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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summing up:

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

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

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

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

 

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

What Does It Take For Me To Understand You?


Let’s explore understanding. Let’s make this specific and explore what it takes for me to understand you.

The default: I understand you conceptually and instrumentally

It occurs to me that the default way of understanding is cognitive-conceptual-detached. Put more plainly, it is head stuff.  This is the kind of understanding that I am after when I ask, “Why did you do that?” This is the kind of understanding that leaves me feeling safe-satisfied when I have placed you into an existing category. A great example of this is Myers-Briggs typologies. This is the kind of understanding that shows up when I stand facing you, observing you. You and I are distant standing in different places. It is akin to the understanding that the scientist generates in the laboratory: the observer and the observed.

Having gone about understanding you in this manner, in what sense have I understood you?  Perhaps, a more insightful-pentrating question is this one, have I understood you at all? I assert that I have not understood you.  Now this would not be an issue (in the workability of my life, your life, our relationship) if I got (and you got) that this default mode of understanding you, leaves me not understanding you.  Yet, in life as lived, it does show up as an issue because I do NOT get that I can never understand you if I use this default mode of understanding you.

At best I understand you instrumentally.  Which is to say that I understand you like understanding a car – good enough to drive it. Understanding you instrumentally allows me to get along with you. And make use of you.

What does it take for me to really understand you?

Does understanding you require me to ‘walk in your shoes’? No, because I am not you and you are not me. Even if I walk in your shoes it is highly unlikely that that the world will show up for me as it shows up for you, and that I will experience that which you experience.

I say that it takes a certain kind of context for me to understand you.  What kind of context?  A context where you feel safe opening up and sharing yourself with me.  How do I generate that context? By showing up and relating-listening to you as a fellow human being who is whole-complete-perfect. It occurs to me that Carl Rogers called this ‘unconditional positive regard‘.  Whilst this is necessary, it is not enough.  Generous listening, deep curiosity, sufficient time, and patience are also required.

What kind of questions open up a space for me to understand you?  

It occurs to me that the following questions are pointers towards the right kind of questions:

  • How does this person-event-situation-world show up for you?  And how would you like it to show up for you?
  • How do you show up for yourself? And how would you like to show up for yourself?
  • What exactly is your experience (bodily sensations, moods, feelings, thoughts …..) of your life, your living? And what would you like your experience to be?
  • What kind of a future are you living into? How does the future show up for you?
  • What kind of future would you like to be living into?  What will it take for you to generate this future?
  • What are your dreams? What would you take on if money was no object, if you had absolute confidence in yourself?  Who would travel this path, take on this challenge with you?
  • What are you struggling with right now? How are you experiencing this struggle? Who is helping you face these struggles?
  • Which events-activities-persons in your life leave you most satisfied-fulfilled?
  • What message would you like your living to speak?
  • What legacy would you like to leave? For who?
  • What/who are you grateful for?

And finally

In being present to these questions, I get, vividly-experientially, that I do NOT understand you.  Being thus present, not deluded, I can choose to walk the path of genuine understanding or not.

So what does it take for me to understand you?  It takes genuine caring. It takes genuine-deep curiosity. It takes time and it takes effort. It takes giving me the notion that I already understand you. It takes giving me the notion that you are a static object – once understood, always understood. It takes a certain kind of generosity of being.

Why should I make the effort to generate this kind of understanding?  Connection. The access to genuine connection to you, is through this latter type of understanding.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The power of shifting the conversation from who is wrong to what went wrong


I dedicate this post to my wife who is the source of this insight, this conversation.

The default: one party is good/right, the other party is bad/wrong

When conversations, actions, events and relationships don’t work out as we want or expect them to work out what happens?  Look carefully and you will find that the default is that we look to figure out who is wrong.  And from there we go and label some person/group as bad/wrong and another person/group as good/right.  If we are one of the parties to the upset/conflict then we end up declaring ourselves as good/right and the other person as bad/wrong.

Even as an observer, if you listen to one of the parties to the conflict sharing his story, his take on the situation, the temptation and the default way of being is to want to work out who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad. Even as an observer we get drawn into and cannot resist taking sides.  And in taking sides we validate one person and invalidate the other – usually without even hearing the others side of the story.

How does this default way of being/showing up in the world tend to work out?  My experience is that it does not tend to work out.  Taking sides  – labelling one person ‘good’ / ‘right’ and the other ‘bad’ / ‘wrong’ just perpetuates the myth: some people are ‘good’ and some people are ‘bad’. And it keeps us stuck in the existing context which says that ‘bad’ results are the result of ‘bad ‘people.

Creating an ‘extraordinary’ context for dealing with that which shows up and which does not please us

Leaving aside evil people and I am clear there are evil people – they tend to be labelled psychopaths – is there value in operating from a context of whole-complete-perfect?  What do I mean?  What would become available if we acted as if each person is whole-complete-perfect?  Put differently, what would become available if you/I operated from a context that each person is doing what shows up for him/her as reasonable, as good, as right?

