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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

UNWRAPPING GIFT # 2: DISCERNMENT

"Discernment: the ability to decide between truth and error,  right and wrong...Keenness of insight and judgment."

It feels like an eon since I unwrapped the first gift, Consciousness.  Perhaps Nelson Mandela's passing and the bombardment of eulogies was timed to bring us all back to consciousness.

Madiba has since been laid to rest and my focus has been with the rest of the world's on the measure of the man.  As it happens, that measure has been in no small part due to his capacity for thoughtful discernment, the second of our gifts.

The gift if discernment gives us the capacity to discern right from wrong, good from evil and truth from fiction, but always in the context of Life as it truly is (rather than we would have it and demand that it should be). Although discernment includes the making of a judgment, we judge not as we believe things should be, but rather by reference to the laws of nature and God.  

Tata Madiba risked everything,including the alienation of his own supporters, when he discerned that it was time to negotiate with the enemy.  His higher self discerned that speaking to the South African apartheid government was more important for the good of the whole than was his ego's need to draw and maintain battle lines.  He discerned that letting go of his resentment and actively pursuing reconciliation with the oppressors of the Black people was more important than getting revenge for the indignities and injustices of the past.  If ever there was someone who was entitled to feel bitter and get even, it was Nelson Mandela, but his discernment, drawing on the truth of a higher vibrational energy, created the miracle which no one believed possible.

Discernment requires us to tell the truth about Life as it is and then make choices for each next step out of a space of pure integrity, choosing not just for the small space which each of us occupies, but for the bigger space which we all occupy in the Universe.  It is big picture decision making, drawing on our highest selves and the noble virtues which we all possess.

And when we discern for the higher good, that is when we truly make a difference both in and around us.  What an incredible gift. 


Still on the subject of gifts, with Christmas approaching you might want to consider giving someone The Talking Stick: Exploring Life's Possibilities, available in hard copy from all good South Africa book stores, in Kindle form from Amazon or directly from me by clicking HERE.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

UNWRAPPING GIFT # 1: CONSCIOUSNESS (OR AWARENESS)

"Consciousness (n): Having an awareness of one's environment and one's own existence, sensations, and thoughts."

Consciousness is the first of the seven gifts on which we draw in order to live purposeful and connected lives. 

Consciousness is about bringing to total awareness all that surrounds us, every one of Life's stimuli and all of Life's messages.  It is the only way in which we can engage with the Universe at every level, including engaging with our own higher self.

There are times when we become so overwhelmed with stimuli that we start filtering stuff out.  Think about a persistent noise - say traffic - which eventually gets filtered out of our consciousness so that we no longer notice it.  So it is with many of Life's other stimuli.  We start filtering, becoming less conscious to what is.  Our consciousness and awareness is also diminished by what we put in our body.  Alcohol, fast foods, caffeine, drugs and so on are also part of the cause of our loss of consciousness, or symptomatic of it.

In this un-consciousness, we inadvertently also filter out or become numb to many of Life's opportunities and possibilities.   We eventually become unconscious to who we are, what our place is in the greater scheme of things and how we are to claim that place.  Fundamentally, by permitting ourselves to ignore or be unconscious to any of Life's messages, we are cutting ourselves off from our awareness of our highest and most noble state.  

Unconsciousness is to consciousness as sleep is to being awake and as death is to life.  The filter system may allow us to pursue certain things with intent - money, fame, indulgence, achievement, career, happiness, misery - but usually at the expense of the whole.  We might be alive to the trappings of what we are pursuing, but dead to everything else in our lives.  It is in the dead part that we miss the bigger possibilities.  Chase money, chase sex, chase happiness and we end up passing by the other stiff on offer - connection, love, integration with the world and so on.

It is incumbent on us all to awaken ourselves, bringing everything around us to consciousness and to reach for our God-state, that state of being which allows us to connect with everyone and everything around us.  Every one of has the ability to access that state.  It starts with tuning in to the world around us with every sense at our disposal.  

Consciousness is born of or at least starts with hull use of the five identifiable senses.  There is a debate about the 6th sense and what it is, but for the sake of the debate I suggest that it is what some might call intuition, and it is accessible only by full use of the other senses.   The 6th sense gives you access to you highest self - your God state.  

Where to begin on the path to full consciousness?  Start looking after yourself physically.  Then start a regular meditation practice, opening yourself to the use of all of your senses.  These simple steps will start you on the path to awakening.  What have you to lose?  This is a wonderful gift which is worth unwrapping properly.


And on the subject of gifts, with Christmas approaching you might want to consider giving someone The Talking Stick: Exploring Life's Possibilities, available in hard copy from all good South Africa book stores, in Kindle form from Amazon or directly from me by clicking HERE.

Friday, 6 December 2013

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, #MADIBA: THANK YOU, FAREWELL and G.I.P.

"Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't." (Richard Bach, Illusions).

Dear #Nelson_Mandela, 


Who knows why you lingered so long before completing your mission.  Perhaps it was allow friends, family and kinsfolk time to complete unfinished business and to contemplate the full impact of your legacy.  

#Madiba, your mission on earth is now finished.  And what a mission it was.  You came to expose injustice and teach that just and equal practices were consistent with the laws of nature and God.  You came to teach the true meaning of sacrifice: to make holy.  By your sacrifice - 27 years of incarceration and suffering - you made the ideals of freedom and equality truly holy.  You taught the true meaning of forgiveness: a refusal to hold ill will against anyone, especially South African Whites, despite all of the indignities and injustices heaped upon you and Black people.  You came to teach humility: despite your hugeness of stature, you have always remained humble and dignified.  You taught about perseverance, persistence and peace.  You taught unconditional love, beaming your own love onto all of your countrymen, regardless of skin colour, religious, or other persuasion.  You loved the children, who after all are the base on which our future stands.  The light you allowed to shine within you allowed others to experience and see their own light.  And you taught us all about the lightness of being, generosity of spirit and magnanimity.

The extent to which your lessons have been assimilated and learnt by your kinsmen remains to be seen.  For many, the leap into saintliness and Statesmanship may have been too big a gap to span, but no one can have been left untouched by your essence and what you shared during your time on earth.


So, thank you for undertaking this mission.  Not quite mission impossible, but certainly not one for the faint-hearted.  All of us in South Africa (and indeed the world) owe you a debt of gratitude.  My wish is that we repay it by taking and assimilating the lessons you shared and truly embracing the values, humanity and ideals for which you stood.


Go In Peace, Madiba.  We never met, but I shall miss you.
 Namaste.

