flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘soul

Gratitude or selfishness?

When I first encountered the idea of a gratitude diary, I was discountenanced by feeling grateful for things like . . .  well, my coffee.  I suspected greed, not gratitude.

Once I started using a diary, then I realised that I was often thankful for the meals I had had that day.  I am grateful for a homemade soup, for example. but am I grateful just because I could have been out all day and been subjected to junk food?  Partly.  Yet  when I feel grateful for soup, I never simultaneously think of the disgusting fare served up as food up-and-down the arterial transport spokes.  I am think of much I appreciate a well made home made soup.  I experience pleasure not gluttony.

In short, I experience me.

This still seems selfish, doesn’t it?  But it is my job to see me.  It is my job to appreciate who I am.

The funny thing is that we cannot see who we are, or appreciate who we, are except in the eyes of the world.  It is when I reach out to some thing I value and treasure, when I recognize what is good in the world, that I recognize the good in me.

Khalil Gibran talks of adventuring a path and meeting the soul.  Not a soul.  The soul.

David Whyte talks of the universe taking its ball home too, when we get up and take our ball home. He points out that universe is not punishing us.  It is just that without “the faculties of attention, there is nothing to be found.”

We are what we are grateful for

We are what we are grateful for.  It’s a simple as that.  When we remind ourselves of what we truly appreciate, we remind ourselves of ourselves.  We are validated.  We belong.

But because we are simple folk and all these word feel like mental contortions, we can listen rather to the words of Mr Chips’ fellow teacher.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Why have managers ignored the poets for so long?

Contemporary English poet David Whyte

David Whyte uses contemporary language to talk about the essential ontological question of management, work, organizations and successful business.

When he takes his ball home, the universe takes its ball home too .  .  .

Far too often, our remedies for this world involve sulking.  Like an aggrieved child in a playground, we pick up our ball and go home.  We don’t address the lack of respect that sent us into a spin.

Persian poet, Khalil Gibran

Poets through the ages tell us that we find meaning and satisfaction through action, not inaction.  Through engagement, not withdrawal.

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt on self-knowledge from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.  He says it too.

We don’t find our bliss by staying in.  We find our bliss by setting out on a path.  And on that path we don’t meet our soul.  We meet the soul.

It also matters little which path we follow.  Many lead paths to the soul. What matters is that we travel the path.  What matters is that we set out. What matters is that we adventure a path.

We will recognize the soul on the way because it will recognize us.  And we recognize ourselves, we acquire self-knowledge, when the soul says good day.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Similar lines were said in the iconic movie, Goodbye Mr Chips, by the German teacher to the gawky, awkward Englishman.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Only this time, let the world look at you.  I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

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Self-Knowledge XVII

And a man said, “Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.”

And he answered, saying:

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.

But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.

You would know in words that which you have always know in thought.

You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.

The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;

And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.

But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;

And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”

Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”

For the soul walks upon all paths.

The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.

The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

Khalil Gibran

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance & the financial crisis

Over the last one -and-a-quarter years, since the run on Northern Rock, I’ve been making a concerted effort to understand the credit crunch, the financial crisis and the recession.  The nature of understanding big, bad events is that we are so busy trying to understand them that we have little time to reflect.

Typically, we follow a five stage process.

  • First, we deny the crisis either saying “I’m OK – it doesn’t affect me” or conversely ranting “This can’t be happening.”
  • Then we move on to anger, when we are quite clear we are not to blame and that someone else such as politicians and bankers should be punished for getting us in to our mess.
  • When we are a bit further along, we work out what will stay the same in our lives and what we can can cut out.
  • The next stage is to resign ourselves to our mess dragging on for twenty years or so,  and we are actually secretly relieved because if the mess is that big, there is nothing you and I, ordinary Joe citizen, can do about it.
  • And eventually we begin to dig beneath the surface of the crisis and, in this case, set about upgrading our financial know-how and skills.

Where are you?  And where are the people around you?

My job as a psychologist

I have a page where I store good, accessible explanations of how we got into the financial crisis and I will expand it to include the financial know-how that you and I should have.

Being a psychologist though, I think it is my job to bring to your attention key psychological ideas that equip you for understanding the recession and the ways we react to it.

  • The first psychological idea in this post is described in the at the beginning.  We often respond to bad news in five rough stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  We go through these stages when we hear of the sudden death of a loved one.  And we are going through similar stages as we get our heads around the idea that our financial system has been subject to a the equivalent of a major earthquake.
  • The second psychological idea in this post is that objective knowledge matters.  Positive psychology emphasizes that our attitude to a problem makes a big difference.  It does, and I will return to that in other posts.   But objective information matters too.  It is foolish to pretend that a large box isn’t heavy.  We are much better off when we understand the principle of levers.  We do need to take charge of our education about the financial system.  We clearly did not understand it well enough to play our role as informed voters, wise buyers and sellers of stocks and shares, and savvy consumers of mortgages and credit cards.
  • The third psychological idea is the one I wanted to highlight today because I think it will be key to the mental housekeeping required to come to terms with the recession.

