people of presence

31 woohoo

‘Presence is the whole atmosphere of a person or thing.’*

Which underlines what I’ve discovered over the years: all people possess a presence, and, when they create something out of their presence, this work and art is imbued with their presence too.

When offered in a non-prescriptive way – suggestions to tantalise our imagination – we’re impacted in life-transforming ways.

Presence can be hidden, though.

It can be covered over from everything from not valuing who we are to new technologies which, although promising greater presence for all users, form barriers of triviality or “unreflection.”

Paradoxically, what can remove barriers and open up our lives is a fascination with others.  People of presence notice others, catching glimpses of what others may not even see in themselves.  So when someone explores what the person of presence has perceived, connection is possible:

‘Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement.’**

Erwin McManus offers us a description of a person or presence in his friend Edward “Chip” Anderson: ‘One of [Chip’s] extraordinary talents was seeing the best in people.  He spent his whole life calling out greatness in others and applauding it, even he saw it expressed in the smallest of ways.’^

I had the privilege of meeting Chip for one day almost ten years ago.  His presence changed my life dramatically and there would be no Thin|Silence or Go Live Your Strengths without him.

As I mentioned at the beginning, all people possess a presence.

What’s yours?

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.)
(From Erwin McManus’s Soul Cravings.)
(My challenge for 2014 has been to blog everyday, as long as I can create a cartoon for each post.  Today’s ends the challenge and begins a new one.  More of this to come, but I want to thank Seth Godin for his daily blogs which turn into books and amazing projects, and to Hugh MacLeod for the encouragement to begin cartooning – something I’d not have imagined myself doing before reading his three amazing books, and, he also has a really neat five cartoons a week site to subscribe to.  Thank you to you for being amongst the 6,800 views in 2014.)

big bang to here

30 after 14 billion

You have made a journey of more than fourteen billion years to get here.

Held deep within you, there exists a dream you long to live before your time here is over.

Against this backdrop, the idea of our lives being about finding some forty hour a week employment with some double-glazing, favourite TV Soaps or film, and an annual dream to get away from it all until we retire appears a little myopic.

So what is the change you want to make in the world?

It doesn’t have to be huge but it may be the thing which makes someone’s life better – it’s always about people.

We’ve been searching for ways which make it possible to live with a rhythm of belonging and longing, intimacy and exploration.  John O’Donohue offers four characters for our searching: native and neighbour, wanderer and stranger.*

Questions like these come to mind: Who do I see as being a native where I am and what do they have to teach me?  How and where do I feel and know myself to be a native, and how do these help me to belong in a good way?  What do I feel to be neighbourliness and where and to whom am I able to share these things?  Who is making themselves available to me and others as a neighbour?  Who are those who wander through my life bringing things from elsewhere?  Where do I have a hankering to, whether geographically, intellectually, or as an activity?  Who is a stranger to me whom I can get to know?  Who and where am I a stranger and what do I learn through these experience? 

There are plenty more questions suggested by these four characters, helping us to belong AND to explore.

Some of us hide from intimacy: we fear being rejected again.  Others of us hide from exploration because we fear failure or worse.

There’s no denying, belonging and longing both carry pain for us – everything of worth and value does – but as natives and neighbours, as wanderers and strangers, we can hall one another through the pain,

‘When you expose yourself to the opportunities that scare you, you create something scarce, something others won’t do.’*

And something which may never be repeated.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)

keep walking

29 the only way

Keep walking.   Keep moving.

Each of us has a different core need, or longing, to move.  As we move, the new scenery and new people regenerates this core.

‘Because we are always in different states and stages of longing, the ways we belong in the world are always diverse and ever changing.’*

The journey-person experiences and examples that it means to open the Human heart to the Other.

There is a kind of constant moving which numbs us to the reality of life, but this is not it.

I only find, when I follow the paths and trails of what passionate about, I am led to MORE than I expect,  and I cannot imagine myself coming to the point where I say, “That’s it.  I’ve done walking.”**

What kind of people would you have shape the future?

As I write, the new year of 2015 reminds me there are small and large chunks of future waiting to be shaped.   Those who’ve stopped travelling can only bring more of what already is.   But those who find they just have to keep moving – because there is more they do not know than they know – will keep on encountering new places, ideas, and people.

