On Being a Path-Maker

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We human beings are both path-makers and path-followers. Both are important, but it’s our innate capacity to follow paths that makes possible so much of what we are able to do, and gives it its character.

Notice this in your own home. How the door handle draws you to open the door, how the kitchen table is an invitation to sit, how the half-full fridge calls you to open its doors and find something to eat. Notice how a library is a place you find yourself hushed and reverential, how you push and shove to take up your place on a crowded train even though you would do this nowhere else, how you rise in unison to shout at a football game, how the words on the page guide you through the speech you are giving even when you’re not concentrating closely on them, how you quicken your step in a darkened alley, how you find yourself having driven for hours on a busy motorway without remembering what actions and choice any of the minutes entailed.

Our capacity to follow the paths laid out for us is no deficiency. That the paths support us in the background, and that we do not have to think about them, is what frees us for so much of what is creative and inventive in human life – including our capacity to design entirely new paths for ourselves and others.

To be human, then, is always in a large part to find ourselves shaped by what we find ourselves in the midst of.

It is all of this that exposes the limits of our individualistic understanding of ourselves and others – an understanding we use to make sense of so much of what happens in our lives. For when we are sure that it is the individual who is the source of all actions and behaviour, we are blind to the paths that we find ourselves in the midst of, and the possibility that we might lay out other paths as a way of supporting ourselves. And we tend to over-emphasise the role of individual will-power as a way to resolve things or change things.

And as long as we concentrate only on getting ourselves to change, or to muster up more ‘will’, we miss the opportunity to work together to change or lay out the new paths which could help us.

Indeed, working to change the paths that lend themselves to whatever difficulty we wish to address may be the most important work we can do. And this always includes our developing – together – the skills and qualities that support us in being purposeful path-makers in the first place.

Photo by Felipe Santana on Unsplash

Waiting to Know

Waiting until you know for sure what’s going to happen – where people are involved – means waiting for ever.

With machines, it’s easy. With sufficient understanding of mechanics you can often predict exactly what’s going to happen. Cause and effect, straightforward to establish.

But human situations are nothing like that, even though we pretend to ourselves that they might be.

Take a meeting, for example.

Should you speak up about what’s on your mind? Now? Later? What effect will it have on your colleagues? On the decision to be made?

You cannot know for sure.

Whatever insight you have about the situation can only ever be partial. You can’t know what’s going on for others. You can’t know what they are thinking of saying. And you can’t know – even if you know them well – how they will respond to your speaking.

You have to act knowing that you’re speaking into an unknowable situation. And that speaking up will, in all likelihood, change something, at the very least for you.

But staying quiet is an act too, changing things no less than speaking up. So you have no choice but to be an actor, whatever you do, and however much you pretend it is not the case.

We get ourselves into trouble when we forget all of this. We imagine that we can only act when we are able to predict the outcomes of our actions. Or we blame and judge ourselves and others when things don’t turn out the way we expected.

And all the while we’re holding back our contribution, our insight, our knowledge, our creativity, our unique perspective because we’ve set ourselves standards of understanding that were never – could never be – reached.

Photo Credit: fliegender via Compfight cc

 

The Abandoned Parts of Ourselves

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Dear readers. New writing is in the works!

Meanwhile, the Turning Towards Life project continues to dive deep into big questions of human living. If you haven’t joined us yet, I invite you to explore this week’s conversations and the growing archive on the links below. Over the past 74 weeks we’ve explored some fascinating topics that can contribute to a more full engagement with the joys and difficulties of being a person.

Last week, in ‘The Seven of Pentacles‘, we talked about seeing through the stories we have about life that have us either be too small (and which have us give up) or too big (when we demand that the world goes just our way); what it is to see that most of life doesn’t unfold in a ’cause and effect’ way; patience; participation in life as a way of meeting life; and ‘living as if you liked yourself’ – finding our goodness in the midst of everything that happens.

This week, in ‘The Abandoned Parts of Ourselves‘, we talk about adult development, about the loyalties to particular ways of doing things that we enter into during childhood, and about what it is to find ourselves free – to a greater or lesser extent – to pursue what is increasingly ‘ours’ to do in the world. Along the way we grapple with the many kinds of orthodoxy that shape us throughout life – family, religious, societal – and explore together how we might turn our loyalties to them into a bigger kind of loyalty which takes in life itself. We end with a consideration of the support and community that can help us find a life that feels true and real and which can joyfully welcome the parts of us that our loyalties – up until now – have had us turn away from.

What to Remember When Waking

The latest conversation in the ‘Turning Towards Life’ project, What to Remember When Waking is here.

