Oblivious… Exhausted… ‘Realistic’… Inspired. The four stages of ‘no choice’

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The simple fact is we that we never have any choice about what we do. Ever.

That might sound frightening to you. It might be a relief. Or you might well not believe it.

What about personal responsibility you might ask? Or will power? Or mind over matter?

Are you saying that we are all just floating around in a soup of anarchy? Or that we are all zombies or robots? Or our lives are pre-destined? Or that we can do what the hell we want because it is not up to us?

Actually, none of the above.

There are levels of understanding, clarity and awareness that mean our experience of this ‘no choice’ and the result of our actions can range from hell to heaven on earth.

We are on a journey of discovery. We might slip back down the scale of awareness and more towards hell from time to time. Or we might have a part of our life that is stuck in exhaustion while the rest is inspired.

But once we start realising the truth of how we are, the momentum of our life is towards clarity in all aspects. And that clarity (which is essentially clarity about the universal ‘no choice’ nature of life), brings with it absolute transformation of our experience.

Because, (with apologies to Orwell): All ‘no choices’ are equal but some are more equal than others…

 

1. Oblivious

There are two aspects of oblivious

i) I don’t know what I am doing or why I am doing it. I don’t see the impact of behaviour on other people, the world or my own life. I act mindlessly on compulsions or voices in my head. I am out of control. Other people step in to avoid my harming self or others.

These are the people who have been sectioned, who are uncontrollably violent. There is no recognition of any distinction between thought and reality or awareness of the impact of behaviour .

ii) I realise what I am doing and I believe the thoughts that justify why I am doing it. I live in extreme fear or anger towards myself or others. I see myself or others as evil and deserving of harm or even death. I am consciously violent or abusive to myself or others out of the utter conviction that the world will be a better place or I will be better off as a result.

These are the people who see fearful and angry thought as reality. Who have no idea of the independence between the outside world and their feelings of intense insecurity. The difference between the first and the second group is that the latter is aware of their behaviour. Neither questions or doubts their thoughts and beliefs.

People in this category are those who believe so completely that the death or harm of themselves or other people is the only way to relieve the feelings of fear, anger or insecurity that they act in accordance. Hitler or people who commit suicide are here. Oblivion.

 

2. Exhausted.

I am aware of my thoughts and feelings. I am aware of my behaviour and I know it harms or restricts me or other people. I know I should stop but I feel terrible when I do and I believe I need to keep doing what I am doing to feel better, to relieve my feelings. I am exhausted from trying to change, from trying to be a better person or to fulfil my potential. I believe I have the ability to choose but it seems I just can’t make my life go the way I want it to. I am caught up in my feelings, trying not to act on them and then feeling bad when I do, which makes me feel worse. With all this noise, I can’t really hear the quiet inspiration that is always available to me.

People at this stage are those who believe they should be different or behave differently in some way. They may want to drink less alcohol, take less drugs, shop less, play less video games, argue less or watch less tv, or whatever other habit.

But the drinking, drugs, shopping and tv is a way of blanking the thoughts which blanks the feelings. When I think I have to feel better, I have no choice about whether I will go shopping or drink wine. There is will power of course. I can hold out for a while. But holding out against our own beliefs is limited, exhausting and temporary.

The other aspect is that I believe I do have a choice. I see other people who eat less or shop less or watch less tv. I believe I could be more like them. Then I feel bad and I do what I do to feel better. I beat myself up for the ‘bad choices’ I continue to make. And each bad choice I make is more evidence for me that I am ‘weak’ or ‘wrong’, is more evidence that I need to do something to feel better.

So I struggle on, blaming myself for every bad decision or wrong choice or unkind act as though I had a choice. But I don’t.  Exhausting.

 

3. ‘Realistic’ and frustrated

I notice the ideas that come to me while I am in the shower or out on a walk or when my mind is quiet. I recognise momentarily that these are good ideas, that they would lead to expansion of what I can do out into the world or to a deeper, clearer engagement with life or with myself.

For a moment I allow myself to imagine what these ideas would look like in form in the world. I am curious and intrigued. They seem to make sense…

And then my insecure thinking takes over. “Realistically, you would never get that off the ground, you haven’t got the staying power”. “Where would you find the money to do that?” “You don’t have time to do what’s on your to-do list right now, let alone this huge project.” “In reality, you would start it and then fail and look ridiculous. Why bother?”

The inspiration is noticed but insecure thinking steps in and is believed. It is under the guise of being rational, having our feet on the ground and that seems safe and sensible but deep down we know there is more to us and more to life.

This is the world of the unfinished manuscript, the painting classes with no final exhibition, the web search for mature undergraduate courses with no application, the unbooked theatre tickets, the dream holiday that stays a dream, the declarations of love that go unspoken, the soaring mission for humanity that never gets clearance for take off. We have felt the prompt, the nudge in our ribs but we haven’t seen the inconsequence of insecure thinking clearly enough to stand up in wisdom. ‘Realistic’ but frustrated.

 

4. Inspired

I am fully aware that I invent my world and myself through the creative power of thought. I know that I feel my thinking, nothing else. I know that these thoughts and these feelings are ever changing, transient and insubstantial. They are not important to me. I don’t need to change them in any way. I know not to send any energy in that direction.

