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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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Monday, 29 December 2014

THE POST-INDULGENCE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

The past week has been hard work.  Not being in full training for endless food, too much red wine and Christmas cake has left me feeling flat, fat and short on energy.

Today, being the Monday after the week of Christmas, seemed to be a good day to shift gear back into some semblance of balanced eating, exercise and non-indulgence.  The trouble, however, is with surplus kilograms and low energy levels to contend with, I don't feel much like pumping my bike tyres and hitting the road.  It just feels so much easier to tuck into another bar of Lindt and crack a bottle of Merlot.

This I suspect is the problem with most health and weight issues.  We start enjoying what we label "the good life" and then let our health slip.  We promise ourselves that we can start exercising again, run off the flab quite easily, but then discover that the more weight we've put on, the harder it is to get started on the health path again.  It's so much easier to keep going in the downhill direction that when we finally wake up to which is the way out, it's almost too late because it's too hard to find the way out.

It's a downward health spiral, but a spiral which applies as much to health as it does to the way we behave in our relationships, the way we are in the office, our attitude to money and most everything else.  

The more we let things slide, the harder it is to retrieve them.  Sure, have a glass of wine and a slice of cheesecake from time to time, but don't for a moment believe that you can keep on letting yourself go and then simply turn around and sort things out.  If there's something in your life you want to change, now would be a good time to start.  It may not be easy, but if you're resolved you'll get there.

For the meantime I reckon I'll get going again with my green juice each morning and take it from there.

Monday, 22 December 2014

'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY, TRA-LA-LA-LA-LA

It's that time of year again when most people are especially nice to each other.  Everyone wishes each other happy Christmas, or theologically correct ones or those who aren't sure and don't want to offend Jews, Moslems and (heaven forbid) atheists and want to be politically correct wish everyone "happy holidays".

A couple of things here: am I wrong in thinking that people are nicer and more polite to each other in general at this time of year than at others?  If I'm right, how come?  Do they like each other less during the rest of the year, are they simply less authentic at this time of year or is there actually genuine goodwill somehow generated by the existence of Christianity's most holy day which spills over to the rest of the world?

I'm not sure of the answer - maybe it doesn't matter - but I do somehow wish that the goodwill which is shown at this time of year could be shared all year round.  How difficult would that be?

I would also love to see the end of "happy holidays".  No one says that at Rosh Hashanah or Ramadan, so why do we have to tiptoe around Christmas?  Just saying.

Moving on, yesterday Kazalette and I had the privilege of attending a Christmas Celebration Concert at the Playhouse Theatre in Durban. We were immersed in a variety show of extraordinary talent, none more so than the beautiful voices of Judith Sephuma and Bongani Tembe performing David Foster's "The Prayer" together.  It was one of those renditions where tears just rolled down my cheeks for no obvious reason. On reflection, it seemed to me to be an unconscious accessing of my gratitude: for the song and its lyrics, for these gifted artists giving their all and sharing their blessed voices with the rest of us.  And, having quietly wiped away a slightly runny nose, I was then simply enthralled and entranced by the massed Choirs of the Playhouse Chorale, Mthwalume Boys and Assemblies of God Church accompanied by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra performing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. I was moved to my core and found myself again reaching for the now grubby tissue.

We have much to be grateful for, but somehow the sharing of each of our wonderful gifts and talents, whatever those may be, seems to be the thing that moves us most into that sacred place of gratitude.

A joyous and blessed Christmas to all of my readers who celebrate Christmas.  To those who don't, be joyous and blessed as well.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

"SHE COMPLETE'S ME" - REALLY??

Driving to work this morning I heard a love song playing, the lead lyrics of which included the words, over and over again, "She completes me".  One also hears variations on this theme in wedding speeches.  All very sweet and so on, but is that really so?

 I have to ask: What part of you was incomplete before you met her, and how were you coping?  Would I have noticed that you were incomplete if I had bumped into you on the street?  What would I have seen and did you actually know you were incomplete before you became complete?  If you didn't know, was it an unexpected bonus to discover that someone else could complete you when you met her?  How did she actually complete you?

Sorry to be a cynic, but each of us, standing on our own, is the complete package.  We don't need someone else to prop us up as a crutch, or fill a black hole that should be bubbling with joy at any given moment.  I don't personally want to take on an incomplete person so that I can complete her, so what's the benefit of being incomplete other than coming to leech energy and generosity from your partner?

Lets be complete in ourselves.  To be sure, joyfully share our completeness with our complete partners, but: "You complete me" sounds pretty sad to me.

Just saying.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

SEEKING THE JOY IN DIRTY DIAPERS

I was chatting to a client the other day about a new business venture which he is creating.  He was so excited about its possibilities and I found myself caught up in his enthusiasm for the project.  As we were working through a step-by-step process to move it forward, there was a small dip in his energy as he realised that, outside the creative framework was going to lie a certain amount of adminstrative work: banking, accounting and (with no disrespect intended) some of the other unsexy aspects of putting together and running a business.

"I really hate admin", he said.  And then he cheered up, got back on the wave and said: "But perhaps I should just love it instead".  Fuelled by his come-back, I was inspired to suggest that it was like bringing up a child:  One of the most creative and inspiring things we do in our lives, but the project also entails changing smelly nappies as part of the deal.


The dirty diaper seems to me to be a great allegory for the tasks we don't especially enjoy or want in our lives, but are nonetheless necessary for the good of the whole.  My now distant (but still clear) recollection of nappy time was a bad smell and a pile of nasty poop that had to be disposed of, followed by a process of cleaning, swabbing and resuscitation of both the active parts of the child  and myself. And yet, challenging and unappealing as the process was on occasion, as a working father who didn't get to spend a lot of time with my family, nappy time became an important part of bonding with my babies.  Each time, we got to look each other in the eye, chat (or gurgle, as the case may have been), laugh together and share an experience.

If I never change another nappy in my life, it won't be too soon, but paradoxically I treasure those times because I believe they were such an important part of creating the relationship between my children and me and, more importantly, helping mould Jeska and Stefan into the incredible young adults they have become.

We learn that creation is a mixture of inspiration and perspiration in different proportions.  Well the truth is that, however much fun the inspiration might be, it's the perspiration which gives life to a project.

Soiled diapers, distasteful as aspects of changing them may be, are a necessary part of our creations, so treasure them and see them as part of a joyous larger experience.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

TALKING STICK TAKING A SHORT SABBATICAL

I am going to be abroad for the next 10 days or so, no doubt gathering Talking Stick material as I go.  However, there won't be any posts until the first week of December for any of you who might start wondering the blank space is in your Inbox, or who can't wait for a new fix of "The Stick"!

We'll talk again soon.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

THE MEASUREMENT OF SUFFERING

When I started this blog I had been sitting at Port Elizabeth airport since 4pm.  It was then 9.30pm, about an hour and a half after we were supposed to have taken off for Durban, and there was still a while to wait.  The first sign of a problem was when my boarding pass had printed out with a boarding time on it that coincided with the time I knew I was supposed to land.  Of course, my goal directed (and reactive) mind immediately assumed this was just a silly computer error, completely denying (or at least not considering) that there might be another possibility, like a plane which had broken down earlier in the day and backed up all flights by a couple of hours.

