Wednesday, 27 February 2019

The reason for South Africa's demise has nothing to do with colour and everything to do with calibre.

The numbers in and of South Africa aren't gong to crunch well. My actuarial instinct says sorry, but the prognosis is poor, and time is running out. And the country's thinking and feeling is not about getting the story right but about believing the unworkable stories that the politicians want you to accept. We're heading for a watershed election in May this year, where official opposition parties are likely to change lanes, after which the rhetoric will become even less sensible.

So the Story Clinic wants to make a statement here: change the complaint about colour to the call for calibre. Sure, there are so many valid points to make about slavery, colonisation, colour-bars, prejudice, and perverted social purpose, yet decisions are what create movement at the end of the day, and if you decide to get victimised and lost in a fruitless verbal vomit, you might get the dregs of your imagined emotions out, but that won't necessarily cure the sickness.

Colour-blame is not a fruitful basis for analysis. That way there's always an us and them, and you can tweak the numbers to make it now, for the imagined future, or for the whole of history. And colour is too obvious. You can plaster a label on a colour because you can see it. Turn the lens inwards. Test yourself. No matter your culture, colour or climate, that's the real call.

How does a democracy keep a Zuma president? How does an ANC try to silence its obvious secrets of abysmal corruption? And how does Cyril pretend not to know? And really, a DA banishment of all things that might smack of colonialism while classrooms are allowed to collapse with righteousness? All the while the unfair treatment of blacks and the unfair treatment of whites colours thinking and feeling overwhelmingly. An EFFing mess....

Calibre has to do with being fit for purpose, exactness of execution, proof of character and some evidence of stepping up to the plate when called. This seems doomed in South Africa, and I'm simply being actuarial, not pessimistic. Add news headlines, which admittedly are not exact stories, to the litter, crime, corruption, untold carelessness and casual attitudes that have replaced good sense, and you won't need the political or economic analyses that columnize our pretended characters.

Let the Story Clinic be clear: if South Africa is to move out of its red light zone which isn't sexy at all, but really and dramatically dangerous, it needs to stop thinking and feeling colour, especially the black and white rubbish, and to start getting calibre. Which means beginning with oneself, and doing what one can. And truthfully, not merely strategically. And a combo of these would be good, if we could possibly get it on the menu.

Maybe Cyril could meet me at Ocean Basket. He could lose his gloss, which will go, in any case, and I might get the three-way calamari, all white at bottom, but with different tastes. And the house wine, if I'm not mistaken is Two Oceans. Hey Cyril, let's beat EFFing Julius and sue them for not being One Planet! The attorneys would love......and all the parties could use green as another camouflage....

Monday, 14 January 2019

Learning to listen to the unique body

It's amazing how each body is unique. One table of elements, basic imprints such as five digits to a hand or paw, possible physiological comparisons, yet each body is its own story. It doesn't merely tell its story, it dramatically enacts an unfolding story which interestingly enough does not die. Whatever powers atoms doesn't reach a cul-de-sac at the end of seasons and cycles, but powers up for the next unpredictable chapter.

Listening has become an outmoded skill. Instinctively we humans are wired to listen, but the urban buzz and a more forlorn human howl have confounded the listening soul. Some authors such as John O'Donaghue,  Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen remind us of deep listening. Martin Buber. More currently and corporately, Thaler Pekar and Associates. It's a skill that requires urgent re-booting.

Begin by re-visiting how much your own body would like the attention of being deeply listened to, properly looked at, knowingly gazed it, felt slowly and lovingly, attended as fully as possible.

Many would shy away from this, and no wonder. The human touch has come to be mistrusted. And so we look for the wilderness experience, the eco-psychology of our species and where it belongs in the planetary scheme of things. Jeffrey Rink. How the earth itself is alive, and not merely the solitary collection of atoms in this organic arrangement of breathing dust. How my feelings and emotions are part of a vastly complex ocean of swirling realities.

Yes, each body is an energetic signature which can be sensed and felt, more and more excruciatingly, as we learn to pay attention to that energy which is anything but elusive. But we don't really have the language for it anymore. Scientists, esoterics, mystics, realists, religious adherents, drunks and dreamers: all have their own wisdom, words, wishes and wilfulness. Listen to each one, and find out how each has a tide that turns on something that might be scientific in the end, but for now is a story in the unfolding.

I'm learning to listen to the illnesses. I'm interested in the tides of disease and death, because these attract that part of attention that reminds us of what lies beyond the cash and chaos of a falsely driven world created by the human need to escape the desperation of belief in detachment. From the age of four I noticed that even when people voiced deeply held beliefs, it didn't help them to alleviate the grief that came their way, naturally, when separation, death and calamity announced their unwelcome presence.