    Wednesday, 4 December 2013

    THE SEVEN GIFTS

    During a quiet moment a couple of weeks ago the thought came to me that we each have seven gifts which, if we use them fully, can totally transform our lives.  When I listened some more, the gifts which spoke to me were:
    • Consciousness (or awareness)
    • Discernment
    • Choice
    • Forgiveness
    • Courage
    • Connection 
    • Gratitude
    We in fact have many, many gifts and resources on which we can draw.  Some of them are sub-sets of the above gifts, like love, compassion and ability to connect with Source, but the above seven are accessible to each of us and within them lies the path to meaningful and purposeful living.

    Over the next few weeks I will be unwrapping each of these gifts: what they mean and how we can use them.

    And whilst we are on the subject of gifts, with Christmas approaching you might want to consider giving someone The Talking Stick: Exploring Life's Possibilities, available in hard copy from all good South Africa book stores, in Kindle form from Amazon or directly from me by clicking HERE.

    Sunday, 1 December 2013

    LIFE: AS SIMPLE AS TELLING THE TRUTH

    What if living a complete and fulfilling life was as simple as telling the truth? Truths such as:
    • Telling the truth to ourselves and others about how life actually is, and not how we believe and demand it should be?
    • Telling the truth to each other about how we feel and what we think, with no add-ons, no drama and no agenda?
    • Sharing our most meaningful dreams, hopes and desires and what we think it will take for us to get there.
    • Sharing our deepest fears without embarrassment or withholds, so that in our vulnerability we can be open to the support and the truth telling of others.
    Amazingly, it is actually that simple.  So why do so few of us live our lives that way?

    Wednesday, 27 November 2013

    TRASH A LIFE TO GIVE YOURSELF LIFE


    In a previous posting I wrote about hunters who kill animals in order to make themselves feel more worthy.  Suppose that this principle carries through to all relationships.  When we stand in judgement of others, is that not exactly what we are doing?  Bringing the other down in order to feel better about ourselves.

    As soon as we start judging (condemning) others, we are simply drawing the life out of them in order to make our own lives seem more valuable to ourselves.  So often our self-worth is tied up in comparisons with others.  We then conclude that because they are to be judged for whatever frailties we perceive, somehow that makes us better than them.

    We all have our frailties and we are not going to improve them by pointing out those of others.  The truth is that so often what we see and judge harshly in others is in fact just a reflection of what we don't like about ourselves.  Hence, rather than giving ourselves worth and life by squeezing the life out of others, we in fact die some more within ourselves.

    Who’s life do you trash, and why?


    Saturday, 23 November 2013

    GLAD TO BE ALIVE!

    As I write this I am driving back from Johannesburg to Durban, having just taken part in one of the biggest bicycle races in the world.  I am passing through the very under-rated province of the Free State.

    All around me are vast gently sloping plains of green grass interspersed with cultivated areas.  There are not many features on this landscape:  here a windmill, there a small hill.  At the side of the road a couple of trees.  In a field, half a dozen cattle chest deep in a dam drinking their fill.  And yet in this minimalistic landscaping, every feature takes on greater significance in defining the land around it.  

    Sitting above all this is a beautiful massive blue, almost cloudless dome.  Again, the existence of two or three sparse white cloud puffs drifting around defines the enormous space above the land.

    It is the space to which I am attracted.  It offers so much possibility and opportunity for exploration that it makes me excited and grateful to be alive.  

    It is a bit like our lives:  the more we fill them with clutter and features, the less space there is to explore them.  It is the clutter of busyness, toxic relationships, worry about money and so on which clutter the creative space in our lives.  When we create space in our lives we can get excited about our possibilities.

    It is incumbent on each of us to de-clutter our lives, make space and watch our creativity and vitality bloom.


    Wednesday, 20 November 2013

    REJOICING IN THE DESTRUCTION OF LIFE

    I am not normally given to ranting, but perhaps readers will indulge me on this occasion.

    I felt disturbed and nauseated the other evening when I saw a photograph on my wife's Facebook page of a foraging elephant which had been assassinated by a hunter.  Posing next to the fallen elephant was a picture of the hunter,a woman and three children whom I took to be his family.  All were grinning from ear to ear and looking quite pleased with themselves.  Then along comes the sickening image of Melissa Bachman crouched and beaming superciliously next to an African lion she has murdered. 

    I find every cell in my body filled with revulsion and judgement.  The comments of others on the elephant photograph echoed my dismay and condemnation.  A whole Facebook page has been created and devoted to putting a stop to the likes of Melissa Bachman.  

    There is a part of me that would happily populate this post with my words of abuse, condemnation and judgment, but my sense is that that simply has the effect of stirring up other people’s outrage without canvassing the real issues.  Let me see if I can rather distill out some of the issues.

    My initial outrage is about someone – presumably a foreigner with no sense of African heritage – coming to my continent and paying money to slay the mightiest of God’s creatures.  My fury is founded in a sense of ownership that I and so many Africans have in our wildlife and our bush heritage.  It doesn't matter that I don’t physically own the elephant or the lion:  I believe that it is my right, and the right of my children and their children to see, connect with and honour what remains of our planet in its natural state.  Unless you have spent time in Africa, you cannot begin to understand the depth of feeling and reverence which Africans have toward their wildlife.  Not all Africans, granted, but for the most part, it is difficult for the bush not to get right into your bones.

    No one asked me whether it was OK for foreigners (or indeed anyone) to come and destroy some of my heritage.  No one asked for permission to destroy the rights of yet to be born grandchildren to connect with the earth.  Of course, elephants, rhinos and lions evoke more emotion and attract more attention than 'lesser' animals, but the principle remains the same:  this is our African heritage.  If Americans, Europeans, Japanese and whoever else don’t care about the planet, let them mess up their own piece of the planet, but it is not OK to mess up mine.

    And as for the hunter and his family?  And Melissa Bachman?  Well, I don’t know what those supercilious smiles are all about - pride? courage? self-importance? achievement?  What I do know, however, is that it is the easiest thing in the world to get close to an elephant.  The target is the biggest one in the world.  Provided you have the right weapon, you will bring the beast down.  Canned lion hunting is even more cowardly.  With those facts, where is the sport, where is the achievement and for what possible reason can you feel proud about the destruction of such majestic creatures?  

    Although I promised at the beginning of this post not to start bandying labels around, I am left with no other judgement but that these are acts of pure self-indulgence which amount to nothing more than the hunter's way of proving his or her own self-worth.

    If the destruction of life is the hunter’s way of proving self-worth to the world, it seems to me that he or she has many lifetimes to go.



    Friday, 15 November 2013

    STRANGULATION BY SYSTEMIC BELIEFS

    When I was growing up many years ago I was taught that Blacks were inferior beings in every way, especially intellectually.  That was the teaching of the political system on which our society was built (apartheid).  The teachings were reinforced by what I saw as a child.  Blacks were the gardeners, domestic servants, tramps, meths drinkers and marijuana smokers of our country, so that proved the belief.  And if they were truly inferior, there wasn't much point in having anything to do with them other than in a master servant context.  So, with that simple belief in place, 85% of my fellow countrymen were excluded from my life.

