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The Day Everyone Cried

Image – @leunigcartoons
Inspiration – How what is counter intuitive is often the best way forward in crisis.  
Provocation – Thinking about how challenging it is for so many to spend time alone. 

Note – I, like many others, have lived though a good share of loss and trauma, of both the economic and emotional kind. I know first hand how challenging it can be to react with calm and kindness. None of this is easy, but within every difficult life event there is that which is challenging, and the suffering which we create and mount on top of that challenge to make it near impossible. Today I am speaking to the later. 


 

Around day three or four of a mediation retreat something happens.

Almost everyone starts crying.

I’ve often thought of this as a moment of reckoning. As in, the moment that the participants recognise the true consequences of the decision they have made to take themselves away from the aspects of their life into something, that for many is the absolute opposite of their normal behaviour.

It’s a surrender of sorts. One where the war between quitting and leaving the retreat and the keeping of the commitment to do it in the first place come to completion and just under the surface of this, is the beginning of all the things you have been avoiding.

We live in a world, that has highly pervasive narratives around action.

How the doers among us, the strivers, the builders are the winners. We must keep moving forward. It’s patriotic to do so. Doing, is touted as the answer to most things. It is the foundation of shame. It’s imbedded into our language, our habits and our psyches.

This isn’t all bad, productivity has led us as a species to drastically improve our quality of life. As someone that’s founded companies and created things within the world, I have seen first-hand the magical outcomes that focused action can produce.

I have however also seen, what happens when a narrative turns orthodox.

 

To be a doer is anointed, to be a non-doer is almost sacrilegious within the practice of the social religions of our societal behaviour. To not do is to be unproductive. To not do is a privilege. To not do is lazy. To lack action is to miss out, mess up, fail.   

 

Here is a 2 minute excerpt from a recent podcast by Naval that frames this concept really clearly. 

So, what happens when we are all called to stop, all at the same time? When the future is more uncertain (for many) than it has ever been before, how do we create the kind of space we need to make the decisions that will align our circumstance to our longterm needs? 

Let’s go back to the retreat setting and walk though that from day one to three as a micro-example of global social isolation.


 

Day 1 –

First you arrive in your new place of isolation. Whatever has got you here, the reasoning that has led to this outcome, has passed, you have accepted that you are here.

You are looking around and although the accommodation looks familiar, like the photos from the brochure, you feel anxious, you ask yourself questions like; can I be confined in this space for this length of time and be ok?

You recognise that you have invested real effort to make sure you chose the environment that had the kind of people that are “your people” within it, but there is that decision, and then there is the reality of being in a confined place with only them for a long period of time. If you have chosen an entirely solo experience you question if you really understood the true consequence of that decision.

Yet you are here. You have no choice but to take it in your stride and you move forward.

Day one at a retreat, is akin to week one of social isolation. We all made it though week one. What’s next? 

Day 2 –

You have explored every square inch of your new space. You have walked all the paths, rearranged your space to match your preferences for comfort, kept to the script, followed the routine.

You feel a little strange. You say things like; this isn’t so bad, after all.

Your day feels strangely full, even though many of the things you would usually have done in a day you are not doing, there are other things that have filled this space and you feel secure in your ability to continue to fill that space, keep this pace, like this place.

You feel meta about the situation, philosophical almost, you miss your old life, but with a playful reverence. Can’t want to go here, do that, be there, tell so-and-so about that.

Day two of a retreat is akin to week two of social isolation. We all made it though week two, maybe some of us are slightly more afraid and others slightly more apathetic, but we made it none the less. So what’s next?  

Day 3 –

Today you woke up and realised that you are not yet halfway into this experience.

That you have tasted all the food, seen all the places, organised everything twice over, found all the things that annoy you and that are lovely. You have done all that can be done, have all that you need within the parameters of where you are, and this is it. This is it. Here you are.

Now what? You feel lethargic.

Disoriented, not only by the choices that put you here, but by this growing feeling like something has been stolen from you. You feel compulsive, reactive.

Your mind is searching, scrolling through your environment looking for entertainment. Something to steal your attention away. Somewhere to lay your discomfort to the side for a minute, or an hour or a day.

You feel a build-up, that you can’t quite put your finger on, at first it comes out as irritation.

Why does that door keep creaking and distracting me? Why can’t I get my food like this? Why is that person coughing, sniffling, moving, breathing? Why is everyone breathing so loud? Arrrrr.