When the sorry truth was revealed to me by the lady in the SAA lounge, I immediately felt angry.  It was Friday evening, for heaven's sake!  We should have been warned.  SAA should have put on an extra flight.  I have to waste a precious weekend evening in an airport.  I'm only going to be home after midnight.  This shouldn't be happening.  I have to get on another flight via Johannesburg. And so on, and so on.  My disquiet had me feeling grumpy and disconnected.

This is a form of suffering.  Whenever we get into an expectation, or place a demand that something should be a certain way, when it turns out differently our minds can get reactive and we suffer the consequences of disappointment, anger, regret, resentment and so on.

Business consultants tell us that what we cannot measure, we cannot manage.  So, in order to manage our suffering, we have to be able to measure it.  The equation for measuring suffering is quite simple: S = E - L, where S is the amount of suffering we experience, E is the level of our expectation of how things should be and L is Life exactly as it is.  In other words, the further away our internal expectation or demand is from the reality of how things truly are, the more we will suffer.

So now that we know how to measure it, we also know how to manage our suffering.  All we need to do is align our demands with Life as it is.  The easiest way to do that is simply to let go the demand that anything or any situation should be different from what it is.  The moment we can learn to accept things just as they are, our suffering ends. QED.

Someone once said or wrote (I don't remember right now) that pain is inevitable, but the suffering is optional.  We can choose to suffer, or choose acceptance, but the beauty is that we truly can choose how we want to be.

A friend and colleague who was on the same flight and also stuck in Port Elizabeth, Malcolm Hartwell, summed it up pretty well after a further delay was announced: We can rail as much as we like, but it won't change a thing.  So I stopped railing, cheered up and got home at midnight. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

TAME YOUR MIND

We all suffer from what is sometimes called #MonkeyMind, the state of incessant chatter going on between our ears.  "I'm not good enough", "She thinks I'm a bitch", "I'm a failure", "It's too hard", "It can't be done", "He's such a loser", "I'm such a loser", "Things always go wrong for me", "God never planned for me to be a success", "I have to prove myself", "I  have to fight for everything" and so on.  There is an endless chattering that goes on, and it's time to tame it.

One of my favourite authors is #NatalieGoldberg, who writes about writing from a #ZenBuddhist perspective.  One of her books, #WildMind, invokes the reader (and aspirant writer) to write without being inhibited by the perpetual internal editor:  "Lose control.  Say what you want to say.  Don't worry if it's correct, polite, appropriate.  Just let it rip".  How do you reconcile that approach with taming the monkey mind?

The great paradox is that you cannot free your wild mind and just let it rip without first taming your monkey mind, because it is exactly that which gets in your way, inhibits you, slows your progress, causes you to lose confidence, not to trust yourself and, tragically, to edit your creative self into a boring, compliant, non-wave-making sheep.  Your monkey mind can also push you the other way, having you dramatically play the rebel,  deviant or tough guy in order to prove that you are somehow not as much of a failure, or as ordinary as your money mind is having you believe.

Monkey mind gets in your way in every circumstance.  It is like gazing at the pristine perfection and tranquility of a mirror-surfaced, tree-lined lake, but rather than taking in and feeling gratitude for all the beauty, your eyes fall on a lone piece of litter floating in the distance and you allow that to spoil everything else for you.  Or perhaps it's like making love, the perfect union of two souls, and then, during the act, one suddenly wonders if she looks fat, or the other wonders whether he's good enough to do the job.  The moment is lost.  Monkey mind is what a teacher of mine, Roy Whitten, used to refer to as "the turd in the punch bowl".  It is that part of your mind which contaminates all else that is wonderful within your mind.

How do you tame your mind?  It is about recognising the contamination,  letting it go and clearing it out so that you can access the creative waters and ply them unhindered by monkey mind.  

There are techniques which are beyond the scope of this blog, but you can start with something as simple as a daily meditation practice.  Learn forgiveness, press out your anger in places where it doesn't matter, let go of your wallowing and keep seeing the (proverbial) glass half full.  

It doesn't matter how you do it, but if you want to access wild mind, first come to stillness by taming your monkey mind.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

#AHIMSA: DO NO HARM

One of the cardinal virtues of #Buddhism, #Hinduism and #Jainism is that of #Ahimsa, which exhorts people to do no harm. The ethic of "Nil nohere" - do no harm - is also an ethic of doctors.  Although not stated in quite those words, it is the essence of the #HippocraticOath, which is a vow taken by new physicians.  So what does it mean?

In the Buddhist and other traditions, Ahimsa is inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy.  Accordingly, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.  

In a world where material possessions seem to matter, it might be tempting to think that "do no harm" means that you should refrain from physically hurting or damaging people and things, and that that would be virtuous behaviour.

However, Ahimsa invokes followers to do no harm, whether by deeds, words or thoughts.  It goes beyond the physical and recognises that by our words we can cause harm.  If we verbally abuse staff, or yell at or discourage our children, although the ultimate harm comes about by the way the abusee processes the words spoken, we need to acknowledge the role that we, the abusers, play as catalysts in sparking or bringing about the harm.  Words can never be un-said.  Once out there, they imprint on the minds of those for whom they were intended, and oftentimes on the minds of those for whom they may not have been intended.  Is that truly the way we want to be remembered by our children, staff and others?  As abusers at some level or another?  And what knock-on effect do our words have?  Do we not then teach the abused themselves to become abusers, or do we perhaps teach others to subordinate their creativity and playfulness out of fear of abuse?

Perhaps the toughest part of the invocation is to think no harm or harmful thoughts.  The tough part is that thoughts simply arise, whether we want them or not.  Often we just can't help ourselves from thinking harmful thoughts.  However, even if we think them but don't say them, how can that possibly be a problem, you might be thinking?  If I don't say it or do it, how have I harmed anyone?  It is so easy for us to heap internal abuse on an errant taxi driver, irritating politician or indeed a significant other.  The problem is that any malevolent thought nibbles away our personal integrity.  It damages and inhibits our ability to connect with others, with ourselves and with Life itself, disconnecting us spiritually.  Each harmful thought sits inside us, festering like an infected sore, waiting to burst.  With enough stored harmful thoughts, it becomes an internal septic stew, which will eventually kill the host or leak out onto others.

The invitation therefore is to notice malevolent thoughts as they arise and give them no energy, simply letting them go.  Any thought which presents as a judgment of someone being wrong, less than, inferior to and so on, or which wishes someone harm, or a resentment is worth letting go as it arises, no matter how wrong you judge the other to be.  It is always possible to deal with an issue without also having to toxify your mind: it is that very toxicity which will inhibit any possible healing.