I listen beneath the noise of my thinking to the quiet wisdom beneath. I notice the ideas and inspiration that make sense, that come from love, expansion, creativity, curiosity and peace. I know that there is a truth and a guidance in this inspiration.

I know that anything I think about the reasons to act, about whether this will make me happy or not, successful or not, a good person or not, loved or not is made up. I drop all of that.

I also notice the insecure thinking that appears. The thoughts telling me not to risk myself or my reputation, not to waste my time and effort. I notice how these thoughts come with a feeling of unease, insecurity, fear or anxiety. I know to let them pass.

I turn back to the inspiration. I know I can’t control the timing, content or form of inspiration. I am passive in this process. I can only ever act on what occurs to me. If it doesn’t occur to me, then it is not in my reality, it is not part of my life. The only reason I would not act on this wisdom, over which I have no control, is because I am believing my thoughts, over which I have no control. Act on wisdom? Act on insecure thinking? I know, ultimately, I have no choice about what I do.

I know that inspiration brings with it its own feasibility as I start to work on it. Doors will open, people will appear. I will have as much energy and time as I need. I continue to act on the personal wisdom sent specifically for me and I express it in the way that only I can. As I do so, I take my place among the greatest, most creative, most impactful people to ever grace the planet.
I am inspired.

The illusion of the life-size Finn.

Finn.jpg

One Friday, our four year old son brought home a life size self portrait from nursery. He told us how all the children had lain on a big sheet of paper. The teacher drew around them and cut out the shapes then the children painted in their clothes and faces.

Finn was really proud of his painting. He had managed to do some light brown hair, eyes and nose and a red smudge for a mouth and some blue and red smudges to fill in the t-shirt and shorts. We pinned it to the wall of the kitchen with the feet of the painting level with the floor so that it was his actual height.

Then we went away for the weekend.

When we returned my husband dropped me off at home while he took the kids to pick up some groceries. I walked into the kitchen with the cases and screamed out in horror at what I saw.

There standing against the wall, was my son.

“Oh my dear God” shrieked the panic in my head, “We left him at home. ALL WEEKEND. How on earth did we do that?” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I could barely stand.

All of that lasted a fraction of a second of course. And then I realised. It’s the painting.  It’s the painting. My thoughts calmed down instantly but my heart was still pounding and my stomach was upside down.

For that brief moment I had been utterly fooled by what was not there.

I’d like to say that was the end of it but rather ridiculously, for at least another two weeks, it wasn’t. I’d go into his bedroom, kiss him goodnight, come downstairs and be horrified to see him there in the kitchen. Or I’d see him in one room and do a bewildered double take when he had suddenly been transported right in front of me. I’d drop him at school, arrive home, there he would be.

Eventually, I got used to the painting. I would see it, even in the corner of my eye, even as a blur of brown hair and red t-shirt, and know that it wasn’t Finn. There was no shock or momentarily bewilderment. There was just simple knowledge. Painting.

I look at this painting and I love it. It was created by a boy with brown hair and brown eyes that I adore.  I love him and I love what he has created.

And, yet for a while, I reacted to it with horror, shock, confusion, bewilderment. This was temporary madness.

We all have this madness from time to time. It might last half a second, two weeks, two decades or a lifetime.

The feelings of horror, fear, anxiety, concern, anger are telling us we are temporarily mad. We are believing that something outside of us has the power to make us feel these things.

When I find myself again in madness (and I will of course) and it might last half a second or decades, I will keep reminding myself (when I remember to do so), “It’s a painting. It’s a painting.”

And eventually, even if it takes what seems like a ridiculously long time, I will see it for what it is.  And when I really see it, I will love it. There is no other way.

Donald Trump: a conversation with Reality.

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reality-check

Clare’s thoughts: Donald Trump is terrifying. He could destroy the world. He could be the Hitler of the 21st Century.

Reality: You know that he is just a figment of your imagination don’t you? You do know that everything you are thinking about him is made up? And that any feelings of concern and anxiety are a response to your thoughts and nothing to do with him whatsoever.

Clare’s thoughts: But he is actually there in the White House. He is an objective, independently alive entity. He is banning immigration from certain countries. He is sexist and homophobic. And the way I am responding to him is the way that every sane person would respond to him.

Reality: How can that possibly be true?  You know that anything you think about even the people you live with that you see every day – your husband and kids – can change from one moment to the next. There is nothing objective or ‘real’ about them in that sense. How could anyone be an ‘objective entity’?

Clare’s thoughts: But I’m so scared of what might happen. I feel like I have to do something. To ‘be on the right side of history’.

Reality: If there is one thing you know after this year of exploring the Inside Out Understanding, it is that scared and panicked feelings come from scared and panicked thoughts and following that path just leads to more of the same and less and less clarity.

Clare’s thoughts: But he is harming people…

Reality: Even if he held you and your family up at gun point in a dark alley, anything you would be thinking would be imagination. And the more you realise that in the moment, the more you will hear the wisdom telling you what to do.

