Month: March 2015
Gratitude helps quieten the mind and focus the heart.
Co-creation as Relationship
What does co-creation mean? Does it mean actually creating a tangible project together? Does it mean holding space for each other’s projects? Does it mean sharing knowledge and resources? Does it mean actively supporting each other in some way? Maybe it means all of the above.
Perhaps the true litmus test for co-creative potential is the strength of relationship between members of a community. How open and vulnerable do they feel with each other? How much do the know about each other’s true aspirations? How well do they understand each other? How much goodwill is between them? How much commonality? In this context their creativity becomes a shared resource even if their labor does not.
A Cup is a Cup
How can any object have a relationship to itself? It would seem that an object can have a relationship to anything but itself. Think about it, a cup does not have a relationship to itself. It is the cup. Thus anything that can be identified as something that can be in relationship with an object is not that object. This can be a little mind bending in consideration to oneself because so many things that we might usually associate with ourselves are actually things that we have a relationship with.
The question remains, *what* is having the relationship? What is in relationship to self? What is in relationship to others? If I am my self, then how can I have a relationship to self? This would imply an “other” other than my self with which to have a relationship. As an inverse corollary, we could ask, what is it that we cannot have relationship with? Anything that we cannot have relationship with must be that aspect which is having the relationship – otherwise we would be able to have a relationship with it.
As this aspect that has relationships with other things, we see the relationships but do not see our true nature because we do not have a relationship with it. We are it. We are the cup that does not see itself. Thus our true nature is elusive.
Given that there is some aspect that appears to have relationships that we are able to observe, I want explore the relationship to what is thought of as self. This relationship appears to be the one through which we perceive our other relationships, notably our relationships to others and our environment.
These three relationships – self, others, environment – intersect and deeply impact each other. It is, however, from the perspective of self that we are granted some form of agency with which to affect the other relationships. The choices we make are subject to this agency, and subsequently affect whether or not our actions are in harmony with the rest of life.
So what does it mean to have a relationship to self? How do I see through the noise of every day living to accurately gauge the state of this relationship? Realistically, my awareness is limited by my understanding. As a human I am already limited in my ability to understand certain things. Beyond that my awareness is constantly growing and expanding. How can I rely on that as a barometer of my relationship to self?
Perhaps I am trying to make tangible something that is not. I am trying to create a complete understanding of something that is an endless journey. How can such a journey ever have a complete understanding? The only understanding can be that our understanding is never complete.
So in an ever changing environment, with a constantly expanding awareness, what am I left with? What comes to mind is an intuitive sense of direction, a sense of what feels right. You might call it heart. Intuition seems intangible, but it’s experience is visceral. I think the best way to cultivate this sense is deep listening and receptivity. Paying attention and observing both the inner and outer landscape in any situation. Intuition is, almost by definition, a sense that emerges out of openness. A guiding attribute in an arena full of unknowns. If everything was known, you would most likely not need your intuition to navigate your course.
I recently took an amazing course on edX about something called Theory U. This is a methodology based on observing, listening to self, rapidly prototyping to learn more and repeating the process to continue making progress around a specific intention. They call this “leading from the emerging future.” The idea being that usually we base our decisions on data from the past. But things change so rapidly now, that that data is often out of date with the present situation. This theory posits that the best way to make informed decisions is through a process of trying to understand what the future wants to be. This is a method of cultivating receptivity, listening to it, rapidly testing your intuition, and moving forward in the interest of greatest harmony with oneself, others, and the planet.
The capacity to do this would seem to stem from an inner relationship. Why is this important? It’s important because a receptivity to one’s inner state is a function of being in tune with one’s emotions. Our emotions are a bridge between our actions and our thoughts. We think of something, we do it, then we feel something about what has occurred. We can ask: Were we internally clear about our intention? Did our actions reflect our intentions? How did we feel about the outcome?
When we become disconnected from our emotions we become willing to do things which may be harmful to others and the planet. If we were to fully feel the impact of our actions we would likely be very mindful of our behavior. Perhaps this is what evolves to empathy – a deeper relationship and sensitivity to others. The capacity for such empathy stems from our inward connection to our own emotions – to paying attention to what is happening inside. Without this aspect of holding space for oneself, one is challenged to truly hold space for others. Being in tune with how we feel affects and informs how we act. How we act is the basis of our relationship to others and the world.
The “Best” Form of Governance
A very large number of policymakers and policy articles talk about ‘the best’ way of doing something. For many purposes, if the market was not the best way people used to think that it meant that the government was the best way. We need to get away from thinking about very broad terms that do not give us the specific detail that is needed to really know what we are talking about.
We need to recognise that the governance systems that actually have worked in practice fit the diversity of ecological conditions that exist in a fishery, irrigation system or pasture, as well as the social systems. There is a huge diversity out there, and the range of governance systems that work reflects that diversity. We have found that government, private and community-based mechanisms all work in some settings. People want to make me argue that community systems of governance are always the best: I will not walk into that trap.