Oh, and that thing about us not being able to help thinking harmful thoughts?  Well, the good news is that we can re-program our thought patterns.  The more we practice letting harmful thoughts go, and replace them with thoughts of forgiveness and conciliation, the less the other will appear.  Anyway, lest I sound as if I am pontificating on this, the choice is yours.  Be toxic or cleanse yourself.  You choose, but I know who I would rather be around.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

HAPPY JUST TO BE ALIVE

I recently attended a day's retreat with Buddhist teacher, Ken Holmes, learning more about Tibetan Buddhism and meditation techniques.  Ken is a simply delightful human being who has committed most of his life to living in the Buddhist tradition.  What struck a chord with me was how he started the day, saying how happy we could all be (and ought to be), simply to be alive.  And that was pretty much what Ken exuded: happiness with his own gift of life.

So, if he is right, the question is: why are so many people not happy, or at least not happy with every aspect of their existence?   We are alive, after all.  What if the very fact of our existence on earth was a cause for celebration?  The fact that we have the incredible gifts we have - amongst others, our ability to love and be loved, our capacity for compassion, our wisdom and our access to joy - should surely give cause for gratitude and celebration?

The reality, however, is that we tend to forget about those gifts (and all the others we have) when we realise we don't have as much money as we want, or our boss is nasty, or we aren't as pretty, tall, handsome, slim or olive-skinned as our neighbour, or we are ill, or feeling resentful, or experience evil in the world, and a myriad of other reasons.  

What if we could simply be happy without our happiness having to be dependent on good fortune, chance, circumstance and others?  What if we could be happy, just because we are alive.  How might we then keep the other stuff in perspective?

It's not a bad thought, is it?  The question I leave you with for now is: YBH? (Yes, but how?)

Sunday, 2 November 2014

BATTLING THE DAY vs EMBRACING THE DAY

From time to time I find myself setting out for work with the words: "Right, let's go and do battle with this day."  Fighting talk, but typically the day then turns into a battle.  It's the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, or as @DrWayneWDyer might call it, the Power of Intention.

When we embark on the day thinking of all the battles to be fought and won, the chances are that, in our tunnel-visioned approach to each challenge, we could both wear ourselves out and also miss the most creative and gracious way of addressing the day by pursuing our quest to conquer all in our way.  What is worse, when we expect a battle with the day, we often get one, with schedules being missed, argumentative people presenting themselves, computers crashing and things generally going wrong.

I can think of times where the paperwork and email volumes awaiting me have been overwhelming, and I have gone to the office ready ruthlessly to seek and destroy that which is not serving me, or which has to be dealt with no matter how little I really want to do so.  Oftentimes, in that state, I will vigorously make an inroad, but eventually run out of steam.  It is a bit like running full-tilt into a swamp, but then slowly sinking into the morass until I give up.  In the office context, it means I leave a task half-done and then find something more interesting to do.

A completely different approach is to schedule time for each task, figure out who is best placed to assist me and then enrol him/her, do a sensible amount each day rather than try and knock it off in one hit and understand that I have some limits.  Eventually it gets done, but from a state of willingness rather than drivenness, and I feel grateful rather than grumpily running headlong into the next task.

Battling the day is exhausting.  It is generally about fire fighting and a reactive approach to what appears before us.  Embracing the day is about planning it gracefully, being gentle on ourselves, acknowledging our limits and getting creative with the time and resources available.

So which do you do?  And how well does your approach serve you?


Saturday, 25 October 2014

TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A RELUCTANT TRAVELLER

Hi!   I'm Andrew and I feel anxious when I travel.  

There, now I've shared it and already I feel better.  (Actually, not really.)   However, the sorry truth is that, every time I travel, I still feel irrationally anxious about passing through immigration, security and Customs unhindered, my baggage being overweight, missing my flight, joining the wrong passport queue, finding my way to or from the airport, going to the wrong terminal, losing my luggage, not having enough money (or the right money), having something wrong with my visa or passport (or worse - losing it) and a myriad of other dumb things.

Perhaps the problem is that I haven't travelled enough yet.  I have, after all, only visited about 50 countries so far and done a paltry 1,000 flights or so.  Maybe it gets better the more you do it, but so far I don't have much evidence of that.  The even more ridiculous thing is that, of all those flights, I can count on the fingers of one (maybe both) hands the number of nasty things have actually happened to me.  And, despite them having happened, I am still around to tell the tale.  Funnily enough, plunging into the sea or the ground from 12,000 meters doesn't particularly bother me.  The other stuff however leaves me with a low grade of anxiety most of the time, which is why I'm something of a reluctant traveller.

The real annoying thing is that, no matter what risk mitigation measures I take - and this is where I can get quite obsessive - like checking 10 times if my passport is where I put it in my luggage, or arriving an hour ahead of time at the airport, or checking my luggage weight and so on, my mind always finds a new irrational anxiety to latch onto.  What to do?

One of my mantras in past postings has been about transcending fear.  Warriors are not fearless.  They still feel fear, but their courage has them transcend the fear so that they may engage in battle.  Fear is a natural feeling, it gives us the edge to survive by prompting us to mitigate some risk, but ultimately we will not be fearless: something will press our fear buttons.

The fear is driven by the irrational catastrophe scenarios which play out in our minds, so part of the challenge is to still the wild mind, that part which will have its way with us.  We cannot, however, mitigate against every risk.  Inasmuch as we live in a world full of possibility, we also live in a world of unpredictability.  We cannot always know what Life has lined up for us, so sometimes we need simply to crawl, creep or run past the fear, trusting that even if it sees us, it won't grab us by the throat, and just do it anyway.

Oftentimes when we give power and energy to the fear, it brings about the very result we feared in the first place.  When we hold back on affection for someone, lest it be not returned in full, it generally will not be returned in full because of the holding back.  When I ride my mountain bike tentatively on rocky ground because I am scared of falling, I generally do fall because of the tentativeness rather than the boldness which is required.

So that is how we transcend the fear.  We mitigate what is sensible to mitigate, we still the mind as far as we are able and then we do it anyway, engaging in the battle to get past the fear.

For the meantime, I will just keep on travelling, hoping like crazy I don't get a taxi driver in Bangkok who speaks no English and can't find my hotel, and that I won't have to sit next to someone with who farts a lot next time I fly to London.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

LIVING IN A PLASTIC WORLD

As I write I am on a flight from Singapore to Bangkok, musing over life in the former.   My musings started over dinner a couple of days ago with an old school friend who is now living in Singapore, Patrick Heywood.  Part of our discussion concerned what the Singaporean government spends its money on.

Patrick mentioned that they are not especially interested in researching things like alternative power sources, because quite frankly if people want to drive fossil fueled cars, the authorities will just continue to tax them out of existence because they don't really want a lot of cars on their roads.

No, they would rather fund research on how to grow food underground, because there isn't any space above ground to grow food, but their own food source would make them less dependent on other countries.  Never mind that we all know that veges weren't designed to grow underground, other than some fungi.  So if they find a way to do it you can be sure that they won't be the veges that Grandma used to cook.

