Seeing to the Heart

Here’s episode 55 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

This week we take up parenting as a question, inspired by a poem from William Martin. Our definition of parenting is broad here as we ask each other what it takes to guide anyone into the world – our children, other people’s children, our families, colleagues, friends and even our own parents. In the midst of our conversation we consider what it is to actively choose what it is of ourselves we want to transmit to one another – rather than asking what behaviour we want to get from others. And we wonder together about how to drop the ‘image management’ it’s so easy to get into when our super-egos (or ‘inner critics’) run the show.

Seeing to the Heart

Some behaviour in your children will seem “good” to you.
Other behaviour will seem unequivocally “bad”.
Notice both in your children
without being overly impressed by one
nor overly dismayed by the other.
In doing so you will be imitating the Tao
which sees our behaviour as a mask
and sees immediately beneath it
to the good within our heart.

Above all, do not attack your child’s behaviour
and attempt to change it
by endless talking and scolding.
Stay at your centre and look beneath the behaviour
to the heart of the child.
There you will find only good.
When you see the heart
you will know what to do.

by William Martin (from the The Parent’s Tao Te Ching)

 

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Organisations, projects, and our capacity to forget our own humanity

You may know the story of the Tower of Babel. A whole generation of people, those who have grown up after a world-devastating flood, conspire together to build a sky-tower like none ever seen before and are punished and dispersed across the world for their hubris and arrogance.

Our hubris, problematic? Yes, when it dislocates us from the rich biological and social world of which we are an indivisible part, when we over-extend ourselves in pursuit of our wants with no heed to the consequence and impact.

But the story itself is problematic if taken as a caution against human boldness and creativity, because these are the very qualities we most need in order to bring about a world in which we can all live.

It is our capacity to imagine, to invent, and then to act in cooperation with others that have brought about medical, technological, social and political advances that have transformed the quality of life for billions. Confidence in our ability, acted upon with due consideration of the wider world, is no compromise of our humanity but a dignified and important expression of it.

In an imaginative retelling from the 1st century work of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, there are no stones available to build the tower, and so thousands of people are marshalled to bake bricks until the construction is some miles high. Those with new bricks climb the tower on the eastern side, and those who descend go down on the western side.

Sometimes a person climbing up or down falls. When a person drops to their death, nobody notices. But when a person falls with a brick the workers sit down and weep, not for the life lost but because they do not know when another brick will come in its place.

In this interpretation the compromise to our humanity comes not through building itself, but through the way in which we build. Or, said another way, our projects can bring about great changes in the material world at the same time as they bring about great changes in our social and inner worlds. We are inevitably shaped both by what we do and by the manner in which we do it.

The danger here is not that we hope and dream and build and make and create. The danger that Eliezer is so keen to point out to us is that we easily do so without paying sufficient attention to the kind of people we are becoming through the doing. We become means-to-an-end, objects, ‘it’ instead of ‘I’, ‘it’ instead of ‘you’.

In this reading the story of Babel is a reminder of our endless capacity to forget ourselves and others as human beings even as we pursue our most human of goals.

Photo Credit: ‘J’ via Compfight cc

The Dakini Speaks

Here’s episode 54 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

This week, in a week of further news about the mess we’re in with climate change and the urgency and despair all of that can generate, we begin with the poem ‘The Dakini Speaks’ by Joyce Wellwood. We talk together about the various ‘deals’ with life that we take up – ways of being that we imagine will protect us – and how living in the midst of such deals can distance ourselves from our lives and from our contribution.

We consider together the bracing possibility that owning up to the limits of our control, growing up into a more mature appraisal of life’s losses and impermanence, can free us into a deeper kind of hope – one that’s not contingent on how things turn out. And we explore together the necessary kind of wildness in ourselves that this all calls for.

The Dakini Speaks

My friends, let’s grow up.

Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.

Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.

Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.

It’s simple – how could we have missed it for so long?

Let’s grieve our losses fully, like human ripe beings.

But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.

Let’s not act so betrayed,

As though life had broken her secret promise to us.

Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,

And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.

