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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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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.