In the west, we have a weird idea that time is linear

Of course, we ‘know’ that yesterday was before today and today comes before tomorrow.  Unfortunately our separation of time into yesterday, today and tomorrow, has some peculiar side effects.   This works in two ways.

  • In good times, we spend like mad and rack up debt.   We take ‘Carpe Diem‘ or ‘seize the day’ far too far.   Tomorrow features insufficiently in our thinking about today, and when tomorrow comes, we are in a mess.
  • Equally, in bad times, we look ahead, see a diminished tomorrow, and we feel dejected.  In short, we bring tomorrow far too much into today.

This inability to act appropriately in time is an inability to ‘give unto Ceasar’ or to accept that ‘for everything there is a season’.  The net effect is that we enjoy life a lot less.  We also rack up unhealthy deficits and one day we wake up very disappointed with our lives and where we have taken ourselves.

And then we are into the five stage process I described at the outset. This cannot be happening. It is not my fault.  OK, I will compromise.  Oh, this is impossible.  And then ultimately: OK, I’d better get on and understand this.

Are you acquainted with philosopher Alan Watts?

At the end of this post is a video presentation, about 3 minutes long, that accompanies the late English philosopher, Alan Watts, talking about the way we confuse time.

He begins “you get into kindegarten, then you get into first grade  .  .   .”  And ends, life “was a musical thing and you were supposed to dance or sing while the music was being played”.

Do watch it!

I grew up in a competitive culture so this resonated with me.  I have long protested that we should let 3 year olds be 3, and 18 years olds be 18.  Preparing for the next year is part of a 3 year old’s experience but it is not all of their task.  And being 3 should never be dreary.  Nor should being 84!

Recessions are simply part of life

Like preparing for a test or examination, they are there to be enjoyed (!) along with all the other activities that come at the same stage.

It takes time to work through the five stages of our reaction to bad news.  And we work through at different paces.  So we need to be patient with ourselves and each other.  But we also do need to resolve not to become stuck at any stage.

We may be in for a long and difficult time in this financial crisis.  What I am suggesting is that we sing and dance to the music nonetheless!

Come with me!

Here is the link to this great presentation accompanying Alan Watts.  Do enjoy it and have a good weekend!  There is a season for everything!

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Map of Botswana
Image via Wikipedia

Have you read The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?  Or did you see its premiere on BBC1 last Easter Sunday?

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is that – the first detective agency run by a woman – and its novelty is that this series of detective stories is set in contemporary Botswana.

The star of the series, Patience Ramotswe is a heroine, with a large heart, but she is no superwoman.   She is famously ‘traditionally built’ and has few pretensions.  She runs her detective agency on the basis of one “how to” book, and has no particularly skills.   She dislikes telephones, and drives with her handbrake on.

Jill Scott’s  plays Patience Ramotswe in the BBC series.  Ian Wylie quotes Scott’s description of her character:

“She believes in justice and she loves her country.   . . She’s a real woman who has experienced the loss of a child, being heartbroken with her first marriage, but decided that life is so much better, that there’s so much more than those particular heartaches.”

The series of books are written by Alexander McCall Snith and are available from a library or book shop near you!  Fabulous reading but do read them in order as the lives of the characters unfold.  No 1 Ladies . .  is the first in the series.

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Witch of Portobello
Image by thepluginguy via Flickr

Boys can play too!

Who was it who said that there are no new stories in life, just stories retold in new circumstances?  Yet for each of us, our story is completely unique.  It is still unfolding and perpetually fascinating!

The circumstances of our busy lives of 2008 are different from the lives of our great-grand parents 100 years ago.  Our lives are less scripted.  We can shape them much as we please.  In large part, we write our stories, or at least our treatment of the circumstances that we can come across along the way.

Archetypes

The common stories of the central characters of a story, that is you and I, are called archetypes, I understand.

Woman often rail about the common stories in which we are cast.

One of my pleasures of the last year was discovering the works of Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer.   Last week I read The Witch of Portobello. One of the supporting characters introduces her acquaintance with Athena, the main character, with these words.

We women, when we’re searching for a meaning to our lives or for the path of knowledge, always identify with one of four classic archetypes.

The Virgin (and I’m not speaking here of a sexual virgin) is the one whose search springs from her complete independence, and everything she learns is the fruit of her ability to face challenges alone.

The Martyr finds her way to self-knowledge through pain, surrender and suffering.

The Saint finds her true reason for living in unconditional love and in her ability to give without asking anything in return.

Finally, the Witch justifies her existence by going in search of complete and limitless pleasure.

