Featured post

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...

Get all my postings delivered to you by email. I will never share your details with anyone.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

JE SUIS ANDREW

Most of France, and indeed much of the world, identified itself with the ravaged #CharlieHebdo magazine through the recent #JeSuisCharlie campaign.  Everyone who took to the streets in the  #JeSuisCharlie campaign with such righteous indignation declared: I have every right to say what I want and not to be attacked for my speech, opinions and convictions.  A noble and understandable stance, but what if they were identifying with the wrong people?

I am protected by an impressive and comprehensive Bill of Rights in South Africa.  It gives me all the rights ascribed by the world to Charlie Hebdo, subject to certain limitations going to decency and hate speech.  The rights are all agreed by people, and some accord with the rules of natural justice and arguably Gods laws.  I therefore don't need to be and I don't particularly want to be Charlie Hebdo.  In identifying with Charlie Hebdo, I am saying not only that I have freedom of speech, but that I may offend and abuse whomever whenever.

The truth is that I am my own person, following and honouring my own values and living my life as well as I know how.  Whilst I operate vis-a-vis 
my fellow citizens in the context of the Bill of Rights, and respect the latter, I don't hold a man-made set of ideals as the thing that defines me.


What defines me is a set of personal values which determine how I honour, respect and treat my family, colleagues, friends, relatives, fellow human beings and, not least of all, myself.  I am defined by the place I hold in the Universe and my connectedness with it and all that it contains.

If I behave like Charlie Hebdo, I disconnect at many levels with other human beings.  So, whilst some people negotiated my right to behave in that way, quite frankly "Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo: Je suis Andrew".

Who are you?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

WHAT ARE YOU TOTALLY SURE ABOUT?

I am reasonably sure the sun will set today and rise again tomorrow, but even that isn't certain, what with passing meteors, global warming and black holes.  I am pretty sure that I will leave my physical body, but I have no idea when.  Save for those two, there isn't too much that I can be sure about.

Many years ago I was so sure that a new consultancy that I had started was going to win a big tender and set the business on its path that I left my old job so that I would have time to deal with the work coming from the tender.  Guess what happened?  We managed to lose the un-losable tender, which of course then presented some fairly major challenges.  Not to mention the disappointment!  I have since then developed a healthy circumspection about tenders, never expecting a thing, but when we do win one I feel excited (and a bit triumphant).

How many times have you been excited about a concert or forthcoming event, talking it up in your mind, only to be disappointed with the end result?  How often have you felt sure your flight will take off on time, and then discovered that the flight has been delayed.

The thing about being totally sure of something is that, when it happens you feel reasonably satisfied, but if it doesn't you can end up feeling disappointed or worse.  However, if you accept in any circumstance that any outcome might be possible, you stop setting yourself up for disappointment and start getting creative about what to do with all possible outcomes.

The idea here is not to flat-line with emotions, expect nothing and cut all anticipation out of your life, but rather to remain open to all possibilities, all of the time.  You will be amazed at how your creativity levels soar.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

NO TIME TO LOSE: MAKING EVERY MINUTE COUNT

A few days ago I had a minor RFO (red-faced outburst) on this blog about unconscious people wasting my time. (Well, spending their time in a way which causes me to pass my time in a way other than I choose.)  Which then got me to looking at the way I was spending my current weekend and thinking about how I want to use my time generally.

We have a finite number of minutes on earth, a statistical 3 score years and 12, maybe some more, maybe fewer, but finite they are.  Once they are used up, that's it.  No prospect of bargaining or begging for more, no prospect of spending more time with loved ones, completing unfinished projects, writing unwritten books, building monuments, leaving legacies or even cleaning out the garage.  When it's closing time, it's time.

We also have no way of knowing when closing time will be, because the vagaries of Life allow us to do some planning, but ultimately Life will have its way with us.  As I've quoted before: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans".

So when you're sitting in traffic, or lying around watching sport, drinking beer in the sun or procrastinating on a project with some other distraction, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does what I am doing at this moment align with any conscious purpose of mine?
  • When I look back on my life, will I consider this time to have been well spent?
  • How can I spend this time more productively and more meaningfully?
This is not an invitation to make up huge lists of things to do and knock them off, one after another.  Meaningful time spend can be dealing with things-to-do lists, but it can equally be travelling to places you hanker after, time spent with the family or genuine rest time, if that is what is needed.  

