the present moment

31 deep first 3

There is no past.  There is no future.  There’s only now.

31 deep first 2

Now has contents, of course, and these contents changing provides us with the concept of time, making it possible for us to remember the past and imagine the future.  Everything is Now and because we experience Now as changing, we know we can engage in big projects because there’s enough time to do this.  So we get creative and move forward, building on what has gone before:

“The creative act is no loner about building something out of nothin but rather building something out of cultural products that already exist.”*

31 deep first 1

Now exists in this form: the vertical is the gift of deep presence in any moment.

31 vertical now

And Now exists in this form: the horizontal is the space in which we create.

31 field of now

Together, these create what might be called a field of Now: something we create with and for others.

The vertical makes it possible to deep mine time and we appreciate there’s enough for everyone.  Humility, gratitude, and faithfulness are my personal tools for going deep.

I also need to go wide, opening up possibilities for others, as others have done for me:

‘Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.’**

When I’m into myself, being prideful, greedy and foolish, I skim the surface of Now.  I have to have more of it and I don’t open up possibilities for others.

31 horizontal only

So the deep moment not only identifies what I can do, but connects me to the deepest knowing of what I want to do, what I must do.

Over time (over Now), we create our story or our personal myth of what it means to live as “Me.”  Perhaps this is the ultimate Human creativity.  We can each create better or worse stories, with anything we put our mind and hand to, remixing ‘them to form something original, surprising, interesting, and useful.^

(*A quote from Wired magazine in Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(**From Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.)
(^From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.  Berger is describing general creativity but his words seem to fit well here.  Jonathan Gottschall reminds us in The Storytelling Animal, we forget a lot from our past and retain what we need to shape our stories.)


there’s only now

30 who's time

“Live in the present, that’s all there is.”

I’m listening to the radio as Dr Robert of The Blow Monkeys is talking about the band’s latest album If Not Now, When?

I get what he means.

We can’t live in past time – it’s gone.  Neither can we live in future time it’s not here yet.  I also know, when I try and live in the past, it can often be about regrets, and when I try and live in the future it can be about what I have to get done: worry and angst whichever way I look.

To be present is critical to living life fully.

However …

We can miss how “Now” is heavily nuanced with deep time.*  When I realise this, I am able to visit both the past and the future to be more present now.  I find I remember the past more healthily – such as when I realise my failures are things to learn from and grow, and I can shape a better future through foresight, intention, and love.

We all can learn to live in deep time: in the nowness each day brings I am learning to be more present, now.

‘The Self wishes to create to evolve.  The Ego likes things just the way they are.’**

(*A phrase used by Richard Rohr in Falling Upward.)
(**From Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.)

the question

29 no matter

Yesterday, I spent seven hours with a great group of people working on innovative learning.

We answered the following questions:

What does innovative learning mean to you?
What does learning and innovative learning look like to you now?
How do you see the world of learning or innovative learning around you in the future you imagine?
How will we as a community operate to make the themes we have chosen happen?

I really enjoyed joining them as they pursued their question and loved their imagination and creativeness, as well as their focus so that, by the end of the day, they had two ideas to develop.

It’s important we join others when they’re asking their questions, but each of us has a question we must pursue ourselves.

You may not have articulated this yet.  It’s likely to be a question no one else is asking, at least in the way you are.  It’s more than one question – one question leads to another, to another, to another, taking you the journey your life is asking you to make.  This may sound unnerving but, whilst it may not be easy, your life will never ask something of you it doesn’t believe you can do.

Whilst the question leads you into the future, it’s very much focused on now.  It will ask you something you keep noticing or wish to change or want to make and will require close observing, listening, and sensing (empathy) to be revealed.

‘The difference between just asking a question or pursuing it is the difference between flirting with an idea or living with it.’*

What is the question you cannot not pursue?

(*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)


the next obstacle

28 any ideas

There always is one.

It’s the way of a physical universe which doesn’t have to choose to do good or bad, but simply is being what it is.

‘The great law of nature is that it never stops. There is no end.  Just when yu think you’ve successfully navigated one obstacle, another emerges.’*

Good and bad is the understanding we place on “happenings.”  We know what makes life better or worse, and in our facing of obstacles we are also facing possibilities for becoming more Human, together.

The first elemental truth is: Life is hard.  The fourth is : You’re not in control.

We better get used to it.

I am so small in a vast universe, yet I can be big part of bettering the life of another.

We have to master our lives, which requires we describe the reality of who we are, discern meaning in what we find, and discover ways into the future.

We can do this together.  One movement of people discovered the way into the future began with awareness, then moved through love (life with others), ingenuity (identify uniqueness), and heroism (delivery).**

Erwin McManus captures well the possibilities in the obstacle we face:

‘The greatest art is an intersection of contrasts.  There is hope in the midst of pain, love in the midst of betrayal, courage in the midst of mystery.  To turn our lives into masterpieces is to know both pain and healing, despair and hope, darkness and light.’^

(*From Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)
(**From Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership: Awareness, Ingenuity, Love, Heroism.  I have altered the order of these to compare and contrast with Theory U.)
(^From Erwin McManus’s The Artisan Soul.)

memento mori

27 you can't

Remember you are mortal.

