longing and be-longing

21 our hunger

Within each of us, there is a deep longing and yearning to wonder, explore, and discover, and there is also a need to be-long.

These are like the inward and outward movements of a circle dance: into the centre and then out towards the extremities.

‘There is a constant and vital tension between longing and belonging.  Without the shelter of belonging, our longings lack direction and focus.’*

Brené Brown describes a condition I know I have, which she names foreboding joy.

It’s the feeling when things are going well, something bad is going to happen, so I live with the expectation this joy won’t last and begin to brace myself, so the joy is lost even more quickly.  If not dealt with, it can be a chronic pain in the background to all I do.

For some time now, my remedy has been to express gratitude (and humility) at the beginning of the day: to recognise what I have and who I am and how this is enough.  These take me to the joy of what is, and away from the concern of what may never be.

Brown describes some surprising results of research undertaken into foreboding joy:

‘Participants described happiness as an emotion that’s connected to circumstances, and they described joy as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.’**

As I contemplate this, I wonder how much my sense of foreboding comes from “old lizard brain” trying to cope with an ever complex world, whilst gratitude takes me to the place of higher Human thinking.^

Whatever we perceive to be more risky – watching Bear Grylls on TV undertaking one of his adventures, or being with him on an adventure – is where we’ll experience foreboding and we’ll hold back.  My guess is, it’ll be the outward movement which provides the greatest consternation for us, moving away from the comfortable to the unknown.  Gratitude, and humility, allows us to know we have enough and we are enough and can respond to the call to adventure, crossing the thresholds, following the path of many trials, triumphing in the great encounter, and returning with the gift.^^

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.) 
(**From Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.)
(^A tangental offering from Sunni Brown suggests this doodling exercise: on a sheet of paper, doodle an unbroken line, creating enclosed spaces for just ten seconds – my first stage of today’s cartoon does just this – see below, though, as I write, I haven’t yet doodled it – and colour in the spaces.  What you have done, Brown says, is released glucose and oxygen-rich blood into the visual and imaginative parts of the brain – The Doodle Revolution.)
(^^This may seem dramatic but tells the way of the classic hero, identified in everything from the myths of yore through to the present-day movie.  Whilst we may not think of ourselves as heroes on our own, we can we heroes with others – heroic companies.)

21 one continuous line


20 oxygen

The Human ability to change and learn and grow, to sense and initiate, the fail and begin over, is nothing short of phenomenal.

We are unlike any other species.  As I ponder these things, Smudge lies on my lap, and whilst we’ll train him to do a number of things which will suit him, he won’t develop and grow over time in the same way a Human is able to.  He’s surrounded by books, images, a computer, pens and paper but he’s never once been interested in them apart from bopping them about as a play thing.  He can be surrounded by these for the rest of his life and the same will be true every day.


I’m being fascinated by Stephen Pyne’s exploration of fire and am wondering at how important the ability to start, contain, and utilise fire has been to our development as a species.

If we could not make fire, would we have migrated across so much of the planet, or be largely fruiterian in diet, or developed so many of our skills, or would the most valued members of society be those who maintained communal fires, made possible by natural fires and carried back to the dwelling areas.

Or was it inevitable we would capture and understand fire to the extent we use it now: think about our phones, cars, TVs, food, space travel, books, computers, home-building – at different points in their existence fire is necessary.  Fire is hugely important to us:

‘Yet ultimately the relationship is deeply unequal.  Remove fire, and humanity will soon wither away.  Remove people, and fire will adapt and establish its own stable regime.’*

Yet, with ingenuity, we are makers of fire.

This is true individually, but we are especially clever in our cooperation, making it possible for even more elaborate forms of fire and products from fire to be produced.

Here’s a metaphor for the potency of our lives.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, fire is dependent on three elements: fuel, oxygen, and heat.  Fuel and oxygen, whilst highly combustible, will not normally spontaneously catch fire; they require the introduction of heat to ignite – stones falling against each other and sparking, lightening, or lava.

