Your move?

Unlike the world of matter, in the world of spirit a whole territory that has lain fallow can become a fertile area of new potential and creativity.*
John O’Donohue

all life on earth is ultimately made possible by dissipative structures that capture chaos and shape it into a more complex order … those who know how to transform a hopeless situation into a new flow activity that can be controlled will be able to enjoy themselves, and emerge stronger from the ordeal**
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When we find ourselves stuck, we’re tempted to wait on help from somewhere or someone to come to us, and whilst we certainly need each other, we also have a surprising capacity for imagining what we can do with what we have.

For help to discover more, let me know if you are interested in the hour of possibility I’m offering.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.

The story that is larger than us

Exclusion becomes more complicated when you need those whom you despise. In most cities there are ‘alien’ elements who are necessary to its functioning, from cleaning its toilets to servicing its banks.*
Richard Sennett

Jen is felt in that deeply satisfying moment when you bring out the goodness in others.**
Dacher Keltner

We are very aware of those who “celebrate” themselves, making more of themselves than they ought, but there are many more who may only realise their wonder through the generous attention of another.

Maria Popova writes of the opaqueness that exists in both the story and a life:

Because we are always partly opaque to ourselves even at our most self-aware, fiction and real life have something wonderful in common, wonderful and disorienting: the ability to surprise even the author – of the story or the life.^

I may have made the decision to set out on my own journey of discovery, but it was the different things others shared with me that has and continues to make the difference.

David Whyte describes this experience of surprise and discovery well:

A life sincerely followed is always surprising and always leads you into places you did not feel you could either enter or that you could deserve. And part of the ability to hold the silence as we move and as we tiptoe, or walk or taker our pilgrim path to another is our ability to not name things too early and to allow yourself to be surprised as to where you’ve arrived.^^

If it were possible for our life to be written as a novel, then we would discover it to be larger than the life that is presently our experience, full of undiscovered uncertainty and nuance, as Milan Kundera writes:

A novel examines not reality but existence. And existence is not what has occurred, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything that man* can become, everything he’s capable of. Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility. But… to exist means “being-in-the-world.”  Thus both the character and his world must be understood as possibilities … [Novels] thereby make us see what we are, and what we are capable of.*^

You may feel this to be a moment for opening yourself to this story that is larger than we are:

We drift through this grey, increasingly nowhere
Until we stand upon a threshold we know
We know we have to cross to come alive once more.^*

*From Richard Sennett’s Building and Dwelling;
**From Dacher Keltner’s Born to be Good;
^Maria Popova, from The Marginalian: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Opaque to Ourselves: Milan Kundera on Writing and the Key to Great Storytelling;
^^David Whyte, quoted in The Marginalian: source lost;
*^Milan Kundera, quoted in The Marginalian: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Opaque to Ourselves: Milan Kundera on Writing and the Key to Great Storytelling;
^*From John O’Donohue’s Benedictus: For the Time of Necessary Decision.

Dress code

Are all self-improvers in principle created equal, or is self-improvement much harder for some than it is for others?*
Anna Katharina Schaffner

Creativity doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.**
Seth Godin

The author of the blog Clothes Make the Man was being interviewed on the radio show I was listening to this morning. The subject being the comeback of flares.

Whilst clothes do not make a person, many of us, including myself, enjoy finding the clothes we feel most in tune with. I can also remember flares from the first time they were with us: I had a pair of 28″ flared trousers: definitely not something I would ever want to wear again.

We each have our rules and codes about clothing: shirts to be worn outside of jeans but inside of trousers, et cetera.

It’s Anna Katharina Schaffner’s question that is more important to me than whether flares will make a comeback and what will be the next fashion after this one. Her book is exploring self-improvement through the centuries and identifies ten timeless practices.

At the heart of all of this is the question: What does it mean to you to be human?

Is to be human a fixed existence, or is it one of endless development, or somewhere in-between?

Our answer will likely affect what happens next.

*From Anna Katharina Schaffner’s The Art of Self-Improvement;
**From Seth Godin’s The Practice.

A temptation to doubt

What is unique about the Celtic tradition compared to most other Western traditions is that it cannot be reduced to a set of doctrines or beliefs; instead, at its core is the conviction that we essentially need to keep listening to what our soul already knows, either in the particular circumstances of our lives or in matters more universal.*
Philip Newell

Doing something new simply because we’re worried that the old thing we were doing a minute ago isn’t fast enough is a waste. The crowd might enjoy it, but in the long run, it diminishes our contributions and our joy.**
Seth Godin

I shouldn’t take my doubts at face value.

The temptation is to look around and see what others are doing and change what I’m doing.

I suspect, though, that I need to lean more into what I know I must be doing.

I’m grateful to Seth Godin, or Saint Seth as I think of him, who turns up with just the right words for me to help me keep going and also to sharpen my thinking and hoping:

Ultimately, the goal is to become the best in the world at being you. To bring useful idiosyncrasy to the people you seek to change and to earn a reputation for what you do and how you do it. The peculiar version of you, your assertions, your art.^

I close with the words of a new co-traveller on this journey of becoming who we are:

We tend to write about the things that matter most to us, the things we wish to learn more about. I have always wanted to improve to understand more deeply what self-improvement entails.^^

Don’t forget the high-octane hour of discovery I’m offering. Just drop me a line to find out more.

*From Philip Newell’s Sacred Earth Sacred Soul;
**From Seth Godin’s blog: Personal velocity:
^From Seth Godin’s The Practice;
^^From Anna Katharina Schaffner’s The Art of Self-Improvement.