I then found out that a large part of what is stored in Singapore is underground.  Huge holes and tunnels are dug in which markets, transport systems and whatever else are housed and stored.  The sand from the holes in the ground is then used to fill in tracts of sea and reclaim land.  And then huge skyscrapers are built on the reclaimed land so that more and more people can live and work high above the ground.  I was amazed earlier today to see several square kilometers of new land and buildings where previously there had only been sea when I first visited Singapore about 15 years ago.

Walking into a particular company's foyer I saw a beautiful half life-sized ornately painted elephant which had a porcelain look about it.  On closer examination I found it was made of plastic, which somehow disappointed me, but that kind of epitomized Singapore for me.  Other perhaps than the historical Singapore cricket club, dating back to the English colonial years, there is not much that feels particularly authentic about the place, and even the cricket club is out of place in a country created largely from Chinese and Malaysian migrants who probably had no interest in cricket before the Brits arrived.

Anyway, the point of my musings is that I can't help wondering how, in a country made up of plastic, skyscrapers, branded shops, iPhone 6's, expatriates, underground storage and land which has no right to be where it is, one remains authentic as an individual.

It is so easy to be seduced by technological, commercial and economic advancement that the potential for forgetting how to connect with Life, self and others is enormous.  Singapore is an extreme example, but most countries are advancing at a pace which requires people to keep up if they don't want to be left behind in the race for more money, bigger houses, flashier cars and smarter phones.

And by engaging in that race, we can easily streak past and forget about old-fashioned values like self- and mutual respect, connecting meaningfully with other human beings at a heart-to-heart rather than at a wallet-to-wallet level, acknowledging ourselves as precious beings in the Universe and simply being real rather than being people whom we believe others would like more so that they will do business with us.  My sense of it is that, when we live in a make-believe world we start living in a way which aligns with the make-believe, pretending that we are something that we are not.

I am often asked what it means to be authentic.  There is a school of thought that maintains that whatever you do is the real and authentic you.  For instance, if you behave brashly or in a self-opinionated way, that is the authentic you.  I personally don't buy that.  That sort of behaviour is often a dramatic way of trying to earn attention or respect, and it does just that when others give it energy and power.  However, whilst one is behaving that way, where is the space for the inherent traits and capacity which we all have: loving and capable of being loved, connecting at a truly heart level, sharing feelings and thoughts, fears and aspirations in a real and connecting manner?

The plastic world takes us away from the grass beneath our bare feet, sand between our toes, away from the non-GMO foods, from streams and mountains and bush, from wholesome conversations and loving relationships.

Which is not to say that you shouldn't engage with the plastic world, but just to suggest that you don't lose your true self in it whilst you engage.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

HOW WILL YOU SAY GOODBYE?

I was jolted into real time yesterday on a flight from Cape Town to Durban.  Twenty minutes out from destination the pilot said that we had a problem with one of the hydraulic systems.  He said there was nothing to worry about, but as a precaution there would be emergency vehicles on the runway when we landed and we, as passengers, shouldn't be alarmed to see them there.

Hmmm...If there's nothing to worry about, how come are they bothering to deploy emergency vehicles?  Instantly my mind went wild with the situation, but with one overwhelming thought: If the pilot is wrong and this turns out to be THE moment, how can I say goodbye to my precious Kazalette, Jeśka and Stefan?  More importantly, how WILL I say goodbye?  What is it I want them to know.  90% of me trusted what the pilot had said, but the wild mind part thought how much I would, in the moment of realisation that my life on earth was over, regret not having taken some action.

So, having ditched several ideas of trying to phone or send an email or text, I pulled out a pen and piece of paper and wrote a short note, marked with my seat number and name and addressed to the most precious people in my world.  It was an extraordinary moment, with my eyes, senses and feelings welling up with the emotion of the moment, expressing and truly feeling my love and pride for my family and letting them know that.  And when it was done, I sat back, unafraid and just trusting that Life knew what it was doing.

In the event, we had a bumpy landing with high winds (which of course got the mind going again), a great view of fire engines along the runway with lights flashing and eventually cruised safely to a stop at the terminal building.

It did get me to thinking, however, that oftentimes there are things unsaid which need saying.  We do not always know when we will check out.  If things have been left unsaid by the time we do so, there is a sense of unfinished business, especially for those left behind.  How often do you hear about the survivors feeling angry or bewildered by the departed having died without saying goodbye or completing properly?

We do not always have time to say goodbye, especially when death comes unexpectedly.  Is there not a way, therefore, that we can say goodbye ahead of time?  There are all sorts of creative ways of doing that, and the invitation is for you to figure out how you will do so.

More importantly, what is it that you want your loved ones to know before you go?  And what is preventing you from saying it to them right now?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

NO MORE EXCUSES!

It's too hard!  I don't have the time! I'm not smart enough!  I was treated badly as a child (so now I'm allowed to behave however I like)!  It was someone else's fault!  I feel too depressed/ sad/helpless!  I'm unmotivated!  I don't have any help!  He/she doesn't understand me!  I was drunk! I couldn't resist!  I don't have the money!  It's all too overwhelming!  I was angry at the time!  I was duped.  I'm in a hurry!  I feel scared!  I might fail!  I'm too young/old!  I'm too overweight.  It's racism / reverse-racism / sexism / look-ism!  No one ever listens to me!  I'm not important enough!  I don't know how to do it (or say it)!  The dog ate it!

The time for excuses is over.  The time for whining and complaining and being scared is over.  If you want to do something, or not do something, or change something, then just do it, no matter what it takes.  If you want a result, you are the only one who can bring it about, so you can hang onto your excuses and not get what you want, or you can transcend them and have what you want.  There is nothing in between and you get to choose.

How many times have we heard that results are 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration?  Well the perspiration is about not allowing excuses to get in the way.  It's about doing whatever it takes, whether that means scoring more points, raising the money, being better than your competition, rolling up your sleeves, changing your priorities, making the time, making sacrifices, letting go of your self-pity and generally taking full responsibility for yourself, your state of mind, your actions and your mission.

One of my teachers, the late K Bradford Brown, came up with the following Touchstone in one of his books:  "I would like to change conditions in the world, but I have to put out the cat."  In other words, we can always find an excuse, or something more pressing to do.

We can find or invent as many reasons or excuses as we like, but as long as we hang onto them, they will get in the way of creating the different results we want in our lives.

So, if you are wanting change in your life, but it's not happening, if you look hard enough you will find that somewhere or other there will be an excuse which got in the way.  If you justify behaving out of integrity by reference to something over which you claim to have no power, or by blaming someone else, you might not think it's your excuse: it may look like someone else's fault, but you have the power and creativity to circumvent ANYTHING that gets in the way.

What might be missing is the will and determination.

What's your excuse?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

EVERYTHING LEADS TO THIS MOMENT

Our firm recently merged with another in what can only be described as a momentous undertaking.  With a couple of strokes of a pen, we committed ourselves from a mid-size niche firm of 10 professionals to a multi-disciplinary firm of almost 400 professionals.  The idea itself was daunting and it took almost two years of countless scenario checks, assessments and re-assessments finally to take the deep breath necessary to to say "We do".