This week – how to live in the middle of life’s mystery without being swallowed by fear, or losing touch with ourselves, how to have our lives be informed by the depth and imagination of our sleeping dreams, and what it is to find a way to be a gift back to the life that is a gift to us. Our source this week is by the poet David Whyte.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Muted

Because we are story-telling beings, we humans have a million ways of avoiding being present to what is right in front of us – people, projects, possibilities, suffering – and what is within us – thoughts, feelings, and the sensations and wisdom arising in our bodies.

We so easily spin stories, throw ourselves into guilt and reminiscence about the past, worry about and try to anticipate the future. And while each of these have their place, they so easily distract us from what we’re most directly in the midst of.

Missing what and who is here robs us of the opportunity to experience life in its richness as we go.

More importantly for everyone else, it denies us the opportunity to bring ourselves at our fullest. Because in our distraction, we respond not to the needs of the moment, but to the needs of our fear, or to our wish to not have to face the world as it is.

Our deepest possibilities for connection and contribution are muted – whenever here is not where we are, and now is not what we’re responding to.

Photo Credit: firexbrat via Compfight cc

See Paris First

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The latest conversation in the ‘Turning Towards Life’ project, ‘See Paris First, episode 71, is here.

This week we take up the topic of fear, and how our avoidance of it can shrink our lives. We consider together what it takes to live in an ever larger world of both meaning and contribution, and how that nearly always calls on us to move towards what we’re most afraid of.

As we go we talk about the ways in which fear draws us away from our capacity to respond to what’s actually happening now, the kindness to ourselves that’s required to work with all of this, the perils of living in a narrative of ‘self-improvement’, how it is that our fears are also a kind of loyalty to something that matters or mattered, and the ‘leaving home’ that’s required to find a new and more spacious home in which we can live.

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac

Here’s Episode 68 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, the urgency of belonging to the world, inspired by a poem by Mary Oliver, who died this week. Lizzie and Justin talk about the power of ongoing practices to shape the world; the many ways in which we’re taught that we’re in some way separate from things, and what we might do about that; what it is to feel safe, even when life is risky; and the gifts that we make to others when we find it in ourselves to write, or teach, or speak – in one way or another to make art.

The Fourth Sign Of The Zodiac (Part 3)
by Mary Oliver

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

True listening is worship

Here’s Episode 67 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.

Our conversation for this week begins with a piece by John O’Donohue, from his beautiful book ‘Anam Cara‘.

True listening is worship

It is lovely to have the gift of hearing. It is said that deafness is worse than blindness, because you are isolated in an inner world of terrible silence. Even though you can see people and the world around you, to be outside the reach of sound and the human voice is very lonely. There is a very important distinction to be made between listening and hearing. Sometimes we listen to things, but we never hear them. True listening brings us in touch even with that which is unsaid and unsayable. Sometimes the most important thresholds of mystery are places of silence.

To be genuinely spiritual is to have great respect for the possibilities and presence of silence. Martin Heidegger says that true listening is worship. When you listen with your soul, you come into rhythm and unity with the music of the universe.

Through friendship and love, you learn to attune yourself to the silence, to the thresholds of mystery where your life enters the life of your beloved and their life enters yours.

John O’Donohue – Anam Cara

Photo by Jenny Marvin on Unsplash

Dancing With Me in My Kitchen

Here’s Episode 66 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.

One of the weirdest and yet most understandable features of being a human being is how we’ll box ourselves in to an identity – a particular way of being in the world that allows this but doesn’t allow that; a way that we lay out familiar territory for ourselves, fiercely bounded by shame and self-criticism, that easily stops us from bringing ourselves fully to life and from experiencing all that life is bringing us in each moment.

This is our topic for this week, inspired by Anthony Wilson‘s poem ‘When the Holy Spirit Danced With Me in My Kitchen’. The poem is below, and you can read Anthony’s generous and moving response to our conversation here on his blog.

When the Holy Spirit Danced With Me in My Kitchen

the first thing I noticed was his arms,
thick and hairy like a bricklayer’s
with a tattoo of an anchor
as Churchill had.

‘Coming for a spin?’ he grinned,
in an accent more Geordie than Galilee,
and he whirled me
through tango, foxtrot and waltz
without missing a beat.

‘You’re good,’ I said.  ‘Thanks,’
he said, taking two glasses to the tap.
‘You’re not so bad yourself,
for someone with no sense of rhythm
and two left feet.’
He gave me a wink.

‘It’s all in the waist.
The movement has to start there
or it’s dead.’

‘You’ll find it applies to most things,’
he went on, grabbing the kettle.
‘Writing, cooking, kissing,
all the things you’re good at,
or think you are.’
He winked again.

‘You don’t mind me asking,’ I said,

‘but why are you here?’

‘I thought it was about time,’

he said. ‘I mean, you’ve been full stretch,
haven’t you, what with your job,
feeling like a taxi for the kids,
your family living far away,
and you ‘in your head’ all the time
as you said to someone last week.’

I looked at him and nodded.

‘Go on.’