The fifth elemental truth is: You are going to die.

Every one of us, without exception.

Quantitatively, one minute measures exactly the same for each of us.

Qualitatively, one person’s minute looks completely different to another’s.

We overestimate what we can do with a day – my problem every day.

And we underestimate what we are able to do in a lifetime.

When we use our moments to focus on the negative in ourselves and one another we can get very stuck: ‘focusing on the pathologies of depression, anxiety, suicide, and PTSD was the tail wagging the dog’.*

When we use the same moments to focus on the positive in ourselves and one another we progress: ‘positive expectations allow is to enjoy things more and improve our perception of the world around us.  The danger of expecting nothing, is that, in the end, it might be all we get.’**

This focus of moments on the positive is referred to in several ways, including: positive inquiry, mindfulness, wellbeing, presence, and resilience.  Each of these means provides understands it is possible for our essential Self to learn a positive joie de vivre, out of which our creativity flows.

We can begin to use our time more positively by asking a question.

Why does this happen in this way?
How might we do this better?

What would the world look like if this changed?
What if lots of people got involved in this?
If there are particular skills to move this, that are they?
Who has/have these skills?
If we don’t know anyone who has these skills, how can we find them?
Who do we know with the skills to find the people with the skills we need?
What are some of the obstacles preventing people from using their skills?

The first question isn’t the thing.  You’re not looking to answer the first question, but to find the next question (as I did, above, in a few seconds) and the next – rather than providing an answer.  You don’t want to be the expert when the expert is defined as “the person who has the answer.”  Unless it’s an expert at asking questions.

As neurologist Robert Burton proffers:

Why did I ask that question? … Every time you come up with a question, you should be wondering, What are the underlying assumptions of that question?  Is there a different question I should be asking?“^

We are beginning to use our time differently.

Memento mori.  Now we can live within a different question.

(*From Martin Seligman’s Flourish.  Seligman is arguing a more critical response to be made in the direction or resilience and growth.)
(**From Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.)
(^From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)

over a lifetime

26 the plan

We cannot know another in a few moments.

Even when we know someone, we cannot say this is everything this person will be.

We have a lifetime in which to become all we can be.  Often the best of what we can be we fall into; we react, and respond, and preact to life around us which comes to us in the form of procreation and problems and people and policies.  We dance with the accidental.

As Richard Rohr closes his exploration of the second half of life he reflects on a poem from Trappist Thomas Merton.  These words most caught my attention:

“Be still
There is no longer any need for comment
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.”*

I make the journey from my small world, towards the edge, to look out into the bigger world of others and more, so I might leave my world and enter theirs, to gaze back upon myself and to see a bigger world from the perspective of another, until this becomes my new world.

Then I begin this journey again: ‘we are created to create.  In an ideal world, this creative energy is to be used to create the good and the beautiful and true.’**

How we see our lives will determine how we treat others.  Eckhart Tolle describes the person for whom lack (scarcity) has become part of who they are.  Each experience for this person is lack.  This is all they can give to others and see in others, but: ‘Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.’^  Perhaps seeing the good in the lives of others is a place to begin?

‘If I can’t solve this for myself, how can I at least make this better for other people.’^^

I’m not yet what I will finally be.  I must beware being judgemental, cynical, or fearful: this is the world I’ll create for others.  All I can do is pursue the good, the beautiful, and the true.

‘I can tell that there is an undeniable relationship between happiness and resilience.  People who enjoy life make life more enjoyable for others.**

(*Thomas Merton, quoted in Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(**From Erwin McManus’s The Artisan Soul.)
(^From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(^^From Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)

mirror, mirror …

25 the thing

Do we really want a magical mirror to tell us the truth?

Maybe it isn’t the other person’s fault you feel the way you do?  Maybe it isn’t the organisation getting in your way?  Maybe no one and no thing is holding you back?

‘Nothing can inhibit your second journey except your own lack of courage, patience, and imagination.’*

We already have plenty of mirrors to tell us what we need to know.

Eckhart Tolle points to one when he warns us, ‘How you react to people and situations, especially when challenges arise, is the best indicator of how deeply you know yourself.’**  When we struggle with something in another person we’re identifying something in ourselves, and vice versa.  When a situation is difficult, it is helping us to see our shortcomings.

