Friday 21 December 2012

Paying for wisdom

Once upon a time I participated in a poetry workshop led by Robert Berold. He mentioned two things which struck me, and have reverberated to this day: the first was a rhetorical question designed to show us how he thought about poetry. He was reading a poem by one of us. He stopped, looked up and asked quietly, apparently of no-one, "What is the energy of this poem doing? Where is it going?".
Those two questions taught me how to leap beyond words to the energy that permeates words.

The second thing that he said that afternoon was a criticism of my own poetry. He read something I had written, pondered for a moment, turning it inside -out, and then said, "Poetry isn't about wisdom."

It baffled me at the time, but the more I have thought about it, the more I agree. I don't really know what poetry is about, essentially, because whoever writes poetry has an singular fingerprint for each poem, and you have to read with the intention of grasping that which moves at a pace beyond verbal understanding.

I begin to have the same appreciation for coaching. The essential activity of coaching is communication, and the purpose and meaning of the communication also imprints singularly and uniquely. If the coach comes with a system, the system may work well or not at all. If you read a novel or watch a movie knowing in advance the nuances of the plot, the quirks of characterization, the tension of dialogue and the final outcome, most of the fun disappears.

I've said before that I don't really like the label "coach" because it implies that I can do something better than you can, and thus you pay me to tell you my secrets. My secrets are for free, my time is valuable.

So what is the valuable crux of communication in the executive, life, health, educational, spiritual, creative coaching that spans the bridge between professionalism and industrialization? I would answer in two words: truthfulness and wisdom. Put more practically, by this I mean that truthfulness is that you know what's going on, and wisdom means you know how to deal with what's going on.

Why would you want someone to tell you what's going on in your own business and what to do about it? Why would you want someone to tell you how to go about living your own life? Or how to relate to others?

One of my psychology tutors remarked, "If we had more friends, we'd need fewer psychologists."

Perhaps, if we had a more free-flowing truthfulness, we'd use fewer coaches. Perhaps, if we communicated with each other less in terms of roles and more from our places of wisdom, we would hone our purpose of  the moment more quickly and sharply.

Wednesday 19 December 2012


A lot of people think I'm impatient. I'm not. It's just that I was brought up by a Swiss mother who accepted nothing but immediacy when it came to responsiveness to anything from being called to supper to knowing what to do in a medical emergency. She was a paediatric sister, and no doubt the worst scenario was the death of a baby when it could have been avoided. So I admire this trait: immediacy.

If you apply it as a rule, which I prefer to do, but don't, as not many can get with the pace, things tend to work.

Alas, I live in a country where things tend more and more not to work. This seems to be a global trend, although Africa is extremely good at things not working.

You get things to work by attending to emergencies immediately, effectively, sustainably. Pain of all kinds, physical, emotional, intellectual is a signal of emergency. Physically, I am very well, yet I suffer emotional and especially intellectual pain daily.

I have found that the best way to deal with intellectual pain is using humour. I think, therefore I joke. However, this becomes tedious and boring.

Testing thinking against another person's thinking will take you to a mentor. I had a really good one decades ago, whose stride still awes me. When you find that what's necessary is to stretch your legs and start to run if you don't want to miss the chance in front of you, you've learnt what immediacy requires.

All my life, the sense of immediacy has enveloped me. I like this sense very much, and I recognize it has not always endeared me to others. Yet I recommend this path: when you follow it, things tend to happen.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Focusing on, focusing from

Focusing is an action of intent. It's a spontaneous action, usually strongly associated with, but not only limited to vision. Emotional fluidity or fixation is also a focus, as are intellectual habits. We have many verbal metaphors for what we do when we zoom in, focus on, resonate with, tune into, tap into, go with.

We have far fewer notions of where we focus from. Our subjective platforms are largely unconscious, although extremely significant in respect of enabling or disabling focus.