‘I was going to.’
He got down some mugs.
‘Let’s say I was concerned about you.
The thing is, the three of us,
we like you a lot.
We think you’ve got real potential
as a human.  You’re kind and humorous.
You’re also a little scatty.
We like that.  By the way, that fish curry
you made on Saturday was first class.’

‘You know about that?’
‘Everything you get up to,’
he smiled.  ‘It’s nothing to panic about.
Really.  To tell you the truth
you could do with loosening up a little.
Try not beating yourself up the whole time.
A little less rushing everywhere
would do you good, too.’

‘I thought you might say that.’

‘Look at me,’ he said.

‘I came to say:
Keep Going, and Relax.
Also: keep things simple.
If you are doing one thing,
do that thing.  If you are talking
with someone, listen to them,
do not blame them for being hard work.
Write as if you were not afraid,
and love in this way too.
Be patient with everyone, especially
your relations, who (I can assure you)
think you are rather special.
Make big decisions slowly, and small decisions
fast.  Do not make bitterness your friend.
Pray (I will not mind if you use
made up words for this.)
Garrison was right: ‘Why
have good things you don’t use?’
What you have been given to do,
give yourself to it completely,
only by emptying yourself can you become full.’

by Anthony Wilson from Full Stretch

Photo by Ali Kanibelli on Unsplash

The Best Thing for Being Sad

Here’s Episode 65 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 talk about learning. Not the kind of learning that fills us with facts, but the kind of learning that allows us to open ourselves to more spacious interpretations of our lives, and which helps us to take new kinds of action and enter into relationships that are more truthful, compassionate and alive.

Along the way we talk about what it is to have a kind of ‘critical reflection’ about our own lives, about the gift that human beings can be to one another when we share our stories and when we can hold our stories ‘lightly’ enough to neither abandon them too quickly nor be rigid about them. And we consider how doing this together – in community wherever we can find it – is necessary for cultivating the courage, hopefulness and care that the world calls for.

Here’s our source:

The Best Thing for Being Sad

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn… “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails.

You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins… you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – to learn.

Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you.”

— T H White, from The Once and Future King, quoted by Parker Palmer in ‘The Courage to Teach

Photo by Ali Kanibelli on Unsplash

Increasing Light in the Coming Year

I wrote this post in December 2016 when, unusually, Christmas and the Jewish winter festival of Chanukah exactly coincided. This year Chanukah was over in early December, but the rest of the content seems just as relevant today as it did two years ago. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and that it will be useful to you in the coming year, and that 2019 brings many forms of goodness and opportunities to contribute, to everyone.

Today, the final day of 2016, is both the seventh day of Christmas and the seventh day of the Jewish festival of Chanukah. The two festivals coincide only about every 30 years or so, when a combination of factors pushes the Jewish year – in which the months turn by the cycles of the moon – later into the Gregorian calendar than usual.

Chanukah always falls in the week with the longest, darkest nights of the year, straddling the new moon that falls close to the winter solstice. As with winter festivals marked by many traditions, it’s concerned with our capacity and responsibility to bring light to the dark.

And so, after starting with one candle last Saturday and adding a candle each night, people all over the world will tonight be lighting eight candles to mark the final night of Chanukah and, coincidentally, the final night of this calendar year.

As the rabbis who shaped Chanukah some 1600 years ago said, it’s our responsibility to gather light, to increase light, and to be light. It’s harder to see this in those times when the world itself seems shining with hope and possibility. But in the darker hours, when the sun is down and even the moon is obscured from view, we see the darkness itself more clearly. And we see how easy it is, when we’re gripped by fear or self-righteousness, to wittingly or unwittingly contribute to its spread.

As we end a calendar year that has seen an upsurge in the politics of division and fear, a new legitimacy given to voices – in Western democracies at least – of prejudice and rage and suspicion of the ‘other’, and the election in the US of a powerful, narcissistic leader with a fragile ego, let’s remember our human responsibility to increase the light around us and between us.

Let’s increase it with art and poetry.

Let’s bring light by being fierce advocates for reason, critical thinking, and science. By learning, ceaselessly. By feeling, fully and truly. By reading, widely. By overcoming our self-diminishment enough to say what’s called for.

Let’s bring light by giving up treating ourselves and others as objects, or commodities, or means-to-an-end. By opening to one another.

Let’s bring light by giving up using language as a way to cover up truth in our organisations, our institutions, our schools, our families. And let’s do it by giving up the cover of ‘it’s only business’, or ‘that’s just the way politics goes’, or ‘it’s my truth’ as a way to gain power over others or to silence them.

Let’s bring light by finding out how to be ones around whom others’ hearts soar, around whom others can find out what’s uniquely theirs to bring and then bring it without shame, or self-reproach.

Let’s do it with song.

Let’s bring light by getting over our self-pity, our resentment, our sense of how unfair it is that our lives are whatever way they are.