The process of integration and alignment has been intricate and involved, but we are finally starting to fire on all cylinders.  The plan is coming together, the whole is fast proving to be greater than the sum of its parts (which was the intention) and I am finally starting to sit back, acknowledge my partners and myself for what we have achieved and enjoy the ride.

In my reflections, it has become crystal clear to me that every step I have taken in my life, especially in the past 14 or so years, has been leading me to this point, whether I knew it or not.  Every good and foolish decision taken, every bit of learning and knowledge acquired, all my experience, trials and errors have finally allowed me to place myself in this position.  And I feel grateful for what I have.

The point is, however, if I look back in time to any moment in my life, everything I have done up to THAT moment has led me to that point, even if I haven't especially liked the point I have reached.

That is the way it is with all of our lives.  Nothing we do is a mistake.  Every choice we make leads to a result which leads to a new choice, which leads to a new result.  What we do delivers us to a destination, always.

If we make reactive choices, the chances are that we won't know what the destination is much of the time, and by luck or happen-stance we might get to a place we like.  If we can simply determine a purpose for ourselves, however broad it may be, the chances are that the choices we make will be made within a context, and so eventually lead us to a destination that nourishes us.

If you do nothing else, try to figure out, at least in general terms, the direction in which you want your life to go.  Then make choices which align with that direction.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

"BE TEACHERS...BE TRUTH SEEKERS"

The #Script exhorts you in its iconic song, #Hall_of_Fame, to "Be teachers...Be leaders...Be truth seekers".  I want to suggest that that's EXACTLY what we are called to do.  Each of us to be each of those.

Whether you like it or not, you are a teacher for others.  Your kids will learn from you: whatever you put out, they will choose to follow you, or perhaps they will choose never to be like you.  If you treat people badly, you will teach them how to treat others equally badly.  If you are generous, you will teach generosity.  If you are loving, you will teach others to love.  Meanness will beget meanness, and so on.  

In one sense, we are all teachers for each other.  We learn from others how to be, how not to be, how to behave in order to protect ourselves, and how to connect.  

So, if we are teaching others already at an unconscious level, how about consciously teaching?  You don't need to find a school: your pupils are all around you.  You have the opportunity to teach and inspire others by the way you live, the way you connect and by sharing what you know.  So many people hold back on sharing what they know, either because they think it's unimportant or that their voice doesn't count.  However, I've discovered that those who are the quietest are often the people who see others, who have insights and who will share incredible information or wisdom when asked to do so.  

We all have something valuable to teach others, so there is no need to keep it hidden until it is dragged out.  Teaching is the one thing we can all do to make a real difference around us.  No experience is needed and whatever your life's learnings have been make up your database of things to teach.  So whether it is formal information you are sharing, or just your natural ebullience and way of treating others with love, honour and respect, teach that to your children, relatives, colleagues and friends.

In teaching you become a leader, and when you teach the truth you become a truth seeker, for we teach what we most often need to learn.

So as you go about your life, teach, lead and seek the truth.  You'll be so glad you did.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

HAVING YOUR CAKE AND EATING IT

"He wants to have his cake and eat it."  Words usually spoken as if this is the original sin.  What's wrong with having your cake and eating it?  Isn't that the whole point of cake? What else does one do with cake?

The original sin is more like having your cake and then also eating your neighbour's cake.

The reason that cake ownership and consumption is so begrudged seems to be the judgment of others that boils down to issues of fairness and judgment.  Others don't want you to have it all, especially when they don't. The judgment carries through to accusations of selfishness, self-centredness, self indulgence and the rest.

Perhaps there is some of that with some cake consumers, but it seems to me that if you have worked for your cake, planned to eat it, have earned it, paid your school and other fees for it, there can be no reasonable objection to you actually getting to taste it. 

The other part of the issue is that there is a principle which is in operation in most societies most of the time: if you don't ask you don't get.  So when you are negotiating a deal, your counter-party makes a concession and you ask for another concession, you get accused of wanting both to have your cake and eat it.  

Here's my take: never feel shy to ask for both your cake and permission to eat it.  Leave to eat it may not always be granted, and you may be judged for it, but so what.  At least you tried and sometimes you will actually get to eat it.


You just need to bear in mind that if you intend eating it, there may be a price to pay in extra calories...    

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

OPPOSITION POLITICS: SOWING DISCONNECTION AND LOSING THE PLOT

"Bloody bastards", "barking dogs", "mental illnesses", "tsotsis" and "buttocks" were a few of the choice words heaped by various MP's on each other in last week's Parliamentary no- confidence debate about the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete.  Insults were flying around like confetti in what sounded like a primary school playground dust-up.  

Which seems like a strange way to deal with the real issue, which was Mbete's suitability and competency to be the Parliamentary Speaker.  Naledi Pandor was chastised for referring to the opposition as "so-called honorable Members".  Although she may have had a point in the context of the debate, the irony of her comment vis-a-vis the honour in her own behaviour seemed to have been lost on her.

To top off a fine week,  the splendid Floyd Shivambu felt the need to heckle and raise a middle finger to our Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as the latter addressed Parliament on the Marikana tragedy.  However, he showed his clear political maturity when he later said that, after discussion within his EFF Party structures, he thought it best to withdraw the middle finger gesture.  How one does that exactly, I'm not too sure. It seems like quite a challenge to withdraw a finger gesture which everyone saw and understood, but perhaps it's just me who can't figure that out.

Little wonder that the public is so skeptical of the role and effectiveness of politicians.  
This behaviour speaks volumes about a huge political immaturity within our fragile democracy.

More importantly, what floors me is that, ostensibly at least, all of these people are trying to achieve the same thing: a better South Africa and a better life for South Africans.  Somehow that piece is missed when political rhetoric becomes personal.  As the saying goes, when elephants fight it is the grass which gets trampled.

The concern is that when the leaders heap gratuitous and unnecessary abuse on each other, firstly they lose the essence of what the issue is and secondly it divides the followers even more.  If unity of the people is the goal, opposition politics seems to be completely anathema to the concept.

Until people, at all levels and in all positions, understand that judgment sows division, we can never have a connected society.  

Perhaps that is the role of our politicians: to help us to see how not to behave, and what we don't want, so that we, the electorate, are inspired to take the high road by leading the way and rather fostering connection among ourselves.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

SAFE PASSAGE THROUGH CORRIDORS OF EVIL

I had a curious experience on Thursday.  A colleague and I had spent an intense two days in Richards Bay, presiding over an inquiry.  In the mid-afternoon we walked out of an over-cooled air-conditioned boardroom into a wall of heat, with an outside shade temperature of 41 degrees C (say 106 F) and then set out from the port to drive the two hours back to Durban.  

As we reached the main road leading to the highway which would guide us home, we saw a huge fire sweeping through the dry grass a couple of hundred metres off the road.  A little further on all traffic had come to a virtual standstill, with thick white smoke billowing across the road.