What my wife and I have noticed is that if we operate from this context then we have a powerful way to deal with the upsets and conflicts that show up in our lives as we go about in the world.  How exactly?

Operating from a context of each person is being rational/reasonable given how the world show up for him/her we can ask the question that is almost never asked:  how is it that two (or more) reasonable people ended up creating this undesirable situation/outcome?  Put differently, we focus on the question of what went wrong and not who is wrong.

What we have found is that when we relate to people as whole-complete-perfect and focus on what went wrong we get powerful insights that enable us to:

  • deal effectively with what went wrong;
  • figure out how exactly (step by step) it ended up working out the way that it worked out;
  • generate insight and affinity with the people who are involved in the events unfolding as they have unfolded; and
  • prevent the reoccurrence of that which occurred and left all parties unhappy, resentful, frustrated, angry and even violent.

Summing up

If you want to be powerful in the way that you show up in the world for yourself and for the people with/around you then:

  • shift the context from ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people to everyone is ‘whole-complete-perfect’; AND
  • shift the conversation from who is wrong to what went wrong – how is it that events turned out this way given the good intentions of all parties.

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


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

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

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

It does not work out as planned

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

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

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

The automatic machinery of being human kicks-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life had showed up whole-complete-perfect!

On the distinction between ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’. And why it matters


Taking a fresh look at helping

Is it possible that in helping you I am, underneath it all and hidden from view, fanning the flames of my ego?  Put differently, is my helping there to bolster my sense of self-worth, to display that I am better/stronger/knowledgeable… than you?  Is it possible that in the game of helping you are there for me as opposed to me being there for you?

Is it possible that when I reach out to help it is to sooth/extinguish my own pain – the pain that I experience when I am present to you experiencing pain? Neuroscientists claim that ‘mirror neurons’ dwell within us / are an essential part of us.  And when I see/hear your pain the same pain shows up in my world, I experience it. It is by experiencing this pain that I act.  Put differently, where the mirror neuron circuitry is impaired people do not show empathy, they do not act.

Is it possible that when I help you I am not being helpful to you?  Put differently, is it possible that when I read for you I get in the way of you learning to read and reading for yourself?  Is it possible that when I cook for you I get in the way of you learning to cook and cooking for yourself?  Is it possible that when you fall and I lift you up I am getting in the way of you getting up yourself by yourself and getting present to being capable of lifting yourself of the floor?  Is it possible that when I supply you with food handouts I am getting in the way of you learning and taking responsibility for growing/coming up with your own food?

‘Helping’ and ‘being helpful’ – two different beasts?

It occurs to me ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’ are two very different beasts yet in the way we carry ourselves we collapse them into the one and the same.  It occurs to me that when we are ‘helping’ it is most likely that we are not ‘being helpful’.  And that by confusing ‘helping’ with ‘being helpful’ we are doing harm to our fellow human beings.  How?

By sharing, by telling, by advising we are ‘pushing’ our views on to our fellow human beings and thus robbing them of their responsibility and their freedom. What responsibility?  The responsibility to search for/come up with their own views.  By doing stuff for others we are robbing them of their responsibility for doing the work.  By making the choices for others we are not only robbing them of their freedom (to make their own choices and live with these choices) we are robbing them of their responsibility for making choices.  I hope you get the idea.

What is the critical difference between ‘helping’ and ‘being helpful’? 

When I am ‘helping’ you then I am the lead actor, I cast myself in the most powerful role, it is about what I am doing to you/for you, I am the active force acting and you are the passive one simply receiving that which I am handing out.

Helping requires little thought, reflection, intentionality – it is easier, it is quicker, it does not require you and I to work in partnership, to cultivate strong bonds. I am the parent, you are the child, I lead you follow, I dictate you obey…… I say ‘being helpful’  is totally different ‘game’ – one that is rare simply because most of us collapse ‘being helpful’ with ‘helping’.  Put differently, our automatic way of being is such that it occurs to as that ‘helping’ is by definition ‘helpful’.   And because ‘being helpful’ really takes something (hard work, sacrifice) as opposed to ‘helping’ which is rather easy in comparison.  

What constitutes ‘being helpful’?

‘Being helpful’ requires that I let go of my ego, that I do not rush to act.  ‘Being helpful’ requires that I stand in the place that I see/act towards you as a person who is whole-complete-perfect, a human being who has all that life demands of him/her.  ‘Being helpful’ requires that I never encroach on your responsibility for your life.  ‘Being helpful’ demands that instead of taking away your freedom, I confront you with your freedom: to invent possibilities for your life, to take a stand in life, to make your choices, to walk the path you have chosen for yourself.   That I act to increase your capacity to be responsible and to exercise your freedom.  And importantly, that I act to increase your capacity to act powerfully on yourself and your circumstances.  Once this context is in place and I act from this context then any help that I provide will show up as contributing to the game of ‘being helpful’.