Let’s bring light by learning how to listen to, and speak with, ever wider circles of people who have lives, commitments, and beliefs very different to our own. And by standing for kindness, and dignity, being a force for the elevation of life rather than the diminishment of it.

Let’s bring light by dedicating ourselves to projects and commitments that are bigger than our own comfort, and bigger than our own personal gain.

Let’s remember that we can only do this hard and necessary work by being committed to our ongoing development. And that we can be at our most wise and compassionate only when we do all this with the help of one another.

Photo Credit: ShellyS Flickr via Compfight cc

Stuck on the bus

I know, you’re stuck on a crowded bus, in a boring meeting, in a traffic jam, washing the dishes, doing your expenses, waiting for the cashier.

I know, from here, life seems pretty boring, mundane, lifeless even. I know, it seems like what matters is happening somewhere, to other people right now.

I know how often I am caught in seeing life that way.

But perhaps that’s mostly because we imagine, or at least feel like, we’re going to live forever.

But if you were dead, if you were no longer around, if you were offered just one minute more of life, and it had to be this moment in the queue, in the bus, in the meeting, with the dishes, would you take it?

I’m sure I would.

Then you might see this humdrum moment for the absolute wonder that it is – filled with enormous possibilities for curiosity, discovery, and purposeful action. Or for just looking in amazement.

And if your answer was yes, is there any chance you might start seeing things this way, at least occasionally, in the life you already have?

Photo by Edgar on Unsplash

When We Mistake Who We Are

Here’s Episode 64 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 talk about how we might understand the mystery of being human. So often we both find ourselves in a place of real confusion, and it’s tempting while there to treat the confusion as something wrong – either with life or with ourselves. We know this is true of many other people too.

But there are bigger narratives to step into when life seems a mystery, or when things are breaking down around us and within us. One powerful and stretching source of different perspectives is the 13th century Zen teacher Dogen. Our source for this week begin’s with Dogen’s suggestion that we are all a kind of ‘time’, and follows with some questions and interpretation by our friend and colleague James Flaherty.

The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world. See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time.

Things do not hinder one another, just as moments do not hinder one another. The way-seeking mind arises in this moment. A way-seeking moment arises in this mind. It is the same with practice and with attaining the way. Thus the self setting itself out in array sees itself. This is understanding that the self is time. 

-From the essay “Uji” by Dogen (1200 – 1253), philosopher and Zen teacher

When we mistake who we are, we hopelessly strive to protect ourselves, fruitlessly attempt to defend what we feel we need to maintain ourselves and, at the deepest level, feel unmet, unheld, unknown by the world. All of this because we define ourselves, feel ourselves, know ourselves as much too small and then insist that everyone submit to our definition and treat us as this smallness. All of this of course is quite normal and what our culture produces; nonetheless, it is the source of our discontent and our sharing that discontent with others—see dysfunctional families, territorial politics at work, wars, crime, violence… you get the picture.

Dogen, in the quote above, has a different possibility for us to enter into, a different path to take. What if we are the same being as the world? What if we are the same being as time is? Even if we think that world is limited (by the way, Dogen means the entire universe, not just the planet Earth) we know that time has no beginning or end that we can imagine. If we are time, which is inseparable from all other phenomena, then certainly we don’t have to defend, protect or feel relationally wounded.

And the answer to “How far do I extend?” is answered quite differently.

— by James Flaherty

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

A quiet and genuine joy

I remember the moment with gratitude, though it was tough at the time.

“You have no idea how self-judgemental you are”, Andy had said to me. And it had cut like a knife. But he was right. I was thirty-five years old and had over many years become seasoned to the harshness of the world.

I didn’t know it as harshness to be so filled with self-doubt and such worry about how I was doing all the time. It was just the way the world was. Unquestionable. Invisible. And I had no idea that it wasn’t so much the world that was harsh but my own inner experience.

Andy’s carefully timed observation was one of those moments when what had been in the background for so long came crashing into the foreground – when what I had been swimming in for so long was made apparent to me.

It was a doorway into a profoundly new world in which I began to see that most of what I thought others were thinking about me was actually what I was thinking about myself. And that I no longer had to believe everything I thought so completely.

Eleven years later, I’m still sometimes out-foxed by the shape-shifting cleverness of my inner critic. But I am more often, and more quickly, able to spot it and see through its ways of holding me back and of pulling me apart.

And, more and more, in the space that envelops me when it steps aside, I’m able to feel a quiet and genuine kind of joy.

Photo Credit: Kristofer Williams via Compfight cc

 

Can You Just Love Me Like This?

Here’s Episode 63 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 talk about poem Lizzie’s sister Hollie wrote which has gone viral in the past year. We believe it’s so popular because of how harshly we treat our bodies in our minds and hearts, and Hollie’s call for us to treat our bodies call with simple, powerful loving-kindness.