You might even let this anger out. You spill it around you, over others, into the world. Yet, you still feel the same. It keeps building.

You click into the next level of action. You declare to yourself – “Let’s fix everything!”.

You ask, what can I contribute to? How can I take what I feel and give it away to a good cause?  How can I be useful?

You quickly realise that under the circumstance, even as cleaver as you are, what you can do to help, is limited and short lived. 

It keeps building. You flick though all your weapons of distraction, you eat, you exercise, you learn, you try to hijack the attention of others. It’s still building. You go to bed early, exhausted from doing nothing. You wake up at 4am, crying. 

Day three to four of a retreat, is akin of week three of social isolation.


 

It’s amazing how little people cry nowadays. Then when we do, we do so apologetically. The Inuit tribes would say that the feeling of sorrow comes when we are crying inside. So even with the absence of tears, we still cry, just silently. 

So why do we cry on day three?

When we break the patterns of our life. When the distractions fall still, and the compulsions are exhausted. What we are left with is a forced confrontation with ourselves.

 

In a society that has become religious about productivity, stopping to look inward. Being still and calm; Doing nothing, is seen as having chosen to fail. Like the ultimate life regression. You lose.

 

Day three of a retreat, (and the now impending week three, for many, of social isolation) is a breaking down of everything that prevents us from stopping.

What we have denied, what we have avoided, what we have lied to ourselves about. It’s sitting just behind our distractions. Realising that no one is going to rescue you. 

I know what you are thinking! This is not the break through that’s often touted about retreat experiences, far from it. Sorry to be the one to tell you, but to break though, you first need to break down.

Day three is simply brokenness.  A clear view of everything that’s broken in our lives, that is of course, if we are willing to look.

It’s confronting when we remove all the forces that distract us, steal our focus and occupy our sensibilities. Often, it makes us cry. Not in the sad movie kind of way. We cry as a release.

The truth of how things are, even when everything is beautiful, is raw and moving. Everything alive, needs moisture to survive. Crying, enables a process to continue when it would otherwise collapse. A release when the build-up is to much to hold inside.

This kind of crying, jut like this kind of isolation, makes space for us to see all the things we have stolen from ourselves, deprived from our relationships, our creative lives, our potentiality in the name of productivity or social norms.

We start to ask ourselves, as we move into this kind of isolation, what is it in us that needs to be released? Freed? Let go?

In accent fairy tales and indigenous tribal stories there is a leitmotif called the “thrown object”. This might be depicted as the magical object thrown to the ground that builds a wall of protection or a potion that creates immunity, or a trap that slows the pursuer from catching the pursued.

Perhaps if the world all made the choice to look clearly at the truth in front of us, at this time, we would brew the kind of potion that gives us clear eyes to look out at what we have all created. To see clearly the decisions we have made that have stolen and extracted resources, from ourselves and others, in excess of what we really need. The decisions that have led us all, in some way to extract more than we have given to society, the earth.

I’m not suggesting that you meditate. Nor do any other kind of practice. I’m simply suggesting that, while we are all here, in isolation, we have an opportunity of sorts. Perhaps it’s time to check in with where we are. What we are creating and tell ourselves the truth about it.  A minute even, to stop focusing on what comes next. Accept where you are today. Let go of needing something or someone to save you.

Here is another clip from Naval that says this in a different way.

Self-soothe. Hold yourself. Make space for yourself. Tell yourself some truth.

Understand what it is that you are really experiencing, what decisions you are making and what truth you can tell yourself at this time that will enable you the freedom to react and respond to the real challenges that we still face ahead, in a way that is in our individual and collective best long term interests. 

If you so dare to use this time, to stop everything, to stand still. You may stumble across a new path that can not just elevate you now, but always. 

 

“The challenge of being forced outside your normal patterns can lead to new ways of thinking and behaving that open doors never noticed before” – Rick Rubin. 

 

I know, it’s hard, it’s painful and it’s scary. I in no way wish to diminish your experience.

What i’m suggesting is that if you can release all your expectations, let go of your plans (as good as they were), assess your distractions and reconsider your dreams, this might turn out to be the most productive few weeks of your life. 

 

– End –

 

Personal Note – 

If you think I can assist you with anything you need at this time – send me a note here 🙂

 

 

A few simple ways to build your immunity

One of the consistent messages that I’m seeing around the spread of the coronavirus is that it seems to be less risky to turn into life threatening health issues if you have a strong immune system. This is good news in among the many terrible things about this virus.