Clare’s thoughts: So how do we ward off the bad stuff? How do we protect people? How would Hitler have been stopped if the Allied leaders had sat around talking about how Hitler was a figment of their imagination?

Reality: the anxious thoughts generate their own stuff, independently of whatever it is we think we are thinking about. There are no solutions to the anxiety. There is just a great deal of division and not listening. Your version of Donald Trump has been created out of your insecure mind. Just as your insecure mind creates your scary tax return or a fear of talking in public.

When you realise that, you come into reality. And you can ask, right now, in this moment, knowing that I don’t need to try to solve my insecure feelings and thoughts, what makes sense for me to do?

Viktor Frankl wrote in his book about his experience in Auschwitz, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’: “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

What would it mean if you were genuinely responsible Clare?  Owning your thoughts and your insecurities and the behaviour that results? Owning your inconsistency when it comes to protesting world leaders? Owning your lack of support for people who are actually at this moment asking for your help? Owning and acting on all the ways you could contribute to more physical freedom for individuals and groups of people? Standing for love by loving everyone?

When you see Donald Trump as your own creation, then you are in reality for the first time. Then and only then are you creating a space for wisdom. Then you will know what to do, right now. In reality.

 

 

The Empty Vessel (but what a vessel…)

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I have a client who I speak to on the phone. I have never met her in person. I look forward to her calls in the way my four year old looks forward to Christmas. What will it be this time? What joke or warm comment or beautiful insight or humble confession will I hear from her this week?

We talked about how as we pay less attention to all the stuff that is whirring round in our minds, we become empty vessels, open and ready to receive and act on the wisdom that is continually coming our way.

As we were talking, I knew that the principle was true. We are walking, talking, moving spaces. Yet equally fascinating to me was the form of my client that surrounds and shapes this space, the form that makes the shape possible. As we spoke, I knew without doubt that there is an essence of her, my client, that is indefinable and that is as magnificent as the space that we were discussing.

And it is the same for all of us. The same in the sense that we are not the same.

In focusing on the space within, we forget the vessel that is making it possible for the space to be.

That is how it should be.

Because any thought of what are they thinking of me, how am I coming across, am I getting what I want, I’m so different from them, we will never agree on this, do I like this person, do they like me?  All of that just gets in the way.

And those thoughts can’t come anywhere close to the vessel anyway. Anything that we think about how and who we are and how and who someone else is is held in thought and has no truth to it. We cannot define it in words.

And yet… and yet… this vessel is there. It is the unmatchable indefinable essence of each individual. It is a miracle, it is unique, it is a work of art, it is exquisite, infinitely detailed, complex, profound. It is far beyond description.

To say that we are waves of an ocean, made of the same energy, appearing and disappearing is absolutely true. Yet in pointing to the sameness, we miss the indefinable, momentary glorious uniqueness of each of the waves.

Each wave is a shape for the universe to express itself. And the shape is beautiful and beyond thought. As we realise that our idea of who we are is absolutely made up, the more this essence of who we are sparkles and dances and sets the world alight. The more intensely ourselves we become. The letting go of being just makes the being more beautiful, more mesmerising.

Even more miraculously specific, is that the wisdom that flows into the space that this vessel creates is designed expressly for that vessel and for the precise situation in which the vessel finds him or herself.

Then the individual will shape it, express it, say it or turn that wisdom into a form that no one else on the planet could do.

Occasionally, the universal-turned-individual wisdom is fully, truthfully expressed, through someone’s unique personal essence with so little of the person in the way that it speaks to everyone.

The magnificence is such that world catches its breath for a moment, takes a step back to hold onto a chair.

This is when the most profoundly moving works of art are created, when humanity’s greatest leaders speak words that end centuries of hatred and violence, when huge leaps are gained in our medical and scientific knowledge.

And it is also present, in the tiny, numerous, every day unique expressions of wisdom. When a parent turns a squabble over who gets the blue cup into a moment of hilarity for the whole family. Or when a nurse comforts a patient. Or when we decorate our house. Or laugh with our friends. Or become absorbed in our hobbies. Or work for a charity. Or write a letter. Or choose a new outfit or a new job or a country to live in.

On Michael Neill’s Creating the Impossible programme everyone gets to chose something that seems way beyond them that they really want.  All of these projects are powered by universal wisdom, expressed through the unique essence of each individual.

Helping 1000 young people see their power to change the world, won’t be for everyone. But how amazing that Stephanie is doing it. We might have no desire to coach Benedict Cumberbatch but we can love that Katarina does. Holding poetry workshops for businesses is something that might never occur to us. Wonderful that Peter is doing it. How great that Stef is learning Spanish to train people in Latin America. And those exquisite paintings from Molly created in the way that only she can…

This is the real wonder of life. All of us experience life in exactly the same way. All of us are wisdom receptors and all of us have a shape and a way of turning the formless into form that is impossible to replicate.

Actually, perhaps the real wonder of it all is that for this essence to be appreciated it needs a witness.

This is where we come in. When we really see this essence in another, when we are free of any agenda other than to simply marvel at the unique being before us, we are seeing, in that beautiful distinction from ourself, ourself.