Normally, a woman has to choose from one of these traditional feminine archetypes, but Athena was all four at once.

Which storyline resonates with you?

Are you torn between two story lines?  Which makes you feel relaxed?  Does knowing the four common story lines help resolve choices?

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It begins

Earlier today, I asked a professional services provider why I was unable to book for Monday.   She inquired of her superiors and that is how she found out that she had been made redundant.

Shortfly afterwards,  I completed a planned trip to Woolworth’s, and stocked up on stationery in their closing down sale.  It really felt rotten paying.  I got brilliant service by-the-way.  If you are looking for good talented  people in the Milton Keynes area, pop into the Newton Pagnell branch.

We stutter

@Pistachio, who is an astonishingly interesting tweeter given to pithy phrases, asked today:  what is the one thing you would change if you could?

This is what I would change: the lack of a coordinated collective, community response to redundanciesPeople should not be left on their own.

But do we fall?

Yesterday, I started persuading my village to join Twitter.  If we are all on Twitter, traders will be able to communicate with us more easily, and we will benefit.   For example, yesterday the Coop had carrots at 50p.  Had you known that before you left home, you would have arrived with ideas on how to make carrot-based dishes.

When I heard my provider had been made redundant, I undertook to find out rents and to investigate whether we cannot hire her independently.

And what help would I value  from you?

I do appreciate people who pop by this blog and make a comment.  I am very appreciative of people who’ve helped me settle well in the UK.

I want you to answer @Pistachio‘s question, but slightly differently.  I want you to think what you want for 2009.  Not what you commit to do as a type of New Year’s Resolution, but what you want.  I want to know what would make your heart sing and your spirits soar?

And then, flick Ian Jeanes a message.  Ian is organizing people with like dreams, and I will help him.

What is your dream for 2009?

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A defining moment

The early hours of this morning, Wednesday 5 November 2008, were one those times when we will ask “where were you when  . . .”.

Stomach-wrenching

The long wait for the election results during the night was stomach-wrenching.  I flipped from one service to another, trying to catch the results from whomever broke them first.  Ultimately, I plumped for BBC, who seemed to be ahead of everyone most of the time, filling with intelligent analysis, and giving us good timings.

The countdown

The countdown to the announcement of California’s results, adding 55 electoral votes for Obama, began.  9 minutes, 6 minutes, 30 seconds, and boom, it was done.

The concession

We waited a decent interval for McCain to telephone Obama, and then McCain came out to give his concession speech.  He was brilliant.  If he had spoken like that throughout the campaign, he might have had my vote.  He was sincere, he was warm, and he showed great leadership setting the stage for working constructively with the Democrats to rebuild America.  I believe his speech will be dissected by students of leadership for many years, along with the magnificant speeches made by Obama.

Winning for the young and the old

Back in Chicago, the groups at Grant Park waited for Obama.  The cameras picked up more than human moments.  Jesse Jackson stood very still, talking to none of cheering party faithful around him, tears rolling down his face.  It was perhaps this image that helped me as a foreigner, understand how this election will heal the wounds of America, that are after all, a legacy of British rule.

The American dream

And then Obama spoke, and spoke to the great American dream – the belief that the US is strong precisely because they recognise their diverse interests.  How important that is to us all!

Awe

This morning, when I awoke around 11am British time, it took me a moment to remember the events of the night, and I found myself not exhilarated but struck by awe.  I checked out the chatter on line, and on Twitter particularly, and was struck by the sense of confusion.  I was not alone.  The only people in the world who treat the results uncomplicatedly are the Kenyans. They have declared Thursday a national holiday.  What dazzling simplicity!

A quiet celebration of a new dawn

I spent a good two hours pondering the gamut of emotions we are feeling and then Twitter threw up this link to a song “Its a new dawn”.  It’s mellow.  Its soulful.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its’s a new life for me, and I am feeling good.”  Thanks @sondernagel.

Today we are mellow.  Tomorrow:

“It’s a new world, it’s a bold world”

_

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Here we are.

UPDATE: If you’ve never heard Ben Zander, the orchestra conductor, speak on leadership, I recommend it strongly.  Half an hour that will truly change your life.

Ben Zander,  comfortable of course, in front of a large audience speaks on his work as teacher, university professor and professional conductor.

He has learned to look for the spirit of musicians and talks about “one buttock playing”, “bringing the light to people’s eyes” and  “apologizing and inviting”.  With these three rules of thumb, you’ll transform the way you work with others.

Welcome to the world of ease and merriment of Ben Zander!

An old, dear friend passed away this weekend living in his third country having been displaced by war & politics twice in his life time.  I’ve just received a eulogy from his daughter-in-law.

Bob was one of those rare parents who loved his children as they were. What they were was interesting but not essential: how they were was vital.

Bob, go well.  RIP


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