Energy like you

It’s the “or don’t” part of this statement that is a real tragedy.

The flow experience, like everything else, is not “good” in an absolute sense. It is good only in that it has potential to make life more rich, intense and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strength and complexity of life.*
(MIhaly Csikszentmihalyi)

Interiority refers to a richer perceptual universe and awareness of self.**
(Peter Senge)

We’re born with basically the same amount of energy: our body, brain, the mysterious-heart sizes are roughly the same, as too the potential lengths of our lives – no-one has grown to twenty feet tall with a twenty-five pound brain and lives two hundred years.

Yet, although we are roughly the same from a distance, when we get up close to people – really close so we can touch their thoughts and their passions – we can see how this energy provided by the universe looks so different. There are not two people alike. Understanding and growing this is what Peter Senge is referring to as interiority and what it leads to is flow.

But there’s still that “or not” hanging menacingly over so many. Many are learning to focus there energy so it looks like so much more while others don’t focus it and it looks less.

We learn to focus our energy through being open to one another’s. Those we see with high amounts of energy have likely been supported by at least one other – perhaps something they’ve read or a special person in their lives. It means that, unless more of us turn up in our energy, we won’t know what we can be capable of individually or together.

The good news is, it’s never too late to begin.

(*From Mihály Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(**From Perter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)

Inside the chrysalis

It’s September but I still spotted small brown butterflies as I passed through the neighbouring park for my morning walk. I think they were probably Speckled Wood butterflies.

Nature , in the form of this butterfly, was reminding me of an important life experience.

What you experience in the universe outside of you also exists in the universe within you. The universe literally flows through you. […] The universe has one intention: to create life.*
(Erwin McManus)

What a caterpillar is doing, in its self–imposed quarantine, is basically digesting itself. It is using enzymes to reduce its body to goo, turning itself into a soup of ex-caterpillar — a nearly formless sludge oozing around a couple of leftover essential organs (tracheal tubes, gut).**
(Sam Anderson)

I’m sorry if that was a little messy but, in essence, the chrysalis is an image for a place of confinement in which we can imagine new possibilities and experience transformation.

Sometimes we are flung into the chrysalis-state by something that happens to us, other times, we enter voluntarily. The caterpillar enters the chrysalis once, but we will probably need to enter many times because, unlike the butterfly, we can turn back into caterpillars.

It is a place for facing ourselves because the biggest issues we have in the world lie with ourselves:

The warrior faces their great adversary when they have to face themselves.*

I’ve just got hold of a copy of David Brooks’ The Second Mountain and came upon these words about those who have come to realise there is a more than one mountain to climb in their lifetime:

They want to want the things that truly worth wanting. They elevate their desires. The world tells them to be a good consumer, but they want to be consumed by a moral cause.^

That sounds very much like the experience within the chrysalis, the possibility of a larger life awaiting us.

It turns out that for the wannabe butterfly, the key elements in the chrysalis goo are “imaginal discs,” the elements that feed on the proteins to become the important structures of the butterfly.

In terms of what we’re thinking about for ourselves, these are our values, talents, and our energies that we notice and feed. The butterfly is our new story to live. (Everything from the old, caterpillar story is still present, but in a radically different way.)

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**Sam Anderson, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Advice from a caterpillar.)
(^From David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.)

Life as learning to play with lines

As in the case of lines, your are likely to stop when you are no longer sure you should go further – at the rear edge of the region of uncertainty.*
(Daniel Kahneman)

When man is born, the race as well as individual, he is thrown out of a situation which was definite, as definite as instincts, ito a situation which is definite, uncertain and open.**
(Erich Fromm)

The are born with lives full of lines into a world of lines.

The ones within are flexible, the ones without less so.

Some need to be more firm than others but not all of them.

From an early age, the lines within become more set, because of where we are born and to whom, how we’re schooled and where these schoolings allow us to travel.

All the time, the lines are becoming more predictable.

All the time we are believing a lie.

The lines aren’t really as fixed as we think – both those within and those without.

We can play with the lines, playing them into something more beautiful, meaningful and good.

Playing with the lines throughout our lives.

We need to help each other to remember this.

(*From Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking: Fast and Slow.)
(**From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)

If we persist

What you have exists in the present, but what you hope for exists only in the future.*
(Erwin McManus)

We’re only as much as what we can give to others.**
(Hugh Macleod)

Faith may sound like a religious word, but it isn’t.

It’s definitely human, the ability to see something that exists in the future and to bring that future into the present.

As I’m pondering it today, to see who we can be and what we can make happen.

We can often make things complicated (“I don’t want to talk about it; it’s complicated”) but this will ask us to move into complexity: connecting to one another and to the world and universe and, yes, ourselves. Because after doing all the interconnecting with everything around us, we are not the same people.

It will not be easy, it may take a lifetime: we must persist.

Don’t give up becoming.

It’s worth everything.

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**From gapingvoid’s eBook: Love in the Time of Coronavirus 2.)

The shores of the universe

The way we store energy is through our desires, values, passions, hopes, dreams, and aspirations, and ultimately our greatest capacity for energy storage is through what we love.*
(Erwin McManus)

Yes, there’s a great deal of resistance to what you offer, but the same universe containing the Higgs boson, galaxies and black holes also produced the beauty of your imagination, the possibilities only you can dream of:

when it’s over,
I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement,
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.**

Stay close to what you must do, don’t give up exploring the universe within: all the wonders you contain that provide you with the nearest shore to set out from in exploration:

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.^

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)
(**Mary Oliver, quoted in Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God.)
(^From Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters.)