However, this is an invitation to take note that your time is limited and when you run out of it one day, I would hate you to look back with regret and think about how much more time you would have loved to have spent with your children or otherwise engaging with your life, rather than stalking people on Facebook.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

THE INEFFICIENCIES OF UNCONSCIOUS LIVING

Yesterday I pulled up second in line to get through a toll gate and noticed the driver in front of me, after stopping, start to scratch around in the car and his pockets for money to pay the toll booth operator.  As cars in the other lanes streamed through on either side, I could feel my irritation levels rising.  Eventually, after probably not much more than a minute or two, my nemesis in front of me found some cash, paid the operator and drove off.

On reflection, I couldn't be sure whether my irritation was triggered more by my time being wasted or my judgment of his behaviour as "unconscious".  My irritation doesn't really matter in the greater scheme of things: it is mine to deal with along with my demands that things should be different and judgment of how people should be and behave.

So the incident cost me a minute or two of my time (which happens to matter to me), but it also cost him some time in his own life and perhaps even a moment of anxiety at keeping a toll booth operator and finger-tapping driver behind him waiting.  Perhaps he chooses to live his life that way and doesn't particularly care that he doesn't plan for what lies ahead, or that he is insufficiently organised to know where his money is, or who might be waiting for him to live his life.  (I can hear my own judgments ringing out as I write, but just indulge me for a moment here!)

I find my buttons also being pressed by people who bump into me in shopping centres because they're texting and not looking where they are going, and people who drive erratically because they're lost or unsure of where they should go, and people who call me Mike minutes after being introduced to me as Andrew Pike, and families who spread five wide across shopping mall walkways and dawdle along, so no one can get past, and people who use their cell-phones at the movies, and, and...  (Feel free to share your own examples.)

This is all called unconscious living: people who are so engrossed in "I" that they are out of touch with others and the context in which they are living their lives.  There is a huge inefficiency about living one's life this way. The costs include loss of precious time, disconnects with others and not engaging fully with the wider aspects of Life.  For instance, I refuse to believe that it's only me who feels irritated by others acting on automatic and impacting my space and time.  I think there's a whole bunch of us who get irritated and feel alienated by that behaviour.  I guess that's why we see road rage, which is just a very dramatic form of irritation at others' unconscious driving.  If I am right, much as we can try and be saintly and forgive and surround the unconscious person with pink light and so on, the fact is that the unconscious behaviour still creates a pretty big body of people who feel alienated and disconnected.

I'm not suggesting that we need to live our lives in super-efficient, perfectionist mode.  All I'm suggesting is that we all catch a wake-up! 

For the meantime, I'll renew my efforts to achieve sainthood.  I seem to have lost some momentum.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

HOW ARE YOUR VALUES WORKING FOR YOU?

@DrJohnDemartini suggests that each of us has a set of values (e.g. Family, friends, finances, career, spirituality and so on), but that we organise our personal values into hierarchies which reflect the importance of those values to us.  As we all choose (consciously or sub-consciously) where each value sits in the hierarchy, and one person's set of values is likely to be in a different order from another's, we tend to have different results in different value areas from each other.  How come?

Well, the hypothesis is that if "finances" happens to be your highest value (i.e. the value or asleft of your life that matters most to you), that is where you will spend most of your time, energy and money and that is where you will have the greatest return on your investment of time, energy and money.  Similarly, if family relationships are what matter most, you will invest energy there and get your best returns or results.  If your career matters more than anything else, your behaviour and results will reflect that.

Conversely, if a value such as health is low down the list in your hierarchy of values, you won't place much emphasis on it and guess what the outcome will be?

John Demartini also postulates the interesting idea that with some values, there will be a flow of energy or resources from the people that value them least to those that value them the most.  For instance, if money is high on person A's list, but lower on person B's list, the money of person B is likely to flow towards the bank account of person A.

