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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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Sunday, 29 March 2015

HOW WILL THE WORLD REMEMBER YOU?

Until a couple of days ago very few people in the world knew the name #AndreasLubitz. Today everyone knows him as the co-pilot who locked his Captain out of the cabin of a Germanwings aircraft and then flew the plane at 700kph into the side of a French mountain, killing all 150 people on board.

Sky News reports that Andreas Lubitz told his ex-girlfriend a year or so ago that one day he would do something "that would change the system and that everyone in the world would remember the name of Andreas Lubitz". Prophetic words, but is that really the way to ensure you get remembered? Did he make a difference? Did he change lives? You bet he did, but to what end and at what cost?

However troubled Andreas Lubitz may have been, however much recognition he may have wanted and however much he may have wanted to be remembered, nothing can justify his actions. He has left behind incredible pain and grieving and affected the lives of everyone associated with the passengers on the ill-fated flight. Take the 15 children from the Joseph Koenig Gymnasium who died in the flight. It is hard to imagine the grief and sorrow for parents, siblings, schoolteachers, classmates, in fact the whole town of Haltern am See. Then multiply those numbers by 10, and include in those the names of Andreas Lubitz' parents and family members, to understand the scale of what he did and the hurt his actions have prompted.

Now consider someone like Alan Turing, who broke the German codes in the 2nd World War and is said to have thereby ended the war at least two years early.  How many lives did he save, how much sorrow did he manage to spare people? He also eventually committed suicide, vilified and chemically castrated for being gay, rather than being heralded for the hero he was. Today the world remembers Alan Turing for the genius and hero he was, his name now immortalised by the silver screen.

Two different lives, ending in suicide, remembered by the world for completely different reasons, one set of reasons noble and heroic, the other notorious, cowardly and self-indulgent.

We don't have to be depressed, or brilliant, or gay, or victimized or heroes  or villians to be remembered: all that we are called to do is our very best for the greater good.  Life will take care of the rest.

So how do you want to be remembered?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

FINDING THE "I" IN THE STORM (Part II)

When I woke in the morning, I took my daily walk to the gate with the dog. There were branches, twigs and leaves strewn all over the driveway and lawn as testament to the overnight storm.  A couple of days later I went cycling on one of my favourite trails, to find the route occasionally blocked with fallen trees.  The storm had passed, but it had left some fall-out.  And so it is with all storms: eventually they pass, but often they leave behind some damage, if not devastation.  

Last week I wrote about finding calm in the midst of the storms which pass through our lives from time too time.  The storms are all too often self-inflicted by our minds' and bodies' response to outside stimuli. In fact, the storms largely comprise of our inner angst, our anger, fear and disconnection.  Everything else is just circumstance.

We learn that, at the centre of a cyclone lies the eye, a place of calm and relative peace.  I want to suggest that that same place exists at the centre of our own storms.  We call it the "I". 

A teacher of ours in the '80's and '90's, the late Dr Jean Klein, said that we are not our bodies, we are not our thoughts, nor our feelings and emotions. If that is so, then we are not the storm, nor part of it, even if our minds create it.  The still place within us lies beneath the havoc of the storm, and the fall-out only happens if we permit it to do so.  The fall-out occurs when we link the outside circumstance to our own state of self-image, self-esteem and so on.

Our "I am" state is rather a state of consciousness, a state of connection with all things.  So long as we remain connected with ourselves, others and Life, we can manage the fall-out from the storm.

Finding the "I" in the storm requires a letting go of all demands that things should be different (that is, that the outside circumstances shouldn't be happening).  It requires us not to judge or blame others (including Life or God) for setting these circumstances on us: it is simply a letting go of the blame, letting go of the resentment and forgiving whoever or whatever may be the object of that resentment.  In order to find the "I", we are invoked to explore the possibilities being offered by the circumstances of the storm: the possibility of a clean start, of clearing out dead wood, of accessing the higher and most noble parts of ourselves, of maintaining our personal integrity and so on.

Letting go of ideas, judgements, expectations, demands and resentments that we insist on hanging onto can be more than challenging, especially when we insist we are right.  In hanging on like that, however, all we are doing is pandering to the ego's demands and that keeps us from accessing the conscious place of the "I".  