To a child, she seems cruel, but she is only wild,

And her compassion exquisitely precise.

Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,

She strips away the unreal to show us the real.

This is the true ride – let’s give ourselves to it!

Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage –

There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.

We are not children anymore.

The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.

Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope.

by Joyce Wellwood

 

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

 

Undefended

Here’s episode 53 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch future episodes live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

In this episode we take up the enormous possibilities that come when we can find a way to drop our defences in the face of feedback from other people, and whatever gift may be hidden within while maintaining our own dignity and the dignity of the other while we do.

Along the way we laugh together at how messy we can be as human beings, the cost of walking around in life with our defences up all the time, and the kindness we have to show to ourselves if we are going to allow ourselves to open to the wonders that can be learned from other people.

The source which is our leaping-off point is written specially for us by Lizzie.

Undefended – by Lizzie Winn

Undefended.

When someone tells you that you fell short, that you did not reach the standard. That how you are behaving or who you are being is not working for them. What you did was wrong. When criticism comes and hits you right in the heart, where it hurts most.

The defence system rises up to protect. All the responses that push away come to the surface and turn into language and action. All the things that could be said to attack back. A route worked out to escape and hide. Deny and avoid, attack and divert.

All so I don’t have to feel the feelings of inadequacy, failure, deficiency, half-bakedness. And face my own self-criticism, self-hatred, self-disappointment. Better to direct it outwards rather than inwards.

This is an invitation to experiment with undefendedness. An ‘in the moment’ invitation to breathe and find space. To let the criticism wash over us like the wind that passes through trees.

We see it and feel it, but allow it to pass and give ourselves the opportunity to really hear the person in front of us and take it all seriously without defending or attacking back.

And we gently open to what might be being brought to us as if it was a gift.

We open to finding the small spaces in between ‘the happening’, ‘the reaction’, and ‘the response’.

So that maybe…… just maybe, we don’t have to believe our story of deficiency that gets poked by others’ criticism.

And we can stand, undefended, unapologetic, responsible and guiltless, admitting to our humanity and imperfection without collapsing, fighting or blaming.

And here it is that I can accept what’s in front of me, welcome it even (however badly wrapped) and receive the gift of becoming more open. More vulnerable, more undefended and more loving to myself and others – in words and in action.

Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

Telling Ourselves the Truth

Here’s the first birthday episode, number 52, of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.

You can join our members-only facebook group here to watch future episodes live and join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

In this episode we take up the topic of truthfulness with ourselves. We talk about how our efforts to turn away from what’s true about our experience can be a kind of violence to ourselves. And how easily that becomes a way we suppress the truth of others’ experience.

Along the way we consider how the life-giving and dignity-bestowing act of honesty with ourselves can open up the possibility of a deep welcome to others and to life itself.

Telling Ourselves the Truth – by Justin Wise

The more I look, the more it seems to me that among the most personally damaging acts each of us can take is that of turning away from truth.

I’m not talking grand universal truths here – the kind that people claim apply across time and space and across people. It’s quite easy to see that establishing truth in this way is fraught with difficulty.

No, I’m talking about something more basic and immediate: what’s true about this moment, this experience, from the place in which you stand.

If you pay attention, it’s not so difficult to tell when you’re turning away from truth in this way. The truth that you are sad, or joyful, or angry, or despondent, touched or numb, feeling whole or split apart. The truth that this is difficult or painful for you. Or the truth that this is bringing you to life.

The truth that these thoughts you are thinking, whatever they are, are what you are thinking. The truth that what you’re feeling in your body is what you’re feeling. The truth that this place is where you are, and that what you are doing is what you are doing.

When we deny these simple, basic truths to ourselves and others – when we speak of ourselves inwardly or publicly with deliberate inaccuracy – we assault our own integrity. And we cause ourselves tangible harm, in our minds and in our bodies, by putting ourselves at odds with ourselves, fuelling the inner battles that pull us apart.

And then being whole again requires a kind of return, a turning back to the part of ourselves that understands how things really are. A turning back to something simple, and straightforward, the heart of which we’ve known all along.

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash