goodness me

19 when i am weak

The teenager, out late with his friends, pulls someone off their bike, then spits on them and punches them in the face.

Why?

My son is okay, thankfully, and he could only think that this was some kind of dominance display by this teenager in front of his friends.

What appears to be strength is often weakness, and what is weakness is really strength.

There is an adventure in life which only comes through goodness and kindness, and the way to it is through the observed life.

‘The ego self is the unobserved self.  If you do not find an objective standing point from which to look back at yourself, you will almost always be ego-centric – identified with yourself instead of in relationship to yourself.’*

I know my biggest obstacles are those which lie inside of me. This “shadow” me, when unobserved, controls me without me even noticing.  To notice the ego is to disempower it: this me who is less than I really can be: my false self.

‘When we lack integrity, we find ourselves several people depending on the circumstances.’**

The way to my future Self opens up.  I’m able to take my turn and bring my contribution into the world.

For Edward Deci, integrity means people can ‘persist as themselves in a society that is always shifting underfoot’.^

Like our understanding of what it means to be human?

My friend Alex McManus suggests we’re being pressed from two directions when it comes to our understanding of what it means to be human: from the natural world – ‘The gap between our species and other animals is closing as we grow in our understanding of animal intelligence, emotions, self-awareness, and culture’ -and from technology – machine and human growing closer.^^

All the time, we are becoming more human.

I sent these words to my son from the beginning of today:

‘Go peaceful
in gentleness
through the violence of these days.
Give freely
Show tenderness
In all your ways.*^

Beginning with yourself.

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(**From Erwin McManus’s Uprising.)
(^From Edward Deci’s Why We Do What We Do.)
(^^From Alex McManus‘s February 2016 Dispatches From the Future.)
(*^Paul Field, from the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer for 19/2/16.)

becoming more than enough

18 life and the universe

‘Wonder is a beautiful style of perception; when you wonder at something, your mind voyages deep into its possibility and nature.  You linger among its presences.’*

We’ll never be whole if what we mean by wholeness is to be complete.

But if wholeness is about knowing ourselves and bringing all that we are into the present moment then we’ll be more than enough.  When we’re able to stop reacting to the world beyond ourselves and, instead, begin to respond, we know we’re enough and we are living out of our wholeness.  When we begin to initiate and create, we’re understanding wholeness is a generative state, and we are more than enough.**

‘Wholeness (head,heart, and body, all present and positive) can see and call forth wholeness in others.’^

In the last few days, someone I’d not seen in thirty years spotted me on social media and reconnected.  Remembering painful experiences in work for me back then, they hoped I hadn’t been scarred for life.  Put another way, we understand, in extreme situations, people can be imprisoned by the past and are unable to  live in the present and conceive of a hopeful future.

I assured them, these memories are important to me in a positive way.

More than that, they’ve shaped what it is I must do and helped me to move in the direction of doing all the things I must do.  Bad experiences can lead to us closing down to others, but opening to others leads to wholeness, and wholeness makes it possible for us to embrace the other, not to worry about differences but to enjoy them.  None of us are born as little versions of who we are and we simply get bigger and older.  We are who we are through our interaction and connectedness with all that is around us:

‘The intrinsic self is not a genetically programmed entry that simply unfolds with time … . It is instead a set of potentials, interests, and capabilities that interact with the world, each affecting the other.’^^

Some live out this interacting and connectedness in amazing ways. I know a civil servant who’s taken off to Colombia to find out how climate change is affecting people there, improving her Spanish along the way, and hiring motorbikes to get to otherwise not easy to access places.

All of us, though, can learn to do this more and more – a day is a helpful unit to work with.  Wholeness can be grown day by day and we can become more than enough.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**Brené Brown uses this phrase in Daring Greatly.  It connects with what Nassim Taleb is exploring when he writes about antifragility.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(^^From Edward Deci’s Why We Do What We Do.  David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us is another good read when it comes to the importance of this interaction.)

imagine a city

17 you belong here

Imagine your city, or town or village, frozen in time, captured in a moment.

The person caught on the wrong side of thee road by all the traffic, unable to catch their bus.  The hill covered in the late Winter snow.  The graveyard gates standing wide so early in the morning.  The young couple on the bus, she’s resting her head on his shoulder, eyes closed.  Another passenger drowses, her head against the window and a smile on her face.  The upturned waste boxes, emptied so early by invisible workers. The cat brushing against the person caring for her whilst the owner is away.  The person caught in spray as a bus hits a pool of water.  The workmen on the third floor replacing tall windows with nothing to stop them falling.  The water feature in a public space caught mid-burble.  The seagull wheeling in midair, looking for somewhere to perch.  The person passing in the street who looks like someone you know, if only they had a Mohican.  The barber arrested midcut.  The CCTV camera looking blankly down the road.  The “For Sale” sign outside a house, but who knows where the people are moving to.