In that one exquisite moment, we witness the infinite kaleidoscopic gift of life and we know that is who we are.

We are uniqueness noticing uniqueness.

We are life realising itself.

 

The only reliable navigation system

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crossroads

Something weird has happened over this last year. Every single one of the means I used to navigate my world has shown itself to be utterly unreliable.

As all of these previously vital systems gradually left my life, I was briefly like someone wandering in the middle of the desert without a compass.

Then, as I stayed in the conversation about what is really true about our minds and how they work, I saw how we all have access to the only true navigation system that we will ever need.

Here are the ways I used to rely on:

What other people told me to do – I’ve just finished re-reading the Remains of the Day. It is a story of a butler who did what his employer told him to do, because he believed that was his duty and that his employer would always be right. At every turn, the butler ignored his own wisdom. It is devastatingly sad.

My thoughts – from one moment to the next I think something is a good idea, then I don’t, I like someone then I don’t, I want something, then I don’t. Deciding something on the basis of what I think about it in that moment is like deciding something according to whether the sun is behind a cloud or not.

My feelings – all of these changing thoughts create ever-changing feelings: happy/sad, fearful/gung-ho, calm/angry. It really no longer makes sense to do something because I feel like doing it or not doing it because I don’t.

The effect I want on other people – I’ve done so much stuff in the past to try to impress people or have them like me and I’ve not done even more stuff because I worried what they would think. I will never ever know what people are thinking of me. I will never know what impresses them or not. To second guess all of this and then act accordingly is a total waste of time

My insecurities – ’nuff said.

Because it is difficult – this is a really interesting one. Some of my clients talk about how life should be tough and hard as it shows you are putting in the effort. If it is not, then you are just coasting. I’ve had the same belief in the past. What I am seeing now is that a belief in whether something is difficult or not is just a thought. Using ‘difficulty’ as a synonym for validity and for a reason to do it just does not make sense.

Because it is easy – it is also interesting to see what clients believe is easy for them and therefore something they should stick with. I had this in relation to public speaking. Speaking to one person at a time was ok, two was difficult, three was scary, four was a presentation and was therefore terrifying. My ‘comfort zone’ of one person was totally made up and arbitrary. Sticking with what feels comfortable and easy is to lock ourselves up in an imaginary castle.

Whether I had time or energy: the truth is that both of these ideas are held in thought and change in accordance with our state of mind. We have as much time and energy as we ever need.

So what are we left with?

We are left with the absolute pure miracle of knowing or not knowing. Both are 100% reliable. Both are personally unique to us and universal in quality. Both are, in effect, the same thing.

Both are pointing in the same direction – inside. Within us is the space for the answer. It might not be there right now but it will be. The not knowing is simply knowing that the answer is there.

The knowing can appear in many ways. It can be a quiet inner voice saying “That just makes sense”. It can be a sense of deepest calm or inevitability or obviousness. Or it could be upbeat and sparky ‘Of course! That’s it!’ It is the naked Archimedes running into Syracuse shouting ‘Eureka’. It is the ah ha moment. You might sense it in your gut or in your heart or in your whole body. It is the clearest recognition of truth or rightness or fit. You might rush out to take action immediately or know you need do nothing.

Everyone reading this blog will have had this knowing many many times in their lives whether it was what curtains to put up in the living room or who to marry/not marry, whether to take a new job or what to have for dinner, what to do that saves a situation or a life or what to watch on tv.

The not knowing is equally peaceful and exciting, equally clear and obvious.

And when we see it, this brilliant creative idea, this peacefully exciting knowledge, we have two choices

  1. Allow it to simply flow out in the world through us, in the way that only we can express it, to do what it is there to do
  2. Assess it according to what someone is telling us to do / our thoughts about it / our feelings about it / whether it is too difficult or too easy / our insecurities / what others will think of us as a result. Then decide it was a terrible idea.

Let’s go with option 1.  Better all round.

 

 

Mousy-locks and the two bears.

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two-bears

Once upon a time there was a beautiful young girl with long golden hair. Well… an average looking 35 year old with shortish brown hair. Her name was Mousy-locks.

Mousy-locks worked in marketing. She wasn’t particularly confident at the best of times. Speaking in front of people was always an ordeal for her. She feared all sorts of things: criticism, people laughing at her, getting things wrong, looking foolish or stupid…

Above all, though, she dreaded meetings with her boss’s, boss’s boss. He was roundish in shape with a head that sunk into his shoulders and a grizzly brown beard. Mousy-locks was terrified of him.  She did everything she could to avoid his bark of disapproval. Let’s call him Boss-Bear.

Before a meeting with him she would have weeks of preparation, weeks of sleepless nights and then would sit in silence as he dismissed her proposal with a flick of his head or worse slammed a huge paw down on the table, growling about her incompetence and the-entry-level-basics-that-she-had-completely-failed-to-grasp-and-did-she-even-know-anything-about-marketing-anyway…?