During our conversation we talk about what it is to know ourselves in a gentle way, to appreciate the miracle of an embodied life, and steps we might take to be less caught up in the punishing narrative of shame, self-improvement and comparison that fuels our understanding of our bodies at this point in history.

Today I asked my body what she needed,

which is a big deal

considering my journey of

not really asking that much.

I thought she might need more water.

or proteins.

or greens.

or yoga.

or supplements.

or movement.

But as I stood in the shower

reflecting on her stretch marks,

Her roundness where I would like flatness,

Her softness where I would prefer firmness,

All those conditioned wishes

that form a bundle of

Never-Quite-Right-Ness,

She whispered very gently:

Could you just love me like this?”

-Hollie Holden

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

Fear is Easy

Here’s Episode 62 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 begin with a source, Fear is Easy, written by Justin for his blog.

Our conversation covers the unavoidability of fear, how contagious it is, and the choices we must each make about whether to be uncritically ‘had’ by it, or whether to reach past it to bring forward other qualities that can help us to respond. Along the way we talk about the gifts we human beings can be to one another in the act of remembering – showing the others around us qualities they may have forgotten and turning, together, towards doing what’s called for rather than freezing, numbing ourselves, or turning away.

Fear is Easy

Fear is easy.

Really easy.

It spreads, like wildfire – my fear becoming your fear becoming their fear becoming my fear again.

It makes us feel special – if I’m so afraid, there must be important things to do, like saving myself or saving the company or saving the country. At last, because of fear, I have a role to play.

It makes things look simple – there is no choice here, no nuance, no time to talk together or think together about what’s really called for, or if we’re doing the right thing, or what the consequences over time might be. There is just action, this action, my action, and now.

It helps us look right – how dare you suggest another way, a different way? Can’t you see what’s at stake here? How risky this is? How much we have to lose?

It saves us from having to listen to one another – if you’re not with me you’re against me, and if you’re against me you must be wrong, and it’s because you’re wrong and all of those others of you who are wrong that we’re in this terrifying mess in the first place.

It saves us from having to think – that there might be another way to see this, that your point of view might have merit, or integrity, or something to offer.

It saves us from shame – at the ways I’m hurting you, or hurting myself, or hurting those who will come after us.

It sells – the idea that I’m the best, that my way is the right way, that we’re the chosen ones, that they’re out to get us, that you have to work harder, that you must never stop, that our values are under threat, that we have to do this vital but terrible thing, that after all it’s only business or politics or necessity.

It allows us to justify – these punishing targets, our culture of hyper-activity, my monitoring of your every move, the hours I expect you to work, our obsession with measurement and deliverables, my not listening, our race to the lowest common denominator, your being available at every moment, our treating others as objects.

Of course, fear works best when it doesn’t display itself as fear. It’s at its most potent when dressed up as civility, and best practice, and just-doing-business, and competency frameworks, and HR policy, and micro-management, and ‘smart’ goals, and this-is-work-not-a-playground-don’t-you-know.

Fear is easy, and fear is cheap, but it’s dignity that sets the human spirit free to contribute, and create, and address our difficulties, and listen, and change things, and improve our situation. And dignity takes work, and courage, and honesty, and sincerity, and integrity, and wisdom and compassion and humility and love.

Yes, love. Not a much-respected word in many organisations or in politics, and easily dismissed by the easy politics and business of fear. But it is indeed love that reminds us how brilliant human beings can be, how capable, how varied, how much there is to marvel at in our situation and our capacity, and how much we need all of this right now, just as we always have done.

by Justin Wise, from justinwise.co.uk

 

PhPhoto by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

 

Only One Wild Way

Here’s Episode 61 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 begin with a source written by Lizzie:

Only One Wild Way

Being broken open is the gateway to God
Letting creation in, allowing the Divine
Means living from a truly softened heart
And it means letting life have its way

It hurts and it’s physically painful
We tried to fight to keep it closed
There’s only one wild way to live once you’ve been opened
Like a can of sardines and the metal is sliced and the lid can’t be put back on again

There’s no shutting up shop
Backing into oblivion again
Not for an opened heart
Beaten around by life
By what happened
Who I’ve become
What they did
Who they are

And everything else

A heart once opened is like that forever
And maybe that’s what grief is made of

The love becomes fully obvious when the body is removed from our touch
And it’s hard to bear how much we love each other

It hurts to go direct
It pains to be truly and messily intimate
And as we wriggle into this space
Of deep connection
In all its Individual and specific glory

We find ourselves
Unseparated
Excruciatingly aligned with life itSelf
As it sears through us
And wipes us out
At the same time as bringing us to life
As our shell falls away
And we are mushy

Smashed to smithereens
We run the bath
Make dinner
Wonder what our loved ones might like for a Christmas gift
Put the bins out
And carry on

With our broken hearts leaking out love just about everywhere

 

Photo by Honey Fangs on Unsplash

 

Foundations of Coaching with me, Jan 21-22 2019, London

On January 21-22 I’ll be teaching our two-day introduction to coaching, an inspiring, moving, deeply practical exploration of ways to work compassionately in support of the development of others.