Tentatively and slowly I followed a car into the smoke.  Once we were in it we could see a different fire which was burning on both sides of of the road and had clearly jumped across four lanes of traffic.  As we moved slowly and anxiously forward, feeling how I imagine a roast on a spit might feel, we came across two cars which had collided in the smoke. A kilometre further we emerged, unscathed, from our fire-run and made it to the highway.

Driving south along the highway, we saw half a dozen other major fires burning along the way, some close to the road, others further away.  There was smoke as far as the eye could see and the heat of the day raged outside the car.  A stiff south westerly wind had blown up in the meantime, and as it grew in intensity the greyness of the smoky sky became shaded with red dust, which was being blown up everywhere.  The wind grew into a full-on gale and the car shuddered and swayed for the next 100 or so kilometres as we made our way down this treacherous piece of road.  The sun, looking like a weak light bulb, could barely pierce the smoky, dust-laden smoky sky.  It truly felt as if we were driving through hell's gauntlet, with evil lurking behind every tree and hill.  There was something a bit terrifying about the experience, especially lasting as long as it did, but there was also a part of me which simply knew and trusted that we were protected and would be granted a safe passage.

And so we remained focused and got back to Durban safely and in time for me to deliver a lecture at the University.

What's the point of this story?  Well, I'm not sure that there is a point, but in the telling it came to me that most of us will at sometime(s) feel as if or believe we are surrounded by or in the presence of danger or evil.  There may also only be so much to be done by way of physical protection.  However, I hold a view that if we can somehow push on, transcend our fear and hold our line of purpose, the danger or evil will move on to prey on those who are moving slower with little or no purpose, or perhaps those who are incongruent in their ethics and behaviour.

If we take this observation into our daily lives, we see that predators (scam artists, criminals and so on) tend to prey on the weak and vulnerable.  The predators are the evil all around us, they are the red and smoky sky and fires lapping at our flanks.  The invitation is to live our lives in a way where they are rendered harmless, or at least neutralised.

And what does that take?  A transcending of fear; a strong and resilient backbone; ethical behaviour; total congruence in aligning our behaviour with socially acceptable values; a trust and knowing that Life is for us, so long as we can align with its whims rather than demand it should be different; living with true purpose.

Of course, my experience was nothing more really than just a weird collection of climatic conditions which created an uncomfortable situation.  My mind did the rest about the lurking evil and hell's gauntlet, but the story seemed worth telling, because there is evil in the world and at some stage we are all called to deal with it.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

LIFE'S LEGAL SYSTEM

With all of the #OscarPistorius hoo-ha and arguments about whether #JudgeMasipa got it wrong or not and whether the State should appeal or not, it occurs to me that Life is a bit like a legal system.

Every legal case arises out of a set of facts or occurrences.  The facts are tested in court and a judge, representing the views of Society, decides whether the manifester or doer of those facts was wrong or right, good or bad, negligent or justified.  He or she is then acquitted or convicted and sentenced.  If the judge gets it wrong, Society permits an opportunity to appeal to a higher court and seek a different outcome.

Life offers sets of facts all the time, one after the other.  We, as observers of or participants in those facts, tend to judge them wrong or right, good or evil.  Unfortunately, irrespective of our judgments, we have no rights of appeal on facts: Life is never wrong, the facts are as they are, just as Life delivered them, and are never as we think or demand they should be.  There are no exceptions to this, even when we think we know better than Life or God.

However, like an appeal in a criminal trial, Life always allows us another chance to play our hand.  If we think Life got it wrong in the first place and is punishing us (that is, we didn't like how it played out so we blamed Life or God for our situation), Life gives us a chance to course-correct and look for a different outcome.  Unlike the court system, Life gives us an unlimited number of opportunities to try again and again until we get to a result that we like and that aligns with Life's rules.

As with the legal system, Life has some rules.  If we don't abide by them, Life tends to push us around until we start to live our own lives in alignment with Life's rules.  Play fair, don't harm others, respect and honour others, don't do evil and so on.  If we disobey these rules, eventually Life in its infinite wisdom will show us there are consequences and wake us up to another way of being, as do our courts.

Sentencing by Life is the best system: we will be sentenced to suffer for so long as we do not play by the rules.  The suffering will manifest itself in our health, relationships, well-being, finances and so on.  However, the moment we align ourselves with Life's rules, as if by magic we can get paroled.

So, the thing to consider is whether you are completely accepting of the facts of Life, just as they are, whether you have found out about and are playing by Life's rules and whether you are suffering and, if so, whether you are willing to re-align yourself for another chance with Life when you discover that you have broken the rules.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

THE ARMCHAIR JUDGE: WHAT WAS YOUR #OSCARPISTORIUS VERDICT?

The world has been in a tizz and there is widespread dismay in South Africa at the acquittal of #OscarPistorius on a charge of murder of his girlfriend, #ReevaSteenkamp.  A conviction of culpable homicide (manslaughter) is cold comfort for those seeking justice for Reeva.  As with all dismay, someone of course has to be blamed. In this case the target for blame has somewhat shifted from Oscar onto #JudgeMasipa.

Suddenly, because millions of people have lived in the courtroom through TV and social media, we have all become judges and experts in the law over the course of the trial, 43 days. We have to be careful about assuming expert status. I studied for 5 years and have practiced law for over 30 years.  Granted that I may be a slow learner, but I would not have felt fully competent to write the Pistorius judgment, even if I had actually heard and seen every bit of evidence.

The Judge and her assessor were the only people legally capable of making a full assessment on all the facts, so that needs to be our starting point when we insist that she got it wrong. Yes, another Judge might have made a different decision, but it is unfair to suggest that this Judge was not doing her best. She called it as she saw it and that is simply the way that it is.

For everyone demanding that the outcome (or indeed anything else in your life) should have been different, do you have any idea how much internal peace you might find if you could just let things be? There are those who think the Judge got it right. They aren't complaining: they're lauding her wisdom.

Moaning and bitching and demanding things be different simply sows more internal and social discord. For better or for worse we have a system and we live with it. It is simply how Life is, in this particular case. If the Judge got it wrong, we need to trust that Life has a way of realigning and restoring balance.

So, time to sit back and become the jury on Shrien Dewani. As far as Oscar is concerned, let's let Life have its way.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

WHAT'S YOUR BRAND?

was at a conference this past weekend in the beautiful Cape town of Arniston.  It is a maritime law conference I've attended annually for most of the past 24 years.  Although there has been a significant turnover in conference delegates, there are still a few left who were delegates when I made my first appearance back in 1990.

It is a maritime law conference which I have attended annually for most of the past 24 years.  And those who are still around after all this time haven't changed much.  Some are there to party, drink and eat as much as they can, seem to care nothing for their health, are happy simply to chat about superficial aspects of their lives and I suppose will drop dead prematurely one day and be surprised at the moment of reckoning.  Then there are the out-and-out academic types who live for the careers they've chosen, make a massive contribution to the law but somehow seem to be allowing the rest of Life to pass them by as they ponder on the latest changes to a particular statute.  One or two delegates are completely predictable in their unpredictability and maverick approach to his life.  Then there are those who are as constant as the day.  Some appear always to be trying to prove how valuable they are, and so on.  Different as everyone is, the interesting thing is how consistent they have all been over the years in how they present themselves to the world.  And that seems to be what marketers might call their 'brand'.