So, given that context, the question is: how are your values working for you?  Take a look at what is NOT working in your life and then answer truthfully: where does the value associated with what is not working sit on my list of values?  If it isn't somewhere near the top of the list, that just might be why things aren't working: you're simply not attracting enough (or manifesting) into your life abundance associated with that value because your attraction energy is elsewhere.

Want to try something different? Re-rank your values and see what changes.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

CO-EXISTING WITH SERPENTS

We face many serpents as we go through our lives.  Some take the form of toxic relationships which are capable of sucking the life-force out of us, whilst others may take the form of addictions, regrets, opportunities missed, weight issues, poor body image, unpleasant events, situations and issues which have us by the throat and throttle the spirit out of us.

One of my personal long-stay serpents arrived some years ago in the form of a large chunk of family savings I was scammed out of.  Let the record show that I take full responsibility for the circumstances by which I allowed myself to be scammed, but allowing the accompanying serpent to take hold of me and become a part my life was pure self-indulgence.  The serpent took the form of my repetitive self-accusations of stupidity, naivety, recklessness and irresponsibility, amongst others (and those were still the nice ones!).  Every time I reflected on the incident, I allowed the serpent of self-recrimination to grab me by the throat. The serpent's hold strangled the creativity, joie de vivre, sense of abundance and self-respect out of me for months and years afterwards.  It wasn't always present, but would come slithering in at the drop of a hat and especially when any other money issue came up for me.

The trouble is that serpents are always around us, ready to strike at the slightest suggestion of vulnerability or weakness.  How does one deal with a serpent when one is subject to and weakened by its destructive powers?

We can start by dealing with it as we might with any predatory creature: The first and most important thing is to let it go.  If you have a mamba by the tail, for heaven's sake let it go before it turns around and bites you.  If you're hanging on for dear life and for fear of what might happen if you release it, try easing your grip and see if it loosens its own grip on you.  You may have your reasons for holding onto a toxic relationship, for instance - you may be reliant on money flowing from the relationship, or you may be getting some attention, even if it's the worst kind - but you might just be a whole lot better off in the grander scheme of things if you simply let it go.  Scary as that might be, you'll be better off without toxins leaking into you.  The principal, however, is that if the serpent has you, it's because you are determined at some level to hold onto it.  It somehow pays you to have it in your life.

Secondly, when you've let it go, or even if you don't think you were actually holding on, but were nonetheless flirting with the serpent, let it be.  Let it just lie around until it gets bored and slithers off somewhere.  The moment you abuse, fear, hide away from, bad-mouth, make up stories about or resent the serpent, you give it power to grab you again. By all means observe it if you must, but remember what happened to Lot's wife when she turned around to take a look.  Even just looking at the serpent or otherwise bringing it back to awareness will re-energise it.

Giving power to a serpent is the worst way to deal with it, because it will stay in your life - it has every reason to stay when someone else is giving it power and energy.  Take away its power and it will look for a new host.

None of us is serpent-proof, because they are all around and ready to strike at any time, but we can live our lives in a way where they are persuaded to stay out of the way in the shadows.  The important thing is to recognise the serpent when it shows up.  Only then can you start using effective serpent repellent.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

LIGHTENING UP FOR 2015

"Why aren't you dancing with joy at this very moment? is the only relevant spiritual question." PIR VILAYAT INAYAT KHAN, Sufi seer.

One of my Universal Resolutions for 2015 (see my last post) is to lighten up.  Not in the sense of shedding some of the body's festive season adipose tissue excesses, but just lightening up, tapping into the inner child if you will.  Perhaps easier said than done with the world in an economic crisis, growing extremism and terrorism, global warming, Ebola, plane crashes, AIDS, personal crises, the impending extinction of the rhino and everything else that hacks away at our psyche.  What if it was possible to be light and joyous despite all of the planet's suffering, but without disengaging from Lif'e's realities?

As long as we allow ourselves to feel desperate about the plight of others, and our own sorry lives, our own heaviness will pull us deeper into despair.  And taking on Life's challenges from a place of desparation simply ain't going to make a significant difference to the issues at hand.  