You and your community brings the heat to the fuel of the artefacts you find around you and the oxygen of ways of thinking and world views.*

The kind of heat we are depends on what we are passionate about, our skills, and our life experiences, but that we are makers of fire is not in doubt.

The first sentence is really about you: your ability to change and learn and grow, to sense and initiate, the fail and begin over, is nothing short of phenomenal.

(*From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)
(**My friend Alex McManus has written about this in his own saga of fire: Makers of Fire.)

the hero’s journey (revisited)

19 sometimes

Because once you’ve made the journey it has to be repeated.

Things happen when you’re prepared to journey into what is not visible or does not yet exist.  The journey of exploring your art and the things you do, whether physically, intellectually, or relationally, are game changers: they bring heat to the oxygen and fuel you find on the way, and create fire.

(Guaranteed: nothing happens if you stay where you are.)

‘Courage comes from willingness to “die,” to go forth into an unknown territory that begins to manifest itself only after you dare to step into that void.’*

There is a general trajectory to this journey and there is a specific one.

The general trajectory is our knowledge of  how the giving of self for others is the Human story at its best.

The specific trajectory is there being a way only you can live this journey.

We need both.  Identifying one does not release us from the other; they need to exist in tension, keeping us on track.

Of course, reality can feel quite different.

We want to protect ourselves from things like voids and deaths. Brené Brown writes about our personal vulnerability armouries, which we’ve built up from our tween years.  Yet, when we protect ourselves from risks and failures, we’re also removing ourselves from being successful and flourishing with our art.

But we have ENOUGH to make the journey:**  We only have to figure out new ways of expressing all of this:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will no be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot LEARN, UNLEARN, and RELEARN.”^

There needs to be a revolution of ENOUGH.  I suspect the people taking the lead are those who, having made the hero’s journey, figure out how to make it again and again: Transformed people transform people.’^^

(*From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)
(**I like Brené Brown’s opposite to scarcity: enough!  Abundance is everyone having enough; we only need to have enough to use – and we find we keep getting enough.)
(^Alvin Toffler, quoted in Sunni Brown’s The Doodle Revolution.)
(^^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)


18 she who dares 3
  1. a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.
    “in this light the junk undergoes a transfiguration; it shines”

18 she who dares

Can we say this is what can happen to someone when they dare to listen to what their life is calling them to do with their passions, skills, and experiences, and when they dare open themselves to others in order to make this happen?

she who dares 2

This is not about imagining more than we can be, and it’s certainly not about imagining less – though less is where many people find themselves.

The most courageous journey a person takes can be the one which recognises, develops, and delivers who they are to those around with whom they connect.  It’s courageous because it requires vulnerability – “If this is who I really am and this is what I can do, what if I’m misunderstood and criticised when I offer it?”

I have worked with hundreds of people on exploring their talents and passions.  Some have been “transfigured” by their journey.  My hope always is this will be what each person gets to experience; it ought to be a commonplace experience.

One thing I’ve noticed, transformation rarely takes place without others.  There’s huge need for transformational and transfiguring communities, companies, and tribes to be established, which can mean beginning with one other for sharing journeys.

Why not begin one if you can’t find one?

‘Co-initiate a diverse core group that inspires a common intention.’*

(From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)
(Cartoon: this will slowly develop and be included in the text.)


causes, attractions, and influences

17 ever time

Or, causers, attractors, and influencers.

Two magnetic fields which make up our universe.

Magnetic Field 1:

‘The force of gravity isn’t a mysterious effect that leaps over infinite distances; it arises from the smooth variation of an invisible field that permeates all of space.’*

Proximity to a body of this or that size come into play within this magnetic field.

Though, every day this reality is largely invisible to us.

Magnetic Field 2:

‘One person, symbol, or prime idea can very definitely set the course of history and its meaning in one direction instead of another.’**

There is a relational field which is also largely invisible to us.  We can feel this or that way about someone or something but don’t know why.