    I was also taught that children should be seen and not heard, that Communists were dangerous, smoking was cool, steaks would make you healthy, apartheid was sensible, if you spared the rod you spoilt the child, you were a loser if you didn't go to University, get a degree and find a steady job, people without degrees were stupid, women should stay at home and cook, look after the kids and do the housework, men were more capable of looking after themselves and their families than women, you shouldn't have sex out of wedlock and you certainly shouldn't be born out of wedlock.

    These were a few of the beliefs of the political, educational, economic and social systems in which we lived at the time.  All of them have been challenged and shown to be what they were: beliefs without foundation.  (And funnily enough I can't find anyone in South Africa now who will confess to ever having harboured any of those beliefs.)

    Anyway, the point is that once particular beliefs have been put in place by the systems, we find ourselves constrained to conform with those beliefs.  Our behaviour is then moulded by them and our creativity and ability to live life fully is suffocated out of us.

    It is incumbent on us to test every belief we have for validity, no matter how "true" it may seem in the moment.  When we act on unverified beliefs, rather than on the verifiable data which Life itself gives us, we end up excluding life as it and rather living it as we think it should be, or as others have told us it is.

    And how do we verify anything? Simply acknowledge what the actual experience is.  What is the real hard experiential data?  That is the rock on which we can build our actions. 

    Saturday, 9 November 2013

    WHAT IF YOU'RE A WORRIER AND NOT A WARRIOR?

    In a previous posting I sketched some thoughts about how a Warrior lives his/her life.  But what if you are actually a Worrier, and the life of the Warrior is eluding you?  Well, you might be a Worrier if any of the following is a fit for you:
    • You are paralysed into inaction by fear
    • You make your choices based upon your fearful or reactive thoughts
    • You run from the truth and pretend that things are not as they actually are
    • You withhold your feelings
    • You don't tell the truth, or speak of Life just as it is
    • You don't trust yourself, others or Life
    • You avoid risk and always play safe (think relationships, career...)
    • Your default motivational state is survival ("I have to ... or else ..." is your default inner dialogue)
    • Your default expectation is that things will turn out for the worst
    • You believe that Life has it in for you
    • Your default response to most situations is 'wimp'
    • You don't play Life to the full 
    If any of the above have a ring of truth for you, isn't it time to stop worrying and to start taking a Warrior-like stand for yourself in every aspect of your life?  Time to stop playing small.

    Saturday, 2 November 2013

    YOU MIGHT BE A WARRIOR...

    'Warrior' (n): One who is engaged in conflict or battle; known for skill and courage.

    You might be a Warrior if:

    • You are faced with any conflict, whether inner or outer
    • You recognize the dynamic in your life as a conflict 
    • You are committed to dealing with the conflict 
    • You are engaging with the conflict rather than ignoring it, or hoping it will go away
    • You will do what it takes to resolve the conflict, no matter how scared you might be and no matter how much pain you must endure
    • During your engagement with the conflict, you will draw only on the attributes and skills of your highest and most noble self
    • If you do not have the skills you require, you will do whatever is required to acquire those skills
    • You will not escalate the conflict 
    • In resolving the conflict, you will do no (further) harm to any other person, or to yourself
    • Your purpose for resolving the conflict will be to end the conflict, heal your own wounds and heal those of any others involved
    And you are in conflict if:
    • You are wrestling with your shadow
    • You are lost, or have little idea where you are going
    • You are disconnected with yourself, others or Life
    • You are scared or in any sort of pain
    • Your behaviour is getting in the way of you being the best you can be
    • You don't love, honour or respect yourself
    • You are out of touch with your highest and most noble self
    • You are not experiencing or feeling gratitude for everything in your life
    So, are you a Warrior?


    Saturday, 26 October 2013

    "YES, WE HAVE ETHICS - BUT WE AREN'T FANATICS..."

    "Yes, we have ethics, but we aren't fanatics."  The words of a corporate client of ours some years ago when asked if it had a Code of Ethics.  In the context of the Frankies debacle and the latest accusations against Woolworths by Euodia Roets, journalist William Sanderson-Meyer explores the integrity of Woolies' self-proclaimed ethics and values. (Reproduced with the kind permission of William Sanderson-Meyer.)

    Jaundiced Eye
    William Saunderson-Meyer
    October 26, 2013

    Woolies plunged into another Frankiestein nightmare

    For the individual, strident public assertions of one’s unassailable virtue have few consequences beyond sceptical smirks and a possible shortage of dates for Saturday night. For corporations, though, it’s more complicated.

    In a world where consumer distrust is increasingly the norm, if such self-proclaimed corporate virtue is believed genuine, it can deliver fanatical levels of customer loyalty. Think Apple, albeit the shine has diminished in recent years.

    On the other hand, if consumers begin to suspect that the supposed virtue is a sham, the disillusionment can spark a disproportionate anger at this perceived betrayal. After all, no one likes to be taken for a ride. Think Woolworths, which is being roasted for allegedly ripping off the work of a young designer, Euodia Roets.

    Woolworths, like it’s British alter ego Marks & Spencers, has built its brand around fair trade, fair dealing, supporting local small suppliers and encouraging local artisanal products. As it proclaims at every opportunity: ‘We take our values seriously. They aren't just words in an annual report; they're the foundation of our business.’

    This has paid handsome dividends, with ‘Woolies’ carving a snug place in the hearts of middle-class shoppers. But following a couple of incidents – at best managerial blunders; at worst, cynically sharp practice – Woolworths’ values are being questioned.

    Roets says Woolworths approached her to add a hummingbird design of hers to their product range. Following a protracted process during which she provided various completed fabric samples, the buyer abruptly decided not to proceed.

    Then a week ago she found Woolworths had brought out a cushion bearing what she says is her hummingbird, with some minor modifications. Woolworths rejects Roets’ version, saying that long prior to Roets, it had concluded a deal with another designer for the hummingbird image.

    This may well be true, although it seems odd, certainly unwise, to open negotiations with Roets for a hummingbird after having already signed elsewhere for another. In any case, Woolworths is seeking cover behind the letter of the law when its problem is not a legal one, but a perceptual one.

    There have been hundreds of blog postings critical of Woolworths’ ethics, with tales from other designers of similar shenanigans by retailers, including allegedly by Woolworths. Many cite another Woolworths blunder, when last year the retailer got into a protracted public battle with Frankie’s Olde Soft Drinks, a KwaZulu-Natal micro-manufacturer with a cult following.

    After years of building its brand of retro-softdrinks Frankie’s had tried to get onto Woolies’ shelves. As with Roets, after lengthy negotiations, Frankie’s was suddenly shown the door. A few months later Woolworths brought out its own nostalgia-brand that looked disconcertingly similar.

