how does it feel?

24 whatever excites you ...

This is different to asking, What are you good at?

Both are important questions.  Here’s how they work.

Those around you may be able to see you’re good at some things and not so good at others, and they might advise you to pursue this rather than that.  If you take notice of what they think, for some reason or other, you may end up doing the wrong things for you.

How does it feel? is an energy question.  It’s asking which of the skills you employ will be employed by you with energy and innovation, promising a multiplying of your unique contribution.

I know I have skills that I’ve developed to survive, and others have said they think I do these things well (often the things these people value most).  These things do not energise me, though, but I know others who love these things and perform them way better than I ever could.

This is one of the basic things I remind people of when it comes to identifying what they need to be doing.*  I’m thinking about this because I’ve recently been on the receiving end of someone looking at my skills but not asking How does it feel?  

Whilst it’s important to take seriously whatever someone intends as helpful,** one of the unfortunate consequences is we begin to question our hearts.  John O’Donahue didn’t know just his words would be very helpful to me when he wrote:

‘If you try to view yourself through the lenses that others
offer you, all you will see are distortions; your own light
and beauty will become blurred, awkward and ugly.’

O’Donahue goes on to liken negative introspection to digging up newly sown potatoes every day to see if they’re growing.

If someone is going to help us move towards what it is we must be about with our lives they have to open their hearts to us.  This goes beyond opening minds – which allows someone to recognise what we do and how we do it – towards their discovering something of what it feels like for us.  The thing with becoming open-heart people is that it’s impossible without our willingness to disclose our hearts to the one opening theirs to us.

Behind all of this formation of skill and energy there has been a journey.  This journey has required you that you let go of certain things to be able to keep hold of more important things – different for each of us.  An open heart recognises this and understands how these things cannot be picked up once more – we are moved onward by our journeys.

I have written previously about what Carlos Castaneda called the path with a heart; the reason the path has a heart for you is because it identifies with the beat of your heart.

Here’s one last thing from John O’Donahue, warning us to beware comparing and contrasting ourselves to others and their paths:

‘When you compare yourself to others, you are inviting
envy into your consciousness; it can be a dangerous
and destructive guest.’

(*I ask people to keep two lists as a first reflection tool: one begins “I loved it when …” and contains the things they’ve huge amounts of energy for; the other begins “I loathed it when …” and includes the things people feel sucks energy out of them.  You can read more in Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put You Strengths to Work; also, Austin Kleon mentions sculptor Constantin Branscusi‘s Vampire Test in his new book Show Your Work: ‘If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire.  If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire.  Of course, the Vampire Test works on many things in our lives, not just people – you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.)
(**I always spend a number of days reflecting on the things people say to me but I am careful in how I do this – check out Seth Godin’s connected thoughts which he offers today. )


i wasn’t myself

23 eduardo discovered he was not alone

You probably were.  You acted out of character and you wonder where it came from?

We are many selves and to look on our lives in this way can be both a helpful and healthy thing.

There are those people who appear to cope with all life throws at them, maintaining direction and purpose, but it is likely they’ve established a harmony between their different selves.

When I think about my life in this way, I realise the Me-Now hasn’t replaced any Me from other times.  They’re all still there.  I am the boy from outside the edge of town trying to find friends at school, or being picked on for I don’t know what reason, or the young man making mistakes because I thought there was one way to understand and do things.

I also know I can listen to a news story and be angry, disinterested, compassionate, concerned, almost all at once.

John O’Donahue helpfully writes:

‘The negative does not lie.  It will tell you clearly where
you court absence rather than inhabit presence.  On
entering your solitude one of the first presences to
announce itself is the negative.’

What we think of as negative my be a shallow way of describing the contradictions we find in our lives, between our different selves.  When we embrace these, rather than leaving them in their isolation (turning our internal enemies into friends), we can find the harmony we desire for our lives – a healing of our negatives.  W can then begin to reflect this out towards others.

The saddest thing is when someone is unable to do this, instead experiencing a disengaged life, or worse still, a destructive life.

Erich Fromm appears to be writing similarly  when he describes being fully awake – not simply to our basic needs, or even the things we are passionate about, but to everything and everyone:

‘One sees, not opaquely but clearly, the surface
together with its roots.’

