“And also because time spent
trying to do or make something beautiful
never feels wasted to me.”
“And also because time spent
trying to do or make something beautiful
never feels wasted to me.”
Avoid basing your identity on beliefs or things
Instead, base it on values or intentions
(As we walk around in life, each of us a conglomeration of identities, some chosen, mostly not, and often forgetting that we were are the sole and final authors of our identities, there are a lot of good pointers and reminders on how to best put our identities together. The one above is nice and succinct. Beliefs rarely are eternally solid and often call us towards attachment, clinging tightly no matter what and no matter the detrimental outcomes. Values and intentions, however, beget multiple ways of being that call us powerfully into action that fulfill us while remaining adaptable, open to shift and always aiming towards our central, authentic, selves.)
There was a funny thing that kept happening. We* would ask Sifu a question about some move in the Tai Chi form, usually a move somewhere near the end of the form, and he would say, “Well, go back to your Wu Ji.”
Now, Wu Ji is the first move in the form. It’s not even really a move – you stand in it. Translated literally, it means something like “Empty” or “Nothing” stance, though the more proper meaning is “Harmonious” stance, with the idea of bringing your body and body tension together in evenness and harmony, like a circle. It’s the starting position.
Which is why we would usually protest. “No Sifu, I meant this move here…” and we would demonstrate. “I know,” he would reply, “But go to Wu Ji.”
Despite our frustration, it does (Of course it does! He was Sifu!) make sense. If you don’t have your Wu Ji, you can’t “have” anything – your moves are all deficient** in some way. We are thinking and asking to tweak something on this one particular move when really a) the problem doesn’t start there b) we apparently don’t even fully grasp the depth of the problem c) tweaking that move won’t really fix the issue and d) if we can adjust our Wu Ji, then we won’t need to fix the problem because the problem goes away. Moreover, it doesn’t just go away, it e) creates a whole bunch of positive outcomes everywhere, in every single move we do.
It is a great way to express the concept of returning to the primordial. Whether martial arts moves or societal systems, whether cultural or our own personal views and realities, or our own identities and who we see ourselves and others to be, it’s hard to poke and prod something so deep and at the end of a long chain and have it be all that impactful. At best we can struggle and strain and maybe keep it (or our Tai Chi structure) from collapsing. But the issues remain, and often compound on each other. But when we get something fundamental and come from first principles, from the primordial, and adjust our Wu Ji so that we begin from a place of proper connection and intent, then massive shifts are possible. Everything sings, compounds harmoniously, and we come to those places of strength with ease, naturally.
All wrapped up in a simple small phrase. Thank you Sifu.
* While it would happen to all of us it seemed to happen to Steve the most… so much so that it has become our affectionate running joke now (and a way for us to remember and honour Sifu)
** Not bad, or wrong, but just missing something. Something to discover, get, incorporate, and grow.
Distinction month continues…
There is a distinction, a difference, between complimenting someone, and acknowledging someone.
Complimenting someone is saying something nice to, or about, them. It is a polite expression of praise or admiration. It often is also in rather vague or even impersonal terms, and often focused on the giver rather than the recipient.
Acknowledgement is far more personal. It expresses definite gratitude and appreciation, and, above all else, it explicitly demonstrates that you noticed and are present to the person you are acknowledging.
The best way to learn this distinction? Be acknowledged. The feeling we get when we are acknowledged is worlds apart from the typical compliment. Inside of acknowledgement we know we are seen, valued, related. Compliments roll off our backs in the next moment. Acknowledgement sticks.
As a very simple example:
“That was a great job, thank you,” is a compliment.
“Thank you for producing such an excellent report. I know it was something new for you, and I acknowledge you for being willing to take up the challenge and learn quickly. Thank you for your dedication and for putting in extra to complete this,” is an acknowledgement.
Even in such a simple example, there is acknowledgement of the work, the person’s spirit, their courage, and their potential sacrifice. There’s nothing rote about it, nothing insincere, nothing detached or depersonalized. It’s personal and affirming.
Want to get good at acknowledging? Ask people what they want to be acknowledged for. And then acknowledge them for it. It may sound a bit odd, but I guarantee you that, given a chance, people have no problem knowing what they’d like to be acknowledged for and even though they just told you it still is amazing for them when you do so. And vice versa.