    As is the case now, Woolworths professed innocence of wrongdoing. It claimed it coincidence that a product it had rejected as ‘out of character’ with its image, was suddenly being produced under the Woolworths label in similar bottles and flavours, as well as slogan, to that of Frankie’s.

    It was only when the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that Woolworths had deliberately copied Frankie’s and ordered the retailer to remove its the look-alike products from the shelves, that Woolies backed down. Meanwhile the retailer had taken a five-month online drubbing for what was perceived to be bullying and unethical behaviour.

    Woolworths now admits that the Frankie’s incident was a ‘debacle’ for the company. Chief executive Ian Moir said at the time ‘Whilst we maintain that we have not copied … it is clear that public sentiment is against us. Customer opinion is much more important to us than the right or wrong of this issue.’ In similar vein, just a few months back, Woolies chair Simon Susman identified as key to the brand’s strength an adherence to ‘deep-seated values’, including integrity, which are ‘entrenched in the psyche of our organisation’.

    Perhaps Woolworth’s managers and buyers should follow their executives’ bold proclamations of corporate virtue more carefully. Whether out of cupidity or naiveté, they’ve again put the Woolworth’s reputation up for public interrogation.

    As for Roets, she’s made up her mind. ‘It's my belief that my designs were sent to another manufacturer and adapted. It seems the only thing that Woolworths learnt from the Frankie’s debacle was how to disguise their plagiarism,’ she writes on her website, Touchee Feelee.


    Saturday, 19 October 2013

    TWERKING, JERKING, THRUSTING AND AUTHENTICITY

    Someone else having a red-faced outburst about the behaviour of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and others, you might be thinking, having read the blog title.  Actually, no. Not so much an outburst as some musings on what drives people to behave outrageously rather than authentically.

    All three artists have wonderful voices, great musicality and, for the most part, produce some good songs.  (Not necessarily all my taste in music, but I'll give them their due nonetheless.  I din't much like Michael Jackson's music either.) 


    Having said that, I must immediately say that 'Wrecking Ball', as good a song as it may be, has been truly spoilt for me.  Every time I hear it I can't help myself from associating the song with a video of a naked waif riding a wrecking ball and simulating fellatio with a sledge-hammer.  It's hard to acknowledge Miley Cyrus' powerful voice and musical ability in the context of her overt sexploitation of her audience.  Her twerk-fest at the MTV VMA awards was likewise so far from appropriate that she lost the song on most everyone who had the misfortune to have to watch her antics.  In her misguided attempts to push up ratings and shed the good girl image, she's managed to confuse her audience about whether she's a good artist or just out to prove that she can simulate sex with the best of them.

    Rihanna's thrusting around in 'Pour It Up' takes tasteless to a new level.  Her lip synching at the recent concert in Johannesburg was simply plain fraud on the paying public.  Justin Bieber's recent run of discourtesy to his fans and showing a middle finger to the world might appeal to some, but I know of plenty of ex-fans on account of his lack of discernment and jerk behaviour.

    And yet artists like Michael Buble, Katie Melua and Barbara Streisand have apparently never felt the need to twerk, jerk or thrust in order to boost their album sales.  They just keep on showing up as their authentic, lovable selves and their fans appreciate and adore them for what they are: incredible musicians, thoroughly decent and relatively uncomplicated human beings.

    The drive to prove oneself through dramatic, undiscerning and inauthentic behavior might be intended to impress, but the cynical part of me suspects that the true purpose might be to distract the fan with sensational stuff lest the artist be found out to be a bit of a fraud, perhaps not as good as she or he wants fans to think he/she is.  Miley's thought pattern might be something like this: "I got away with it as Hannah Montana and I've got away with it so far.  But I think I'm not really that great - a bit of a fraud - so let me hedge my popularity base with something outrageous which will make them think that I'm not only a good singer, but quite cool and risqué also."

    The tragedy is that the artist, by behaving in a way which she thinks will guarantee her future audiences and pump up her album sales in fact loses a big chunk of fan base: she brings about the thing she most fears, rather than honoring herself for the incredible musical gifts she has.

    It comes down to how she esteems herself: if it is by thinking that a wrecking ball-type scene will cause people to love her more, she might as well change her career to pole dancing.  That way she can at least guarantee the type of fan who follows her.  Disappointingly, whilst her reality might be that people will love her more that way, she has forgotten to credit her audience with the gift of discernment.

    If you want to be known as a singer, or performer, or indeed anything, 
    authenticity is the way to go.  That way you're less likely to lose yourself and your message to the vagaries of your own insecurity.


    Monday, 14 October 2013

    LESSONS FROM ROWING: LETTING GO OF THE SELF

    "Where is the spiritual value of rowing?...The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of crew as a whole."  GEORGE YEOMAN POCOCK, extracted from 'THE BOYS IN THE BOAT', Daniel James Brown

    I spoke in an earlier blog about there being no room in a rowing boat for the ego.  It is simply not possible for a crew to achieve its ultimate potential for so long as any crew member fails to subsume him or herself to the greater good of the whole boat and crew.

    This is surely one of our purposes on earth: to surrender ourselves to the greater good, to sacrifice our egos on the altar of wholeness.  Let us not forget the origin of the word 'sacrifice'.  It derives from two Latin words meaning 'to make holy'.  When the whole or greater good becomes holy for us, then and only then can we release the ego and take up our place in cooperation with like-minded souls.

    In the same way that no lone ranger ever formed part of a great rowing crew, for as long as we remain unconscious to that greater force in our lives, we cannot fully participate in it and contribute to its greatness.

    Wednesday, 9 October 2013

    LESSONS FROM ROWING: THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS

    "It would be useless to try to segregate outstanding members of [the crew], just as it would be impossible to try to pick a certain note in a beautifully composed song.  All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades."  extracted from 'THE BOYS IN THE BOAT', Daniel James Brown.

    I have always rated rowing as the greatest team sport on earth.  Put together a crew of four or eight of the strongest, fittest individuals you can find and let them all row for themselves.  Despite their lesser physical prowess, a crew of lightweights -  15kg - 20 kg per man smaller - will  thrash the big guys if they are rowing together and for each other.

    There is no room in a rowing boat for ego's or individuals.   It will not help the cause of the crew one iota if you pull with the hardest power, have the longest reach, but fail to stay in time and rhythm with everyone else.  And everyone knows when someone in the boat is out to prove something, or is not pulling his or her weight, or is focused anywhere other than 100% in the boat and on fellow crew members.

    We see plenty of individualism on our planet and often marvel at individual achievements, but when we see teams and countries pulling for each other and subsuming their own interests for the good of the whole (think cycling teams on the Tour d'France, think England hosting the Olympics or South Africa the Football World Cup, think New Zealand rugby) ego's disappear and the teams achieve greatness.