Just to observe, not to want anything, just to love what is: you belong here.

‘Listening is such an underrated activity.  In fact it is deeply subversive.  Because when we listen deeply, we take in the voice of the other.’*

And then I am changed.

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

to bless

16 we have permission

‘You don’t need a permit or a blessing or any sort of permission to decide to take your turn.  You only have to open your eyes and look.  And then choose.’*

It’s true, you don’t need permission.  You’re here; that’s enough.

There are those who journey through life seeking to bless and give permission to those they meet.  What they are doing is reminding us that we have everything we need and we don’t even need them.

We prefer to be given permission, though, because, while we’re waiting, it gives us permission to stay right where we are.

To have courage is to live inside a future that might not happen.

The best permission-givers are those who point to all the things already existing within us, the things wanting to get out.  And they know, the journey will we embark on will change us.

Who told you that you were too young or too old or not educated enough or too educated or from the wrong background or not from the right one?

Stop it.  You’re not.

You’re who you are and you are who you want to be, and today promises to be the first part of something quite amazing.

(*From Seth Godin’s What To Do When It’s Your Turn.)

weird fruits

15 we have received everything

My friend Alan and I were drinking cortados, catching up, finding ourselves talking about  the painful restrictions of getting older we hadn’t needed to think about once upon a time in our early thirties.

I remember the story I was assured was true, of a tennis contest for ninety-somethings.  As a ninety year old volleyed the ball past a ninety-three year old, the vanquished cried out, “Oh to be ninety again.”

Funny, as the thoughts of my contemporaries begin to turn towards retirement, I’ve just identified what I really want to do.

I think about the weird fruits I can bear in this season of my life.

Whatever our particular kind of fruitfulness, here are six reasons why we can engage the future no matter what our age:

We’re reflective creatures: able to deeply ponder what we see and what we cannot see.
We’re anticipating creatures, able to understand what will happen not only as a result of what we see but also sense coming towards us from the future.
We’re imaginative creatures, able to see the future possibility of something which doesn’t yet exist.
We’re synchronising creatures, able to bring many things together in our lives which ordinarily wouldn’t meet.
We’re designing creatures, able to move something from in our heads, to paper and computer and teams.
We’re creating creatures, able to make the future happen.

The universe has done it again.

Who wants to retire while it remains our turn?

as you love yourself

14 love comes

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The message from my eldest son to our family today.

The original Valentine was arrested in a time of imperial persecution for marrying Christian soldiers – soldiers weren’t allowed to marry – and helping others to escape persecution.  He was later executed when he tried to bring Claudius II around to the faith the emperor was persecuting.

I guess love holds out hope for everyone.

We all need the love and strength others provide so that our best and most creative self might emerge, helping us to overcome the inner obstacles and struggles, making it possible for us to do what we must do.

We know we are walking paradoxes, not just this or just that, but this and that: good and bad, light and dark, beauty and ugliness – sinners and mystics trying to hold together the opposites of life.

Love makes it possible.  Here’s to celebrating you and all you bring.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

(*From “The Teacher,” thought to be King Solomon.)

more than enough

13 an idea

I’ve tried to hold these elemental truths close since I first coming across them:

Life is hard
You are not as special as you think
Your life is not about you
You are not in control
You are going to die.*

You may wonder, what’s left if we submit to or embrace these ways of thinking?

Paradoxically, they help us find ourselves, the True Self or identity which comes from deep within – more than what others think of us, more than what we have, more than what we are able to influence this way or that.

Life is an great experiment towards fullheartedness, the ability to increasingly appreciate our life within this universe – an idea, an inquiry, an attempt, a failure, a reflecting, an unlearning, a relearning, an idea, an inquiry, an attempt, a failure, a reflecting, an unlearning, a relearning, an idea … .

Life is hard
You are not as special as you think
Your life is not about you
You are not in control
You are going to die.*

Funny how these result in more, not less.

‘I believe this deeper self is what most traditions were referring to as “the soul” or True Self, and what some might call “the collective unconscious,” because when you live there you are somehow sharing and living in Something Larger.’**

(*From Richard Rohr’s Adam’s Return.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)

 

 

a new way of seeing

12 you take up

‘A new “Law” puts all other laws and criteria into an utterly new perspective.’*

“When the universe is full of wonder, all is as it should be.”**

Yesterday was an exciting one for Planet Earth.

The discovery of gravitational waves, confirming Albert Einstein’s one hundred year old theory, provides us with a new way of seeing our universe – the thing that most caught my attention from the news coming out of the LIGO Collaboration.

This morning, on a live radio phone-in, I listened to some of the questions being posed to scientists about the implications of this discovery.  One caller,  describing himself as being from the wilds of Cheshire, asked what has any of to do with the average man.

