Practicing Radical Self-Responsibility

Here’s episode 38 of ‘Turning Towards Life’, our weekly, live 30 minute deep dive into the bigger questions of human life, in which I’m joined by Lizzie Winn as part of thirdspace coaching.

This week ‘Practicing Radical Self-Responsibility’, a call to action from activist Taj James of the Movement Strategy Centre, an organisation dedicated to “lead a transition from a world of domination and extraction to a world of regeneration, resilience, and interdependence… To put love at the centre, reimagine possibility, navigate into the unknown, and step into the new future that is calling us forward.”.

In this conversation, Lizzie and I consider the balance between strictness with ourselves (so we remember our responsibility to act) and kindness (so we can draw on our goodness and capacity, and not collapse into shame or self-righteousness). It’s a tricky and life-giving act of paying attention that’s called for in any of us who want to actually take care of the world and not just talk about it. And we celebrate the ordinary everyday acts of responsibility that can inspire us to rise to the bigger acts of taking a stand that our times are calling for.

You can join our members-only facebook group for live conversation and community here.

Here’s the source for this week’s conversation, written by Taj James.

Practicing Radical Self-Responsibility 
(notes to selves)
I can only speak for myself
I can only change myself.
There are some things about myself
I can not change.
They are aspects of who I am.
I need to learn to accept and love
All aspects of who I am
I am not
who I think I am
I Am Everything
Responsible for
every little thing
i am
Intentions matter and
I am fully responsible
for ALL of the impact I create
Without consciousness
There is no choice
Responsibility is Complete.
Weather actions or impacts flow
from conscious or unconscious
Choosing unconsciousness,
knowing it is a root source
from which harm flows,
has specific consequences
Cultivating consciousness
requires healing, support
great courage and spiritual discipline
Self-harm, isolation, shame and regret
perpetuate the cycles of of harm
and prevent healing, repair and restoration.
Dare to be free
Shame and silence
are the most harmful forces
in the multiverse
Harm flows
from the shadows
we have not embraced
followed close behind
by certainty
Yes, Love
is the only
And, all other forms of certainty
are only
domination and hubris
masking fear and a
desire for control
i have been harmed
i have caused harm
that makes me a human
Focus on the love you have shared
not just the harm you have caused
Celebrate and soak in
the gratitude and
Do your best to acknowledge and
clean up the messes you make
Pay your debts and
pay all the debts you can pay
even those you may not be responsible for
Acknowledgement, connection, an apology and a smile
don’t cost anything
Some debts can never be repaid.
If you owe a debt like this,
spend each day of your life
grateful for the opportunity
to fail everyday
at repaying it.
Reconnect you to your bigger self.
Regret, self-hate, guilt only deepen the harm generated by
your unconsciousness and disconnection
generated by your fear, thoughtlessness or delusion
born from the harm and traumas that flowed into you
Whenever I forget any of this truth
Please, quickly, firmly and gently
remind me.
— Taj James

On Feeling Like a Fraud

Here’s episode 37 of ‘Turning Towards Life’, our weekly, live 30 minute deep dive into the bigger questions of human life.

This week ‘On Feeling a Fraud’, an experience common to most of us but which we keep hidden for fear of being found out. But what if being ‘found out’ is a path to discovering our own capacity and entering into the kind of life-giving relationships we long for?

You can find out more about thirdspace coaching at

Here’s the source for this week’s conversation, written by Lizzie.

On Feeling Like a Fraud

The feeling that I will be found out one day. That someone will come and lift the facade and see me for all my faults and inadequacy. That the powers that Be will expose me, exile me, shame me. That finally and once and for all I will be outed for all the things I don’t know, all the ways I’ve been half baked. All the ways I have made it look like everything’s ok when I am really like a duck on the water, (looking like water does indeed run off a ducks back), and my little legs are going wild beneath the surface of the water trying to stay afloat and keep this whole thing going.

My little legs are going ten to the dozen because:

I have to go this fast just to keep up
If I don’t keep momentum then I will fall behind
If I don’t paddle hard I will be seen for what’s really going on inside
If I let up I will be cast out for my uselessness
If I stop and be real and admit it’s hard, I will be outed as the shameful creature I really am. This duck, like any other duck.

Who feels incapable, ineffective, confused, sad, grief filled, flawed, lacking in confidence. Who is doing their best to be loved, to be good, to be successful, to be worthy and to be noticed.

If anyone could see the flapping, the freak outs, the procrastination, the laziness, the incompleteness, the disorganised, the short cuts, the mistakes, the arguments, the lack of knowledge, just how much I’m winging it.

I would surely be cast out. The worst of human shame. To be lost and exposed and raw in the surety of being faced with my own brokenness – fully acknowledged by the world and the people who are powerful and important to me.

And yet.

In the sharing of my inadequacy, I gently find out that I am not alone. And it turns out that all these feelings, all this fear is a universal thing. It’s not actually mine. It’s a general consequence of humanness. And we all had parents and cultures and education systems that used shame as their main source of power. Because they didn’t have anything else at their finger tips when faced with the human in front of them.