    The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts, when the parts all play their part for the good of the whole.

    Sunday, 6 October 2013

    LESSONS FROM ROWING: PULLING YOUR OWN WEIGHT

    "One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is 'pull your own weight,' and the young oarsman does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does..." GEORGE YEOMAN POCOCK, extracted from 'THE BOYS IN THE BOAT', Daniel James Brown (a great read, btw).

    I know a lot of people who don't pull their own weight: children, husbands, wives, co-workers, team members.  Eventually the others on the team get tired of pulling more than their own weight, and the team starts to falter.  Sometimes it fails catastrophically.

    In my rowing days there was something extraordinary about knowing that there were no passengers on board the boat.  As a crew, we knew with unwavering certainty that every one of our fellow crew members could be counted on totally to give his all every time we raced.  One of the principal reasons our boat went fast - very fast - was because every one of us committed to giving his very best all the time, so no one believed that he was being asked to do any more than his fair share. 

    You can't ask much more in any team.  Whether it is a team of two in a relationship, or four or five in a family, nine in a rowing boat, eleven in a football team or forty in a workplace, if everyone simply gives to the best of his or her ability, the team will perform up to and beyond expectations.

    Wednesday, 2 October 2013

    LESSONS FROM ROWING: THE ENEMY IS YOUR FRIEND

    "It is hard to make that boat go as far as you want to.  The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend.  So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them." GEORGE YEOMAN POCOCK

    We can apply this to almost every situation in which we find ourselves.  For instance, when a relationship comes under pressure, your significant other may appear to be the enemy, but he/she is truly your friend.  The relationship dynamic is also your friend.  

    The relationship problem is as much about your as it is about your partner. Whilst you may hate the challenges presented by the relationship dynamic, it is those very challenges which evoke you to be your very best, to learn once again to connect and communicate, to learn to love and care and nurture, all the finest qualities of humanity.  The relationship challenges invite you to rediscover your humanity and loveability, and in that sense the enemy is actually your friend.

    Let that which challenges you also support and grow you.

    Saturday, 28 September 2013

    LIKE A GOOD WINE: BETTER WITH AGE


    I feel like that cat that's got the cream - very pleased with myself!  As some of you know, I had some interesting heart-related health challenges at the beginning of the year.   Although the worst was over by March, I generally felt lethargic and unmotivated.  I wasn't exercising as much as usual and started putting on weight.

    Three months ago my weight reached a thirty year high.  It was time to take some action and get purposeful.  I set a purpose of restoring myself to optimum health. I set target of losing 10kg (22lbs) and getting fit again to a certain level.

    Some of the things I then did: I signed up for an eight week spinning course with the excellent Cadence Cycling Performance Centre.  (I have done one such course a year for the past 3 or 4 years.).  I took on the Paleo Reboot diet for a month.  With the help and guidance of the amazing healer, Dr Kaz (aka Dr Kazalette Kiepiel aka my wonderful wife) I got my nutrition, supplements and hormones right.  A little while ago we also spent a week of healing, detoxing and nurturing at the wonderful St Francis Health Centre in the Eastern Cape.  Apart from those and some other health steps taken, I also looked at and reduced my stress levels, focusing on workload, meditation and so on.

    Yesterday I took the final Cadence test at the end of my course.  The results: an all time personal record for power pushed during the test AND I have lost 11kg in three months.  I am now the lightest I have been since 1986 and feel revitalized, energized, fit and as well as I have felt for years.

    I am thrilled with the outcomes and will be riding a 3 day bike race in 2 weeks time on my rejuvenated frame.  More importantly, I wanted to share with you what can be achieved with purposeful-ness and pre-determined goals. 

    The important piece here is to hold onto the purpose.  Why do you want this?  What is the bigger picture or benefit?  Once you have that piece, any realistic goal becomes possible.  The challenge, however, is not to get driven or frenetic about the goals and outcomes.  If the purpose and plan are right, the goals will follow. 

    Saturday, 21 September 2013

    EXPLORING POSSIBILITIES IN THE "I DON'T KNOW" SPACE

    Our fear is built around the future.  We fear what lies ahead, what might happen, what we tell ourselves will go wrong.  Although we can never be sure of how things will pan out in the future, often our default position is to expect the worst and live in fear of what we think will be the outcome.  Although our thoughts and expectations of the future are all based on expectation and speculation, and therefore may or may not happen, our minds somehow make them true.

    The real truth, however, is that 99% of the future is a "don't know".  We often make educated guesses about what might happen in the future, based on past experience, but the reality is that if the future is yet to happen, any number of outcomes remain possible.

    Next time you are in an anxious or fearful space about what might or might not happen, remember that the fear is generated because your mind has it that the feared scenario WILL or WILL NOT actually happen.  If you can open your mind to a space where you can simply say: "I don't know what will or will not happen", suddenly a world of possibility opens up.  In "I don't know", anything can happen, some good and some bad.  However, in that space lies the opportunity for exploring, creating and changing possible future incomes.  

    When my heart went into fibrillation earlier this year, my mind kept reminding me that my father died of a heart attack whilst riding his bicycle.  It was hard to ignore my mind saying: "So guess what's going to happen to you..."   I have since recovered, but every now and then when I am out riding and pushing my personal envelope, my mind boots up with the same refrain.  When that happens, all I have to do is remind myself that I'm not my father, I have no idea of how or when my journey will end and, as long as I am on it, I intend to explore the path I walk fully and intimately.

    Try not insisting that you know what Life has planned for you.  You don't know, so rather just enjoy the ride in the space of not knowing.

    Wednesday, 18 September 2013

    WHERE IS TWO AND A HALF MINUTES SHORTER THAN 40 SECONDS?

    I have been doing a spinning course over the past few weeks with the excellent Cadence Cycling Performance Centre.  The other day we were doing a series of 40 second anaerobic pieces, with two and a half minute low tempo recovery pieces in between.  After four or five sets, the low tempo recovery pieces seemed to be passing a whole lot quicker than the 40 seconds of each anaerobic piece, with me gasping for air, my heart rate soaring and my legs burning, absolutely longing for the end of each anaerobic piece.

    I realized that my mental resistance to the anaerobic pieces, feeling a measure of dread for each one before it started, was causing a time warp between my ears of which even Stephen Hawking would have been proud.


    I remembered my purpose for doing the course and resolved to let go of the fear of the pain, but rather to embrace it as supportive of my current stance on my health and fitness.  For the last few sets, having let go of the fear I found I was able to slow down my breathing and engage fully with each pedal stroke.  Instead of hating the pain in my legs, I found that if I actively focussed on it, the pain dissipated.  For the last three anaerobic pieces, my recorded wattage (a measure of power) increased, despite my tiredness.  