Scientists help us to see what was previously invisible to us in the material universe.  Mindful and reflective people help us to see what is happening in the relational universe.

We are all capable of seeing more than we do right now, and when we see how we are caused upon, attracted, and influenced, we can avoid the negative and embrace the positive.  We can also become more those who  cause, attract,and influence through proximity and how we grow our lives to be bigger.

We may not have the energy to always be mindful and reflective, but we can each identify times and practices which allow us to make this journey, becoming people who shape the future with foresight, intention, and love.

‘The journey from being driven by past patterns and exterior forces … toward the place that allows us to shape the future from within … we shall call the journey of leadership.’^

Whether we are leading ourselves or leading others, what we are blind to and what is invisible to us becomes our nemesis.

(*From Sean Carroll’s The Particle at the End of the Universe.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)
(^From Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)
(Cartoon: a tribute to Helen – and so many like her – who do the things they love to do for the sake of others.)


16 this is not

Is the sign of a healthy relationship, whether in the family, with friends, or in the work place.

We empower when we understand each and every relationship to be mutual (I-You): when each is able to bring and share their very best with the other.

An unhealthy relationship is one which depersonalises and disempowers, believing a relationship can be more about us and our needs and our priorities (I-It): in effect, “You have nothing I need.”

(In the work I do, I have literally lost count of the number of times people have shared with me how the most de-energising experiences they’ve had are when they and others are not recognised as people with ideas and skills.)

Mutuality can feel too vulnerable, though, too “soft” for the hard circumstances we find ourselves in.*

Yet, when we power up over others rather than empower them, when we make ourselves invulnerable to what they have to bring, we also may be saying something profound about ourselves, how we are not enough.

Brené Brown defines love – which is all about how we treat each other before it is how we feel about each other – in this way:**

‘Love is not something we give or get; it is something we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.’^

When we are happy with who we are and see the possibility of growing without shame within this, we are loving ourselves as we ought and are more able to turn this love towards others.

Of course, people are not either or but a mix of empowering and disempowering in different relationships and environments.

What do we get to do today, though, is to explore being more empowering in all the relationships we find ourselves in.^^

(*Also, indicative of a dualistic few of life.)
(**Actions which, above, all seek to avoid shaming and controlling the other.)
(^From Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.)
(^^What this looks like depends on the relationship.  An encounter with a sales assistant we don’t know will be different to some to whom we regularly report or who reports to us.  In part, what we are considering is how to be more aware and mindful before, during, and after these moments of connecting.)

spontaneous “me”

15 be a spontaneous me too

Who you are when you are not trying to be anyone or anything else.

We can pursue roles and titles when we feel ourselves to be not enough.

Yet, the spontaneous me is enough, not least because this me is the me who can be grown and developed best of all.

Eckhart Tolle coins the phrase spontaneous me as who we are beyond roles, but then adds: ‘But don’t try to be yourself.  That’s another role.’*

Whilst this “thoughtless” kind of personhood feels similar to telling someone, whatever they do, they mustn’t think of elephants, I appreciate what Tolle’s trying to take us to.  Roles and titles can threaten our incredible capacity for exploring, questioning, adapting, developing, failing, beginning over, connecting, collaborating, and creating.

I’m beginning to read Stephen Pyne’s fascinating history of fire** – our discovery of how to make fire has changed life on earth.  Fires require the triangle of combustable material, oxygen, and heat.

To embrace this imagery, we are heat.

The spontaneous me is the particular heat we are, our special ability to start fires, including the kind of fires we seek to combust, as all fires depend on the material they are consuming.  Fire is a synthesiser of its surroundings – without oxygen and fuel, there could be no fire: we cannot make fire without connection – to others and to our world.

Your spontaneous me is the most pure heat you can be.

Believing you are not enough, trying and be someone or something else, only isolates your heat and robs the world of the fires you can make.

(*From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(**Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)


personally speaking

14 we are created through

From per sonare – to sound through each other.*

In reality, we are inter-beings.  Each expresses the many: the larger whole.   We are made through each other, through our many interactions.