Here are a couple of encouragements for us, whoever we are:

‘Stuck is a state of mind and it’s curable.’*

“No matter what, expect the unexpected.  And whenever possible, BE the unexpected.”^^

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**Everyone has something which, when connected to, will lead them into their endless journey.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck.)
(^^Quoted in Make Your Mark.)

it’s a sign


That’s S.I.G.N.

Or, taking notice of the things which you have expressed or completed successfully, intuitively, which you have grown through, and, which meet a need in you.*

I first came upon these words from T. S. Eliot in 1998; every so often they’ve returned, defining the journey I find myself on:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.**

In 1998, they felt true for the discoveries I’d made over the previous fifteen years, but  as I think from now until then, they feel more true.

Human life is always growing up.  We see this over thousands of years, and we catch a glimpse of it even in a person’s short life-span – a microcosm of this.

We’re thinking machines and our thinking is growing up and, although we carry our old thinking which pulls us backwards at times,  we are still moving forward with this operating system of thinking and functioning (OS) which can be improved and grown and upgraded as we go.

As I ponder these things, I hold my twin needs to belong and long: my need for intimacy and for exploration.  In my explorations, or journeyings of longing, I’ve found my best belonging, although I know this can only improve as I am prepared to continue exploring – the sense of meaning in Eliot’s words for me.

I’ve found myself journeying and exploring through the things I have experienced small successes in (and where these have led), through the things I feel I MUST do because they are me, and which lead to me growing, and meeting the deep needs in me.

This is how it is for each of us, though in quite different ways – and wonderfully so.  The amazing thing is how we can often find our belonging with each other through all of our disparate journeys.

(*S.I.G.N. is offered by Marcus Buckingham in Go Put Your Strengths to Work.)
(**The full poem is Little Gidding.)


a small crack of nothingness

hold that thought

Here’s the full quote from Otto Scharmer:

‘Between these two movements, breathing in and breathing out, there is a small crack of nothingness.  That silent pause is the mystery at the bottom of the U.’*

This caught my attention when I read it last year because it sounds like the thin silence of something important which comes to us from beyond, the invisible we’re always exploring.

Breathing happens to us, but we can hold our breath.

Thinking also happens to us, but we can explore a thought.

When we breath in – think-in – the more of the universe, of the other, and what life means in us, and before we breathe out, there’s something which comes to us as the thing we MUST do.

There’s no rigid line between breathing in and breathing out, between thinking in and thinking out.  Instead, there’s an opportunity.**

(*From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.  The “U” is the downward and upward journey of becoming more present to lifeL downward through opening our minds, our hearts, and our wills, and the upward through identifying what our purpose is, prototyping this, and then creating our art.)
(**Thanks to Seth Godin for the original quote from Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck, which I’ve altered: ‘There’s no rigid line between job and art.  Instead, there’s an opportunity.’)
(Here’s a great little blog from Seth Godin to put alongside this.)

what’s your story?

a story of disccovery

Not your past story, or even your present story, but your future story.

You are the creator of your story: maybe eighty years and then the story closes.

These our our little stories, lived out within the great Human story – an incredible journey of discovery and invention – littered with failures and lit up with great triumphs.

One thing we know of the big story – mirrored or echoed in the little stories – is we’re made to explore and discover.  Paradoxically, the more we journey to discover, the more we belong.  We know and are known.

‘The very nature of the universe invites you to journey and discover it.’*

Here are some questions important for creating stories provided by Keith Yamashita:
How will the world be better off thanks to you having been on this earth?
What are your unique gifts and superpowers?
Who have you been when you’ve been at your best?
Who must you fearlessly become?**

It’s paradoxical, but the older we are the more there’s to discover about ourselves and the more we have to contribute.  You’d think we’d completely know ourselves by the time we get to 30, 40, 50, 60 (keep going) but the years have added experiences and skills and passions we do not fully understand or exercise yet.

In knowing these, we catch sight of what our future journey must be.

(*John O’Donohue in Eternal Echoes.)
(**Based on Keith Yamashita’s questions for finding purpose in Make Your Mark.)

destined to discover


We never grow weary of discovery.  We want to know even when we do not know why.

“All men by nature desire to know,” Aristotle wrote.   John O”Donohue puts it sweetly when he offers: ‘This is the secret magic and danger of having a mind.  Even though your body is always bound to one place, your mind is a relentless voyager.’*

There’s always another journey, another discovery, and I feel this need to keep moving, not because I am not satisfied but because I am:

‘Knowing calls you out of yourself.  Discovery delights the heart.’*

There is something transfiguring in discovery.  When I know I am also known.  We share with each other our discoveries and we know each other better.