    Lessons learnt: Firstly, letting go of fear allows you to focus on what is real and gives you more power.  Secondly, bringing your mind to bear on physical discomfort, moment by moment, has you connect with yourself in a way that allows the pain to be part of your precious self, rather than an enemy to be feared.  Whether your pain is physical or emotional, totally embracing and immersing yourself in it somehow helps to still the pain.

    Thursday, 12 September 2013

    THREE GOATS


    We were driving towards Grahamstown along a district road last Sunday afternoon.  As we passed a rural village I commented that it had a feel of my neighbourhood when I was young, where nothing happened on a Sunday afternoon.  No sooner had I said that than three snow-white goats, running in single file, streaked out of the open veld on our left - seemingly from nowhere - in front of our car.  They appeared so suddenly that I had no chance to brake and I struck the middle one.

    In shock I stopped and turned back so that we could check if it had died on impact or was still alive and in need of help.  The goat lay prone in the road.  There was no sign of the other two - they had simply vanished.  Kazalette felt for a pulse on the goat and said she was still alive.  She picked the goat up, carried it to the side of the road and held her.  I stroked her head, looked in her beautiful pale brown eyes and said I was sorry.   We trickled some water over her mouth and then her pupils dilated and she died in Kazalette's arms.

    During this time some of the children from the village had gathered to observe, in silence. One adult inappropriately started begging for food and cool drink from us, as if nothing unusual had just happened.  The scene was surreal.

    I have been feeling troubled about the incident ever since it happened.  There were at least four different 'clues', as Lyall Watson might have described them, that this was going to happen, but which I had no chance of understanding beforehand.  I also can't imagine what happened to the other two goats.  They were running in such close formation that I should have hit at least two, if not all of them, and yet they simply vanished into thin air.

    I keep wondering if there was any symbolism in the incident.

    The first thought I have is that there is never nothing happening.  It is only in our unconscious states where nothing is happening.  The goats woke me out of my unconscious state at the time and shocked me back to the here and now.

    My second thought came during a walk through a labyrinth.  Like Dickens' ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, I wondered whether perhaps these were the goats of past, present and future.  What if the goat which died represented the present, the reality of now, of life and of death?  And what if the others simply disappeared because the past and future aren't relevant when we are fully engaged in the now?

    And then again, maybe I simply knocked down a goat.

    Tuesday, 10 September 2013

    TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR VEHICLE



    This week I have been with Kazalette at the beautiful St Francis Health Centre in the Eastern Cape.  For 6 days we detox, lose some weight, re-balance and get back in touch with our purposes for our health and our lives.

    There is a man here who looks to be 70kg overweight and says that he dines out for work purposes 10 times per week.  He loves his job.

    Once a year he comes here for what he flippantly calls a 'service and oil change'.  He loses about 6 or 7kg in the week and then carries on with his life, with nothing changing about his lifestyle.

    This is a tough enough week for those of us who live a healthy lifestyle and are about right weight-wise, so I can't begin to imagine how tough it is for this guy.  All I know is that I get enough wake up calls in this week to have me seriously re-evaluate all aspects of my life, from health to relationships to career and spirituality.  How much tougher must it be for someone so overweight and unhealthy, and how big do the wake up calls have to get to jolt him back into consciousness?

    To use his analogy of a 'service and oil change', when I do that for my car I generally don't go out and drive it at 100mph over potholed roads between services.  The incessant on-going damage can't be fixed by a simple service.  We are required to take responsibility for our vehicles when we are out and about.  It doesn't work to expect the mechanic to restore an abused vehicle back to pristine condition.

    Sunday, 1 September 2013

    LIVE IN CONTENTMENT: YES, BUT HOW?

    The other day I was listening on the radio to a woman from the Brahma Kumaris who suggested that the answer to an easier life was to live in contentment.  She said that contentment helps smooth Life's challenges and enables us to live our purpose more easily.  Cool, I thought, I don't disagree, but it would also have been helpful for her to have shared how exactly you do that.  

    Contentment is probably something to which we all aspire, and yet we are not content when we are working too hard, not being paid enough, trying to make ends meet, the kids are playing up, our significant other is on a separate mission, there's crime all around, the Syrians are using weapons of mass destruction on each other, our politicians are corrupt, and, and...

    The first question is: what is contentment?  It is a state of being happy and satisfied, according to the dictionary.  I would suggest adding the words: "...with things exactly as they are."

    This seems to be the nub of the issue.  It doesn't help to be content only in fair weather, because when the storm clouds gather contentment gets blown away in the gusts.  It seems to me that the essence of contentment is to be content, come what may.

    And what this takes is a deep and full acceptance of whatever Life delivers, just as it is.  The moment we demand that Life should be different from the way that it is, we cannot be content, as we are then subject to what my friend and teacher, Gavin Harrison, refers to as 'the tyranny of the shoulds'.

    So the question is: what will it take for you to let go every demand that Life should be different and rather accept each exquisite moment, just the way that it is?

    Saturday, 24 August 2013

    WHO GETS THE STILLFACE TREATMENT FROM YOU?

    In the linked video Dr Edward Tronick runs the Stillface Experiment with a mother and her baby girl.  See what happens when the mother interacts with her baby, and then when she makes no response to the child's overtures. When the mother shuts down her responses and emotions and stops reaching out, the baby carries on reaching out, but eventually gives up and gets distressed.

    The question is: do you do stillface to anyone?  And how long do they keep reaching out before they become distressed about you no longer reaching out?

    The other question is: how much richer could your relationships be if you were to be fullly engaged, responsive and reaching out?


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0&feature=player_detailpage

    Wednesday, 21 August 2013

    THE CREATIVE PROCESS (Step 5)

    In the previous step you generated a matrix of ideas and thoughts.  What to do with them?

    Firstly, remember that you just allowed the ideas to come.  You weren't editing them, so they emerged from your sub-conscious.  Although you were in a space of not knowing as you allowed your creative juices to flow, at some level you always knew the answer, always knew what you were being called to create, and how.

    Some of the words in your matrix will have spoken to you, had a feel of  "Yes, that feels right" about them.  The chances are that those which felt right formed a thread with a number of other words and ideas, creating a pattern.  Look for the patterns in your ideas.

    Look for the flow in your ideas.  The flow might not be the easiest route for you, but who said that creating anything was ever a quick fix?  Creation is a combination of inspiration and perspiration.  For instance, the modern camera allows you to point, click and get a reasonable photograph.  However, if you want to create a photograph that takes your breath away, seeing how it might look is only 10% of the job.  Setting your light, focus, position, frame, shutter speed, depth of field, and, and... is the other 90% of the job.  All of it is part of the creative process.