We meet in a lovely venue in London, in a small and intimate group, to enter into the possibilities of ‘integral development coaching’. There’ll be conversation, the philosophy of being human, music, coaching demonstrations, and a chance to practice. Many of the hundreds of people who’ve learned with us over the years say the two days are eye-opening, heart opening, and sometimes life changing.

And it’s a wonderful opportunity to get to meet some of the many of you who read, watch and follow here.

I’d be delighted if you chose to join me.

All the details are here.

On the economic narrative, and its limits

Behind any life, and any society, are numerous background narratives that give us a sense of who we are, who other people are, and what’s possible for us. They tell us how we can live, what’s of value, and how to relate to one another. And they tell us what’s important to pay attention to, and what’s marginal.

Sometimes the background narratives are visible and explicit in a family or community, such as the way in which biblical narratives give a sense of belonging and orientation to people who are part of some religious communities. But most often – even when there are visible and explicit narratives available – the narratives we actually live by are invisible, and we see them clearly only as an outsider entering a society for the first time, or when the narrative runs into trouble and starts producing unintended consequences.

For the last century or so in the West, we’ve lived in a background narrative that’s directed our attention most strongly towards what’s measurable, particularly what’s financially measurable, and has discounted almost everything else. The bottom line, financial return on investment, this quarter’s results – all have been taken for what’s ‘real’.

And at the same time, we’ve considered what’s not measurable largely ‘unreal’ – the quality of our inner lives, our relationships with others, supportive and close-knit communities, the care we give and receive, our capacity to nurture and appreciate beauty. We can’t pay much attention to these, we say, because in the ‘real world’ there are tough business decisions to make. There are profits to be made.

I’m not arguing that profit is somehow unreal, while beauty and care are real. That would be an equally narrow way of looking at the world. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer how our narrowness – our failure to appreciate and include all dimensions of human life in our businesses, institutions, and in our public discourse – is wreaking havoc in our present and seriously limiting our capacity to respond to the complexity of the future we’re creating. The shocking rise of inequality in even the richest of the worlds societies, the shaking of our financial systems, our seeming inability to respond creatively to climate change – all ought to have ourselves asking whether what we take to be unquestionably true about how to live is, really, deeply questionable.

We urgently need to expand our horizons – to start to take seriously that which we’ve marginalised in the relentless colonisation of all aspects of human life by the narrative of economics.

Photo by Freddie Collins on Unsplash

How to be Happy

Here’s Episode 60 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 talk about how the suffering that comes from comparison (with others, with imagined future selves), and we examine together ways in which it might be possible to live with an alternative orientation of acceptance of our wonderful, messy humanity. Along the way we have a laugh together about this crazy being-a-person we all find ourselves in the middle of, and we consider the role of others in helping each of us find a way to be in life that’s less punishing and more dignified.

Our source this week is from ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet‘ by Matt Haig:

How to be Happy

1. Do not compare yourself to other people.
2. Do not compare yourself to other people.
3. Do not compare yourself to other people.
4. Do not compare yourself to other people.
5. Do not compare yourself to other people.
6. Do not compare yourself to other people.
7. Do not compare yourself to other people.

How to be Happy (2)

DON’T COMPARE YOUR actual self to a hypothetical self.

Don’t drown in a sea of ‘what if’s.

Don’t clutter your mind by imagining other versions of you, in parallel universes, where you made different decisions. The internet age encourages choice and comparison, but don’t do this to yourself. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy,’ said Theodore Roosevelt.

You are you. The past is the past. The only way to make a better life is from inside the present. To focus on regret does nothing but turn that very present into another thing you will wish you did differently.

Accept your own reality.

Be human enough to make mistakes.

Be human enough not to dread the future.

Be human enough to be, well, enough.

Accepting where you are in life makes it so much easier to be happy for other people without feeling terrible about yourself.

from ‘‘Notes on a Nervous Planet‘ by Matt Haig

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

 

Breathing Life Into the World

Here’s Episode 59 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 on Sundays at 9am UK and to join in the lively comment conversation on this episode. You can also watch previous episodes there, and on our YouTube channel.

This week: how vulnerable and lost we human beings can feel, and how our attempts to distract ourselves from this and to appear ‘ok’ only tend to make things worse for us and those around us. We consider the life-giving possibilities of sharing our fears and confusions with others, what it is to trust that we’re always part of something way bigger than ourselves, and the freedom that comes from knowing that being alive is always to be bringing something new into the world – even when we can’t feel it and don’t know what it is.

