how I spend my money..

EVERYTHING I, you, we speak or do not speak matters;  EVERYTHING I, you, we do or do not do matters; EVERYTHING we focus or do not focus our time-money-effort on matters.  I, you, we matter, ALL THE TIME.  That is simply what goes with existing – being a part of the pattern called life.

EVERY action or inaction, no matter how small matters: we live in a non-linear world where small changes can have a huge impact.   The ‘Butterfly’ principle shows that in the world as it is EVERYTHING is interconnected, interdependent AND a miniscule change, action, like a butterfly flapping its wings can change the weather half way across this planet. 

Now more than ever I, you, we are enormously important and powerful.  It is easier than ever for each SINGLE one of us to change the world. The internet, mobile telephony and social media allow us to come together and effect change in the world. 

Two great examples of the impact we can make if we choose to make it

The first is our fellow human beings, in Brazil, putting their humanity into action and saving 30 stranded, in pain, dying dolphins.   Their actions matter – notice that it started with one person moving from the beach into the sea and this set the cue for others to follow, to join in.  And that video has been viewed over 2 million times.

People in Brazil save 30 beached dolphins:

The second video is part of the most talked about social campaign in existence today.  It has been viewed over 69 million times and as a result Joseph Kony is now a well known name.

Kony2012:

Final question: am I, are you willing to give up the delusion and live as ‘gods’ and shoulder the responsibility that comes with that?

I matter, you matter, they matter, we matter – that is simply what is so and it is even more so now, today, than any other time in our history.  Our delusion is that we think, we believe and we go about our living from the context that “I am insignificant, I am puny, I do not matter.  So I can do whatever I want as it has no impact on anyone else.”  We do not leave it there.  We add a fool’s errand on top of this delusion, actually it is only possible if this delusion is there as the foundation.  What is this fool’s errand?

Fools errand: being deluded that I am puny, I am in signficant, I do not matter, I set about doing all manner of stuff to prove to myself, to you, to my work colleagues, to the world that I do matter.  Hey look I matter, I am important, I am significant.  Look at my job title.  Look at my big, new house.  Look at my latest, expensive car.  Look at my clothes.  Let me tell you where I went on holiday this year……

I can give up the fool’s errand and so can you.  You and I can face up to the scariest (and most powerful) truth of all: you matter, I matter, we matter all the time.  Everything that we do or do not do has an impact (especially now in the days of the internet and social media) and because of that you and I are 100% responsible for EVERYTHING that is so and is not so in this world.   What an awesome responsibility that is.  What an awesome opportunity that is.  What an awesome context to operate from!  And this context provides the access to live a transformed life.