The thing is, most of our immune systems are actually compromised. We have exposure to a heap of toxins and system depleting behaviours each day, and we also, for the most part, don’t really eat enough vital nutrients (like fresh vegetables) to have a robust immunity to new pathogens. I’m not here to point fingers at that or anyone, but to try to offer some tips and paths to quickly boost your immune system in ways that are both affordable and easy to do.

Within are some things that you can do today, to help bolster your chances of being one of the maybe 40% of people that don’t catch this virus.

NOTE: This blog does NOT constitute any kind of medical advice nor is it some kind of cure to all. Just ways you might like to employ to help protect you and your family from the virus that have in the past worked for me.

Immunity Tonic #1

Tonic

I’ve been using this tonic for a few years now as my first line of defence when my son or I have felt the onset of a virus – it has worked incredibly well for us, usually knocking anything out before it starts with one dose in the morning & one in the afternoon.

Any naturopath / health food store that has a herbal dispensary can make this for you. It costs me $25 for 100mls


Golden seal (30ml),
olive leaf (20ml)
echinacea (30ml)
Thyme (20ml)

Dose –
7mls for an adult
3mls for a child
Mixed in 20mls of water
(I mixed mine with raw honey – because it does not taste great!)


 

Immunity Tonic #2

firetonic_original

Fire tonic is an unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) tincture. It’s called fire tonic because it’s – well, spicy. It’s packed full of immune boosting ingredients like ACV (apple cider vinegar, raw local honey, chillies, turmeric, garlic, horseradish, ginger, carrot, celery, red onion, brown onion, apple, orange, lemon, mustard seed, parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves, Szechuan pepper & Himalayan pink mineral salt.

I have found it to be great used alone (a small shot of it) or as a tea base with raw honey.

For my son, I mix it with some honey & give him a tea spoon full every couple of hours. I used this when he had whooping cough (a terrible experience for any parent) and found it to be the only thing that would give him a reprieve from coughing.

It costs $AUD20 & is available to order here

 

Throat spray

Mushroom spray

Anyone familiar with Paul Stamets and his mushroom products know how amazing they actually are!!

It contains organic mushrooms such as Agarikon, Chaga & Reishi and as dispensed as a liquid extracts it provides rapid absorption.

I get mine from iHerb, but it’s widely available & costs around $25 – You can find some on amazon here.

 

Activated Coconut Charcoal

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The wide benefits of charcoal has been highly documented – you can read about it here. I currently use bulletproof brand– but you can get coconut charcoal at every pharmacy.

Ways to use it:
Tablet form – pretty straight forward
Powder & water – when I have a throat ache I mix some with water & gargle
Toothpaste – mix it with your toothpaste & use it to brush your teeth & clean your whole mouth out. It’s incredible how good this has been for my son when he has a cold.

A 6 months supply of charcoal shouldn’t cost you more than $20!

NOTE – Remember charcoal knocks out all other remedies – so take this first thing or at least 20 minutes apart from anything else.

 

Soup & Broth

Soup

For me, a good bowl of broth is an immediate uplift in my overall feeling of good health.

Here is a great recipe – If you are making some, consider doubling it and making some for the elderly people in your neighbourhood. The oxytocin will boost you both!

If you can’t be bothered making your own buy an organic one.

Here is a great Australian company that makes broth. This one is good from the USA.

Vegetable broth is a good alternative for vegetarian and vegans. This one here is an amazing “just add water” option if you don’t want to make your own.

Personally I find a small cup of broth a day makes me feel great! I use broth to cook my sons rice (as a replacement for water), in sauces, to steam vegetables & poach eggs.

 

Vegetables / Superfood powders

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Increasing your intake of fresh, green, in season vegetables is an instant way to build up your immune system. It may seem obvious, but most of the worlds population eat well below the recommended daily serving of vegetables.

If you can’t, don’t or won’t eat your greens daily, consider replacing that intake with an organic superfood greens powder.

There are hundreds of options here on iHerb – I highly recommend getting the ones without any sweetener (like stevia) and adding honey or a banana instead! I use this one.

 

Sleep

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Another obvious one that many forget and often neglect.

A few early nights can really improve your bodies ability to fight off any infections. Turn your devices off early & go to bed! Your body will thank you for it. Two to three nights in a row of quality sleep will totally change your whole biological systems ability to function & fight off pathogens, not to mention elevate your mood!

