mind the gap

11 name three

In 1969 passengers on the London Underground were warned for the first time to mind the gap between platform and train.

Mind the gap is also a helpful reminder to be mindful of what fills the space between stimulus and response/initiation.

This gap is also called choice.

A quality or characteristic of choice is freedom.

When we realise we already have this it’s like awakening to a new world.

Eckhart Tolle suggests all Humans possess a “painbody.”  This is the part of our ego which wants to be hurt, upset, offended, uncomfortable, struggle.  The painbody lies just beneath the surface of our lives, waiting to be poked to react.

Being aware of our painbody removes its power over us.  Then we begin to notice the good things about ourselves, about others, and about our worlds: bright spots which inhabit each day and which can be replicated.

The gap is not fixed.  We can grow the gap by being more mindful of who we are and what we can do, and also what we have as a species able to grow and grow.  Everything we touch, then, and which touches us is a growing point for our lives.  Because of our Human genius for this, we can even take failure and negative comments and use them as growing points.  Here are a few things which fill the gap.

Name something you’re passionate about and love to do.

Name ten things which you have as resources every day without fail.

Name something you did for the first time in the last year.

(These are the tip of the tip of the iceberg.)

Time to travel to a new world.  Time to initiate the future.

‘Now, more than ever, more of us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters.  If we choose.’*

Freedom to make change.  And the amazing thing is: you already have everything you need..

(*From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn.  Alas, I cannot hyperlink this yet, as it’s not available in the UK beyond advance orders.)

the manual for your life

10 the best stories

Over our favourite flat whites, my friend Steve and I were talking through the creative things we’d be doing in the new year.*

I shared how I want to write a book.  Steve commented about everyone having one book in them.

‘There are no manuals for the construction of the individual you would like to become.  You are the only one who can decide this and take up the lifetime of work that it demands’.**

Your manual for your life is you.

Here’s one book which lies within you.

It’s an autobiography, not a biography – no one can write this for you.  Neither can it be formulaic – a copy of someone else’s story (too many want others or fate or god to tell them what to do, how to feel, who to become).

Donald Miller shares how he couldn’t control the characters when he was trying to write a novel.  He wanted them to get down to some work and they turn up on a beach drinking margaritas.  Our life manuals should have the same characteristic.

We need to find the freedom to let our lives breathe and grow and develop, and to love the person we’re becoming – our future Self.  We need to provide our stories with presence and freedom and space and hospitality and depth and paradox.

There’s the anti-manual or the horror story, too.  When we dream of escaping or hiding.  Yet, what we find, when we daily turn up to others, our world, and our future Self is, we discover we are more than we thought ourselves to be (like our world, we are is complexity and wildness to us), we have more than we thought ourselves to have (enough to gift to others), and we are able to go farther than we thought we ever could (failures don’t stop us but strengthen us).

There’s more than enough for a book in you, whether you ever write it, or, as we all must, you get on with living it.

(*Steve’s going to be making something amazing every day – he just doesn’t know what yet.  I was on the receiving end of one of these – a coffee loyalty/friendship card with tick boxes for when we meet up and talk.  Pretty awesome, not least because I’d forgotten my wallet and needed to use it straight away.)

loyalty card

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

fire-farming

9 you cannot

First fires, or wild fires, follow a regime, comprising the types of fuel being burnt, landscape, weather conditions.

When Humans harnessed fire – creating second fires – they identified two ways in which they could organise regimes: fire fields and fire lines.

Fields were places in which animals and plants could be hunted and harvested.

Lines are the paths fires travel.

Aboriginal people in Australia have used fire as a “farming” tool, benefitting animals, vegetation, and themselves.  A fire would burn out a forest otherwise impenetrable to kangaroos; the kangaroos would flourish on the new shoots which now could emerge through the forest floor; the kangaroos then became food for the fire-farmers.

Not only did these farmers use fire in order to live, they also deeply respected their environment – they still do: ‘Far from an act of violence, the practice is a model of sustainability.’*

We live in a deeply significant period of Human history for our world and all its occupants.  Our emerging futures require us to connect to each other, to our future Self, and to our world – a world we have detached ourselves from.