Then one day Mousy-locks went on holiday to Canada, rounded a corner and came face to face with a bear. A real bear. A mother bear. Up on two legs, teeth bared, claws extended, two young cubs copying her. Mousy-locks and her dear husband, who for some godforsaken reason only known to him had arranged for them to stay in a lodge to which the only access was on mountain bike through a bear-filled forest who she loved with all her heart and whose judgement especially when it came to booking holidays she never questioned, backed away. They moved behind the corner, slowly got their bear spray cans out of their back packs and waited. After half an hour they moved slowly forward again. The bear (let’s call her Real Bear) was gone.

Back in the office, a meeting was scheduled with Boss Bear. Mousy Locks realised something was different. In Canada she had rounded a corner, stared possible death in the face and had known what to do. In the office, what would happen to her? Being criticised? Not getting a promotion? Being shouted at or sacked. Strangely, none of it seemed a problem. She wasn’t so afraid any more.

The End

Except it’s not of course. Because many years later Mousy-locks went on Michael Neill’s Super Coach Academy and thought a bit more about Boss Bear and Real Bear.

She realised that Real Bear was real. A real bear up on her hind legs. Mousy-locks realised that in that moment in the Canadian forest, 100% present, no time for over-thinking or second guessing, she had known what to do. That she always would. Wisdom is always available.

She also realised that Boss Bear was a character in a story. Well there was a bearded person there in the room who was paid more than her but apart from that, she was pretty much making everything else up. A whole long story about what he thought of her and what that imaginary opinion meant, what other people thought of what he said and what would be the consequence of his disapproval, how she couldn’t possibly ever simply say what she saw to be true.

All of it was a carefully constructed story with a carefully constructed villain designed to keep the heroine of our tale as a small mousey person who can’t speak up in meetings, can’t say what she wants and who is scared of people in high places.

So Mousy-locks finished SuperCoach Academy, along the way realising that fairy tales are great until you mistake them for real life. She changed her name to Clare Dimond, Transformative Coach and lived happily ever after.

The End

Not quite:

postscript 1: she hasn’t been back to Canada yet but she definitely will.

postscript 2: her husband really is very good at arranging holidays

postscript 3: she hasn’t seen Boss Bear in a long time but would like to. She owes him an apology.

 

 

 

 

The Minimal Maximal Life

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I love minimalism. I once bought five books on it in one go. (That sounds like a joke. I wish it was. No idea, until I’d read the first one, of the sad irony.)

The idea of simplicity, of doing with less, of creating space in our living environment is beginning to take hold of the world. It makes so much sense. Stuff we don’t need, stuff we trip over, stuff that blocks our way – it all takes up time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

A movement is now gathering pace which creates the same effect in the ultimate of living spaces: the mind.

When we see that our entire experience is created by thought in the moment, we realise (TA DA!!!) that the only thing that ever stands between us and life is our thinking in that moment. And the more we realise this, the more we fall out of that circular, going-nowhere stuck thinking and the more we can access the fresh, new, helpful thought that is there waiting for us.

What more incentive is there for a bit of minimalism?

Like Marie Kondo, holding up a possession to see if ‘it sparks joy’, we can hold up the stuff that we thought was real, that we thought was out there in the world as a fixed thing for us to react to or comply with or to beat ourselves up with. The beliefs of who we are and who other people are. The ideas about what we can and can’t do. The confusions about how to live and who to love. The ideas about what it takes to be worthy, successful, valued. The ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’.

When we hold all this up and own it as our own thinking then we have a choice. Perhaps not the keep, throw away or recycle choice. Something more like ‘Is this loving?’ or ‘Is this in the way?’ or ‘What is actually real here?’

In a workshop, Mara Gleason talked about being with a client and mentally saying ‘Next… next… next… next…’ to each unhelpful thought until her mind quietened down and she could properly connect.

All that stuff that was jamming up our mental cupboards can be put in the boot of the car and taken to the dump.

And an enormous space is created.

Then what happens in that Space? In a talk I gave recently, a wonderful woman started crying. “It’s frightening” she said “If I’m not who I thought I was, if I’m not all those beliefs then who am I?”

I had a similar conversation with a client. “I’ve used ‘shoulds’ all my life to motivate me” she said. “If I don’t have that then I’m worried I’ll just sit around doing nothing.”

Space. You might expect that letting go of all that compulsive obstructive rumination would leave us with an emptiness or dullness. Floating around without direction on a yoga cushion. If I’m not who I thought I was, am I nothing? If I don’t have to do anything, will I do nothing? If I don’t believe the thoughts that are fixing me and the world in place, will I disappear from life altogether?

Well, hold onto your hat because that is the exact opposite of what actually happens.

Because, when we thin out our personal thinking by giving it less and less priority, we fling open the giant doors to the roaring intensity of everything else. So if you are embarking on some New Year mental minimalism, prepare for the rich, diverse, hugeness of the life that awaits. Here are some of the things that I’ve seen come tumbling in:

NEW STUFF.  The hobbies, jobs and opportunities we had written off because… “I’m not musical…” “I’m no good at public speaking…” “I don’t dance…” “I’m shy…” “I don’t like being on my own…” “I don’t travel well…” “I’m not sporty…” When all of those beliefs are seen through as nothing more than a thought in the moment, then whatever occurs to us to do in the moment is up for grabs. There are literally no limits. The extraordinary diversity of nature is there in us, expressing itself in a way that is unique, personal and specific.