Finding out where you focus from can be reduced to straighforward answers to easy questions:

What story do you tell yourself about yourself? Write down your answer in less than 60 words. Then meditate for ten minutes. Then write down your next attempt. Meditate again for ten minutes. Write down the next version. This exercize will test both your thinking and your feeling. Do this as regularly as you can over three weeks. Fundamental change is guarranteed. You will begin to get the idea of where you have been focusing from.

Many coaches carry on about "passion". This doesn't always make sense to me. D.T. Suzuki and the Jesuits taught me that being dispassionate and passionate at the same time is far more mind-breaking than being locked into an unsustainable enthusiasm. If you've locked onto an energetic pattern chances are you're coasting rather than creating. Cheering for your team will greatly assist but not actually create the goal. There's a random element to the ultimate game, and I believe that's about choice. You can choose, you don't have to choose, and that depends on where you're focusing from, not only what you're focusing on.

Where you focus from is spiritual. There's much more to flesh and blood than blood and flesh. Your experience as a responsive agency is your platform for responsiveness. You can always change the platform, but you have to dig a little to do so.

Because neurons like patterns, we tend to level out at a default based on early responsiveness and experience. Either you take charge of your patterns or the patterns take charge of you. Deciding to have a dialogue with patterns is a good start because you can then create a mutuality that banks can't afford to think about let alone create. Read Lynne McTaggart's "The Bond" to learn about this mutuality.

In short, what you focus on arises directly out of where you focus from. The former is more or less spontaneous, the latter unconscious until you choose to grow. The path you follow is the path you have followed until you decide to take the road less travelled by. Thank you, Robert Frost. It makes all the difference.

Thursday 13 December 2012

What older people say

This morning I said goodbye to guests: an older mom and dad and a younger couple, son with wife. It was great to have them, and the goodbyes were fervent and real. The older gentleman looked me in the eye very directly and said,"You must enjoy life, every minute!" I could feel what he was saying. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my high school music teacher in December 1999. Decades after school we had a meal out, a good chat and a few direct questions.

"Any regrets, anything you would have changed in retrospect?" I asked.

He chuckled in his characteristic way. "More kinky sex, and I would like to have travelled more."

I listen to what older people say, because when you finally get the idea that this life isn't forever, what do you say?

Whatever is said, the energy that goes into the communication is unmistakeable: when you're in that place of linking mortality with immortality, you sense spiritual wisdom.

At the end of the day, there isn't much to say, yet presence becomes so significant, contact becomes ultimate, continuity asserts itself as the same, yet different, faith shows up as inevitable.

And love? I have never understood the word, yet I realize that every time you speak from the heart, show consideration and kindness, offer frankness, decide in favour of fruitfulness, you light small fires of intent that glow fiercely and will never go out.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Short and sweet

I like quick realisations that ring true, so here's one that struck me a couple of minutes ago: the English-speaking population of the world is at a severe disadvantage: they use the word "love" as a deep basis yet fail to reach an intellectual match for what this word actually means. It's always an impenetrable, unfathomable yet utterly real emotion. Here's my take:

love is a shortcut: it's merely a matter of glancing at someone and knowing what the connection is.

If you have to explain, you've lost it already.

Across age-group, gender, social class, culture, colour: one look, and if you can feel the heart chuckle, that's where it is. If you feel it shout, scream or weep, that's also where it is.

Monday 10 December 2012

BodyWorlds, MindWorlds

I recently went to the BodyWorlds exhibition in Cape Town. The experience moved my boundaries of perception unexpectedly. Perceptually, emotionally, attitudinally, I had to retreat and regroup after going in the direction that I was led, there. I learnt that the platforms of perception that we build for ourselves, our emotional homes and our stumbling attempts at decision are indeed temporary.

Looking into the space between the front and left sides of a human head, cloven in two, was humbling, as was the peaceful and almost communicative expression on the plastinated face. Observing an entire nervous system laid and pinned out, resembling a Christmas tree, made me more, not less aware of the profundity of human awareness.

I admire the originator of these exhibitions for the courage, scope and art of what has been achieved so far. The taboos across which he has stepped are also temporary.