‘A house can become a little self-enclosed world.  Sheltered there, we learn to forget the wild, magnificent universe in which we live.’**

Some still believe our species can set fire to the world however we wish and there won’t be consequences.  We have built our “little houses,” bubbles in which we declare of the environmental challenges: “It’s not our problem.”

Those who will lead us into the future will not only describe how really things are – our fields of fire.

They will not only lead us along a fire-line from the present into a future (discerning what we need to lose, keep, and create to make the journey).

They will primarily imagine better futures and help us discover creative lines of fire from these futures to the present.^

Humans are seekers of truth, of the way people and things really are.  We know we could not survive, never mind thrive, without truth.  And there is more truth than we know.

If we’re to create the kind of fires which respect and care for the environments we find ourselves in (I’m thinking of all environments, including the natural environments we’ve been thinking about – family, work, friends) then we must continue to search out truth.

Including the truth only our imaginations explore, the truth which does not exist yet but which we can create.

We are makers of fire.

(*From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.  Last night, I could hardly sleep because of the ferocity of the wind – inside the wind couldn’t reach me, but I’d left some large flat pieces of furniture outside for disposal and had images of these being caught by the wind and causing all kinds of damage – fortunately, I’d anchored them down well.  Not far away, bridges and rail-lines had been closed by the wind.  The world is wilder than we can often control.)

(^^Extracted from Alex McManus’s triad of leadership in Makers of Fire.)
(The cartoon is not yet complete; feel free to download and include the colours of your imagination.)

a new mind

8 there are those

She’s in her right mind.

He’s out of his mind.

Interesting how we talk about the mind being the person and the person being their mind.

John O’Donohue writes: ‘If you lost your mind, you would lose your world as well.  Your mind is so precious and vulnerable precisely because it holds your world.  Thoughts are the furniture of the mind.’*

I’ve previously mentioned how we don’t produce thinking; it’s happening all the time without us consciously doing anything.

To describe someone as thoughtless, then, isn’t to suggest they don’t have thoughts, but they are not in control of their thinking.  (The next time you’re in some sort of meeting look for moments when you catch yourself thinking things about someone or some issue, and you realise, this is not how you want to think about it – your all-the-time thinking has just swept you along.)

When we realise thinking doesn’t only have to happen to us but we can guide and to some extent control our thinking – as it were, we have thoughts about our thoughts – then we face up to one of the biggest issues facing Humans: escaping WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is) – the downloading of limited information in a narrow and uncritical way.**

When we open our minds to more, we’re opening our lives to the daily possibility of more exciting and enlivening thoughts, new continents of possibility, new experimentations in creativity, generosity, and enjoyment.^

People who bring more to us out of their worlds are like lights in the darkness of our thinking – whether this happens individually, collectively, or as part of an experience.  Though uncomfortable at first – we squin when light appears in darkness – our “eyes” then adjust and we appreciate just how dark our thinking has been, and what follows feels nothing less than liberating and freeing.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**Just follow any conversations on the UK news about immigration at the moment to spot examples of this.)
(^Three things which for me define what it is to be Human – though there are as many definitions as there are people.)

imagine that

7 absencing

Our choosings lead us into darkness: the unfamiliar, unknown, even chaotic.

The primordial Human longing to explore means we cannot stay where we are.  We must choose and follow our paths, or make new paths.

To aid us, we have our imaginations.  Imaginations which can be developed and grown.

To put this in terms of fire: we bring our heat to the fuel and oxygen we find around us when we explore.

When our imaginations are underdeveloped, sensing what may be lost is more powerful than anticipating the new to be found.

There is also darkness within us, a blindness to what may be.

This can lead to disengagement as Brené Brown names it, or what Otto Scharmer labels absencing.  Brown warns, resistance to eagerness and enthusiasm expressed by others can lead to cynicism, criticism, coolness, and even cruelty.

When I read this, I realised how this has been my experience, pushbacks in various forms from people who did not want to move from the known to the unknown (and would not have recognised what they were doing).  As I continued to reflect on this, I asked myself how I kept going.  I realised it was with imagination and dreaming possibilities, especially pushing the boundaries of my imagination whilst prototyping the dreams with the help of others – as it were, making some fire in the darkness.