    One thread of consciousness will inform your creation.  How will you know which it is?  It will feel right.  The solution will be gracious.  It will also tick the boxes of:  Alignment with your greater purposes - Ethically correct - Making a difference - Nourishing you.

    Your remaining steps are to give life to your creation.  There are two parts to this.  One is to hold your intended creation  with reverence: make it part of your greater purpose in life, because that will give you the emotional fuel to make it happen.  The other is the perspiration part.  Engage in the 'doing' with the same reverence with which you hold the rest of the process and your creation is assured.

    Saturday, 17 August 2013

    THE CREATIVE PROCESS (Step 4)

    So you've woken up to Life's call, set aside any negativity, determined what it is that is being evoked from you and now it's time to bathe in your creative juices.

    Perhaps the most important piece at this moment is to be completely open to the fact that you may not  immediately have the solution.  Be open to the possibility that there may be numerous solutions.  Even if you think you know where you need to go to meet the challenge, Life might have different plans for you.  Often the less obvious or more scary paths offer more gracious solutions than the path seemingly offering the least resistance.  So be open to any and every possibility at this time.  Being comfortable with not knowing the answer is what opens up the creative space and allows guides you to a true knowing of what path to follow.

    Your process now is to let the possibilities come to you, rather than you rushing out to find them. The way to do this is to take some quiet time, a meditation (or whatever else you want to call it) and clear your mind of pre-conceptions, existing solutions, fears and dogmatic direction.  The invitation is not to let your mind interfere with or edit the process, but rather just to allow yourself to bask in possibility, even if it does not represent reality for you at this time. Then start writing.

    When I do this I often do a mind map, just allowing one thought to flow from the previous one and on to the next. I don't edit or try to direct my thoughts or the direction of the map.  I might write down the basic issue, such as: 'Increase business revenue'.  Then I just let thoughts come in and write them down as they manifest: 'More work - New work - Old clients - New clients - Where are they? - Who are they? - More to be done - Open channels - More channels - Tap reservoirs - Partnerships - Core/non-core - Flow - Intention - Purpose - Open space - Force/don't force - Visibility - Service levels - Add value - Nurture - Gratitude' and so on.  Keep on writing and extending your mind map in every direction until the words stop coming to you.  The magic of the creative process lies in your openness to every possibility.

    Now behold what is on the paper before you.  Some words may be meaningless in their context, whilst others will be full of meaning.  Once you are done, quietly review the words.  Which ones speak to you?  Which ones leap out and invite you to explore them more deeply?  Again, don't force this.  Just keep on beholding and feel the words that are nudging you for more attention.  Therein will lie the seeds of your next creation.

    Saturday, 10 August 2013

    THE CREATIVE PROCESS (Step 3)

    So you've got Life's wake-up call, stilled your mind and put aside your reactivity - the scared part of you.  What comes next?

    The wake-up call may have manifested as an obstacle prior to Step 2, but now it's a challenge.  Ask yourself: "What is this challenge evoking in me?"  "What is it calling forth in me?"  "What possibilities might there be for me/my family/the planet if I am able to rise to this challenge?"

    Convert your fearful reaction to the wake-up call into excitement.  Fear and excitement are fundamentally the same energy.  The only difference is that excitement requires some breath. When we are fearful we don't breath fully, so our brains are starved of oxygen.  Breath fully and the fear turns to excitement, the excitement powers our minds to creative thought.

    Now that Life's wake-up call has got your attention, you have seen the possibilities in it and you are awake and vital with your excitement for the challenge, it is time to get the creative juices  flowing.

    Next time: Tapping into the creative mind.

    Wednesday, 7 August 2013

    THE CREATIVE PROCESS (Step 2)

    The biggest dampner for creativity is negativity and self-doubt.  No one ever realized a creative idea by thinking:  "I'm not clever enough", "I have nothing to offer" or "No one's ever going to be interested in what I have thought of" or "They'll think I'm a fool." 

    The 2nd Step in the Creative Process, after getting whatever wake-up message Life has published, is to set aside your negativity and self-doubt.  Whatever doubts you may have about your ideas, your ability and how others might receive your creative contribution to the world must be set aside.  They are, after all, only words arising in your mind.  Thank your mind for sharing, but announce to it that you're not buying into the undermining part of it right now.

    Creativity requires you to transcend the small, fearful part of yourself and do it anyway. Warriors are often painted as being fearless people.  True warriors have fear, but fight the good fight anyway.

    Seth Godin writes in his blog today:  "No, [the good ideas] were the result of one person, a person in a jam or a hurry or somewhat inspired.  One person flipping a coin or tweaking a little bit more or saying, 'this might not work' and then taking a leap.

    Inventing isn't the hard part.  The ideas that chnage the world are changing the world because someone cared enough to stick it out, to cajole and lead and evolve.  But even though the inventing isn't the hard part, it scares us away."

    Taking an unerring stand to believe in, honour and respect yourself for all that you bring to the planet by way of your commitment, creativity and willingness to make a difference in the world, no matter what, will clear your path to creative thinking.

    Sunday, 4 August 2013

    THE CREATIVE PROCESS (Step 1)

    The trigger for the start of the creative process is always a wake-up call from Life, no exceptions.  In order to respond to messages or feedback from Life and tap into its innumerable possibilities, we are called to draw on our creative abilities.

    It follows, then, that we will miss what is on offer if we miss the messages and feedback which Life is giving us.  Step 1 of the Creative Process, therefore, is to wake up and heighten our awareness to all of Life and its stimuli.

    And how do we wake up?  Given that most of us run our lives on automatic, we tend to move around in a state of waking sleep.   Waking requires practice, practice and more practice.

    It starts with regular meditation.  If we practice meditation we discover just how challenging it is to keep our attention for any sustained period on the stimuli which Life delivers to us.  Our minds wander off periodically, even when our only focal point is our in and out breath.  All that is required is to keep beginning again, over and over to refocus when we notice that we have drifted off into the daydream state.

    This practice will in due course heighten your awareness in the rest of your daily life and create the conditions for you to start the flow of your creative juices.

    Start a meditative practice now.  15 minutes a day will be the first step to changing your life.

    Sunday, 28 July 2013

    MANDELA SERIES: MAKING A DIFFERENCE

    "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made in the lives of others."  Nelson Mandela

    #Nelson_Mandela made a difference in the lives of 50 million South Africans.  (A small minority of those 50 million might argue that the difference for them was adverse.  As with all change, our perception of the fairness of Life depends on from whose perspective it is being viewed, but that is another discussion altogether.)  He has also touched the lives of countless non-South Africans around the world.  Into the bargain he became President of a nation and is heralded internationally as one of the greatest leaders and Statesmen in history.  Most people in the South African and the world have never met the man, but there are few who don't love, admire and respect Madiba. 