There are certainly very important situations where people can self-organise to manage environmental resources, but we cannot simply say that the community is, or is not, the best; that the government is, or is not, the best; or that the market is, or is not, the best. It all depends on the nature of the problem that we are trying to solve.
Elinor Ostrom from The future of the commons: beyond market failure and government regulation
The search for truth is in itself almost nonsensical because we are the truth. The entity searching for the truth, the personality construct, is made from the same universal essence. The construct comes and goes. It is an expression of truth in every moment because it cannot be any other way. The truth is that which is searching for the truth.
Truth is everyone’s inner truth. When we stop trying to impose truth on others we allow natural harmony to ensue. When people don’t feel repressed they can exist in peace. When they don’t feel their inner truth judged their personal truth can shine.
To be present with truth is to feel genuine love. It is a recognition of that which is, which is also that which we are.
Greatness vs Mastery
The other day I watched Whiplash. The movie left quite an impression on me because I could relate to both the drummer kid and the abusive teacher. Perhaps the most powerful part of the movie is that it makes it so hard to pick a side. Who can judge a kid’s determination to be the best? What if the teacher had never pushed him beyond his limits? Would he have been able to break through to his greatness without that? Was the teacher doing him a service, delivering him to an outcome that he so desperately wanted? What was the driving force that made him want to be one of the greatest drummers of all time? Was that ego or his very deepest calling?
The movie made me think of the relationship between mastery and greatness. I think of mastery is an internal relationship, a deep understanding and skill at some subject. Greatness is an external relationship, a measure of impact or recognition. The line between the two can be blurry, as true mastery often elicits greatness. But the question is: what is the underlying motivation for a person?
The call towards some form of greatness can be torture. I feel it acutely myself and I feel the pain of it’s call on a daily basis. It’s a pushing driving force that has been present since I was a child. It is only now as I get older that I can begin to differentiate between a call to mastery and a call to greatness. And deeper still, I can see how it is woven with a fear of insignificance and a fear of not being enough as I am. As I bring more awareness to this inner dynamic, I know that what I really aspire to is the satisfaction of true mastery without attachment.
Despite this awareness, understanding the different motivations within myself can be challenging. There is undeniably an aspect of myself that wants to have a significant positive impact on the world. I’m rarely satisfied with the prospect of something being small scale and I am left questioning whether this is just my nature or somehow ego driven.
The Bhagavad Gita often speaks to the relationship between work and attachment to outcome:
The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.
They live in freedom who have gone beyond the dualities of life. Competing with no one, they are alike in success and failure and content with whatever comes to them. They are free, without selfish attachments; their minds are fixed in knowledge. They perform all work in the spirit of service, and their karma is dissolved. (4:19 – 4:23)
A desire for greatness or impact seems to reflect an expectation for a particular outcome – one that can’t necessarily be controlled. I can pour my heart into something, engage every personal faculty, possibly attain some form of mastery, and experience deep joy in the process. But as soon as there’s an ambition for external impact and recognition, the whole process can become stressful and frustrating. So much so, in fact, that it can hinder the process of mastery itself.
Ego is interesting in this sense, as it can be both a driving force and a blocking force. In Whiplash, how much of the boy’s behavior is motivated by ego and how much is motivated by a deep inner passion? The two are not easily separated and the boy is likely driven by both. At one point, when get gets kicked out of school, he seems to give up drumming entirely. His ego is so attached to the external expectation of greatness, that he gives up his calling entirely when it seems that that recognition will not be possible. Then in the ending scene it appears as though the drummer transcends himself, he breaks through his own limitations, breaks through his own ego shell. But wasn’t it his ego that helped him break through his ego? Wasn’t it his ego that drove him madly to this point of being able to overcome human limitation?
The challenge here is that there isn’t a black and white answer. Does the boy’s desire for greatness cross a line? Don’t we all benefit from the true mastery of others. When we encounter it in music, art, or science, it moves us. Yet when we see what lengths people have gone to for such mastery we are often disturbed. Do these polarities always go hand in hand or is it possible to find this true mastery without the dark side of getting there?
I’m not sure there’s a clear answer, but, if there is, surely it lies in cultivating increasing awareness around one’s inner and outer landscape.
Any experience itself is never lacking. We may perceive lack in the experience, but the experience itself is full.
Love creates a container – a safe space – within which to experience oneself and heal. Love offers security to go through hardship. To offer and receive love even when it is challenging to do so offers the deepest experience of love.
The universe is a giant river, always flowing. Everything is in the process of disintegrating. A hundred years from now our bodies will be gone as will most of the things we’ve used on a daily basis. A million years from now there will be no buildings and no recognizable formations on this planet as we know them now. A few billion years from now there may be no earth and no sun. Everything is created in loving detail for only a moment, only to dissolve in the river of life to never be experienced in the same again. Loving non-attachment is the foundation of all creation.