Here’s something to try.

Sunni Brown describes doodling as a way of imagining what presently lies in darkness, suggesting doodling enables cognitive power, organisational performance, and personal pleasure.  She offers options: some doodle with a pen on paper, others while walking in conversation (Steve Jobs), others whilst playing a musical instrument (Albert Einstein), and others can imagine something in detail in their head (Nikolas Tesla).

It’s not about having imagination or not; it’s all about developing our imagination.

 

 

the choosings

6 thou shalt

There are many possibilities in life.

It’s important to listen to what your life is saying to you.

Coming from deep within, your desires guide you through the possibilities, enabling you to make your choices.*

Just as their are many ways to mix a palette of colours, there are many ways to mix your passions and talents: again and again choices will come to you.  (Or, write out all your skills and passions and values and significant failures and successes on post-its, and see how many ways you can mix these.)

Here are a couple of things which struck me today about the choosings.

At first we’re excited by an attractive and exciting possibility.

Then we see just what our choosings ask of us and we wonder what on earth we’ve done.

At this point, we understand we have to absolutely commit, beyond an intellectual decision played out with lists for and against: we have to connect at a heart level.

Martin Seligman suggests we have to commit to maximising five elements: positive emotion (what we think of as happiness), engagement (when we are lost in the flow), relationships (because life is all about relationships), meaning (as it has to be for a cause bigger than ourselves), and achievement (she have to ship).**

Choosing is not about setting out on a path with a determined destination.  Choices ought not to be hermetically sealed.  It is imperative we continually open our minds and hearts to more.

I believe it’s important for each of us to identify and develop our purpose (element, voice, calling – there are many names for this), but if I do not allow for further choosings, then I starve my purpose of what it needs to be grow and take me to places I cannot imagine in this moment of time, and leading me to further choosings.

‘Yes, the cards are unfairly stacked against too many people.  Yes, there are too many barriers and not enough support.  But no, your ability to create and contribute isn’t determined at birth.  It’s a choice.’^

One of the greatest gifts we can give to others is to open up the possibility to choose and to keep choosing.

(*We’re all so different.  I never cease to find it  wonderful and fascinating to see how people are interested in, and pursue, a panoply of interests and possibilities.)
(**PERMA is his acronym for his suggested “system” of well-being.)
(^From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)

 

the ascetic

5 the ascetic

Not this kind:

as·cet·ic

(ə-sĕt′ĭk)

n.

person who renounces material comforts and leads a life of austere self-discipline, especially as an act of religious devotion.
adj.

Relating to, characteristic of, or leading a life of self-discipline and self-denial, especially for spiritual improvement.

 

This kind:

n.
A person who enjoys someone or something without the desire or need to possess.  Who makes available to others, in a gifted way, the ideas and time and things which are theirs, without the need to be repaid, and hoping, wherever possible, this will be paid forward.  
adj.
Reflecting upon the experiences of life with the aim of enjoying each and every one, and giving more.
‘When done properly, gifts are like nothing else.  A gift gladly accepted changes everything.  This imbalance creations motion, motion that pushes us to a new equilibrium, motion that creates connection.’*
(*From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(I wrote about this a year ago in next …)
(Apologies if this doesn’t display well.  I’m not sure why and have tried to separate the lines but nothing responds.)

reverence

4 is this

When life becomes merely functional we lose something: the celebration life is.

To reverence is to celebrate, but there’s a problem.

I’ve worked with hundreds of people identifying their passions and talents.  When it comes to sharing their most de-energising  experiences, I have lost count of those who tell me it is when people and/or environments do not show respect or fail to acknowledge their value or worth as people with talents.

Only recently, someone shared their experience of how “systems and organisationalism isolate and disconnect and dehumanise people”; also “people who have chosen to be negative about everyone and everything else, even themselves.”

Emily Heyward warns how entrepreneurs can be so caught up in their great product idea, rather than wondering whether people want it; she offers: ‘the best entrepreneurs, the most successful ones, are those who something that was broken and had no choice but to fix it.’*  She’s encouraging us to remain focused on the problem and to deliver meaningful innovation.