    Mother Theresa was canonized for her work.  Gandhi was revered for the difference he made.  Now weigh all of them against those who have not made a difference for the greater good:  think Hitler, Osama Bin Laden and Mugabe.  Each may have (or have had) a small band of adoring sycophants, but levels of international reverence for them remain somewhere between zero and pitiful.

    The quest for self-aggrandizement is not uncommon in the world, but there seem to be two possible approaches to it.  The first is when it is at the expense of all around you.  Then you make no difference at all other than to your bank balance and ego.  You particularly do not make the world a better place.  The second is when the needs of those around you are also met in the process. For instance, Bill Gates achieved extraordinary levels of hegemony in the IT space, but if you consider that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made total grant payments in excess of  US$26 billion since inception in the fight against AIDS, malaria, TB and other health scourges in under-developed countries, they have aligned self-interest with that of others in need of support.  Ask the average TB survivor if he knows or cares how many software programs Microsoft sold.  Then try asking if he is grateful for the treatment he got to save his life.  My guess is that the Gates who created a Foundation with a purpose of saving lives is more likely to be the hero of the story than the Gates who founded Microsoft.

    Making a difference propagates generosity, gratitude and a pay-it-forward mindset in the world.  Is it not a world which embraces and flaunts those attributes in which we would like to bring up our children? 

    What if our greater purpose on earth was in fact to make a difference in the lives of others?  To bring about change that would enhance the lives of others?  This wouldn't have to mean that we couldn't have any other purposes for our lives, just that we would need to align those purposes with the greater purpose of making the world a better place.  It is also not a pre-requisite that you need Bill Gates' money to make a difference.  St Theresa didn't need it.  She didn't need much money at all, quite frankly.

    How do we make a difference?  Start by considering your inherent blessings: your talents, mind and the creativity that flows from those.  Consider how you might apply those to making a difference in the lives of others.  Most importantly, consider what might be in it for you to make a difference.  If you're not getting out at least as much in energy, satisfaction, gratitude or whatever as you put in, you'll eventually stray onto the path of self-indulgence to the exclusion of everyone else.

    Choose where you can make your mark and how you want to be remembered.  If you don't especially care how you get remembered and decide that your life is the only one that matters, that is also your choice, but I somehow don't believe that you will come to the end of it thinking that that was a life truly well lived.

    As Gandhi said: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

    Wednesday, 24 July 2013

    THE WAY THAT IT IS

    Why do people change?
    Why do only some people make millions?
    Why do friends get cancer?
    It's just the way that it is.

    Why do others disappoint,
    Politicians lie
    And mad men murder?
    It's just the way that it is?

    Why does famine strike,
    Climate change
    And nothing stay permanent?
    It's just the way that it is.

    And why do we battle so
    To come to terms with
    Life, just the way that it is?
    It's because it's not the way we think it should be.

    Sunday, 21 July 2013

    MANDELA SERIES: THE PRISON OF RESENTMENT

    The sixth in the series paying tribute to #Nelson_Mandela's wisdom.

    "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."  Nelson Mandela, Long Road to Freedom

    I had a boss many years ago who undermined me and my work incessantly.  (I never quite figured out what his problem was with me, but that wasn't the issue.)  Eventually I found myself feeling so resentful and bitter towards him that I couldn't look him in the eye, I took steps to avoid him, bad-mouthed him to anyone who was willing to listen and generally hated going to work.   

    I was in my own prison: no way to change my boss, I didn't know how to change myself and I dreaded each day at the office.  Eventually I left the job, but it didn't change my resentment towards him.  It just meant there was some distance between us.

    It took me another couple of years to learn that my resentment was only causing harm to me: my ex-boss neither knew nor cared about my resentment towards him.  I later took the wonderful More to Life training weekend, at which I learnt about the true cost of resentment.  More importantly, once I could see the true cost to me, I learnt how to forgive and let go of my ill will towards him.

    Some of the cost to me of my resentment included massive stress, even when I was out of the office, inability to connect with others, a hardness about me that I didn't like, a closing of my heart, having to pretend all was well, loss of creative thought, leaving a job which I otherwise enjoyed and a bad taste in my mouth every time I thought about my ex-boss.  I've heard it said that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Well, I was the one dying.

    When I eventually saw the cost to me, I forgave him.  It took a while, because forgiveness is a choice we make not to hold ill will against others, and I struggled with the choice.  I remember saying to my wife, Kazalette, on one occasion that he didn't deserve to be forgiven.  She gently reminded me that the forgiveness was for my own well-being, not his. So I did some work and made that choice. 

    The sense of relief was enormous.  It felt like a bad smell that had been following me around for years had lifted and been replaced with rose petals.  I was out of my prison and free again.

    As it happened, I bumped into my ex-boss some years later in Johannesburg.  Our meeting was brief, but the experience was so different from when we had last seen each other.  I was able to be my authentic self when I greeted him, not stuck in pretense.  He seemed pleased to see me.

    That's the thing with resentment.  When you let go of your ill-will, it makes you more accessible to the other person.

    How different might South Africa have turned out if Nelson Mandela had brought his bitterness and resentment with him along his road to freedom?  Think Zimbabwe.  Think Rwanda.  Think about who's on your list of people to stop resenting.  And to forgive.

    Thursday, 18 July 2013

    MANDELA SERIES: HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND 67 MINUTES OF SERVICE

    The fifth in the series paying tribute to #Nelson_Mandela.

    Happy 95th birthday, #Madiba!  I wish you peace, blessings and joy on this day.  May you be released, one way or another, from your present confinement.

    In November 2009 the United Nations declared 18 July, Nelson Mandela's birthday, as International Mandela Day.  In that year, 67 years after he started campaigning for human rights and equality, Madiba turned 90.  People around the world are now invoked on Mandela Day to dedicate 67 minutes of their time - 1 minute for each of Nelson Mandela's years of campaigning - to being of service to the world and making a difference.

    Imagine a world where people are of service to others and want nothing in return.  Imagine that happening all the time, and not just on Mandela Day.  How would it be to have people offering and performing random acts of kindness: letting you into the queue, helping the elderly, distributing books in schools, looking after your kids, working in childrens' homes, walking your dog, working for free at the local SPCA, or hospice, ...?  Imagine the sense of gratitude and caring that might start pervading our society, rather than the sense of hopelessness and despair which is so often prevalent.

    So the invitation is to find 67 minutes on this day, either consecutive or cumulative, and pay your tribute to the human qualities and selfless sacrifice of Nelson Mandela.


    The other invitation is to continue after today being of service to others, in big or small ways, every day.  It's a type of paying it forward: be of service and let your actions inspire others to do the same.  It costs you little other than a bit of time and having to access the humble and giving part of you.  Do it with no expectation of reward: you might just be surprised by the outcome.