Welcome to my place

The challenge is to have one superpower. All out of balance to the rest of your being. If, over time, you develop a few more, that’s fine. Begin with one.*
Seth Godin

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.**

Richard Sennett shares how basically place is where we dwell, space is what we travel through. We need both.

In this we touch upon the two life-forming questions:

Who is my True Self?
What is my contribution?

It’s both/and.

Towards this, I’ve been sharing an idea I’ve had for sharing these things in a high-octane way: the gift of an undiluted hour of dreamwhispering. Drop me a line to find out more.

*From Seth Godin’s The Practice;
**Psalm 16:6

Because it’s my responsibility …

Like our control preference, responsibility is a learned skill. You might be born with an instinct for it, but mostly it’s something we’re taught or choose to learn.*
Seth Godin

It is with the heart and soul that we are able to surface important things that the eyes need to see. Examining our souls is not as easy as clearing our minds, you’ll find.**
Ryan Holiday

It became a pivotal moment for me.

When I stood before a room full of people and took responsibility for the things I had got wrong.

It freed something inside of me.

Though this would come more slowly. I stopped hiding from what I realised I must do.

The thing I am responsible for whilst I am on earth.

I will bring mine, you must bring yours.

Yesterday, I mentioned my idea to cram what I do into a full-on hour of personal- and other- discovery. Drop me a line if you know this is for you.

*From Seth Godin’s blog: Your responsibility preference;
**From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.

The protoype

When we intentionally avoid desirable difficulty, our practice suffers, because we’re only coasting.*
Seth Godin

A stable, balanced life is a life losing energy – and so is a stable, balanced city.**
Richard Sennett

The prototype is for us.

The exploring of a possibility that follows an idea.

The thing that gets us moving.

Here’s one to try out: I thought to cram everything I do in dreamwhispering into a high-octane hour of discovery as a gift for those who’d love to experience their more.

Drop me a line.

*From Seth Godin’s The Practice;
**From Richard Sennett’s Building and Dwelling.

Unfamiliar … familiar … overfamiliar … unfamiliar

Our evolved preference for familiarity often backfires. There are many signals that give us useful information about whether a situation is productive or safe. But pre-existing social networks might not be the best one.*
Seth Godin

Expand your attention to include everything that you can possibly hear, without judgement. The ear hears. The brain listens.**
Pauline Oliveros

We are creatures who turn the unfamiliar into the familiar.

We like the familiar.

Then we have to beware the overfamiliar.

Then we must set out into the unfamiliar again: a never-ending source of possibility.

Something to be found in each day.

*From Seth Godin’s blog: Fear of strangers;
**Pauline Oliveros, quoted in Rob Walker’s blog The Art of Noticing: source lost.

The conversation library

How does one keep an imagination fresh in a world that works double-time to suck it away? … I think that the answer is, one must live a curious life.  One must have stacks and stacks and stacks of books on the inside of their bodies. And those books don’t have to be the things that you’ve read.  I mean, that’s good, too, but those books could be the conversations that you’ve had with your friends that are unlike the conversations you were having last week.*
Jason Reynolds

We have fallen out of alignment with the deepest truths within us. How are we to awaken again to the sacredness at the heart of all life, the sacredness that is also at the heart of our own being?**
Philip Newell

Ryan Holiday writes,

Enough comes from the inside.^

I want to add:

More than enough comes from conversation.

Jason Reynolds shares how in Senegal, when a community is elder it is said that “a library has burned.”*

When the enough of one person meets the enough of another, more than the sum of the two people is uncovered.

There’s more. When we take our curiosity into a conversation, we will likely find, as James Carse suggests, our experience of time changes, too:

Time does not pass for an infinite player. Each moment of time is a beginning of a period of time. It is the beginning of an event that gives the time within its specific quality.^

There’s a richness of time for those who discover its quality over its quantity. A conversation becomes more like a visit to a library in which we are lost in its contents.

Let’s re-open the libraries all around us.

If you would like to have a conversation in which we can explore this further, drop me a line.

*Jason Reynolds, quoted in Rob Walkers’ The Art of Noticing blog: Ask a Human;
**From Philip Newell’s Sacred Earth Sacred Soul;
^From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.

Inauthentic learning

Compulsory education doesn’t often lead to real learning. That’s because compulsory education is coerced. There’s no active enrolment.*
Seth Godin

we care most about the things we have struggled to understand**
Leon Festinger

There are many things I cannot do, but there are a few things that I can.

This is the reality with which I begin my day.

I reflect in this way because I want to do more with this little bit of responsibility I have in life: to someone how make a meaningful contribution into the lives of others.

Limitations are not only about what I have not but also what I have.

There is a magic in this, some alchemy to play with.

Alan Jacobs writes about more appearing to us when we are prepared to step outside of our understanding and expectation:

Surprise is the great enabler of seeing.^

Inauthenticity, perhaps, is the product of real learning:

What have you been put on the Earth to do? Is it not the creation of the “inauthentic,” that is the purposefully crafted, in order to deliver to others the gifts and simulacrum of authenticity. That’s why we call it Art, and why, in some crazy way, it’s realer the real and truer than true.^^

We each see differently, formed by our lives and not of someone else’s. Embracing this allows us to imagine what others have not.

It does not have to be some great and grand gesture. Indeed, it is more likely to be the small creation of love and beauty that will make someone’s life, somewhere, better.

*From Seth Godin’s blog: “The dog ate my homework”;
**Leon Festinger, quoted in Richard Sennett’s Building and Dwelling;
^From Alan Jacobs’ Snakes and Ladders blog: Architectural Thoughts;
^^Steven Pressfield, quoted in Seth Godin’s The Practice.