OLD STUFF IN NEW WAYS. As our minds are less bogged down, we have clearer access to everything we have ever done, known and experienced if it is relevant and useful to us in the moment. Something we learned in that bizarre or boring job we did years ago might suddenly be remembered at exactly the right time. We make connections with what we used to do. We put things together in new ways. As we do so we get a sense of that magnificent organising force that connects us to the moon and the seasons and the cycle of day and night.

NEW PEOPLE.  All that new stuff we are doing because it makes sense to us right now will bring along with it a stream of loving, supportive, fascinating people. We are having so much fun doing what we are doing, we are so in love with our world that other people can’t help wanting to get involved too.

OLD PEOPLE. As our old sense of self with all its limits and sensitivities starts dissolving, all those people we had got offended by, who we thought were too important or too busy for us, who we had written out of our lives for one reason or another can come back. When we don’t need to protect an idea of who we are, we can connect with everyone. They are all there for us. We are surrounded by love, by people who want to help us, see us flourish because that is exactly what we want for them.

CRAZY EMOTIONS. Get ready for this one. When we believed that the world could make us feel a certain way, we had to protect ourselves from whatever we believed could cause us upset, fear, jealousy, anger. Now we know it is all a thought in the moment, there is no shield or armour. The whole kaleidoscopic rainbow of feeling is coming our way. Rage, terror, ecstasy, passion. All of it is safe to experience (albeit in a eye-popping roller coaster sort of way) in this new expanse of life.

FUN. TIME. ENERGY. LOVE. It is extraordinary the weight we lug around with us in the form of stuck, heavy, limiting personal thought and it is extraordinary what is unleashed as we see it for what it is. More fun. More time for everything. More energy to do what our wisdom suggests we do. And so much love.

We realise that we are not creating the space, we are the space. We are the immense ballroom for life to dance on. The empty field for life’s festival. The grand stage for the ultimate production. We can watch it all, enjoy it all, be fascinated by it all, knowing we are it all.

Minimalism. Maximalism. New Year. No You. New You.

The projection room

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reels

I was sitting in an elegant drawing room of an iconic London hotel. I was with 12 outstanding professionals hosted by two of the world’s most influential coaches.

We were talking about projection. About how everything we experience comes from the inside out. How the world is essentially a projection of our thinking about it.

I looked around at the exquisite decor, listened to the intelligent discussion and had a secret smug smile to myself. If everything is a projection, I thought, then I’m pretty damn good at this game.

Then I came home and found out my Mum was ill. I argued over nonsense with husband.  I lost a client who I thought was going well and had a tricky session with another. I got cross with my kids before school. I received an unexpected tax bill and a load of other stuff I didn’t want appeared in my life. I was stressed, insecure and ill at ease.

All this puzzled me. I knew enough to know (well.. ok… after a while) that I was experiencing my thinking.  In London, I felt that I was reaping the rewards of getting it all together. Why, when I got home, would my thinking give me such a miserable time?

There is no answer to any of that because it is a false question. The reason it is false is it hinges on an entity that is also false – the self.  The I. The Me.

A few of us were down in the dumps after London and Garret Kramer posted in our Facebook group, “Remember, the quickest way to jam the system is to aim for personal satisfaction. This workshop was not conducted for your personal benefit.”

I probably gave that a little blue thumbs up on the page but in my head I was running round, beating the walls with my fists, shouting WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN…?

I sat with it for a good while. And this is what I’ve seen.

There are two ways of experiencing life:

1. Projecting it

Most of the time we are living our life through our own personal thinking.

All this thinking is like reels and reels of film from the archives of our mind. We put on a film and we’re stuck with its script, characters and set directions for a moment, a while or a lifetime.

We project a story out of our old thinking and then we react to it as though it has come from anywhere other than directly from us.  “Why do I always lose out?” “I can’t believe I’ve got another shit boss.” “I’m doing my best but she is such a bitch.” “It’s a dog eat dog world.” These are the patterns and stories that dictate our lives and the people in them.

The common theme in all these reels is the self, the me of it all.

Superior. Victimised. Defensive. Passive. Aggressive. Lucky. Lonely. Charming. The Self.

It’s the biggest piece of stuck thinking of them all. So fixed and unmoving that, like a huge piece of furniture in a small room, we don’t even see that it’s there.

Sitting there smug in the hotel, I thought I was so free and clear minded but my experience was entirely stuck at the level of my personal thinking. Look how great I am here in this place. Tra la la. Then I come home and my mind dips because that is what minds do. Instead of just shrugging it off. I search through the film archive for some entertainment. I put on the reel of ‘sorry for myself’ or ‘not wanting unexpected tax bills’ or ‘wants everyone to think I’m a brilliant coach’ and I react to what I’ve put out there.

We experience whatever film it is we are living in that moment. But even the happiest of films is no match for the second way of experiencing life.