Everyone chooses a brand for him- or herself: the playboy, the nerd, the depressive,the hail-fellow-well-met, the enlightened one, the maverick, the happy-go-lucky, the indestructible, the wimp, the intransigent, the class clown, the-Life-is-serious-and-then-you-die, the optimist, the prover, the pessimist and so on.  Much of it is just dramatic behaviour, people choosing to act as if they are less than they truly are or trying to prove they are more than they are.  The reason a particular persona is chosen is that it serves a greater purpose in some way or another.  The purpose might be to hide away so that you never need to take a risk, or to present yourself as permanently and inordinately happy, so that you need never share a lingering sadness or show any vulnerability, or to be pessimistic about everything so that you need never risk feeling disappointed, or to be glum most of the time in order to garner sympathy.  

However, what the choice of brand can also result in is us never getting to discover who we actually are.  We walk around trying so hard to be something else that eventually we start believing that we actually are the thing we're trying to project and forget our true essence.

And the truth is that there is no good reason to play small, or to try and prove things about ourselves or to pretend to be anything other than exactly who we are in our magnificent authenticity, because it's hard keeping up a lifetime of pretense in order to avoid being found out as the perfect, vulnerable human beings we actually are.

The invitation is to choose the authentic, natural and constant brand from which your humanity, authenticity and lovability can simply shine through. Is that what you're doing?  If not, why not and what are you really afraid of?



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR

Some time ago I wrote an article (click here) about the influential and courageous #ThuliMadonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3).  Once again she is riding the storm of her convictions and demand for accountability in our fragile democracy.

I shan't bore readers with the details - they are all over the media - but in summary, when President Zuma delivered a hopelessly inadequate response to Parliament concerning the #PublicProtector's report into the #Nkandla farce, and failed to respond to her as requested in her report to Parliament, Thuli Madonsela wrote a private letter to the President exhorting him to play by the rules.  This letter was apparently leaked to the Press, ostensibly by an unnamed senior ANC politician.  The ANC has now set about publicly attacking and denigrating the institution and integrity of the Public Protector, perhaps the one democratic and constitutionally protected institution in the country on which most right-thinking people pin their hopes for the continued well-being of South Africa.

Advocate Madonsela tweets succintly: "Can someone please say how exactly the deepening of accountability a weakening of parliamentary accountability."

The extraordinary aspect of this sorry saga, as usual in this sort of political storm, is that neither the ANC nor the President is willing to come to grips with the true issues here.  Their preference is to try to deflect the accountability issue by attacking the messenger and drawing attention from the real problem.

The ANC are not alone in this sort of strategic approach to dealing with difficult and embarrassing issues: it is a well-known but disingenuous strategy for those who are unwilling to face uncomfortable truths.

My prayer is that someone in the ruling party will one day stand up and show the necessary courage, backbone and leadership to engage with the real issues of the day and lead the ANC into a place of authenticity and integrity.

My invitation to readers is for each of us, myself included, to examine our own behaviour when challenged with uncomfortable truths and consider how we respond to them.  Somehow, if enough people in the country are willing to act out of integrity, my hope is that the behaviour of those acting in that manner will influence those who are out of integrity to change for the good of the whole.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

ALIGNING MEANING WITH PURPOSE IN YOUR LIFE

Earlier this week I met someone who was wrestling with a career which was 'meaningless', to use his words.  Although it was earning him a living, it wasn't giving him any pleasure and and he was at a loss about where to next in his life.  All he knew was that he wanted to do something that made a difference on the planet.

After chatting a bit, he revealed that his strengths were creative thinking and practicality and that he had invented something unique that would make people's lives easier.  (I can't describe the invention here as it is still confidential.)

However, he couldn't immediately see that his invention was the link between bringing meaning back into his life, finding some purpose and making a difference, all the while drawing on his strengths and passion.

When we explored a bit more he started to see that his invention wasn't just a thing consumers would like and out of which he could make some money, but rather that it would simplify tens of thousands of lives..

He told me that he had a few other innovations lined up after this particular one, all of which could make a difference in people's lives.  I truly believe that, now that he has tapped into a purpose for his creative inventions, he will not only make the difference he wants, but also be very successful, at the same time living a life of meaning.

The message is to align strengths, talents, gifts and skills with purpose in order to find meaning in your life.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

THE CHALLENGE IN #GRATITUDE CHALLENGES

I am so glad to see so many people taking on Gratitude Challenges over extended periods of time.  There is something about expressing your gratitude over and over that eventually makes it a part of your life, helping transcend the things that come  into your life which you didn't especially want and for which you didn't ask.

A Gratitude Challenge can seem straight-forward when you are feeling grateful for all the things you like or love.  It becomes a daily discipline to give thanks for your children, parents, food on the table, a roof over your head, nice holidays, good health, a decent job and so on.  And yes, we want to feel grateful for the things we like, rather than just taking them for granted.  That is when we start getting into a space of abundance - seeing just how much there is around us and in our lives for which we can feel thankful.

However, our lives are not just about the things we like.  There is a lot which comes into our lives which we do not like, didn't want and for which we didn't (consciously) ask.  

I want to suggest that the REAL challenge in doing a Gratitude Challenge is finding a way to express your gratitude for EVERYTHING in your life, whether you like it or not.  What this will require is a willingness to engage and welcome into your life everything that comes your way.  If you get sick, feel your gratitude for the wake-up call Life has given you to get your health and life balance back on track.  If you lose your job, feel your gratitude for the opportunity Life has given you to choose a new path and dig into your creativity.  If #RobinWilliams dies, feel your gratitude for the joy he brought you and for the peace that he has at last found.

There is NOTHING in our lives that does not offer an opportunity to feel grateful, so the true challenge is to find and express that gratitude at all times.  In fact, it is not so much about being grateful for things in your life as it is about being grateful for all of your life.

Finally, the other challenge is to truly ex-press your gratitude.  I have found that at times I have got into writing down lots of things for which I think I am grateful, but then noticing that they have just become lists and that I am not TRULY feeling or ex-pressing (that is, pressing out and expanding) my gratitude for those things.  Notice if the Gratitude Challenge becomes a daily chore.  That is a sure sign that you aren't properly in touch with the actual feeling of gratitude.

And if you're wondering why gratitude is good for you and the planet, read what David Hawkins has to say in his book, "Power vs. Force" to see where gratitude sits on the consciousness scale which he has kinesiology tested.  It's right up there and cancels out exponential numbers of negative people's thinking on the planet.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

RELATIONSHIP LONGEVITY

My parents-in-law, Joan and Frank Kiepiel (89 and 93), today celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary!  Joan (an English woman), met Frank (a Pole) during the Second World War when the latter escaped from a Siberian prisoner of war camp and somehow made it to England, where he joined the Polish squadron in the RAF.  They met in the Midlands and, at the time, didn't have any common language.  Despite the communication barrier and the fact that the two of them couldn't be more different human beings in every possible way, somehow they fell in love.  Frank learned some English, they got married and after the war migrated to South Africa.  There's a lot more to the story, but it does get one curious about how a relationship which had more than a few challenges could have been sustainable.  