There are many tools and techniques for coming to stillness: meditation each day, positive affirmations and so on, but for me the greatest gift we have is that of our gratitude.  So long as we can express gratitude each dayunconditionally, for ALL that is in our lives, how is it possible then simultaneously to feel and express anger and resentment about what is in our lives?  Gratitude seems to me also to be a way of accessing our courage and transcending fear, which after all is the piece that makes us scared when the outside circumstances enter our lives.

So try saying thank you to Life each day for whatever it has delivered to you.  You may not immediately recognise its gifts, but you will.  

And when you do, you will find yourself in the tranquil "I" of the storm.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

FINDING STILLNESS IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

I have a number of friends who currently find themselves in stormy weather.  This piece is written for all of you.

I have been through some storms in my time: financial, health, relationship, career... I like to think I have weathered them all fairly well, my evidence being that I am still here to tell the tale.  What has been so each time, however, has been how overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, angry or generally disconnected I have often felt at the time.  The disconnection has always been multi-faceted: with others, Self and Life (or God, if you prefer).


The other night we had a massive wind storm at our house.  As I lay in bed at 3am listening to windows and doors banging, trees groaning, branches falling from trees and the howl of the wind through the gorge, it suddenly seemed so obvious how one weathers, or at least copes with storms.


Whether we choose it or not - a point of debate in itself - we are all visited at some time or times in our lives by stormy weather, both in the physical and metaphorical senses. My health storms have included my own back trouble over the years, a passing heart issue two years ago and some serious health issues experienced by family members, with the attendant knock-on effects for the rest of the family.  Each time the storms struck, I found myself gripped for periods by anxiety, fear of what might happen, apparent helplessness and so on.  I only truly weathered each storm when I took responsibility for my own state in the storm.

As I lay in bed that night listening to the noise, it came to me that that was all it was - noise.  Despite the noise and minor destruction taking place outside, I remained comfortable and unharmed in my bed whilst the wind raged around me. Whatever my anxiety for the integrity of the house, within myself I was fine.

If I transpose that concept to the health storms I described earlier, whilst there were times when I was sore, or weak or breathless, inherently there was a part of me that was separate from the pain and physical aspects, that remained separate from what my mind did with all the stimuli from my body and the ailments of my family members.  The stimuli simply trigger our thought patterns and inform the meaning we place on those stimuli.  The meanings we place on them are what make us scared, or angry or disconnected.  That is the true storm: the sensations, feelings and thoughts that go with the events.

However, in our essence we are not those sensations, feelings or thoughts. We are inherently separate from those, and in that place of separateness lies our salvation and the peace that is available despite the storm.

I am told that there is calm in the eye of a hurricane.  Thankfully I haven't had the opportunity to test that physically for myself, but accepting that that is so, it is no different with us as human beings.  There is a place within and sometimes sitting beneath all the mental and physical turmoil which is still and peaceful. It is that place which we have the opportunity to access.  

YBH (Yes, but how?) I will discuss that next week. For the meantime, it is enough to know that the place exists.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

BRINGING ABOUT WHAT YOU MOST WANT (OR FEAR)

Lately I've been involved in several #tenders to get new business. It's not always helpful being a cynic about tenders, but I think I might have become one over the years. The success hit rate has tended to be around 5 - 10%, often because a tender has informally been awarded to someone before it's even been put out to the public and sometimes it gets awarded to the person who has paid the most sensible bribe to the official running the tender.  I don't fall in either camp.

Many tenders, of course, are awarded fairly.  However, they are awarded in the context of competing offerings from multiple tenderers who have interpreted the requirements the way they see them and have mostly cut their rates to the minimum that will allow them a little profit, so they are never easy to win.  If you've ever been involved in a tender, you will also know that it involves a lot of work against rare returns. 

So, having had my little rant, here's the point. When something is hard to attain (tenders, love, success, loads of money) it is easy to be tempted not to give it 10 out of 10, because after all, what is the point?  If you're not likely to get it anyway, why use all of your energy in pursuit of it?