2. Simply experiencing it

I’ve had moments, as I’m sure you have too, when I see the world immediately before me with such freshness, such original clarity,  in such intricate, vibrant, unobscured detail that it takes my breath away.

The feeling that accompanies these moments of observation is other-wordly. It is as though by experiencing the truth of what we see or hear or feel we are actually experiencing the truth of ourselves. The miraculous, loving aliveness that we are witnessing, from the infinite to the microscopic, is us. We are all of it.

There is nothing in the way of the crystal clear awareness. No judgement. No criticism. No opinion. No ‘how does this reflect on me?’All of that falls away, utterly irrelevant.

The difference between this fresh experience of life and the living in one of our films from the projection room is immense. Michael Neill once described it as the difference between a blade of grass and a lawn mower . This breath-taking clarity and the feeling that goes with it is like the most powerful drug. Everything else, even the happiest of our projected films, is miserly short change.

Our group had a conversation about how as you go deeper in this understanding, life seems to throw more at you, not less. This is the greatest gift we could have. Because every feeling of resistance is a reminder that we are in the projection room and, with that realisation, we now have a choice.  We have a chance to see the pain, and also the impermanent happiness, for what they are, reels of film. Nothing more than that. And when we see them for what they are, they lose their grip on us.

We move, one discarded story reel at a time, away from the projection room and towards the blissful reality of the unfiltered, unprojected experience of life.

 

 

Indifferently engaged. Passively dynamic. The ‘contradictions’ of a magnificent life.

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calvin

I spent the first 26 years of my career thinking I had to be more, do more, have more, add in more, care more, act more, fire myself up more.

Exhausting.

What I’m seeing now is that the secret to living the fullest, most magnificent life is in these two surprising contradictions. Let’s take the first one:

Indifferently engaged

Indifference means a lack of concern, a not caring either way.  That’s got to be a terrible thing, right? If we don’t care then we won’t do anything. How can that lead us towards a great life?

Well, when we realise that 100% of our experience of life is from thought in the moment then we stop trying to manipulate the future, our friends and family, our careers, our finances, our homes to give us a sense of security and well-being.  We inevitably become indifferent to the questions that no longer make sense. What do they think of me? How can I secure my future? How can I be a better person? There is no answer that will not change from moment to moment.

I have most clearly seen the power of this indifference with my children. For most of their lives, my ‘care’ was just a synonym for my concern or worry about them and me. Were they OK? Was I a good Mum? What would their future hold? Was I doing this right? What were other people thinking of me?

I see now that all of these questions pointed me in the direction of a made up world and that all this ‘caring’ did was distract me from the simple reality of these miracles being here in front of me: the tone of their voices, the colour of their eyes, the movement of their fingers… And the more real I am and the less I ‘care’, the more I know what to do and the more head over heels in love with them I am.

In the moment, we can be quiet, aware and as close to the truth as we will get in our lifetime. To the rest of it, to the illusions, we can be gloriously, easily indifferent.

Indifferently engaged.

So if nothing outside us has the power to change how I feel, why would I do anything at all? Wouldn’t I just sit around all day and watch TV?

As we come into the simple truth of who we are, we realise with absolute clarity that there is nothing we need to do to feel better about ourself. In fact, we even realise the illusory nature of the self.  There is nothing for us to do. Nothing for us to prove. Nothing to change. Life is simply a gift. Laid out for us to experience. A multi-dimensional, full colour, all singing, all dancing gift.

On a call recently, George Pransky said of Michael Neill: “He throws himself into everything as though his life depends on it, knowing all the time that nothing depends on it.”

When we have nothing to fear and nothing to prove, then we can go all out hell for leather right into the centre of the whole mind-blowing thing. We can be the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.

The more indifferent we are to the illusion, the more we live in absolute freedom to participate, in love with the whole show.  Laughing, crying, fearless, terrified, angry, happy… this is our life. We are fully, whole body, mind, soul and spirit, engaged.

Passively dynamic.

There was a stage in my life (the last 40 or so years) when I believed that it was all on my shoulders to achieve and to do stuff and to control outcomes and to make things happen. The buck stopped with me and if I stopped then it was all over.

Then I did stop and got a bit quieter and saw that actually there is something beyond me that keeps sending the bucks my way.

Let’s take this blog for example.  I don’t know where the idea to write it came from, or where each word comes from, or how I know that one word fits and another doesn’t. It just comes and the more I settle down into the writing,  the more easily the ideas come.

When I believe I have to anticipate and try and control, my head is full of “what will they think of this one will it get any likes on Facebook how awful if it doesn’t will I just be embarrassing myself what if all this is wrong and Garret Kramer who I admire with all my heart calls me out on it do I just sound really stupid what if my mum reads it and thinks I have lost the plot…” then it all takes longer and is rather tiring.

At a workshop recently I asked the two renowned speakers how they defined being productive. Michael Neill said, “Doing what I know to do.” And George Pransky said, “Acting on my wisdom.”

These ideas, this wisdom and this knowing do not come from striving, analysing or force. They come from waiting, watching, listening, being curious, making space. The quieter, more available we are, the more obvious the solution or the next step. There is nothing we can do to speed up the arrival of the insights or ideas and the harder we try the more disruptive we are. We are absolutely, utterly passive in this process.