After nearly 30 years as their son-in-law and having observed and spent time with them in all sorts of circumstances, I still don't fully understand it, but it does seem that the fundamentals at play can hold together any relationship.  Those seem to me to be:

  • A total, unconditional commitment to, respect for and adoration of each other
  • An unconditional commitment to and love for their children, grandchildren as well as their own and each other's extended families, however far away they may be and whatever they might have done with their lives
  • Support for each other through thick and thin
  • Total honesty with each other - speaking their truths and saying things just the way they are
  • Allowing each other space to do what they needed to do for themselves individually - honouring Frank's business travel, Joan's decoupage and gardening, Frank's golf and tinkering with cars in his later years, Joan's Royal Doulton and numerous other interests, and yet coming together seamlessly when moved to do so
  • Joan quietly and gently allowing Frank's Polish temperament to run its course when he was having a rant about something or other
  • An incredible care and generosity for each other and most other humans on the planet
  • A mostly unspoken, but obvious love for each other
  • Fierce loyalty towards each other
  • A complete acceptance of each other's different-ness with no demand that the other should change his or her ways, mannerisms, cultural make-up or anything else: accepting and loving each other just the way they are (which is not a bad approach to Life either!)
They are truly an inspiration to any couple, especially those who think that different-ness gets in the way of resilient relationships.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

SOME POSSIBILITIES FOR #GAZA

Dear participants in the #Gaza conflict (yes, all of you, whether you think you are aggressors or not).  Here's how a simple mind like mine, which sits 1000's of kilometers away, but nonetheless weeps for you and your land, sees the possibilities open to you:

1.  JUST STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING

Stop fighting, bombing, tunnelling, shelling, settling, hurting, bullying, maiming and killing.  Stop thinking you're superior, inferior, hard-done-by, victims, oppressed, entitled or somehow different.

2.  DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

If it's not working, do something different.  Madness is the practice of repeating the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result.  "If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always gotten."

3.  LET GO YOUR ATTACHMENTS AND DEMANDS AND BURY YOUR EGOS

As long as each side keeps insisting that it's right and remains attached to the same ideas and demands, nothing can change.  Just let go.  What have you to lose?  The way you're going, you have your lives to lose.

4.  RE-ENGAGE WITH YOUR HUMANITY

See the other for what he or she is: a human being with needs, relationships, family, children and capable of loving and being loved, JUST LIKE YOU.  It's hard to kill someone if you can hold him or her as you hold yourself, rather than as the enemy or someone to be extinguished.

5.  GET OFF YOUR RESENTMENT

When you see the TRUE cost of your resentment - loss of relationships, death, illness, destruction, loss of normality, loss of your humanity, disconnection from others, yourself and God - you  might then stop harbouring ill will towards your neighbour and realise that the resentment is killing you, not your neighbour.

6. RE-CONNECT WITH GOD

Amazingly, it's the same God to whom you are both apparently turning for help.  If you truly believe that God is good and that you are made in God's image, you surely cannot believe that you are carrying out God's will by decimating each other?  Your actions are not those of a benificent God.  Your behaviour is the greatest disservice you can do to your God.  Stop it!

7.  LOOK AROUND YOU

Is this carnage truly what you all want?  If not, is this really what you are willing to do, truly the way you want to live and honour your lives in order to get what you want?  At some point you need to say: Enough is enough!

IT'S ALL POSSIBLE, but only you can bring about peace, if you so choose.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

UNINHIBITED JOY

Yesterday we went to a choir festival held on the lawns of the beautiful @MakarangaLodge in #Kloof, #KZN, to listen to the local medal winning schools from the #WorldChoirGames held in #Riga this year, @Kearsney_Choir, Hillcrest High School and St Mary's DSG.

The repertoires of these wonderful young people, levels of professionalism and excellence in preparation, performance and coaching by their respective coaches were simply breathtaking, inspirational and moving.

But, other then the music and beautiful voices, what shifted me most into my gratitude was watching people in the audience engaging with the music.  In particular, there were two small girls - maybe 3 or 4 years old - near Kazalette and me, both dressed in pink, the one with huge blonde curls all over her head and a dummy (pacifier) in her mouth,the other a bit older with a pony tail and naughty face.  These girls danced joyfully for most of the afternoon, immersed in the music, with boundless energy and seemingly oblivious to anything else around them and completely uninhibited.  It was an object lesson in living in the moment.

Further down the sloping lawns a stout lady in a smart black dress and sun hat just couldn't help herself - she kept getting to her feet and dancing rhythmically to the upbeat African beat, again totally free, uninhibited and simply full of the joy of the music.  All around us people were engaged and engaging with the music.  Some danced, some simply sat engrossed, and yet others were just there because it was cool to hang out at Makaranga on a Saturday afternoon.  Those who were simply there for the picnic or to chat to each other missed a wonderful opportunity to immerse their senses in something special.

My overriding sense of the dancers, especially, was how they were unambiguously joyous, allowing the music to take them to a special place where it didn't matter what others were doing, or not doing around them and what others thought.  They could simply express that authentic, playful part of themselves that we all have, but with which we find it so difficult to engage in the context of our busy, electronically controlled lives.

We all have the joy within us.  Try music to help you come out to play.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

NEW BEGINNINGS: A RAFT OF POSSIBILITIES

I am told that, astrologically speaking, this is a time for change and new beginnings for many people in the world.  Given developments in my own life, I tend to believe it.

On the eve of a merger between our firm and the giant #BowmanGilfillan (@BowmanGilfillan), it is time to reflect on what might be possible with new beginnings (also known as "change").

The first challenge with change is to transcend the resistance to the impending change.  It took me (and my partners) some time to get over our grumpiness about surrendering our names to the new firm and what we perceived as surrendering an independence which we treasured and nurtured.  It was only once we could let those go (partly ego-driven and partly fear-driven) that we could boldly step up to the challenges of this new adventure.

The truth about our resistance is that, whilst we may be losing the name of our firm, we are losing nothing of our goodwill and reputation in the market - it's not as if we as individuals will evaporate with the firm's name - and although we may have different reporting structures, we are still free to run our part of the new firm as creatively, impeccably and in alignment with our personal values as ever.

Having risen above the resistance, I have been able to see clearly the possibilities for the group of people making up our firm: access to bigger markets, a massive network of support, better quality work, security for the future, a bigger and stronger team, developing our young team members into leading experts in their respective fields, greater learning, and, and...

It was hard to see all of that with a cloud of negativity sitting on top, but now I can hardly contain my excitement at the possibilities coming out of our merger.

New beginnings indeed, but the possibilities only emerge when the engagement with and embracement of the change is complete.  A half-hearted engagement will fog over the possibilities.