And again, this links in with Otto Scharmer‘s thinking on being present to our world, to one another, and to our future Self (which are seeing means a harmony of all our selves).


second-hand language

22 listen to the silence within

Every Human develops their own language – the kind we speak to ourselves, to connect with the truest things about our lives.

This language emerges only in degree with our willingness to enter into solitude and silence.  Fyodor Dostoevsky referred to how people need to find themselves in themselves.

When we avoid this solitude (and the silence within it), we struggle to fully identify with and/or comprehend what our lives are saying to us.

There is the silence and then there is the language.  If there is language before the silence there is the strong possibility this is someone else’s language, second-hand, potentially burying our own.

We think of silence as being empty – and some silences are – but there is a silence which lies at the centre of our lives which is full to overflowing.

When we think of this silence as an emptiness, we are tempted to fill it with comforting, though ultimately, unsatisfying things.

When we hear and live the language emerging from this inner silence, we’re more able to join with others in the deep conversations our world hopes for – because we learn the language the silence is speaking to us.

pilgrim’s end (pilgrimage fourteen)

21 pilgrimage 14

At the end of all her journeying, the pilgrim* finds herself at the centre of her “soul,” knowing herself for the first time** – soul at least meaning the absolute entirety of everything she is.

After all the travelling of pilgrimage this is where we come to: the discovery that the things we were searching for are more in here than they are out there.   Perhaps this is the place we are most fearful of looking.^  How often do we believe the thing we seek is found in some new experience or circumstance or job or relationship or possession?  But so often it is the desire to know and contribute my whole heart to something?

Towards this, here’s a summary of the pilgrimage which brings me back to the beginning:^^

The pilgrim passes through a portal from what is known into what is not known: to know more of the world, others, and the future Self.

On the other side of the portal we must choose a path of aliveness which may not exist; we may travel this with others or have to walk it alone, but every path is ultimately about bringing aliveness to others.

Pilgrims are movement-people, seeking to bring their greatest aliveness to each day.

We are becoming people of permission, encouraging people to explore the future.

Pilgrims struggle with their monsters within as they journey.

We also avoid shamming – telling ourselves lies about our lives.

Pilgrims know they must live with responsibility towards their world, to others, and to their future Self.

We use playfulness and gamefulness as means of opening up serious matters, and because we want to enjoy the journey together.

Pilgrims are open to be changed by the very best people and ideas – and they guard against the trivial.

We understand we have a contribution to make to the great conversation or story.

Pilgrims keep moving on their path-which-does-not-exist, no matter what.

We know we must keep identifying the things which are most important to us, because there are so many possibilities to distract.

(*I use pilgrim and pilgrimage in a Human sense, that we are all travellers from something, to something, and we use outward experiences to enable inner transformation.)
(**Humans are creatures of endless depth and development, so, perhaps there’s an endless number of these first times.)
(^We can be afraid to look within because we often experience ourselves in isolation – including how we are different to others, rather than like ourselves – but solitude is different to isolation, and means it is possible to be very happy in who we are and know we have something beautiful to contribute.)
(^^Apologies for all the mistakes – these pilgrimage blogs were written quickly on phone or iPad with poor internet.  They are now tidied and re-presented.)

surprising (pilgrimage thirteen)

20 pilgrimage 13

Pilgrimage provides surprising heroes, through whom the future emerges.

They are the ones who have done the hard and hidden work which makes them servants of the future, and of you and I.

This work is focused around a person’s preferences, as Karl Jung pointed as being necessary to develop as a Human; Erich Fromm suggests, ‘the art of living, is to will one thing.’

What is your one thing, your path which leads you to surprise?

the continuing path (pilgrimage twelve)

19 pilgrimage 12

As I write, my wife and I are preparing to return home.  The pilgrimage is coming to an end and I have to ponder all the things which have emerged.

There’s often lots more information, ideas, and possibilities than you and I can pursue when we make a pilgrimage or journey with purpose, so we must identify the things which are most important to us.  There are many things which are interesting but what we want to identify are the things which are drivers for us – the things we must pursue.

These are the things which show us the path which does not exist and we must make.

One of the things which had come out again from my own days of pilgrimage is to make possible for others what I’ve been writing about.*

(*Get in touch to find out more.)