As always, there’s nothing wrong with compliments per se. Acknowledgement is simply more powerful. It is more involved (as it requires being present) and so it is why when we intend to acknowledge we often instead blat out a compliment. But with a bit of practice it becomes not only easy, but powerful for the acknowledger as much as it is for the acknowledged.
Inside of acknowledgement, we are all present to our connectedness, our humanity, and to who we are.
* This all also dovetails nicely within the concept of Presence not Praise
Well how about that. This post marks the 200th* Philosophy Tuesday post. In some ways, I am amazed that this is still going strong, and yet at the same time I’m also not so amazed. As with any practice, the pathway to knowing one’s self leads forever towards the horizon. I’m still breathing, and so my journey cannot be done. New lands and new roads remain to be traveled and explored.
Sometimes these posts have been easy to write. What’s right there for me is right there, and the way to expression is quick. Boom. Done. Post! Gloriously speedy, especially in the midst of a full life. Other times… not so much. The impetus and entry points might be clear, but in writing things down I realize I need to take myself to task. Take myself, my notions, my defaults, my automatics, all of those and more, take them all on and think, collide, muse, discover, and ultimately (hopefully) grow my understanding and insight.** It’s not always fun while in the middle of that slog, but it’s always rewarding at the end, presenting new possibilities in and for life.
And to the end that they show up here in this Tuesday tradition, I hope they bring new possibilities in and for your lives as well.
It’s humbling, in so many ways, to look back and see the vast distances journeyed and to recognize the transformations made along the way. It never seems that there is much distance left to cover and yet, it gets covered. Felling like I’ve got a good handle on things is a ruse; my world(s) keep opening further and further. This perspective helps pull apart the (often collapsed) notions of confidence vs conceit, or pride vs arrogance.
Do I “know” a lot? Yes. Can I do a lot with that? Yes. Effectively? Heck yes! Do I really know? Well, no… and that’s cool. Here’s where I am. Cool. What’s next? Cool. Let’s learn.
Though I no longer preface each post with it, I continue to write from a place and intention of sparking thinking and examining. I continue to write from the idea that we are all whole and complete and full of unseen capacity, and that we equally, often, have barriers between us and our experience of our wholeness and our capacities. I continue to live from the stand that we are all, at our core, deeply related and connected in our grand desires.
We are of the same human spirit, and the more we can brush away that which restrains us, the more we can soar.
I thank each and every one of you for reading, for engaging, for commenting, for sharing, and for being willing to take yourself on and for your commitment to seek out new possibilities for yourself and for those around you. A big virtual hug to you all.
* As with the “2 year” marker this is 200 posts give or take, not counting weeks off and weeks with titles other than strictly “Philosophy Tuesday,” nor does it take into account weeks with additional philosophy posts…
** And if I am fortunate, wisdom as well.
Goals, resolutions, targets…
Maybe sometime, it’s better to just play a game.
Not any kind of game, though. Not something like poker or sports or something we can wrap so much of our identity(ies) around.
But the primordial kind of game. The kind we made up when we were kids.
Games like “The Floor is LAVA.”
Games that we totally made up, and know we made up, but we play them like they’re real. Full out. 100%. All the way, twisting, jumping, balancing, taking risks, giving it all we’ve got. (And probably laughing a lot too…)
And then we either win – yay! – or not. Floomph! Into the lava we went.
The game is then done. We reminisce about the game, we review what we did, we
Then, we can play the game again, make up new rules for the game, choose to play a different game altogether.
And so it goes.
Our games can be short and simple: “Today, I will practice being grateful.” At the end of the day, “Hmm. How did my game go? Did I win that game? Yes, no? By a little, by a lot?” Tomorrow, we create another game.
Or the games can be great and long. “I am playing the game to complete the first draft of my book by the end of the year.” The year is up! How’d the game go?
Oh, you want to play again? Or play this related game? Cool. Anything you see missing that you want to add in before you play? Cool! Ready… set…
Games are fun. Games get us going.* Games can be fulfilling. And they’re just games. They propel us forward, and when the timer’s up, they disappear, leaving a clean field for the next one.
What games do you want to play?
There is a difference between mental health, and mental illness.
Our bodies can be in poor health without an actual illness or pathogen acting up on us. Poor eating, stress, lack of sleep, overwork, exhaustion, rough environmental conditions, all of these can sap us of our vitality and wellbeing, leaving us weakened.
There’s nothing “wrong” to treat. We’re just weakened.
So too it is with our mental (to which I am encompassing whole wide realm of mental/emotional/’spiritual’) health. It is very possible to be in a weakened mental health state without a physical/brain impingement acting up on us. Stress, environment, lack of sleep, social atmospheres, interactions, exposure, messaging, stories, all of these can sap us of our mental vitality and wellbeing, leaving us weakened.
It is, perhaps, an apt description for one of the ways Buddhism describes the term Dukkha, or dis-ease.
And when we are weakened, we are, in all manners of ways, not going to perform our best. Our thoughts, feelings, judgments, decisions, and actions are all going to be impaired. We can act out in ways we truly don’t want to, be rash, get into arguments, make logic errors, buy the wrong things, say terrible things, make poor choices, overreact, get into accidents, be violent, all manners of ways and actions that are far from the noble truths of our authentic desires.
It is vitally important to know this difference between mental illness and mental health. Because when we focus only on the former, and get into binary “have/don’t have” mental illness thinking, we can greatly miss that which affects us and millions like us. We can take what’s so and think it is the norm. We can dismiss our own troubles and unwellness, rendering ourselves susceptible to the fallout of the unwellness while blinding us to the steps we can take to lead ourselves back to health.
Most importantly, without holding this difference out in front of us we can miss all the influences that are making us all unwell, and so miss having the conversations and taking the actions necessary to lead our collective selves back towards wellness and even strength.
And within a community, that strength is what we want. When those in our community are well, we are well. It is a foundation that supports individual lives, with greater freedom, peace, and peace of mind.
There is a difference between a Possibility, and an Expectation. And it’s a good one.
An expectation holds a high regard as to what will likely happen. An expectation holds dear that something will happen. An expectation demands that something should happen.
An expectation is a possible future coupled with an attachment.
It should go this way… or else.
A possibility, on the other hand, acknowledges that is a creation.
A possibility calls towards the future and puts a vision out there, without clinging. A possibility aims broader, foregoing a specific outcome and specific paths to get there. Possibilities live in the world of intents, recognizing the broader avenues of fulfillment.
And here’s the fun part:
If you have an expectation, and it goes unmet, then you’re left with disappointment.
If you have a possibility, and it goes unmet, then what you’re left with is… a possibility.
No upset. No frustration. Only a place of clarity and power and creation from which to spring forward into what’s next and towards the fulfillment of your possibilities, and the joy therein.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was sharing about her battle against cancer. Needless to say, it was an ordeal, and her daily experience was not pleasant in the slightest.* “Oy,” I said, “I can only imagine what it must be like for you right now.”
“Thank you,” she replied. But the way she said ‘thank you’ went well beyond a pleasantry… there was a depth to it, a certain fire around it mixed in with appreciation. I must have given her a quizzical look, for she explained. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me ‘Oh, I know how you feel.’ But they really don’t. Unless you’ve gone through it, you don’t know at all what it feels like.”
Later on that evening, that exchange got me thinking.
Imagination is the path into empathy. It allows us to envision other worlds and other people, and get a glimpse for ourselves what things could be like given the place, past, and experience of another. It calls to us to get out of our own frame and get into that of another.
Imagination is of prime importance in the realm of being human.
But perhaps, in an opposite-side-of-the-same-coin sort of way, it is by putting aside our imagination and recognizing that imagination is just that – an ephemeral visualization of make believe – that even greater empathy is gained.
Realizing that no matter how great and creative we are, no matter how powerful our imagination, there exists still worlds and possibilities and experiences and feelings we haven’t visited, or are not (yet) capable of visiting, in our mind. **
And so it may well be presumptuous to think we know something, and that we know the lows, or highs, that is and are possible to experience.
We can imagine what it might be like; and then leave open the possibility that it might even be so much more.
Imagination is the start of empathy. Going beyond Imagination into No Imagination could well be its fulfillment.
* Fortunately, she was a facile with the distinguishing of pain and uncomfortableness vs suffering. Her spirits stayed lofty even as her body went sideways.
“The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly. Little kids can’t do it; babies are morally monsters – completely greedy. Their imagination has to be trained into foresight and empathy.”
“The writer’s pleasant duty, then, is to ply the reader’s imagination with the best and purest nourishment that it can absorb.”
— Ursula K Le Guin (who passed away today)