So I invite whoever will, to visit the Story Clinic, to learn how to listen to the unique body. I'm no faith healer, and you don't pay money for pretended miracles. But I'm aware that intention creates really surprising results. More of this from Lynne McTaggart and The Power of Eight. I can do nothing to help anyone to escape death. We can all help to prevent  this every day by simply taking care, in respect of our responsibilities. As a paramedic told me once, there are just about no accidents. You do get them, but most of the time, someone didn't take enough care. Even the heavy branch that fell might have been noticed.

Humans have certainly lost grip on the intuitive ability to listen with clarity. It's latent in all, and a good idea is to listen to your own body. But nearly everything from advertising to education news to cash flow urge our souls away from the clarity of connection.

The Story Clinic is planning a thing: a group learning of how to listen to the unique body, the purpose of which is healing whatever needs to be healed. If you're interested, please contact Dr Walter Willies, 0828530902, email or use the landline, 027-4821537.

A last thought: do leaders lead, and what could that mean in the chaos and cash of our human currency? Or do leaders heal? I begin to smell a change in the move from triumphalism to humility when it comes to big deal leadership. Maybe Lyle English and Associates would have a thought or two on this. I don't do "leaders" who push. I also don't do "leaders" who pull. But when someone pays attention, and I feel something in me twitch, and learn new attention that feels like living, I recognise, and check. Harry Oppenheimer gave me something like twenty seconds of his attention, twice, making it about forty seconds in all. But I felt it, knew it, and was grateful for it. Vic Pearce, one of the first HR boffins in South Africa, invited me for lunch. Lifetime experience. As director of the School of Languages at the North West University I once had a pee with F.W. De Klerk who was chancellor at the time.  Our brief chat was instructive. For me, probably not him. What other name-dropping can I do? Yet it's not about name-dropping. It's about attention that matters, and you know it when it comes your way.

Back to the creative mix of attention and healing: each one of us is a unique body, and there's an energetic verve and vortex that each of us needs to get to grips with, if we want to achieve the kind of healing I'm talking about. For a broken tooth, the dentist, for a heart attack, emergency room, for suspected tumours, pathology. For burns, prayers and plastic surgeons. For severe allergies, allerologists.

For souls, at any time, silent, kind, penetrating attention. Navigating and knowing the unique patterns of the unique body.  And being able to do something about them.  

Monday, 7 January 2019

The sense of story affects you dramatically.

Where is your front door?

What's written on the "welcome mat"?

What's your house like?

Metaphors are useful ways of gaining self-understanding, and are frequently used to ground stories. Stories need to be understandable, and so does self. Bu therein lies the rub: the self is essentially mysterious, and it is what the brain constructs so as to make a way in a chaotic world of experience.

Using language, the brain desperately tries to name and tame emotion and intensity. Using story, the brain manipulates, counter-manipulates and re-manipulates every way to construct stories of experience and reality. Yet the brain is not some kind of super-computer, but more of a living reflection of the body, its history, its habits, its patterns and its semi-conscious promises.

The thing is, the story you've allowed to be constructed and told about yourself to yourself is your own deal.

Very little is cast in stone, and stones themselves are made to roll before they eventually disappear.

To what do you commit your self and why? Lately I've had to challenge my own priorities, and this has been both demolishing and uplifting. Things I've held dear all my life have turned out to be irrelevant and ardent desires have proved to be misleading.

I've learned that language isn't language, it's a disguise for attitude.

So let's try a simple question: how do you receive your self?

When you pay attention to the most important creation you'll ever make, namely your self, what is your point of entry?

I was born randomly, I'll live hoping for better things and die desperately unknowingly yet wishing for heaven?

The attitude you choose determines the kind of words that emerge, and words are not merely words but are less obviously about the glue that puts them together.

When you talk to your self, you're at your own front door.

When I talk to you, I hope to find the door, and not an artificial path.

It's not easy. Authenticity can be hard to do in a world that goes exactly the other way, and knows more about faking sincerity.

The other day I had a conversation with a lady who manages twelve VIP airport lounges, and knows how to communicate with high-end people. She knows the artificial path extremely well, but more, she knows how to access the individual front door immediately. Without realising it, she gave me a first-class demonstration: a few moments of careful, full and courteous attention. This is the kind of attention that leads you to your story.

So I recommend paying attention in this kind of way to your self. If you want dramatic change of the better kind, this is how you do it. Your self is your story, and getting to know how you've told it to yourself helps the cloud of unknowing to lift. For more, please check

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Everybody knows: the legal falsification of marks in South Africa.

Let's stick with secondary education, because I've first-hand experience, in the past nine months. We all seem to have the idea that marks aren't what they seem to be be. Here's how it works.