Our source this week is from the 13th-century Sufi mystic and poet Rumi:

The body is like mary 
And each of us has a Jesus inside.

Who is not in labour, holy labour ?
Every creature is.

See the value of true art when the earth or soul is in the mood to create beauty,

For the witness might then for a moment know beyond any doubt,

God is really there within,
So innocently drawing life from or with her umbilical universe,

Though also needing to be born. Yes God also needs to be born,

Birth from a hands loving touch, birth from a song breathing life into this world.

The body is like mary and each of us, each of us has a Christ within.

– Rumi

 

from ‘The Purity of Desire: 100 Poems of Rumi‘ by Daniel Landinsky

Photo by Šárka Jonášová on Unsplash

 

The Midlife Journey

Here’s Episode 58 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 explore together those giant transitions in life where we get remade from the outside in and from the inside out, if we’ll only let ourselves. We talk about some of the ways we resist being changed – out of fear and shame – and how life conspires in myriad ways to keep teaching us what we need to learn. And we consider the vital role of elders and community in helping one another to let go and step more fully into the lives that are calling us, and in finding the courage and making the unique contribution each of us is here to make.

Our source this week is from ‘Hidden Blessings‘ by Jett Psaris:

The Midlife Journey

Generally we cannot take the midlife journey before midlife. It takes actual life experience for our constructed self, our ego, to mature. And, paradoxically, it takes ego strength to go through ego dissolution. We have to have the strong ego built during the first half of our lives in order to make the midlife transformation because the ego must involve itself in its own metamorphosis by failing to take us into the next stage of life…

The impulse to avoid the journey is understandable… Many of us will cling to our old lives while looking for a guarantee that new lives are possible and will be better. Even as the old well is drying up we try to maintain our lives until the passage disables us altogether. Or we rearrange the furniture of our lives to try to make things better: we trade in an old spouse for a fresher model or scurry out of our own lives into someone else’s in hopes of reviving the selves we have known up until this point…

When we arrive at midlife torn, confused, desperate, burned out, unmotivated, or fearful, what we don’t yet understand is that there isn’t any more life force in our old habits and patterns because we have used it all up! A new direction is needed. It is unimaginable to us that the old system is actually not reparable. But at midlife we undergo radical change; our old way of being is not something we can tweak and rejuvenate. We need to start over from the ground up. It is not an opportunity for a fresh start; it is a mandate for one. Carl Jung wrote, “we walk in shoes too small for us.” If we resist the call to transform at midlife, all the makeup, money, and medications in the world won’t stem our grief over having aborted the possibility of living the authentic, soul-centered life that belongs uniquely to us.

from ‘Hidden Blessings‘ by Jett Psaris

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Schooled away from Gratitude

nicole-honeywill-424236-unsplash

We are systematically schooled away from gratitude.

It begins as soon as we start comparing ourselves with each other. We learn to do this at school (there’s always a better grade we should be getting). And, later, our workplaces often draw on our comparisons with others as a way of having us push harder (forced-distribution performance ratings set this up in particular, see here for more on this).

Add to this the deeply ingrained understanding, in the West at least, that human beings are intrinsically broken and not to be trusted, expressed most fully in the work of Augustine (see this post for more). In an increasingly secular society we hardly see how much we’ve internalised this orientation, even as we feel and fear and hide our sense of incompleteness from others.

And we’re subject to an endless wheel of media and marketing that gnaws and needles at our capacity to trust what we have. There’s always something newer, cheaper, more fashionable to own, and a whole set of comparisons which go along with this. How back-to-front is it that the American festival of thanksgiving has – at least in the UK where I’m writing – been expressed entirely as Black Friday, a chance to buy more and fuel our sense of lack? It’s a manipulative reversal of the opening to life that giving thanks is intended to inspire.

Gratitude can be hard to find in all of this. We get caught up in our self-pity and comparison and fear, drawn to everything that is missing, all that somehow was denied to us. We find ourselves in the grip of an enormous misunderstanding that we keep under wraps because we’re afraid of admitting just how afraid it has us become.

But… we have more resources and more freedom than just about anyone before us in human history.

… we live in a period of unprecedented geological stability that greatly increases the otherwise infinitesimally small chances of any of us being here (see Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything for more on this).

… and we are given the gift of a life that we had to do nothing to get, and a body with which to move and express and feel and love and contribute.

Are we really going to keep on fueling our cynicism and despair? Or are we prepared to wake up to just how great are the treasures we are always in the midst of receiving?

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

 

Active Hope

Here’s episode 57 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 ask what it takes to take action in the world – to actually stand up, speak out, and put ourselves at risk. We explore together how shaky it can feel to do this, and how necessary in a world that deeply needs each of our gifts to be brought and contribution to be made. We wonder together what kind of faith in life, and what kind of sense of belonging with others, can help us to step out beyond the bounds of our own comfort and familiarity, and do our part to set things right.

