Archive for February, 2008

Silence speaks…

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

It is hard to find true silence in the West these days, doubly so in the over-populated South East of England. However, I am fortunate enough to live somewhere very quiet, and I am often struck by the power of silence. When our children were younger, often the only time we got to ourselves was when my wife and I were driving somewhere, and whilst we chat all the time, on these trips we would drop into a deep, companionable silence.

So my gift to you today, is find somewhere quiet and just listen…..

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.” Helen Keller


Radiant & Linear thinking

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

I have mentioned before that I use the dosey place between waking and sleeping as a very creative place. This morning, dwelling in the delicious space, cosy and comfortable it came to me the difference between this drifting kind of thinking that is all about connections and the normal linear thinking we employee most of the time. Tony Buzan refers to it as Radiant Thinking 1&2.

I am no expert on the brain, but I would imagine the Left brain is more used for these linear methods and the Right brain for the radiant thinking. Try this amazing test to see what mode you are in right now. When I first looked at it, it was going one way; I read the text and low-and-behold! It was spinning the opposite way!

I also suspect that this kind of connective thinking is something that more women do well, whilst men tend to rely on the logical processes and often decry the value of any other form of logic. The thing is, the rules of logic as specific to their own domain, and expecting the Universe to be governed by one set of rules is a bit like trying to expect footballers to play soccer using the rules of chess!

So today, literally O P E N Y O U R M I N D and explore the world in a different way…. Bon voyage!

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein





Friday, February 15th, 2008

I read a blog yesterday that reminded me that we tend to divide the world into to two groups of people, those we trust and everyone else. We then subdivide the second group into to two further sub-groups, those we ‘know’ we can’t trust and those we have no reason to trust yet. Depending on your culture, it can take differing amounts of time to make it to the ‘Trust’ group. As I mentioned the other day, some primitive tribes can move through this spectrum very quickly, sometimes in less than a day. In other cultures, it is possible to hang on to sins committed against your ancestors by certain groups of people and this is emotional ‘evidence’ for sticking an entire race or sub-group into the ‘Distrust’ group.

The fact is we have a basic human need for certainty. After all we don’t want to just hope that a chair will support us, we need to ‘know’ it will do so each time we lower our weary bot’ into it. We feel the same way about the people we interact with and depending on their closeness to our emotional centre or their impact on our security (like bosses and other authority figures); we need to know we are ‘safe’.

I witnessed what was referred to as a “spat” in a group I belong to over the last few days with hundreds of posts whipping back and forth because, in essence, someone felt that the actions / motive of someone else were not trustworthy. It isn’t often we see this being nakedly acted out like this, because we sophisticated 21st century westerners have allsorts of polite ways to avoiding saying “I don’t trust you”.

There can be no relationship without a degree of trust; there can be no change in our lives without trust and just a little risk. Would you rather live in a world that is small and threatening or full of hope and possibilities? What you believe often shapes not only your interpretation of your experiences but actually shapes the experiences themselves… Today might be the vary day to choose….

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” Franke Crane

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Indira Gandhi

Misery & Transcendence..

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

I woke at about 4 am this morning and after a while it was clear I wasn’t going back to sleep, so I plugged in my mp3 player and lay in the dark, half dozing, half drifting on a tide of music. Without any other distractions I heard so much more detail and richness in these familiar tunes than usual. I tend not to really listen to the words (I either can’t understand or can’t hear them), they just add a flavour to the sound. There are around 1300 songs on this little player and they range widely from 1950’s standards by Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, through 1960’s folk, Dylan, Van Morrison, Cuban music, blues, hard rock, country and plain pop.

I set the thing to play a random selection and if a song is the wrong mood, then I skip it. So for about 2 hours or more I am lying there positively soaring on a wave of incredible sounds and talent. Two thoughts came to me:-

  • It is astonishing that in an industry with so many artists that each one is able to make such incredibly unique sounds. They seem to express something as unique as their DNA. In this very overcrowded space all these amazing and unique talents blaze like stars. I have several songs that have been covered by different artists and genres and can be thrilled by each of them. Think of the difference in the treatment of “Somewhere over the rainbow” when sung by Judy Garland, Willie Nelson and Eva Cassidy…
  • I was listening to one track by the Notting Hillbillies (one of Mark Knopfler’s bands) called “Feel like going home” and whilst the lyrics were rather bleak and despairing, somehow there was something totally transcendent in the actual sound. It made me think of some news I heard yesterday of someone whose friend killed themselves. We talked about how positive things can come from such misery and the feeling engendered by this song absolutely captured that for me. I would urge you to listen to it, (even in the knowledge that this kind of experience doesn’t transport very well!).

Most of us, can at times, feel a bit overwhelmed, weary and, from this space, wonder if we can ever make a difference and this music tells me just how special and unique all of us are, even in the depths of despond. So, today I offer you this ray of musical sunshine to light your path…

“Love is the life of our heart. According to it, we desire, rejoice, hope and despair, fear, take heart, hate, avoid things, feel sad, grow angry, and exult.”

One of Us?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

I have been watching, with huge interest, a program on Discovery called “Worlds Lost Tribes.. with Olly & Mark”. They travelled deep into West Papua and spent 4 months living with remote tribes, learning their culture and ways. Now I am something of a sucker for this kind of programme so I must have seen half dozen similar ones (although this one is very good). The thing that strikes me is often even though these tribes will be quite hostile to start with, particularly in this case (when they didn’t know they were coming and may never have encountered white people before,) they quite quickly move from threat to acceptance. The most striking element of this is, once they have accepted you, it is not conditional, as it is in the West, it is total. From stranger to part of the family (literally, they were adopted) in a matter of days.

When we meet people, we scan to see if they are like ‘us’, hence questions like “Where did you go to school / university”, “What do you do for a living?” “Where do you live?” etc. If we are approached on the street by someone of a different age / race / sex/ culture it is quite common to feel threatened; in fact, for some people their very presence is threatening. The trouble is with this is that this sense of threat automatically trips our Flight / Fight response, which of course they recognise, so theirs is triggered too! In this triggered state we are ‘unavailable’ (as mentally we have already left he situation), so unless the encounter takes a long time, then we can not collect any data to make us see them for who they are or what they have to offer.

In the West, our default position is rejection and suspicion. I remember reading this in “War & Peace”, many years ago “Pierre’s insanity consisted in not waiting, as he used to do, to discover personal attributes which he termed ‘good qualities’ in people before loving them; his heart was now overflowing with love, and by loving people without cause he discovered indubitable causes for loving them.”

If you start with an open heart, you see all sorts of good in those around you. If you feel threatened and suspicious, all you find is more reason to feel that way. So which kind of life experience would you prefer to have?

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Taken for granted…

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Over the weekend I was digging at an awkward angle and my back has been sore ever since, so consequently I haven’t been able to move as freely and as naturally as I usually do. I also seem to have picked up some kind of tummy bug and am getting occasional graunching pains. I don’t share this for the sake of moaning (though we all enjoy a good moan don’t we?), but rather because it makes me aware of just how much I take my body for granted. For 50 odd years it has transported me around, effortlessly doing my bidding, with nary a pause between thought and action. And now normal services have been interrupted…

I know I am lucky to have enjoyed good health and I do thank God for that, but if I pause to think of all the things I take for granted, on whose effortless functioning the smooth running of my life depends, things like my:-

  • Car
  • Computer
  • Mobile phone
  • Electric power
  • Clean water
  • Plentiful food
  • Home

The list gets bigger and bigger, going down to ever more fundamental levels. It isn’t news that we in the west live a privileged life style by comparison with huge numbers of our fellow humans, but it is a huge truth.

Not only do we take these complex systems that deliver services effortless to our door for granted, but also so many of the people that we casually interface with. So, my thought for today is, take time out to show a little gratitude, a little recognition to one of those people who you depend on, and try and truly enjoy some of these blessings we all take for granted.

“We have no right to ask when a sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way.”

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” William James

British Values

Monday, February 11th, 2008

I was listening to Michael Wilson from the Department of Justice talk on the radio today about the importance of putting together a statement of British values as a ‘standard’ that the various cultures and communities that make up Britain today can unite around and feel positive about. He said that in changing times this would be a force of unification and pride. Today, we also had the PM defending the archbishop of Canterbury and referring to “British values”. For some time now companies have been recognising the importance of articulating their values and aligning their business around them.

The Telegraph lists ten core British values:

  • The Rule of Law
  • The Sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament
  • The pluralist state
  • Personal freedom
  • Private property
  • Institutions (non-statutory)
  • The family
  • History
  • The English-speaking world
  • The British character

I’d be interested in your views on both your experience of whether (and how) values shape our actions and our societies, and what you think the core British values are.

The wisdom of the Buddha

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Over the last month or so, my wife has been struggling with how to handle some advice from a much respected source that had huge implications for the whole family. We have trusted this source in other important areas, and yet what we were being told just somehow didn’t ‘jive’ with our own feelings. We realised that if someone tells you something that you don’t want to hear the very first thing you do is to reject it, you rationalise it and find ways to ignore it. This was too important to allow that to happen.

So what to do? The only answer I had was that we had to investigate it for ourselves, with an open mind and open hearts and see where that leads us, but in the end we needed to be guided by our own intuition. We haven’t yet done all of this, but my wife was almost too scared to start, till she came across these words, which really just said again what I had been trying to say:-





“Do not believe anything because it is said by an authority,
or if it is said to come from angels,
or from Gods,
or from an inspired source.

Believe it only if you have explored it
in your own heart, and mind and body
and found it to be true.

Work out your own path, through diligence.”

Guatama Buddha

I offer them to you today in case there is anyone else out there facing a similar issue….. Good Luck!!

Do turkeys vote for Christmas?

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

This is a phrase that has now (officially) entered our language, and is a cynical/superior quip about people agreeing to things which will have a bad outcome for them. It got me thinking the other day when I noticed my reaction to an idea that came out from the centre of an ‘association’ I belong to. The idea was basically sound, we had done this before and it worked well, but:-

  • It was one of those suggestions you couldn’t politely refuse (at least not without being judged), so
  • Effectively I had little real choice, and
  • It grabbed a slice of my private time!

I was aware of emotionally railing against this, and feeling like an eight year told to do his homework before he could watch the telly. “Mmmm..” I thought, “This is what happens in most new programmes.”

The thing is, if you ask people to do something different, even something that they nominally approve of, but actually give them no real choice and don’t involve them in the decision making process; then, of course, they exercise they only power you have left them and they (at least emotionally) opt out. You simply have to engage & involve people if you want them to go along. It may take longer in the short term, but it is the only way to really gain buy in.

“Most turkeys taste better the day after…. my mother’s tasted better the day before.” Rita Rudner

Coming home…

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Yesterday my eldest came back on a visit from university, having only left us 3 weeks ago. “Oh!” she said to my son, “You have grown! And things look different!” In that moment she was seeing the very familiar through a different lens, one that enabled her to see us a little more as a stranger would.

In a way, this summarises the essence of my work. Once you are fully familiar with how a system operates you start taking many things for granted, both those that work well and those that don’t; the strange and the mundane. It is yet another of the filtering mechanisms1 that I have been blogging about. However, this very useful device also blinds us to some things that are obvious to an outsider. This is why I believe that it is pretty much essential to involve outsiders in the change process, because of the things they see and the questions they ask. It is really very similar to Hans Christian Andersten’s fairy story of the Emperors New Clothes.

So if you have someone new on your team, or a new friend or acquaintance, treasure them and listen to them because they bring you a great treasure of insight and challenge (and of course all of you who have children will remember this stage with delight.) Don’t dismiss these innocent words, questions and observations, use them to help you! Good luck

“I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.” Otto von Bismarck

“The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they’ll sleep at night” Otto von Bismarck


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