Sometimes the mirror can be a story someone is telling us or we’re reading which offers us a bigger perspective on seeing ourselves and each another: ‘Story – sacred and profane – is perhaps the main cohering force in human life.  A society is composed of fractious people with different personalities, goals and agendas.  What connects us beyond our kinship ties?  Story.’^

A third mirror – connected with people, situations, and stories – is the future.  When we “get” that we can imagine a different future to our past, and begin to create it – together with others, we break the chain our memories can become:

‘Your remembered experiences then shape what your brain is CAPABLE OF SEEING, as well as what it PREDICTS AND EXPECTS TO SEE.  Your brain relies on its memories to sum up your past and imagine the future.’^^

You’ll have spotted this can mean something positive or negative.  When we colour present experiences with the memories of our past, the destroy hope.  Creating positive future memories is another mirror available to us.

Each of these mirrors enable us to see our true self: important, as we’ll need to embrace the truth of who we if we are to move forward:

‘If you don’t walk into the second half of your own life, it is you who do not want it.’*

Freed from ‘dredging and redredging the tired, boring injustices of our personal lives,*^ which drains us of energy, we can become makers, creators, of something better.

It is not about being perfect or complete, but as we become people who connect rather than disconnect, gratefully seeing all we have, we’ll be surprised just how far we can go; beyond persisting, we’ll persevere: ‘But perseverance is something larger.  It’s the long game … until the end.’^*

We can only live within our limitations, but they are not as scary as we think.  They are only a prison whilst we hide away from them: ‘Every creative endeavour becomes a realisation of both how limited and how unlimited we are.’⁺

The mirrors are already telling you something.

(*From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)
(**From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(^From Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal.)
(^^From Sunni Brown’s The Doodle Revolution.)
(*^From Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.)
(^*From Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)
(⁺From Erwin McManus’s The Artisan Soul.)

the thirtieth square

24 how many

The best questions help us to see more and more, the invisible slowly revealing itself.

From a dualistic (either/or) perspective, questions keep on dividing.

From a nondualistic (both/and) perspective, questions lead us to the greater whole.  Albert Einstein sought a unified field; Stephen Hawking pursues a theory of everything.

‘Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go.’*

Dualistic thinking is more elementary.  It gets us to the right starting point – here rather than there.  It doesn’t help so much to explore here.

How many squares do you see on the left and then on the right in today’s doodle?

On the left there are sixteen, but on the right there are at least thirty – although there are the same number of squares, whether they are connected or not makes a huge difference.  The best questions take us deeper and deeper without fear of separating and dividing.  Ultimately, we’ll come to see how everything and everyone is one, in a beauty we cannot begin to imagine, never mind articulate.

Einstein pointed out. most people stop looking after they’ve found the needle in the haystack, but he would keep looking until he found the better needle.

(*From Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)

the art of vuja de

23 vuja de

Vuja de, as the opposite of deja vu, is “the strange feeling that, somehow, none of this has happened before.”*

Comedian George Carlin developed his comedy around observing the ordinary in a new way.  IDEO‘s Tom Kelley offers, vuja de is being able to “see what’s always been there but gone unnoticed.”**  Future-people see and understand what exists now in ways others don’t.

At the age of sixty seven, Thomas Edison saw things differently.  He was watching all his work go up in flames, as a fire destroyed his buildings.  He sent his son to bring his wife and her friends, to watch the green and yellow flames, saying, “They’ll never see a fire like this again.”^  But Edison saw something else others failed to see – it wasn’t him and his passion being burnt to a crisp – and within weeks his business was up and running again.

In another example, the Dalai Lama counsels, “Learn and obey the rules very well, so you will know how to break them properly.”^^

The art of vuja de is the ability to live in the same world as everyone else yet see it in a different way.  This outlook is so different, it’s often seen as futuristic, opening up the second half of life I’ve been thinking about recently, so:

‘How can I honour the legitimate needs of the first half of life, while creating space, vision, time, and grace for the second?’*^

We all can learn the art of vuja de, though it is not easy.

We will have to be more observant than we are.  In our downloading and rushing existence, we are more conscious of the “bottom lines” of life.

So we slow down, step back, and forget what we know, so we might what we cannot see and we do not know, and make the invisible, visible.

(George Carlin, quoted in Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(Quoted in Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(^From Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)
(^^Quoted in Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.)


22 between

This is the way of growing and protecting the opening mind, heart, and will as a Human life moves through the first simplicity of childhood and adulthood, into the second simplicity lying beyond complexity.

Maturity seen through this lens is about connecting seeing, feeling, and actioning.  As we continue in this way, we nurture our little-oneness, continually seeking to see more, feel more, and do more.

The alternative is to grow judgemental, cynical, and fearful.

One way opens up possibility, the other closes it down.  Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki described the “beginner’s mind”: ‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”*

Woe to us if we don’t protect little ones, including our own little-oneness: ‘Beginner’s mind is akin to adopting a more childlike mindset.’**

Little-oneness reminds is we never arrive, we’re never the finished article, we must always remain open to  our future Self.

Here are a few practices towards this: ask more questions, meet more people, try more new things.

(*Quoted in Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(**Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question.)