Passively dynamic

Then we have an idea of something we want to create or do or bring to the world and we know it is just an idea, we know we can’t control the outcome, we know it won’t make us any more worthy or make people love us, we know it won’t bring us security.

And, far from keeping us stuck in front of the TV, knowing all of this releases the brakes.

We are powered by the force of the oceans, the energy of the tiger, the brilliance of Einstein, the stamina of the Masai, the lightness of the sunbeam. It is all there, coming out into the world through us, in the way that only we can do it, say it, create it.

There is nothing in the world to stop us going all out to bring into the world whatever came into our head. We are life’s energy, force, might and pure dynamism.

Indifferently engaged.

Passively dynamic.

Magnificent.

The Four Secrets of a Great Life

4-keys

At first, everything is an adventure. There is so much to explore and see and listen to and do and make and learn and take apart. You reach and crawl and pull yourself up and toddle towards whatever catches your attention.

Sometimes you cry and sometimes you smile. Sometimes you are cross and sometimes you are not. Sometimes you are tired and you sleep and sometimes you are wide awake and ready for adventure. All of life is in you. The world is there for you. You do what is in front of you to do. It is your playground.

Then one day someone gives you a box. It is heavy and you try to put it down but it seems you cannot. “Carry this at all times,” says a voice. “It contains the secret to finding love.”

That sounds important. You try to look in the box but it won’t open.

Then another box is put in your hands and the voice says, “This box tells you how to succeed.”

You realise this secret is important too but that box won’t open either.

Then another box is thrust on you. “The secret to Happiness.” Obviously you want to be happy. Again, the box will not open.

All of a sudden, life seems very difficult and complicated. There is a way that you must be in order to have a good life. You realise it is vital you discover how to open these boxes and find out these secrets. Otherwise what will happen to you?

A final box is handed to you and a voice says,
“This has the secret of creating what you want.”

“Thank goodness,” you think, “I really need to know this right now”. And you try so hard to open that box but the lid is stuck fast.

Now, you are fully loaded with the boxes that are getting heavier by the minute.  In the distance you see four huge doors and you know that behind the doors is Life. You hear people laughing and talking.

Everything sounds amazing and exciting. You want to be part of it. You try to walk over to the doors but the boxes weigh you down. You know that the secrets to unlocking the doors are in the boxes.  You try but the boxes will not open.  The laughter behind the doors sounds mocking.

You slump down. You are desperate. “Please help me someone” you cry. And a genie appears before you.

“I can help you,” he says. “But first you need to tell me what you know to be true.”

You are so confused and low and bewildered. For a long time it has seemed that you don’t know anything.

You look in the depths of your being, it seems there is only one thing you know. You say in a quiet voice, “I only know there must be something better than this.”

The genie smiles, waves his hand and immediately the scene looks different. You can make out shapes and blurred noise but nothing is distinct. There seems to be possibility in the air but nothing is clear.

The genie says, “Now, tell me what else you know to be true.”

“I know these secrets are heavy.”

He smiles. “Let me take them from you.”

You clutch the boxes tightly to your chest, thinking of Life behind those doors. ”I need them.”

“Then tell me something else that is true.”

There is nothing else. It is hopeless. You shake your head.

He prompts you, “Tell me – have you always had these boxes?”

You look down at one of the boxes. The label on the top says, ‘The Secret of Love’. You think back to a time, long ago, when it didn’t occur to you that you had to do anything to be loved. You just were. The awareness of this sinks deeper and, as it does, the box gets lighter in your hands. You realise you don’t need that secret, have never needed it. There is no secret. The box disappears, and you feel the profound love that has always been there, all around you.

“What else?” asks the genie.

You look at the next box, “The Secret of Success”. You remember a time when you just did what you did and were how you were. You realise the simple, unique, perfection of this. The lid of the box flies open and in front of you appears a display of the immeasurable diversity of nature. Rainbows, snowflakes, oak trees, daisies, clouds, sunshine, ants, elephants,…  You smile. You get it.

“What else?”

You look at the box with the secret of happiness. You remember a time when all of life flowed through you, when you were sometimes sad and sometimes happy, sometimes scared and sometimes bold. You welcomed it all. You realise you are here to experience life so why resist any part of it? You know you don’t need that secret. The box turns into a light that bathes you and the ground beneath you feels beyond secure. You feel a profound sense of well-being as you look out towards the horizon with curiosity and peacefulness.

“What else?”

You look at the final box: The secret to creating anything you want.” You think back to when you were a small child playing with sand. “I used to create whatever I wanted,” you say to the genie. You look at the box expecting it to disappear but it remains as it is. You give it a shake but it stays stuck to your hands.

You frown and look at the genie. He shrugs his shoulders.

Then the insight rolls through you like thunder. You realise with a shock that you still create anything you want. That you always have and always will. That the boxes were heavy or light, there or not there according to what you thought about them.

As this insight deepens, the box turns into a canvas and paints and a brush appears in your hand. Slowly, smiling now, you dip the brush in a colour and, with the realisation of unlimited freedom, you paint a….