 

Extra things in my cupboard –

  • Oregano oil:  A strong anti fungal, immune builder that you can take (in very small amounts) in water.
  • Peppermint & Eucalyptus oil blend: For humidifier/ rub on bottom of feet & to drop in the bath
  • Raw honey – for tea/ taste & mixing with bad tasting tonics !!

Prevention must haves
Alcohol wipes: I’ve been using them in my car, out and about (on doors etc) and on all my electronics.

All day eye glasses: Covering your eyes is technically better for prevention than a mouth mask – get some daytime blue light blockers – or just a pair of random cheap non prescription glasses from your local discount store and ware them when you are out in public.

Wash your hands:  Please just do this anyway. Plus, stop touching your face & other people – seriously – it’s not that hard, and a good habit to have at all times.

 

Everything on this list can be found for an affordable price / mostly online. Hope this helps in some way 🙂 take care of yourself & your loved ones.

 

Clarity & Sovereignty

Inspiration –  “The truth is not simple it’s just profoundly clear” – Forrest Landry

 

Sovereignty is a deep seeing and honouring of what’s true and real within us.

It’s freedom of compassion, of empathy & creativity. The ability to make sense of the world and live with agency over our thoughts, choices & actions.

Whatever path you are walking towards your sense of self being, in whatever way that is working for you, is a kind of evolutionary path to increasing your individual sovereignty. It is a journey inward away from the conditioning that keeps us small to an enabling of  the larger, ever emerging potential of who we are.

The personal freedom to no longer be the protagonists of the movie of (your version) of the world, so you create one where you are alive to the joy of replenishing the natural ecosystem you live in.

The freedom to stop playing your life though the filters of a win/loose game and simply start living. Creating. Replenishing.

Others can help us be sovereign by helping us remember who we really are.

By helping us see past what we have identified with as us, so we can see through to the foundation of us, that of our truth and potential.

Even when we are aware of our identity filters, we often fall into the trap of wanting approval or behaving in a way that seeks out the reaction we want from others, to elevate our mood or status in line with them. In these interactions we often maintain and sustain a limited self. Trying to present the version of ourselves that gets the reaction we want, but it’s always at a cost of being heard, seen and ultimately the potential for a real connection.

What ends up happening when we behave and make sense of the world from a perspective that is disconnected and limited, is we lose our way.

If we want to be in continuity with others, we first must be so with ourselves.

If we want to change the reaction, we must change the action.

If we want to change the expression, we have to change the root.

Individual Sovereignty is the root. The founding path to building an interior ecosystem of continuity. So, each individual has the founding capacity, wisdom and vision to create an ecosystem that is inclusive, replenishing and set’s others up to thrive.

As Forrest Landry said. “The truth is not simple it’s just profoundly clear”, learning what the truth is, starts with gaining a clarity of self.

 


Notes:

 

1. With respect to the word truth – I have taking an excerpt from Forrest’s website to explain how we use it in this context. You can read further about this here.
Truth is more than “that which one can consider” (perceive) with total confidence, clarity, and certainty.

Truth is that with which one can personally act with total confidence and effectiveness. Truth is not so much about correctness in thinking as it is about the significance and efficiency of choice. It is not so much about perceptual certainty as it is about expression with clarity, effectiveness, and confidence.

One knows truth as much through the process of feeling as through the process of thought. It is only when both feeling and thinking are used together that one may know Truth.

2. If you would like further reading on defining the concept of human sovereignty you can find some here

Artwork: 
Brett Whitley – Self portrait in the studio 1976

Whiteley’s tiny mirror self-portrait reflects the influence of Eastern art in his portrayal of man as merely part of a larger landscape. However, this painting also hints at a darker side, as Wendy Whiteley explained in 1995:

… he was warning himself and other people watching. It was the cage of his interior, his addiction, the window or a glimpse of possible escape into paradise: the escape from one’s psyche.

This painting won the Archibald Prize in 1976 and was acquired by the Art Gallery NSW in 1977.

What does Humility have to do with Leadership?

Inspiration:

I was recently asked a huge question by a leading global organisation

– Q How do we cultivate greater humility among our leadership ranks?

Albert Einstein supposedly said “the release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.” I think the same can be said about technology. It has not created a new problem within humanity, it has exposed existing human problems. This post is an idea, my attempt on how we might address this question and the human problem at the heart of the current state of Leadership.