The gatherers

Could the psychological state of mastery – the opposite of helplessness – somehow reach inside and strengthen the body?*
(Martin Seligman)

We must be gatherers if we are going to be givers.

It is the daily work and wisdom of noticing what we are noticing.

What we’re gathering is energy; we need to notice what fuels us.

Yesterday, on what I am trying to make a daily walk, I came across a beautiful patch of reeds and bulrushes and regretted coming out without a camera on me, so I returned today.

I had to wait …

for the sun to appear, because this happens:

The leaves lit up as if they were thousands upon thousands of green lights; it’s a picture of noticing what we notice.

We all notice different things. The BFG notices and catches dreams:

‘Here is the dream-catcher,’ he said, grasping the pole in one hand. ‘Every morning I is going out an snitching new dreams to put in my bottles.’**

When we notice what we notice, we’re gathering the energy we need to be creative – not just to be thinking human beings, not even thinking and feeling human beings, but thinking and feeling and creating human beings:

To be a thinking, feeling, creative individual in a mass society too often unthinking and unfeeling in its conformity is to find oneself again and again at odds with the system yet impelled to make out of those odds alternative ends – to envision other landscapes of possibility, other answers, other questions yet unasked. ^

Here is the mastery Martin Seligman is pondering, the opposite of which he says is helplessness. Again, here is the opening of mind, heart and will I mention so often.

Malaka Gharib writes about her practice of drawing,*^ but she could be describing what happens for us when we notice what we notice and move into our creativity:

when I create, I feel like it clears my head. It helps me make sense of my emotions. And, somehow, it makes me feel calmer and more relaxed.^^

Mastery, creativity – it’s all about energy. When we gather the things that we notice it’s difficult to hoard – something Annie Dillard felt about her gathering for writing:

Spend it all, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good … for another book … . The impulse to save something for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.^*

There’s an itchy “I must do something with this” feeling that comes with gathering what we’re noticing. I call it zing.

(*From Martin Seligman’s Flourish.)
(**From Roald Dahl’s The BFG.)
(^Maria Popova from her Brain Pickings: W. E. Auden on the Political Power of Art.)
(^^From Malaka Gharib’s article: Feeling Artsy.)
(*^Girija Kaimal’s research has shown that art helps us imagine a more hopeful future, activates the brain’s reward centre, lowers stress, and allows us to focus deeply – quoted in Malaka Gharib’s article: Feeling Artsy. What’s not to like?)
(^*Annie Dillard, quoted in Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.)


I admit to believing in goodness*

Looking at technology as practice, indeed as formalised practice, has some quite interesting consequences.**
(Ursula Franklin)

The spirit of playful competition is, as a social impulse, older than culture itself and pervades all life like a veritable ferment. […] We have to conclude, therefore, that civilisation is, in its earliest phases, played. It doesn’t not come from play like a babe detaching itself from the womb: it arises in and as play, and never leaves.^
(Johan Huizinga)

I tend to think of technologies as being the things we make but they are, more largely, encompassing all we imagine and then practise.

We share our playfulness with many species but there are things that only humans have brought into being through their developed play.

I’d happened to begin today pondering the difference mercy, grace and justice make in our world, how they are technologies we use, the exploration of which allows us to grow and develop and and inhabit a larger life:

We complete our personality only as we fall into place and service in the vital movement of the society in which we live.^^

The more we engage our imaginations playfully and then make happen what we see in our minds, the more we grow:

After each episode of flow a person becomes more of a unique individual, less predictable, possessed of rarer skills.*^

Rather than thinking of mercy, grace and justice being jobs other people do, instead understanding them to be technologies we playfully live within, what might mercy mean for someone we met, or grace, or justice?

(*From Alex McManus‘ unpublished Blue Moments.)
(**From Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology.)
(^From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(^^From Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(*^From Mihály Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)

Let us serve one another

Service doesn’t sound very glitzy but just about everything humans do can be understood as providing service to one another.

When we are mindful – and heartful – of this, then we can approach greatness.

Service isn’t one size, one shape, one colour. It is as diverse as we are; the highest expression of our lives, it’s where we find meaning – I should say, where we make meaning: an expression of our freedom, mastery and purpose.

Great artists help people to look at their lives with fresh eyes.*
(Austin Kleon)

They are dreamwhisperers who awaken hope. They connect meaning to action. They craft narratives that release human energy. They make new maps that guide us into places where there are no paths.**
(Alex McManus)

Service changes lives, including the lives of those who serve. When we see this impact of what we uniquely do, we can take it from a skill to an art. Service is the surest way to greatness, rather than the fame we may have mistaken it for. Fame requires others to see, greatness only requires the one we serve to be present.

Erwin McManus makes the point that ambition and humility have become separated, but,

What we must do is bring the two universes of ambition and humility together since they were never intended to exist separately.^

Humility is the path to answering the question Who is my true Self? Ambition is the way we walk to hone this into service that is impactful.

There is a title we can wear with joy and pride: Servant.

(*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)
(**From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Way of the Warrior.)