So each time we share, each time we open and each time we join one another and undo the shame by seeing each other and accept the unacceptable. We heal and we grow in confidence that we are good, we are worthy, we are loved. We are vulnerable and that’s how it should be. Unfinished, messy, lovable, doing the very best we can. And doing that alongside our fellow humans in connection, in warmth, in kindness.

And together we journey. All flawed, all broken, all holding one another in the great web of life that is human community.

— Lizzie Winn

We are the environment for each other

It’s clear that we human beings are deeply affected by the environment in which we find ourselves. We are in a constant exchange with what is around us, both shaping it and being shaped by it.

And so it’s worth remembering, because it’s mostly so invisible to us, that we are each the environment for one another.

Which means in turn that difficulties that occur for other people and with other people can often be addressed, first, by taking responsibility for what is ours, and how it’s affecting those around us.

Don’t be ashamed to be human, be proud

Here’s episode 36 of ‘Turning Towards Life’, our weekly, live 30 minute deep dive into the bigger questions of human life, with Lizzie Winn.

This week, “Don’t Be Ashamed to be Human”. So many of us figure that we have to go through life essentially alone, like super-heroes, hiding all our difficulties and failures and in the process finding ourselves far away from the joys of deep human contact and support. We wonder about what it takes to turn towards the life-giving support of others, and how coaching, community, friendship and family can be ways of entering into this with one another.

We also talk about the extraordinary two-day introduction to Integral Development Coaching, ‘Coaching to Excellence‘ which will be offered by thirdspace in London on 1st-2nd October 2018.

Here’s the source for this week’s conversation:

Romanesque Arches
Tomas Tranströmer
Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous
Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
“Don’t be ashamed to be a human being, be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.”
Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini;
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

Good learning undoes us

It’s common practice in many organisations for people to demand, with some force, a ‘take away’ from every learning experience, course, workshop or coaching session.

Perhaps it seems obvious, at least to start with, that this should be the case. After all aren’t we busy, productive, results-oriented people? Why would we do anything unless it obviously moves us forward, to the next step, the next project, the next success?

By insisting on this we’ve confused learning with other, more familiar, activities. And we’ve profoundly misunderstood the nature of any learning that’s really worth our while.

Firstly, the confusion. Learning is not like going to a meeting, finishing a project plan, coming to an agreement, or delivering a product. When we insist that learning be like every other activity in our working culture we’re not really engaging in learning at all. We’re confusing learning with deciding, or getting things done, both of which are worthwhile activities in themselves, but don’t change us much.

Secondly, we’ve misunderstood or wilfully redefined what learning can be. We’ve reduced it to knowing a fact, understanding a step-by-step process, or knowing about a clever technique. We want to learn with the minimum of our own involvement, in a trouble-free, predictable, and narrow way. We want it recognisable in form and structure. We do not wish to be too troubled. And all of this is insufficient for learning that really does something.

Unless we want our learning to keep us within our habitual, predictable boundaries (and I am arguing that this is not learning at all) we have to give up our demands that it be familiar. We have to allow it to confuse us as well as inspire us, to dissolve our existing categories and rigidity, and to confound our everyday understanding so it can show us something new. We have to allow it to render us unskilful for a while so that we can embody new skills that in turn open new worlds of possibility. And we have to allow ourselves to feel many things – elation, excitement, frustration, disappointment, wonder, surprise, boredom, joy – so that we can be affected by the experience and not just observe it in a detached way.

Good learning undoes us.

And for that reason the ‘take aways’ we demanded at the start may be quite different from what actually happens. And what lives on in us as a result may not appear at the moment we walk out of the room, but as the product, over time, of living with, practicing and inquiring into what we’ve only just begun to see.

By demanding we know what learning will do before we begin, we’re hardly learning at all.

Photo Credit: acase1968 Flickr via Compfight cc

And For No Reason

In episode 35 of ‘Turning Towards Life‘, our weekly 30 minute deep dive into big questions of human living, Lizzie and I take up the topic of joy as a necessary orientation in human life.

What is it about joy, we wonder, that makes it different from ‘happiness’? How is it that the way we get obsessed with our difficulties, or with completing goals, interrupts our capacity to be in contact with the wonder of being alive? What were all the ways we got taught from a very young age that joy is somehow a distraction from the serious work of living and getting things done? And what if opening to joy is a radical political act, a deeper commitment that we can bring to everything as we start to be honest about the finite nature of our lives and our limited time?

In this weekly project from thirdspace coaching we dive deep in a live, inspiring, unscripted 30 minute conversation. Our aim – to learn as much as we teach, to discover as we go, and to give support to all of us in turning towards our lives with depth and creativity rather than turning away.

Here’s the source for this week’s conversation:

And For No Reason – Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

For no reason
I start skipping like a child.

For no reason
I turn into a leaf
That is carried so high
I kiss the Sun’s mouth
And dissolve.

For no reason
A thousand birds
Choose my head for a conference table,
Start passing their
Cups of wine
And their wild songbooks all around.