Everything, nothing, and everything in between depending on how close we get.

‘It takes a different mind to live in such a different time and space.’*

Nothing changes us unless we want it to, whether the new ways of seeing come from from science or personal development or the story of someone’s life.

Yesterday’s discovery won’t automatically make the world and everyone in it better.  If it could, it would have already done so.  The things which mark our movement through history and time are still argued and fought over, stolen and used to hurt one another and our planet.

‘I had come to understand one critical fact about my happiness project: I couldn’t change anyone else.’**

But if we are prepared to open our eyes and see more, we can change ourselves,  and we can send out our own gravitational waves to others.   They then can decide what they want to do with these:

‘The intrinsic self is not a genetically programmed entity that simply unfolds with time … . It is instead a set of potentials, interests, and capabilities that interact with the world, each affecting the other.’^

No matter what we see and know, our greatest task is to live in an expanding world and universe with imaginative and innovative expressions of love and joy and peace and kindness and goodness and gentleness.

‘Each day your soul weaves the opaque and ancient depth of you with the actual freshness of your present experience.’*^

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(**From the Cirque de Soleil’s Varekai.)
(^From Gretchen Ruben’s The Happiness Project.)
(^^From Edward Deci’s Why We Do What We Do.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)

 

wherever there is love …

11 gravitational

We bring ourselves heart, soul, mind, and strength to life.

Problem.

To love is to make ourselves vulnerable to the thoughts and words and actions of another.  We cannot control the response of another.

We hold our “art” out in front of me, offering it.  Pause.  There’s a hiatus moment when the gift is surrendered, out my of control and not yet received.

This happens thousands of time every day.  We smile at someone – pause – will they smile back?  I hold the door open for someone – pause – will they even make eye contact and acknowledge my presence?  I share something in a team which is important to me – pause – will it be received by a motion or a word, or will it fall into silence.  Every day for you too.

‘Musashi understood the observing eye sees simply what is there.  The perceiving eye sees more than what is there.’*

What happens if the gift is not received?  There’s a small twang of pain.  Maybe we think, “That’s the last time, I’ll open the door, smile at a stranger, share something in a public setting.”

Now that I notice the pain, what will I do with it?

‘Struggling with one’s own shadow self, facing interior conflicts and moral failures, undergoing rejection and abandonment, daily humiliations, experiencing any kind of abuse, or any form of limitation: all are gateways into deeper consciousness and the flowering of the soul.’**

(*An insight from the 16th Century Sumarai Musashi, from Ryan Holliday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)

 

 

plethoral

10 the future will come

While we draw breath, we want to make the most of life.  Yes?

If only we could wish it and it would happen, but life isn’t like that.

What begins in curiosity, continues in inquiry, grows into fascination, sweats hard graft through trying and failing and learning, until the magic happens, and what was imagined becomes real and beautiful and helpful.

This isn’t a blueprint with “do this, then this, then this” instructions.  There’re as many ways to walk this way as there are people.  The weird thing is how we often we closely copy others, or fall into living a cliché, or put off what we really want to do until tomorrow.

We can struggle the tendency of life to take us into the unknown and unfamiliar, even though we’re fully capable of negotiating the liminal.

For a start, we’re all equipped with faith, a future-sensing ability which isn’t only the requisite of the religious.  A closer look at faith shows it’s exactly what we express when we open our minds and hearts and wills, each requires we open ourselves to what we don’t know, haven’t felt, or have not done before.

The Human story is replete with tales of how people have done just this, this journey being told again and again in the legends and myths personifying the human spirit, including contemporary film narratives and tales of superheroes – often tales of becoming.

I’ve enjoyed sharing snippets from the stories about time told by Alan Lightman.  The latest story I’ve read reflects on the texture of time – smooth, rough, prickly, silky, hard, soft – and then tells a story about a world in which the texture of time is sticky:

‘Portions of towns become stuck in some moment in history and do not get out.  So, too, individual people become stuck is some point of their lives and do not get free.’*

Sticky time is disconnecting, holding us in the past, disconnecting us from our future self, from one another, from the world in which we live:

‘For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present.  Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.’*

Even to notice what we notice is a beginning to getting unstuck, prising open my knowing to see and understand more:

‘Such an opening or reopening is entirely necessary to help you make fresh starts to break through to new levels.  You normally have to let go of the old and go through a stage of unknowing and confusion, before you can move to another level of awareness or new capacity.’**

There’s something more coming to us in the unknown – wonder.  The unknown in this way is our friend:

‘The unknown evokes wonder.  If you lose your sense of wonder, you lose the sacramental majesty of the world.  Nature is no longer a presence, it is a thing,  Your life becomes a dead cage of facts.’^

We each have the possibility of reopening present and future time, something which isn’t singular, our of scarcity – but a plethora possibilities, out of abundance

(*From Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.)
(**From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)