I’ve been hearing the problem expressed by the folk I work with, and realise what I want is for their to be a celebration of who people are and what they have to bring, beyond respect, recognising a person’s unique presence and encouraging them to bring this to their workplace, as well as to their family and friends.

When someone recognises there’s really something wonderful and mysterious about their life, they bring this understanding to the lives of others they meet.  So much of our world is functional – we don’t have to listen to our politicians for too long before realising this is what they think we want – but when we step outside the bubble and get honest, what we value most of all is to recognised for who we are and what we do.

‘Some people never celebrate anything.  They have no time. … Some feel there is nothing to celebrate.  Such people are prisoners who slog away in a secure and predictable routine.**

Don’t be one of them.

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

not enough

3 thrive

You are certainly enough and have more than enough to create some art right now.

Yet we have to keep moving, exploring, discovering, creating, and moving again.

When we are at our most lucid, Humans know the safest place to be is not where we’ve always felt safest – where we can be lulled into complacency, when we come to enjoy the equilibrium.

‘You always live in a space which frames belonging but is yet unable to fully reflect your longing.  This ambivalence gives such vitality and passion to human presence.’*

Too much belonging and not enough longing is unhealthy.  As is too much longing and not enough belonging.

Martin Seligman has explores these dimensions under the “heading” of well-being, claiming Human well-being is about flourishing, measurable through these five elements: Positive emotion (including satisfaction and fulfilment), Engagement (the sense of flow which we’re only aware of after engagement), positive Relationships (in which we belong, including with ourselves), Meaning (a purpose greater than ourselves), and, Accomplishment (what we achieve, including our experiences of failing and trying again).**

Fire is a useful metaphor for well-being.^

Fires are not self-perpetuating and, without more fuel and oxygen to feed them, will expire.

In this sense we do not have enough, and (if we need to) identify and pursue our longing.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**From Martin Seligman’s Flourish.  The five elements are memorable using the acronym  PERMA.  The descriptions in brackets are more mine than Seligman’s.)

(^From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.  Pyne sees Humans us quite unlike any other species in this world: ‘Fire planet had found its keystone species.’)

 

being positive and dignity and heartness

2 focus

Making fires, too.

Being positive, because I want to encourage people to view their lives in a positive way.  We’ve probably heard of original sin, but what about original goodness?  There’re many more amazing things inside of people which don’t get a mention and need and airing.*  Perhaps this year, they will.

Dignity and “heartness,” because:

‘It is wonderful to behold a person who inhabits their own dignity.  The human body is its own language.’**

We are responsible for nurture this dignity or heartness.  We do not receive our dignity from others; neither can others take it away.  They may recognise it or not, but it is who we are at heart.

It manifests itself in honour and nobility and sageness.

Honour because we are giving expression to our values and beliefs in our dealings with others, the world, and our selves.
Nobility because we make who we are and what we have available in service to others: the original meaning of nobility.
Sageness because we connect ideas and actions in everyday practices and habits which are transformative.

Makers of Fire because we have discovered how our past experiences and memories are the fuel for some future-fire we’re igniting: failures and successes, mistakes and transgressions, what we have done and what others have done to us = fuel.^

(Following fifteen years of disappointment in my work leading to the brink of burn out, I use these experiences as fuel to do the work I love, enabling people to identify, explore, and develop the dreams their lives are whispering to them.)

The primal tools for fire making are a flint or friction sticks.  It takes focus, skill, and energy to ignite a fire.  Makers of fire are people who know how to produce fire from their primal make up.  There’s lots of fuel and plenty of oxygen, but the spark is the thing we have to introduce to these.

We become flame.  We are transformed by the experience.

(More to come.)

(*It doesn’t explain everything but there are more people who want to express goodness through their lives than there are people wanting to hurt others.)
(**John O’Donohue in Eternal Echoes.)
(^Human life has been so completely shaped by our harnessing and developing of fire-technology, it is entirely legitimate to speak of ourselves as makers of fire and of things from our past being utterly consumed to produce something new.  In Fire, Stephen Pyne points to our ability to cook our food has removed the need to have large heads and powerful jaws, together with large digestive systems: cooking food makes it easier to consume whilst increasing the calorific value.)