I began to wonder what could emerge if a "MindWorlds" was attempted. How could mind be portrayed and set out in a similarly truthful and provocative manner? It struck me that everything manmade is already a MindWorlds. From pencils to ipads to tennisballs to bread, wine whisky and Wellington boots, the obvious creative, pragmatic and concrete evidence of mind is observeable.

That which holds, however precariously, businesses, marriages, families, nations and cultures together is mind-glue: emotional attachment and permissibility of belief. For tweny-four hours a day we breathe our way through mind, largely unaware of the immensities and temporary structures that offer a sense of reality, when indeed, there is no reality except for what dreams may come.

The exhibition underlined, for me, the understanding that my spiritual destiny and earthly work are the same thing. I was brought up to be certain of being spiritually correct: a worthy yet impossible quest Now I grasp that spiritual correctness is not only in the thoughts but in the action, movement and desire that result in obvious fruit of mindfulness. I have invented nothing, have composed one somewhat useful tune that was performed at a tweny-first birthday decades ago, have written some poetry, have produced a non-productive novel, have put out some academic papers and contributed to a number of journals. I have changed from being an isolate to participating in many overlapping family layers. I have given myself permission to live as I have been created to live. My heart has learned how to beat with gladness rather than mere purpose.

The fascination that surpised me at BodyWorlds remains with me now, as I observe with greater clarity the worlds of mind that impinge on me, and encourage me to engage with more directness and empowerment. Realizing that mind is as liquid as water yet as productive as fertile ground is a connecting perception that follows its own route from person to person.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Freefall consciousness

Fall isn't exactly the right word, but the feeling fits. Fall implies from up to down, and what I have in mind is from here to anywhere. This bit of blog may look as though it's exceedingly abstract because of the language, but the feelings that I want to evoke should be dramatically vivid. For decades I have been contemplating reality, and that focus has been both baffling and illuminating. First I complained that there wasn't enough of it, then I thought there was too much of it, then I couldn't pin it down well enough to know what I was trying to think about, and after that phase I tried with all my might to analyze and synthesize it. Reality. An abstract noun that's supposed to lead one up to a non-negotiable, and that's where the nose rubs against the wall and you can't go further. Reality limits you. You have to obey reality because you have no other choice. You can change neither your face nor the Milky Way.

I have come to realize that the word is a misnomer. It doesn't fit it's own authority. Sure, there are natural processes that are non-negotiable: I don't argue with sunshine and I prefer to see, hear, taste and touch what's in front of me. When it rains, I get wet. When I was ten I tried out my theory that if you dive through a pool very quickly you won't get wet. My ignorant friends urged me on and watched while I experimented and became raucously merry as my hypothesis failed time and time again. I still say that perhaps I didn't slip though the water quickly enough.

Freefall consciousness is scary. Many gurus refer us to the present moment, teaching us that in the present moment we will experience eternity. I followed this practice for three weeks and came to the disturbing conviction that I do not want to be myself for eternity. I want to fall further than that. But which way to fall?

Clearly, the word and the idea of "fall" have to do with acting mindfully, purposefully, skillfully. I have an outstandingly active imagination which often runs away with me, yet it's a very necessary ingredient to take me where I want to be. From here to anywhere. My advice to myself is to know the way very well to, in and around logical positivism while profoundly accepting the seeming chaos of freedom. Sensory experience is discrete, imaginative experience is continuous. Put the two together and you have pragmatic dreams. Automobiles. Electricity. Moon-landings. Ipods and ipads. Skype. Kindles. Pondles. Dripletts. Very soon, now, we will be able to dive through water without getting wet.

I don't have much hope that humans will make peace with each other, although I wish they would. I would prefer humans to put dogmatic fervency aside and learn to trust that which is trustworthy. My dream is that we should speak to each other with the clarity of those who are searching for the same thing, the same truth. Truth is not certifiable. It can't be framed. Even though I can't dive through water quickly enough not to get wet, I can walk on it, as though there is no "it" and yet "it" is.

When I accept that consciousness is in freefall, I can better learn how to trust, and in the end, so far as humans are concerned, that's probably the most real feeling of all.