Imagine that you are confronted with a poor person.  Giving that person money is ‘helping’.  Buying that poor person food, clothes… is helping.  Now asking yourself what would constitute ‘being helpful’ to this poor person?  I say you are ‘being helpful’ when you ask and enter deeply into the following questions:

“What would enable this person to help himself, to lift himself out of poverty?”  Another way of thinking about this is to ask yourself the question “What is getting in the way of this person not being poor, being OK, being prosperous?”  A great place to start is with the person himself and the story that he has created (about himself, his circumstances) and lives from/into.  Then take a look at the circumstances of his life and the environment in which he is embedded.

“How do I ensure that at all times this person gets that s/he is whole-complete-perfect and gets s/he is in the driving seat?”  That s/he gets that s/he does not need fixing –  s/he is all that it takes to deal with/transcend her circumstances.  Notice: I deliberately wrote is and not has.  That s/he is confronted with the responsibility with lifting himself out of his poverty.  That it is s/he who chooses if s/he wishes to lift herself out of poverty – to make fresh choices, to walk a different path, to do the work that goes with walking this new path

“How do I ensure that I keep my ego out of the picture?  And if it is in the picture what can I do to ensure that it contributes to the game of ‘being helpful’ rather than undermining it?”  Just being present to this question, being mindful of it on a daily basis, keeping it existence is often enough to ensure that I show up as ‘being helpful’ as opposed to indulging in ‘helping’.

“What is missing the presence of which would make a significant difference?” Here I am talking about resources.  For many it is simply belief in themselves as whole-complete-perfect.  You and I can supply that much needed resource by relating to these people as whole-complete-perfect and not acting in any way to undermine this.  For example, in a Montessori School if a student goes and asks a question then the teacher, if she is embodying Montessori principles, will ask the student what he things the answer to the question is.  If the student says he doesn’t know then the teacher is likely to ask the student where/how we can find out for himself and encourage him to do so.  It may be that the resource that is missing is money to buy equipment to start a small business.  This is what Kiva does – enable people to lift themselves out of poverty by tapping into microloans.  It may be that the resource that is missing is simply education: “please teach me to catch fish so that I am able to catch fish by myself for the rest of my life. And teach others to catch fish!”  I hope you get the idea.

Warning

‘Being helpful’ requires a certain kind of play and generates certain kinds of results.  ‘Helping’ requires a different kind of play and generated different kinds of results.   I am not making the assertion that one is better than another.  Nor am I making the claim that one is good and the other bad.  I am definitely not telling you what do do not even under the guise of ‘helping you live better lives’.  You are responsible for your life, you are free to choose how you live your life. I am simply making it clear that ‘helping’ and  ‘being helpful’ are distinct and should not be collapsed.  That we should not kid ourselves that when we are ‘helping’ that we are by definition ‘being helpful’.  And that when we ‘help’ others we can actually be undermining them and thus not ‘being helpful’ to them.

Finally and importantly, I am not saying that you and I should not ‘help’.  If a young child falls into a fire I will take that child out immediately.  I will not wait to figure out how I can ‘be helpful’ to this young child.   If I come across a starving person I will ‘help’ that person by feeding him. And then I might just choose to play the game of ‘being helpful’.

And Finally

It really takes something to listen to my speaking.  I deliberately make it so – my commitment is to ‘be helpful’ and not simply ‘help”.  If you are listening to my speaking then I thank you. And in particular I thank the 30+ of you who subscribe to this blog.  Without you there would be no value in my speaking.  So once again I thank you for you listening.

 

 

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


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

Let’s set the ground for this conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want access to freedom?

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

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

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

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

Summing up

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

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

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

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

Sin revisited


Christian doctrine of ‘original sin

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

The Kite Runner: Baba’s view of sin

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

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

A powerful way of looking at sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the ‘good’ news?

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

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

A powerful access ‘extraordinary living’: whole, complete and perfect


Before I share with you a powerful access to ‘extraordinary’ living  I want to share with you what is so about ordinary living: the point of view that keeps is embedded in ordinary living and the price we pay.

Ordinary living: I am flawed, you are flawed

Dig into your experience, dive deep, and you will find that the culture tells you that you should be whole, complete, perfect.  Yes, you should!  Yet, the message that you (and I) have been getting from our parents, our school teachers, our colleagues, our media, our places of work, even our religions is that we are not whole, we are incomplete and we are imperfect.  Christianity is the dominant religion in the Western world and what does it say?  You are born a sinner and you have to seek redemption!  That is exactly what most of us buy into and do yet we fail to find that redemption because we are no a fool’s errand, we have a mistaken view of us, of life (more later in the post).