Lightening up requires us to let things be, rather than to demand they be otherwise.  It requires us to accept them as a part of our lives, rather than to resign ourselves to the whims of fate.  (There IS a difference between acceptance and resignation!)  It requires us to welcome everything that comes into our lives, and find a reason to be grateful for it having shown up.  It calls on us to explore possibilities for our lives and the planet which reveal themselves in the way in which we engage with each issue.

Lightness requires us to stop complaining, to stop trying to engage selectively with the bits of our life which we like, but avoid and moan about the things which we don't.  It calls on us to feel grateful for what we have, but not to indulge ourselves in depression and helplessness about what we don't have or don't want.

We are allowed, when being light, to feel sadness and grief, but lightness does not allow us to sink into a morass of self-pity as the next step after sadness.  It calls on us rather to take the energy of our grief and engage that fully with Life as it is, seeing and claiming every gift that Life has to offer.

And, of course, lightening up is not just about dealing with the heavy stuff in our lives. Nit is about becoming playful in every aspect of our lives - with our children, our significant others, our colleagues and those with whom we engage daily, principally becoming playful with ourselves.

So how about coming out to play?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

SOME UNIVERSAL RESOLUTIONS FOR 2015

First of all, happy New Year to you and welcome to 2015!  And having said that, have you thought about your New Year's resolutions yet?  Any realistic chance of actually achieving them?  Not sure?

"The road to hell is paved with distractions from good intentions."
Dr K. Bradford Brown

I don't know what the statistics are for New Year's resolutions actually realised, but I suspect that the percentage is pretty low.  They always sound grand, but when the time comes for putting your shoulder to the wheel, something more important seems to come up.  So here are some suggestions.

First, let's consider what a RESOLUTION might entail.  Perhaps it should be some or all of the following: Realistic, Easy, Sensible, Optional, Life-changing, Unusual, Time-based, Inspiring, On-going and Now (i.e. don't put it off - start now).

Secondly, in that context, I want to suggest a set of universal resolutions for 2015 which you can use (or not), adapt however you wish, but which will align with the keywords from the RESOLUTION acronym above and not require any more of your time or resources than you already use.

1. Take a long moment to acknowledge yourself for all that you achieved in 2014.  Also acknowledge yourself for being the precious person you are and what you bring to the world.  Make your acknowledgement real by writing yourself a letter or recording a voice note to yourself. (This resolution is important - no one's going to do this for you.)

2. Heal a relationship: Be the first one to take a noble step towards healing any dysfunctional relationship in your life and then keep rebuilding and maintaining the relationship.

3. Heal yourself.  Make any meaningful change to your eating or physical habits to enhance your health.

4. Complete at least one piece of unfinished or incomplete business in your life: You could, for instance:  Apologize for something you did or didn't do; repay a debt; ask someone for forgiveness; finish off a job; tidy your office; forgive yourself for anything you've been beating yourself up on; start meditating; or a myriad of other stuff which might be unfinished.

5. Hang out with people who matter to you and who add value to your life rather than those who drain you.

6. Tell someone whom you love that you love him/her, and why. Do it frequently.  It's not a tick-box exercise.

7. Stop demanding (and hoping) that things should be different.  If you want something to change, take your own positive steps to bring about the change you want.  In any event, choose one meaningful thing that you want to change in your life.  Give it a date by which you want the change to be effected, identify some realistic and doable action steps, start doing them and tell someone about the change you are making.

8. Identify one thing about which you are (or can become) passionate.  Start doing it - passionately.

9. Do something genuinely altruistic and for the greater good - whatever you do, however big or small, and whether it's helping the plight of rhinos, raising AIDS awareness, saving rain-forests, campaigning against fireworks on New Year's eve or doing your bit for global warming, do it with intent, do it within your means and capacity and do it for all of our children and grandchildren.

10. Each day, no matter what is happening in your life, find at least one thing for which you are genuinely grateful and joyous and engage fully with your gratitude and joy.

11. Lighten up!

There is nothing in the above list which is beyond you or which will take up time you think you don't have.  The only thing that might be a bit extra in your life is item 9, but you can do everything else within the context and time constraints of your life as you presently know it.

No matter what 2014 looked like for you and the world, 2015 can be a terrific year.  It's up to you. Cheers!