On the other hand, if you only decide to give say 7 out of 10 in terms of your energy to the project or pursuit, you have automatically reduced your chances of success by at least 30%. If you don't commit fully to your pursuit of love, for instance, because you fear you will be spurned, guess what is likely to happen?

The truth is that, if we really want something, we are required to commit 100% to it and not doubt for a moment that it is attainable, because by giving something less than 100% and doubting ourselves, we end up bringing about the thing we most feared and that caused us to hold back in the first place. 

Where are you giving less than 100%?  And why?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

"LIFE HAS NO REMOTE: GET UP AND CHANGE IT YOURSELF"

Some years ago I was bored with my legal career, burning out, feeling (well, believing) I was trapped, and itching for some variety.  I knew I wanted to be more involved in people management and empowerment, so dipped my toes in the water by writing and publishing a book about people management, People Risks, under the auspices of what was then the Society for Risk Managers.  Enjoyable as writing the book was for me, the day to day grind of my legal career continued. I needed change, but had no idea how to do that.  I had a family to look after, was near the top of my career, was earning a good income and only had some of the skill set I knew I needed to start consulting.  What was clear, however, was that nothing was going to change without some positive action from me.

The first step was to get over the frightened part of me which was anxious about the future, couldn't see a clear path and was comfortable where I was, in an uncomfortable sort of way (if you see what I mean).  The only way out of my circumstances was to take a deep breath, dig into my courage centre, plot a course and then jump.   Which is what I did, creating a management consultancy with a couple of friends and started delivering the stuff we knew about and learning about that which we did not.

I immersed myself in matters of corporate governance and 'soft skills', stress management, creating and living with purpose and much of the material with which I had worked in writing my book.  I then started developing trainings and consulting.  Much of this presented uncharted waters for me, but I found that, with the purpose I had behind my actions, I started developing some genuine expertise. Perhaps there was a bit of "fake it 'til you make it" syndrome, but it worked.

I shan't bore you with my life story thereafter, but the point is that I wanted real change in my life, but Life wasn't going to deliver it without me taking the initiative and offering significant commitment to the change required.

I want to suggest that, at some level, most of us either want or will want some sort of change in our lives, whether it is in relation to careers, money, health, relationships or whatever.

It isn't going to happen by itself because, as Mark A. Cooper remarks: "Life has no remote: get up and change it yourself".

Sunday, 1 March 2015

"THIS TIME IT'S DIFFERENT"

"This time it's different!"  Said to be the four words which have lost people more money than one can imagine in times of #stock_market #volatility, because people don't trust the trends over time which show that a market that is falling will eventually turn around and rise again and one which reaches a high will at some time turn and fall again, so they end up selling and buying on #emotion at all the wrong times.

We love predictability and get scared by uncertainty, so we rely on the past to predict our future behaviour, but then get surprised / shocked / disappointed / dismayed when things don't turn out the way they were supposed to.  There is no greater set up for a sucker-punch than to expect things to go a certain way, because when they don't, well ... it sucks.

What if, instead of expecting (and demanding) certain outcomes, we could rather let go of the expectation and simply open up to possibilities?  What if we could be open each time (from moment to moment) to how it will be different and what possibilities we can explore?  

Sure, Life is pretty safe when it is predictable, but 'safe' also encapsulates boring, repetitive and hum-drum.  If we want to engage with Life and be energised by it, doing 'safe' and predictable isn't the way to go.

Next time you are doing a repetitive exercise - burpees, squats, knitting, going shopping or whatever - try engaging fully in the moment with each repeat.  Truly re-experience your body sensations each time, re-engage with each breath, commit totally to the repeat you are doing rather than hanging in for the end of the repeats.  Suddenly you come alive, stop zoning or numbing out with the repetition and a world of possibility opens up.

If, instead of going to the shops expecting the mission to be dreary and mundane, we could head out with excitement at the possibility of meeting new people, engaging with another part of our lives, perhaps seeing the connection between the shopping trip and our larger purpose(s), the whole tenor of the trip could change.  Each time, we have the power to make it different, and by doing so to feel more alive, less stuck in our repetitive circles of mundane-ness and to re-acquire our zest for living.

So the choice is to keep doing 'safe', or to make our lives different, creating and drawing on the endless possibilities Life has on offer.  Which will it be?