This is such a powerful experience, we can mistakenly see the person as an independent individual, reinforced by the roles we give ourselves and one another, or, as Eckhart Tolle has it: we are ‘corrupted and distorted by the mind-made “little me” and whatever role it happens to be playing.’**

Yet, as an inter-being, I am a person who is and who is not yet me – not the final me, not the future me.  With your help, though, I become more me.  And this will be enough.

(*Apparently, the understanding of the Human person devolved from how the early Christian Church understood the interrelatedness of the Trinity – each member communicating its face – sounding through – to the other.
(**From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)



13 more than enough

This is what everyone has

Every choice you make will hide or reveal your enoughness.  

You will never lose it.

Others cannot take this from you: Viktor Frankl discovered this in the Nazi death camps.

Eckhart Tolle helpfully adds more detail when he describes the difference between being over form.  We compare ourselves to others in our forms: bigger, faster, stronger, knowing, but, when it comes to being, we are equal –  we are all enough.*

(We also understand ourselves in relation to the rest of nature in this same way: as Humans we are more developed in form than anything else on the planet, but in our being – all being expressions of nature – we understand how we’re one with all species.)

Elizabeth Bowen astutely captures this when she remarks: “To turn from everything to one face is to find oneself face to face with everything.”**

13 more than enough 2

When Brené Brown shares how, ‘research tells us that we judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame.’ she’s underlining what happens when we focus more on form than on being in life’s interactions.^  Then, we are never enough.  In reality, though, what we have done is overed up and hidden our enoughness.

When we move from form to being, we make it possible for the most important of all human actions to flourish: love.^^  Love moves us from form to being and keeps on growing:

‘Love always grows, not just deeper, but wider.  Love always loves people more, and always loves more people.  Love calls us to community; love calls us to humanity; love calls us to each other.’^*

Love says you are enough and everyone you look upon is enough.  Life is all about uncovering this rather than hiding it.

(*Eckhart Tolle uses the comparison of adults and children to illustrate this.  Adults may be “greater” humans when it comes to form – they are bigger, et cetera – but in being they are equal.)
(**Quoted in Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)
(From Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.)
(^^Love is a verb before it’s a feeling.)
(^*From Erwin McMaanus’s Soul Cravings.)
(The cartoon is unfinished.)

sham and shambolic

12 there's no sham
Two interesting words:
noun: sham; plural noun: shams
  1. 1.
    a thing that is not what it is purported to be.
    “our current free health service is a sham”
late 17th century: perhaps a northern English dialect variant of the noun shame.
As I finish the year, I find myself thinking about “the vulnerable way” as something necessary to being Human: to be open to others, to the world, and to our future Self.  One of the carcinogens to vulnerability is certainty – when certainty is impermeability to the new, the more, the different.  Certainty is a sham when we pretend this is that, our personalised Wizard of OZ hiding behind the curtain in feigned invulnerability, rather than standing in front, admitting what we can and cannot do.
Sham is interesting because it possibly derives from the word shame – the thing we feel when we caught out, when we fail, when we let others down – the thing Brené Brown want us to be resilient to.*  Shame is what we fear most if we’re to make ourselves vulnerable.  So we hide, we become a sham.  We lie to ourselves first, telling how this is this best route to take, but what we don’t see is what it leads to.

adjective: shambolic
  1. chaotic, disorganized, or mismanaged.
    “the department’s shambolic accounting”
Shambolic does’t derive from the same place as sham, but they feel linked in the following way.  To live a sham-life leads to disruption and even chaos.  From shambles, we can shamble along, shuffle and stumble.  We can never be fully present to others and the world around us because we don’t know who we are and what we have to bring.
The truth is, we’re all moving from this state of shamness to something more authentic, integrated, and whole.
Today will throw many opportunities to avoid shamming it and to go for real instead – which may feel way more vulnerable, but it also allows the genius of you to flow.  And this is what the world wants to see.
(*Brené Brown wants us to be able to distinguish between shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment.)