And before I start, the interest that the Story Clinic has in this is neurological. Neurons, like tummies are better off with food that feeds. Not poison. The body doesn't lie. People do, quite badly. Here's the lie that stretches from grade 8 to 11 in secondary education:

In broad strokes, and I generalise, bu this happens in the majority of South African secondary schools, targets are set. Pass rate numbers. Not the average mark. Just to pass. The school principals don't set this. The circuit managers don't set this. It comes from above. Ask Angie.

Okay, so I sat there, an intellectual emeritus professor of narrative studies, taking my cue from a non-fee-paying school in South Africa, after having my soul scraped off the ceiling, after experiencing bizarre behaviour by thugs, the suffering of gentler spirits, the carelessness of learners in general, the attempted carefulness of staff, the desperate desire of the management team to manage, the callous attitude of the three blind mice from the WCED who came to tell the dysfunctional school that it wasn't functioning so well: these were all experiences from which I could learn.

But nothing, to my mind, balances out the targets. The targets are set, but I couldn't work out exactly by whom. Certainly not the school. "It's just the system". Not the circuit manager. "It comes from above". I had a chommie in head office, Pretoria. I sent a message. The answer made my blood run cold. It wasn't a chommie answer. It was a very formal answer, and it told me that I was blowing a whistle in the Arctic.

So here are the broad  strokes that work in the majority of South African schools:

less than a third pass on their own merits.

The Department says 80 - 85 percent must pass.

So marks are given out, on a bit by bit basis, bit by more basis, more by more basis, until the targets are met.

Consider that. Consider it well.

Those marks are just given. Sanctioned from above. Ask Angie.

What are the implications?

An arrogant learner body: "Give me my marks".

A stupid learner body: "I've passed, I'm competent."

An unrealistic learner body: "I can make it through tertiary education".

An angry learner body: "Why am I not making it?"

From an economical point of view I'd say that the the kind of school I'm talking about costs the tax payer R18 million a year to produce 200 potential EFF voters a year. The ANC didn't reckon on that.

Not an effective strategy.

The Story Clinic prefers healthy, wholesome stories. But sometimes you have to switch on the lights. It's difficult to extract a tooth in the dark. I should know. Two of mine broke while I was working in the dark. Gentle Dental kindly helped me.

We're not waiting for the bomb. It's exploded, yet too few are listening.

Certainly, we'll feel it. From the top to the bottom of the economy.

It's rubbish.

Ask Angie.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

The post-coaching era.

What comes after coaching? Decades ago, those who could went to psychologists, some for clincial reasons, some for counselling purposes, many just to find answers. That era has moved on, and medical aids have doubts about paying for these services, often, because the medical status of psychology has moved on, too.

Arising from some psychological bases, such as the work of Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls, NLP was born: neuro-lingusitic programming, and this is the framework for coaching. What we feel and what we say work together to create a felt sense of purpose, meaning and achievement, and thus we are offered the only three ways to achieve happiness, the seven steps to fulfilled love, the four linking loops of abundance and nine ways of reducing neuro-science to a new sense of reality. New brands of coaching are created continually: the common thread to all of them is head-turning, attention-arresting, heart-touching manipulations of emotive attention. From blogs to vlogs to podcasts and pop-up word-shops, the business of arresting, persuading and getting payment for the gratification of attentional needs is getting overcooked.

I think it may be pertinent to remember that there is nothing new under the sun. The seasons turn, the cycles repeat, new imprints of life remind us of the irreversible yet unworded places that decision is enacted, and the story simply continues.

This is why I founded the Story Clinic. Literary theory may be interesting to some, but it's definitely a hollow, intellectual pursuit, and means little to the person on the pavement. (You can't say "man in the street" anymore, that's a highly suspect, stereotypical, sexist, gender-aggressive statement, as well as a localisation of maleness, and also a possible racial slur because of any white stripes that might be painted on the tarmac.)

Whereas humans use, abuse and disabuse language as they please, the story that speaks through them, arising from deeper places that they can't imagine, whispering, screaming or singing from the guts, as the case may be, simply can't lie. I wouldn't necessarily say there's just one story communicating through us. There could well be many, but that's too difficult to start with. I mean, how many minds do we have?

Maybe I could create a workshop to identify your seven minds in five easy steps. But I think I've made my point. R.D. Laing once remarked that when his patients asked why they were paying all this money for no result, and walked off, it was called a cure.

So I think coaching could be fined for going over a speed trap in due course. I don't have anything particular against coaching. I think it often does good work, and changes lives for the better. On the other hand, it's often superficial, frequently expensive in respect of training, and deceptively condescending in that it's bottom line is that the answer is in you.

So what on earth are you actually paying for?