Who are the people of discovery who lead you into more, and who are those you leading?

Happy Discovery-mas.

Whatever these days contain for you, may they be rich and meaningful … and fun.

2014 design small

(From John O”Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)



24 good things

There are many voices speaking inside of our lives in an endless way.

There are the negative voices, critical of who we and what we are doing.  Otto Scharmer names these voices: judgement, cynicism, and fear.  Brené Brown names the voices: embarrassment, guilt, humiliation,and shame.

Who hasn’t heard one or all of these at some time?

There are also the positive voices, encouraging us on, telling us we are more than enough, urging us to begin because we can.

We can’t wait for everything to be good, or perfect, before me move, before we initiate.  A better way is to embrace one’s imperfections,* because these might be the very means by which the future comes to us, especially through our openness to the other: we can’t do this, but this person can; I feel disconnected from nature, but here is what the universe is teaching me; I cannot do this, but one day, in the not too distant future, I will be able to.

When muscle tears and mends, we don’t call it muscle failure, we talk about muscle-building, they become stronger.  When lives tear and mend, the same is true, they become stronger and more beautiful.

May your art become reality and live among us.

‘Iterate, iterate, iterate: create, adapt, and always be in dialogue with the universe.’**

(*The actual imperfections, not the wrongly perceived ones.)
(**Otto Scharmer in Theory U.)

triangles of fire

23 the triangle of fire

One triangle of fire comprises fuel, oxygen, and heat.

It provides us with a great metaphor for Human life: we are makers of fire.

Humans are the heat ignoring the fuel of artefacts – buildings, landscaping, institutions, businesses, paintings, music, ideas are fuel to makers of fire – with the available oxygen – culture-thinking, paradigms, philosophies, religions.

Infinite ways of mixing oxygen and fuel to innovate and make new fires.

We’ve developed making fires by controlling environments, removing the indeterminate and uncertainty.  Even so, things can go wrong – the electrical fire in a home, the failure of one small seal on a spacecraft.  Nassim Taleb would possibly name this state Mediocristan – risks are lower and more predictable.

The second triangle of fire comprises terrain, weather, and fuels, all of which, both on their own, and in combination, affect the fire.

This is more about the future, which doesn’t exist and so takes us out of what we know and controlled environments, into the random and nonlinear.  If Nassim Taleb calls the more controlled environments Mediocristan, he would name these Extremistan.

Makers of Fire have to take greater risks by the very nature of these environments, whilst also benefiting from discovering what might be,when Human futurity, spirituality, and creativity converge.

Different people bring different heat, produce different fire.  More than ever before in Human history, we each have the opportunity to identify the kind of heat we bring to the kinds of fuel and oxygen which fascinate us.

When we work together, though, we’re able to create fires which jump boundaries which have been able to resist us, and we create preferred future to benefit everyone.

‘A large proportion of your activity distracts you from remembering you are a guest of the universe, to whom one life has been given.’*

Make fire.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)


balance or rhythm

22 hmmm

We can easily fall into the language of talking about work-life balance.  Perhaps rhythm is what we’re really looking for.

Balance – weights on scales, a moment of equilibrium, a trapeze artist tentatively edging forward on a high wire, ten minutes into a game of Jenga, columns of figures.

Rhythm – movement through seasons, poise and dance, music, tidal ebb and flow, flow of talents and passions.

Rhythms may contain moments of stillness, balance may always struggle with the wriggles of rhythm.

In his exploring of belonging, John O’Donohue suggests belonging is not about owning something – this belongs to me – rather, it’s about belonging with.  He suggests this is something we have lost: I’m trying to get my life back.  When we try to balance our lives, we’re really trying to recover our rhythm with life, including with ourselves, with others, with the world, and, if you have a god, then with your god:

‘When we are in rhythm with our own nature, things flow and balance naturally.’*

One place to begin, is to carefully listen to what your life is saying to you; try writing out: your values, the things you notice most of all in the world, your talents, times when you’ve felt yourself energised, times when you have felt yourself severely de-energised, which experiences of your life have been most directing for you, how do you relate to others, how do you relate to quietness, do you have to talk things out or carry on a conversation in your head.  You’ll find a lot of clues in these telling you about your future possibilities and how to live them in rhythm.

‘Connect to the future that stays in need of you – crystallise your vision and intent.’**

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**Otto Scharmer in Theory U.)