For every reason in existence
I begin to eternally,
To eternally laugh and love!

When I turn into a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve in the Truth
That I Am.

We’re live every Sunday morning at 9am UK time. You can join our facebook group to watch live, view archives, and join in the growing community and conversation that’s happening around this project.

Photo Credit: kaddisudhi via Compfight cc



In the Jewish tradition, any story is an invitation to interpretation, to imagination, to invention. You read a story not so much for what’s true in it, as for what can be imagined into the spaces. So a straightforward story can become the launching point for wildly differing interpretations, all of which are held alongside one another even if they’re paradoxical, mysterious or downright contradictory.

It’s a tradition known as midrash and it embodies a commitment to see things from many angles, to have many different kinds of explanations for what might initially look obvious and simple. In midrash there’s no such thing as a story with a monopoly on the truth.

Often, it’s helpful to do midrash with your own life, with your work, with your relationships.

You probably already have habitual ways of explaining who you are, who others are, what’s happening, and what’s possible. Perhaps you currently have only one telling available to you, one that’s so familiar, so trusted, you can’t even tell that it’s there.

Making midrash from your own life involves starting to tell a different story from the one you’re currently telling. Maybe you’re not the righteous, wounded hero after all. Perhaps they’re not out to get you, but are trying to help. Maybe you’re not as in control of your life as you think – or perhaps you’re much more in control already than you knew. Maybe it is possible for you to be someone who asks for what you want. Perhaps there’s a contribution you’re making that you can’t see because of your self-critical stories. Maybe life has an invitation for you that’s not going to come from trying harder and harder until you work yourself into the ground.

These are just a few of the stories you might have about yourself and life, and a few of the alternatives you could start to imagine. You could also ask others how they’d tell the story of your situation – great midrash can begin simply from here.

Even if you have only one way of explaining your life, it’s already midrash, already just one interpretation of many that are possible.

So much opens, and so much suffering can be avoided, when you stop believing your own stories as the only truth.

Photo Credit: Renaud Camus via Compfight cc

Waiting for Events to Save Us

Here’s episode 34 of ‘Turning Towards Life’ episode with Lizzie Winn: ‘Practice, Not Events’. In this episode we talk about the events that can shape a life, and the mistake we make when we wait for events to save us. What comes instead, we wonder, when we hold on less tightly to what happens and dedicate ourselves to a life of dedicated practice? Along the way we talk about near-death experiences, weddings, and organisational change.

In this weekly project from thirdspace coaching we dive deep in a live, inspiring, unscripted 30 minute conversation. Our aim – to learn as much as we teach, to discover as we go, and to give support to all of us in turning towards our lives with depth and creativity rather than turning away.

Here’s the source for this week’s conversation, from an earlier post on this blog.

Practice, Not Events

Between June 2011 and the following July I had three close encounters with death. Three life punctuating events brought about by sudden and unexpected changes within my body, each shocking and frightening, each a reminder of how fragile and unpredictable life can be.

As I recovered from each episode I expected – hoped – that I would in some way be profoundly different. I wanted so much to find myself more grateful, more accepting, more joyful of life’s many small blessings, less judgmental, less afraid, less irritated by small things, more kind, and more dedicated to being present and welcoming and loving with the people who matter to me.

But it didn’t work out so simply. I emerged from each experience blinking and shaken and grateful, and soon settled back into many of my familiar patterns.

Over time I’ve found myself thinking about this differently. What happens if I allow these experiences to inform the way I live rather than expecting them to change me? How can I, having encountered the possibility of death so closely, use my experience to commit fully and wisely and generously to life?

In taking on this question I’m finding out that the change I seek is a question of practice rather than of events. And that I am an ongoing process much more than I am a thing with enduring properties, an object that is a particular way. I live myself into being, day after day. I am always living myself into being by the very ways in which I live.

How I move, how much I take care of myself, how I express curiosity and interest in the world, how I speak and listen, how I sleep, how I sing and laugh, how I play and create, how I bind myself up in community, how I practice compassion and stillness, how I love, how I work – all these shape the life I am living and who I become, far more than the punctuating events themselves.

And this tells me so much about the mistaken ways in which I look for change in myself and in my relationships with others. When I mistake life for a thing I imagine an event of sufficient power will do it. An affecting conversation, a kiss, a show of force, a book with a revelatory idea in it, an illness, a windfall, a conference, an argument, the right gift, or a brush with death will fix things, in the same way that I might fix a dented metal bowl by attempting to knock it into shape. But when I know myself as a living, unfolding process, events take up their proper place as teachers rather than fixers, educating me about the ongoing practices by which I can take care of this one precious life.

The more I imagine events alone will do it, the more I set myself up for the despair and frustration that comes from relying on something that cannot help.

And the more I commit to the ongoing, long-term, diligent and patient practice of living in a way that brings life, the more genuine reason I have to hope.

We’re live this Sunday morning at 9am UK time. You can join our facebook group to watch live, view archives, and join in the growing community and conversation that’s happening around this project.