There is a battle being fought at the very heart of society; that a change in human behaviour is fundamentally required to meet the future landscape of the world.

This shift has been brought on by the combined forces of a new urban close quarter living, technology changing the fabric of society, and the blurred lines between what is work, what is living. It is a shift in what it means to be a civilian, a human, within society.

It’s a global grappling with democracy and freedom, what was historically black and white is now grey, contentious and confusing. More deeply, it’s a grappling with the reality of our own lives, our own purpose and our own truth.

The search for balance, for interpersonal truth, for meaning, contribution and new ways to live life requires a kind of transformation to materialise. With this, the leaders of the future must emerge. The world not only needs new ways to live, it needs new ways to lead and be led.

The new leader will be placed in front of decisions and situations that have never been seen, requiring a new kind of strength.

I want to propose the cultivation of a strength in leadership of a radical kind. I call this new strength ‘Sincere Humility’. It is my position that a foundation of sincere humility will be a key ingredient of the future of leadership of all kinds.

This is an idea, a thought experiment, that could serve as the basis of a kind of learning and development that may be able to seed a viable path to a solution for the global leadership need.

To break this down on a basic level, I pose and answer two questions:
1. What is Sincere Humility?
2. How can it be taught?

What is sincere humility?

Humility, by its very nature, is sincere.

Embodied, active humility results when an individual has the preparedness and resilience to live in complete inward honesty. A persons outside behaviour then becomes a reflection of that.

Humility means changing the threshold of individual acceptability.
At its core, there is one key skill of individual acceptability: the ability to tell yourself the absolute truth.

Having humility, is to deeply understand and mitigate your inner conflict to a level where you are able to separate it from your external environment. This is to say all conflict at its root, is self-conflict and our behaviours are a manifestation of our internal state. Being able to understand this internal state and affect it honestly enables a naturally sincere humility. This is then reflected outward in our environment through behaviour.

To be able to sincerely lead with humility, an individual needs to access their own truth within an instant, in any given interaction. This is, in essence, a combined mastery of an authentic Leadership based in self-awareness, self-assessment, communication, integrity & moral courage, acted out in the moment.

Despite the simplicity of that statement, the journey to mastery is one that requires a depth of understanding, framing and experience that can’t be won in a 5-step program or a one day intensive.

Ultimately, unlike any other skill, when considering behaviour that is founded in sincerity, cosmetic behavioural change is not enough. What you need is transformation and transformation can’t be taught. It is something the individual must choose.

That takes us to the second question:

How can it be taught?

The simple and direct truth is; humility cannot be taught.

On this basis, the challenge changes from cultivating humility itself, to the cultivation of the correct conditions for transformation to take place.

The social psychologists Kurt Lewin, (known for Field Theory) proposed that there are two ways to change behaviour. The first is to apply pressure in the direction where you want people to go. i.e.: you cause change using force leavers like incentive or threat. The second way to change behaviour is by making it easy.

Quickly one can see how the first method contradicts any hope for the presence of sincerity. Let’s look closer at option two; Making it easy.

In thinking about the merit of cultivating sincere humility to a level of mastery, it becomes not about ‘how’ to do this. It’s more of a question of; what’s preventing any individual themselves from doing what is necessary to reach mastery? When this is the question, the role of the teacher changes to one of removing obstacles. Once obstacles are removed, change itself can happen.

As previously defined, humility is a personal, individual transformation such that is something each individual must choose. The focus shifts from teaching specific skills, to creating a model of understanding that sets the space, tools & framework for the student to make that decision with ease.

That is a deceptively simple statement to make. It requires deep, strategic consideration to successfully materialise such an outcome. This is not a path made of tips, tricks and ‘how to’s’ that will cause a swift and efficient change to pop out a “Instant leader” (think the instant noodle of leadership creation).

If what you are really asking is; How do I stop involuntary thought? How do I impact the very core of how I, and each of my people think, act and react? It’s like asking ‘how do I hold the volume of the ocean in a 250ml cup’? You simply cannot;

And this is why this is an ideal focused on the environment needed to transform people into humans that lead with sincere humility, not on humility itself.

It’s about creating an atmosphere and space to ask the question of themselves.
To choose themselves.
To be themselves.

The shift happens when one starts to realise that all the tips and techniques have got them nowhere close to a mastery and true sincerity. In order to do that it requires there to be a letting go of the need to fix or prescribe solutions. The focus then shifts to one of honest cultivation of these conditions, allowing then the space to arrive at truly examining the self.