Here’s our source, from Joanna Macy

Active Hope

Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued 
by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that
there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.

~ Joanna Macy

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

Vast

There is a part of me that is tender, hurt, grieving and super-sensitive. He feels like something very young. Of all the parts that make up this mysterious something that I call ‘I’, he is among the smallest.

Deeply loving, filled with emotion, he easily gets caught up in a story of abandonment. His fears are specific, and strongly predictive. ‘You’ll leave me’, he says. By ‘you’ he means just about anyone – friends, lovers, family, teachers – and bigger entities too – community, this country in which I live, life itself. And by ‘you’ he also means ‘me’ – the one of whom he is a part, the one who is his home.

‘You will abandon me’, he says, ‘and I will not be able to tolerate the loss itself, nor my grief at the loss. And what’s more, I know when I get abandoned it will be my fault. I’ll cause it by my actions, or by my inaction. Or because I was not able to prevent it’.

He’s onto something, of course. Loss is a given of any human life. He – as I, as you – will eventually lose everything and everyone that we love. And his grief and tenderness is real, and appropriate to the scale of the coming bereavement. But this part, so young and with such a small horizon, is scared to live in the world because the loss feels like it is now. The abandonment he fears, ever present.

He has some quite sophisticated strategies to try to head off the losses that terrify him. He wants me to feel his fear, always, so that we won’t make a mis-step. He’ll do his best for me not to feel, nor let on to feeling, the grief that he holds, nor any feelings that might make me vulnerable. He holds on very tight, and sometimes as a result I hold on very tight too. And he’s a master at getting his abandonment in first, finding ways I can get resentful and abandon other people before they can abandon me. He’s done this many many times – I have done this many times in his name. In a way, he feels vindicated when people do actually leave, because it shows that his world view, and his deep fear, are justified.

He wants us to live in a very narrow space of possibilities. He’s only open for being seen by others in a very particular way (only with love and appreciation, never with judgement) and if he doesn’t get seen this way he’s quickly wounded, withdrawn, sullen, quietly rageful or doing his best to manipulate others so that the world is back to the way he wants it.

Because this part is in such difficulty, he grabs my attention frequently. And when he does I identify with him. I take him to be me, and me to be him. And this is the big mistake. When he is in the driver’s seat I forget that there are things to feel that are different to what he is feeling, ways of seeing that are different to what he’s seeing, and different ways to act. When I think I am him, I am at my smallest and most afraid.

Over time I have come to see that my work is one of self-remembering. Remembering that I am vast. That I contain multitudes. That as well as this part, there are others. And that my work is not to turn away, not to run from this tiny scared part of me – it is so easy to push him away, to visit upon him the very abandonment that he fears – but to hold him close, to cradle him, to honour him and his gifts. It is my work to welcome him home. To say to him, “Yes, I see you. I have you. You are safe here. You cannot fall”.

And my work too is to know that, just as I know he is held in the vast something called ‘I’, I too am held in and am part of something vast that has no given name but might best be called ‘life’. When I know myself this way, as one expression of a phenomenon which brings me into being and out of which I cannot fall, I am freed from being a prisoner of my fear and available. I am freed to love in the way I want to love, to create, speak out, be vulnerable and intimate and angry and truthful and real and to risk the risks that are required to be fully alive, the very risks that he is too afraid for me to take.

Photo by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash

How to Tell the Truth

Here’s week 56 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 truth telling, which turns out to be a deep and rich subject. In our conversation we explore what it is to work against our own habits and preferences – always the move that makes development possible – and what it is to listen, deeply, even when we don’t want to. And we talk together about the life-giving possibilities of listening as if we’re wrong, even when we think we’re right.

Here’s our source:

How To Tell the Truth

When you just have to talk,
try being silent.

When you feel reluctant to say anything,
make the effort
to put what you’re feeling into words.

This is a place to begin.

Pushing gently
against the current
of your own impulses
is an effective technique
for dislodging
and discovering
your truth.

How to tell the truth?

Taste it
and remember the taste in your heart.

Risk it
from the bottom of your love.

Take the risk
of telling the truth
about what you’re feeling.

Take the risk
of telling your loved one
your secrets.

It’s true
you might be misunderstood.

Look and see
if you’re willing to trust
yourselves
to misunderstand each other
and go on from there.

When someone speaks to you
and you feel yourself not wanting to hear it
try letting it in.
You don’t have to agree that they’re right.
Just take the risk
of listening as if they could possibly be speaking
some truth—
and see what happens.

Listen as if.
Listen as if you can’t always tell
what the truth is.
Listen as if you might be wrong,
especially when you know you’re right.
Listen as if
you were willing to take the risk
of growing beyond
your righteousness.
Listen as if
love mattered.

By Paul Williams 

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

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