Stories are time-honoured: that's why I like them. There's no one definition for what a story is, but we do know that the body uses them, persistently and consistently to create a sense of coherent meaning. So I'm suggesting that when coaching cools off, or just gets too confusing for wonderful choice, the stories of who we are and what's going on will still be there. We need to get closer to them, and learn to listen more attentively, both to others and ourselves. So I am bold to announce the beginning of the post-coaching era, and the arrival of storied-time. It's called"storied-time" because when we get involved in our various narratives on purpose, things change vividly. It's a natural way of approaching what would seem to be unapproachable. And not so expensive.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Organic energy, molecular energy, atomic energy, sub-atomic energy

You get to the point where language fails awareness and consciousness. Language is a bridge between rationality and irrationality, and using language to answer questions is usually a waste of time because the questions, cloaked in language as they are, seldom ask real things. This experience of being alive: what is it? I can't think of any way that language can actually answer that. Instead, I want to observe what I've learnt about energy, another elusive word that's become the go-to for many holistic practitioners. 

Energy, vibration, biocentrism, chi, the field, and many more is what we're part of, we're told. And it's not remote. It's here, now, infinite, eternal, and it's the "me" that is the central register of my experience and all experience for that matter. What that means to me is that a continuum of experience is possible. Let's play a little.

Organic energy relates to the experience of being a whole, alive body with senses working well, piecing and placing habits, norms, expectations and values in terms of what is perceived and felt. This level of energy plays sport, eats out, drives a car, captains a craft, works during the day, converses and creates much. It's where our conscious minds work, mostly. Choice is multifarious at this level. 

We're less conscious of molecular energy: when the body becomes ill or damaged, our attention goes to this level, and suffers there until health is restored. By the same token, we can indeed focus our attention to this level by becoming aware of what's in the stomach, the intestines, the movement of blood, what occurs at the alveoli, what is blocked or enhanced in neurotransmission. Smokers and heavy drinkers should be able to reflect awarenesses like these. Choice is not practised as much at this level, because we do not habitually go there. 

Atomic energy: can we go there? We're not taught to think like that, but I suggest that the continuum from consciousness to unconsciousness is falsely worded. We know about being awake, day-dreaming, lucid dreaming, REM dreaming, being comatose and my view is that these terms are attached to organic and molecular energy. When we talk about being dead, when molecular and organic energy no longer work, the atoms and sub-atomic energies have longer stories to tell. 

I've heard that the elements are indestructible, and if that's the case, can I feel what they're telling me, now?

Some intuitive imp tugs my sleeve and tells me that these shamanic journeys they talk about aren't about going there and coming back. It's more about the vivid fervency that's gone into myriads of journeys that brought me here, and then going back. 

With a little learned focus, I feel it's not impossible to allow the intention and attention of the atomic  and sub-atomic me address and inform the molecular and organic me. 

The precision of maths, the astonishment of music, the heart-felt moments of beauty and the hidden stories of atoms have something in common: this body of self-awareness and experiential acuity. In and by itself, its story and journey go to startling places. Beyond that sense of self how much more can there be? We could start with a cupful of universes. 

Monday, 6 August 2018

Shamanic paths and the Spirit of Christ.

Read up on the background of shamanic practise and you'll discover that this has been a time-honoured way of travelling between different realms of spirituality, dating back to pre-history.

Read up on the spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and you won't find much about different realms of spirituality or travelling between them, but I submit that the Spirit of Christ is about everywhere there is to travel to.

An easier way of putting that is that everyone has their own story, and if you are prepared to listen carefully to that story, and travel with the teller, you will find the Spirit of Christ in the details. Not the devil.

The more vulnerability an individual discloses, the more of that suffering, restoring and resurrecting spirit you'll encounter.

Another approach is to acknowledge the story that you unwittingly embrace. Some endorse a religious story, some the incomplete narrative that scientific research attempts. Nothing wrong with either of these, but then healing remains incomplete. I suggest that the Spirit of Christ does not give you something, but takes you on a journey, yes, one from which there is no return, and which is inevitably linked with the planet earth, the table of elements, communication with all that is communicative and that is very inclusive, if you are prepared to go beyond the merely human.

A big clue is to go beyond one rhetorical or jargon set to speak your truth no matter what it is. What is the purpose of the Christ-like path? Freedom, healing, redemption or simply wholesome living? What is the shamanic path? To relieve, restore, reconnect or simply realise? Do you have to beat drums or Bible-bash? Is trance a requirement? Is correct theology imperative?

For me, it's become mercifully easy enough to read a person's words, attitudes and intentions. I said read, not judge.

It's enough for me to say that I recognise the sameness of intent in those who speak from these two paths with sincerity and purpose. So are they really two paths? Sure, the words and logical imperatives are quite different, but as I write, one rain falls. It knows no words, only wetness. It knows no distinctions, only nourishment, and if over-supplied, then flood, fear, and the sense of failure.

And something in the soul tells me not to fear words, but those who abuse them. And to accept the Spirit of Christ, and to examine the shamanic path, as an honour to those who have always been brave enough to seek healing for all.