I am talking about creating a pathway to understanding. The real work. The true transformation will come when the individual chooses this themselves.

This moves against every traditional, normalised approach to skill acquisition. This model is not about the over intellectualisation of an abstract theory of behaviour or technique that provides a trick or hack. There is no qualification, or score. You cannot pass or fail. When I talk about a model, I am not talking about a mental model.

This is about an arrival to personal truth.

An idea to set out a path internally, giving an yourself, the permission to ask yourself real questions. Here is where they you may come to your own true understanding and truth.

There are ways, I am sure, we could build and scale this is by using all the tools available in technology, resource and structure. Using all the knowledge we have to focus on building an atmosphere that leads to truth, humility and transparency.

The best in the world (at anything) don’t become the best in the world by trying to perfect themselves for others. They do it for themselves. It’s a sincere choice of self.

This concept is about creating an environment for yourself, for others, at home and in business, that creates the space and path that gives permission for you and other leaders to choose.

This leadership problem we have, is a human problem.

There are no tricks or a crazy techniques to solve human problems. Cultivating sincere personal truth is one of the hardest life choices of all.

To be blunt, addressing such a fundamental and unique human challenge with old, outdated techniques would be a waste of time. By designing a better environment for ourselves, and others, change will naturally happen.

This question about humans, leadership and creating a future we thrive in is not one I can answer alone, so I will end with a question for you.

How can you use your skills, your technologies, your creativity to change your and our environment to one where we are a people who choose to lead with sincere humility?

IMAGE –  Rene Magritte’s painting as part of the  La trahison des images
The words on the painting  “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”, are French for “This is not a pipe.” The statement means that the painting itself is not a pipe; it is merely an image of a pipe. A painting about the truth of what is, verse what we choose to look at.

 

Image

The Ironic Truth

Inspiration

“We’re so complex; we’re mysteries to ourselves; we’re difficult to each other. And then storytelling reminds us we’re all the same.” Brad Pitt.

Motivation

Understanding – is that how to tell our truth?


The Ironic Truth

You know those moments when someone tells you something deeply personal, particularly heart braking and overtly confronting about their past, where you are left, with a feeling of being powerless to respond, so you say… I am sorry. I’m sorry that happened to you, I’m sorry you went through that, I’m sorry.

Sometimes this can be a considered reply, and the right reply for the moment, however, much of the time it is a stop gap, of sorts, a way to bridge over your real, internal (usually uncomfortable) reaction to the information being presented. Maybe with good intention, say, to not offend, or not upset or isolate someone you care about through your reaction. What’s interesting and paradoxical about this situation, is that the apology should probably come from the person telling the story.

Let me explain.

As the person telling the story, the one telling the truth of your life, of your circumstance, of your heartbreak or pain, take a moment now to think about how much time you have had to consider this truth. Not only the actual instance that caused it, but also how much time you have had to consider, process and get comfortable with other peoples reactions to it. In fact, it’s not new. By the time you say it, even for the first time, you have probably thought deeply, openly and at length about how you will feel if some one doesn’t understand, how you would react if someone does, and all of the potential in betweens.

On the other hand, you have the person listening, for the first time. They have never been confronted by this exact piece of information before. They don’t understand your relationship to the trauma of it and they don’t really understand their own. Even if in the moment they get the feeling that it impacts or activates their own internal daemons, they don’t really know how, why or what to do with that just yet. What I am proposing is, that this moment, right here, requires deep empathy from the story teller.

Being a better story teller is something I would like to be in my life, and thinking about the audience in this way, makes me consider how I can use understanding within that. How by framing, preempting understanding and personalising your narrative opens hearts and ears, so instead of shutting down an experience with an I’m sorry, you leave your audience, loved one, friend or stranger open to a conversation. Invite them to become a participant in the evolution of the story itself. Creating an exchange that is both deeply meaningful and truly honest. Which is, in essence, connection.

Is it that being understood starts with being understanding?

Before We Flow

Inspiration

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle”.  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Motivation

Have we been so seduced by perfection that we have forgotten the beauty of struggle?


Before We Flow

Over the past ten years, there has been a group of Neurologists that have been studding the science and biology of flow states. That mystical state of being where you lose time, where you are in the “zone”, where everything has a new beat, a perfect rhythm, where it all flows. Flow is deep creative expression. Flow is inspiration. Flow is pure focus. Transcendence.