When you look at yourself, relate to yourself, experience yourself, you (and I) see ourself as something like this:

What is the price that I pay, you pay, he pays, she pays?  What is to like to know/feel/experience being not whole, not complete, imperfect when the culture around you spins the myth of perfection?  I know what that is like. You know what that is like!  He knows what it is like and she know what it is like.  We keep that shame of imperfection hidden.  We strive and strive and strive to be complete, to be perfect, to be whole.  Yet, the way that we go about is guaranteed to keep us rooted to being incomplete, broken, faulty, worthless, inferior, imperfect.  If you sense of wholeness / perfection is tied to your partner then what happens when your partner becomes unhappy with you, starts an affair, or leaves you?  If your sense of wholeness / perfection is tied to your job then what happens when you lose your job?  If it is tied to your wealth then what happens when you lose your wealth or are in danger of losing it?

The price that we pay is the cost of wearing a mask.  We can never put ourselves in the world as we are – we give up self-expression.  We can never build genuine human bonds – the cost is genuine relatedness with our fellow human beings.  We can never relax into the world – the cost is shows up as alcoholism, drug taking, stress, disease and an early death.  Right?

Access to ‘extraordinary’ living: “I am whole, complete, perfect – just as I am and I am not.  You are whole, complete, perfect – just as you are and just as you are not”

Look into Buddhism and you get a central insight into the human condition: we cause our suffering by living from/into an incorrect/false view of ourselves and the world.  The false view is that I, you, he, she, they, we are broken, incomplete, imperfect!

The correct, the right, view is that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am and just as I am not.  There is nothing to add and nothing to take away!  And that applies to everyone of us.  Sound philosophical to you?  It is.  Let me make it more concrete to you – take a look at the diagram below:

Do you see it?  Do you see / get the beauty of what is so?   Look at the diagram again.  If you look at each shape in isolation you can easily say that it is incomplete, imperfect, something missing – none of the shape are a square or a circle!  Now look at the picture as a whole – how the shapes connect to make a beautiful figure.   And the figure is never completed!  No matter how big it grows the design allows more and more piece to connect.  The design of the design is connection!  You only get this when you stop looking at one individual piece and start looking at the whole show.  Sound abstract?  Think about an orchestra – you can zoom into only one member of the orchestra or you can use a wide angle lens and see the whole orchestra.  Both are there!  Each individual member of the orchestra and the orchestra itself. 

Here is the truth of our design, of our situation, our existence on this planet:  we are social beings: you, me, they, we, have been designed for connection – we are perfectly designed for connection.  We have whole, complete and perfect for connecting with our fellow human beings.  Think about language and the connection it enables: I see you, you matter, you make a difference, your existence matters to me, you contribute, I love you.  Neuroscience tells us that we have mirror neurons:  I see you crying and seeing you crying, my mirror neurons enable me to feel/get your experience and thus I have the access to connect with you.

Look around you, look around you, wherever you want in the world.  What do you see?  People live with one another, people live next to one another, people work together, people trade with another.  Now think about this, you are invited to party you are told how amazing it will be – the food, the drinks, the place (say Hawaii or whatever your favourite place), the music will be just so, exactly they way you want it.  Can you imagine yourself at this party?  How delightful does it feel?  There is catch to this party.  No other human being will be present. The drinks and the food will be served by robots.  The dj taking care of the music will also be a robot.  How excited are you now?  Are you going to that party? No, right?  That is the truth of our being, our design, that we do not see and we are not encouraged to see.  Hell for us is solitary confinement: have you ever wondered why this is the harshest punishment meted out in prison?  Because the prison guards gets what is so – the truth of our design as human beings.  People matter to us. People contribute to us.  We are only human when we are connected to, contributing to, one another.

A movie recommendation: The Way

Are you up to getting present to what I am speaking about?  I recommend that you watch “The Way”: Michael Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to France to collect the remains of his dead son, killed in the Pyrenees while walking The Camino de Santiago.  Driven by profound sadness, and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on this historical pilgrimage.  Tom navigates this 800km journey and soon meets others around the world, all looking for greater meaning in their lives.   This is a moving, inspiring movie that provides a powerful access to the human condition and our greatness.

And Finally

If you are still wondering about your greatness then let me repeat:  our greatness is that we are whole, complete and perfectly designed for reaching out, connecting, uplifting, healing, completing one another and generating a beautiful pattern called life on Earth.  I leave you with this picture to ponder – it is visual metaphor for our lives:

I thank you for your listening.   The context from which I am living my life is “I matter, you matter, they matter, we matter, let’s live extraordinary lives and co-create a world that works, none excluded”.  Are you up for joining me?  You Matter, your answer matters and shapes our world that we share!  I love you. I hope you will join me.