It’s truly a fascinating space, like a sneak peak into a part of humanity that we have all known, but never quite understood. One of the most interesting discoveries is that flow has stages. Four stages in fact. There is a preparation (like an education), there is the struggle (turning what you have learnt into a practical reality, taking risk) there is a the flow (where the meeting of what you know and what you do are greater than their individual parts and you transcend your perception of your own ability) and then there is a stage of recalibration, like a resting.

I want to talk a little about the struggle.

When thinking about the impacts that social media has on our lives, the newly found access to one another’s lives that the Internet has opened for us in recent time has confronted us with the overt proliferation of fake news. Not the fake news/ alternative facts from the actual news corporations (that’s a totally different topic) but the fake life stories that flood our news feeds and make up the majority of all social platforms, the ones that come from everyday people.

I’m talking about the touched up selfie (#iwokeuplikethis), the manufactured shots, the product placement that fills peoples lives with things that are not even theirs, that they pretend are (#ad the least used hashtag on the internet!), the overly groomed, best view, polished, exciting, social, adventurous dream lives that flicker into view daily.

It got me to thinking about what potential deeper impacts this is having on us culturally. Obviously, as a million articles already published will tell you, it’s probably hurting our relationship with ourselves, and reality, but I’m not so sure this is the worst of it.

The age of FOMO has turned into the age of FAKE. It is fake, not because of the impossible image of perfection it portrays but because this mass misrepresentations of life denies the existence of any struggle to get it.

As cliché as it is, good things take time, energy and effort to create. Good lives, take time energy and effort, loss, mistakes, misunderstanding, wasted time, messy endings and hurt to create.

I should preface, I am not anti social media. I actually love the power and potential that social media has to offer the world. If ever there was a time in history that we could say “power to the people” it most certainly is now. I marvel that I live in a time where all the “people” are actually connected on a freely available truly democratic interconnected energetic link.

But let’s be real here, socially speaking, things are not going so great in the world. Globally, more than eight hundred thousand people commit suicide every single year. This is an epidemic. How can so many people be ending life at their own choice on the very (scarily) common notion of “I’m not good enough”. Do you stop to ask, “good enough compared to what?” What are they comparing themselves to?

People are comparing themselves to what they see most.

The most powerful tool ever created for positive social change has turned into the most powerful tool for the inciting of crazy misperceptions of how reality is and more so the kind of reality we should be striving for.

It is causing so many people to feel that because they struggle to meet this perfection, they are somehow unworthy of life.

When reality for many people is not even close to this image they strive for. Reality for so many is figuring out how to simply survive day to day. Faced with this stark disparity day in day out, people end up believing that they are doing life wrong. That the inability to meet this impossible standard translates to not being worthy of life.

If you deny the struggle you deny the flow. If the very act of struggling is banished to the dark corners of life, in private places, where it can’t be seen or acknowledged, then life will never meet flow. Life without flow is depressed, repressed and unexpressed.

If this were the end of the story, it would be kind of easy. Easy to find a solution, but no, as this topic suggests nothing about this is easy.

The problem with suppressing the struggle is you become a victim of it. As soon as you fail to acknowledge that the act of struggling has real purpose in both public and private life, you begin to suffer.

Suffering is expressed in many ways, but more commonly as martyrdom. It is expressed as trolls, lies, victimization, abuse, addiction, aggression and destructive vindictive behavior. Suffering has become the hash tag to modern life. The seduction of suffering is the drama. Drama generates attention, a behavior that is reinforced daily in our news feeds. Seeking attention through drama is the misappropriation of a real human need. The need to be truly seen, as you are by others. The need to be vulnerable as a human and connect with other humans means countless interpersonal struggles, drama and suffering is the empty ended shortcut to this need.

There is a difference between suffering and struggling. I think we all know this. I think we understand as beings, that suffering is when we are denied the basic means to survive. Everything else, every other uncomfortable experience is a struggle, in the name of learning, in the name of progression or in the pursuit of passion and love.

Could we start looking at struggling as a gateway to flow? Could we start seeing the beauty in the mess? Could it be that if we embrace the difficult, messy, imperfect path we take to growth with open arms, open minds and open hearts ready to work for our own kind of bliss, we will set a new benchmark for beauty?

Martin Luther King Jnr once said “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” My favorite line of this quote is “And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.”

We work for our freedom each time we struggle for our flow.

 


For more info on flow states & the science of flow check out this page.