Friday, February 26, 2016

Permission to be Human

I have to wonder if our competitiveness is our nature or by nurture?

Recently I watched a story unfold that made this question even more confusing.

A friend was scheduled to play in a squash match against someone who he had never beaten. The same friend is a very talented player whose major obstacle to enjoying the game or winning for that matter is his emotions.  Loosing a match triggers such intense anger, that he now wonders if he should even be paying competitive squash.  It wasn't until the last moment that he decided to play this match.  He desperately did not want experience this anger. But desperately wanted to beat this person. This keen awareness of his emotions gave him enough comfort to play the match

He came out of the gates guns blazing.  He was in the Flow!  Playing better squash then he ever had, much to the surprise of his long time nemesis.  Soon enough he was up 2 games to love. They were both tired, but two different kinds of tired.  An offense tired and a defense tired.

My friend lost the 3rd game, which ended on a call from the referee he disagreed with.  Sometime during this game his emotions had been activated, we could tell from the gallery.  But he was still in the lead and his opponent was against the ropes.

A few points into the 4th game, he lost a point and turned to his opponent shook his hand and told him he was defaulting! His opponent and the gallery looked on dazed and confused.  My friend walked off the court noticeably riled up, shook hands with the ref and walk off to the side and sat down on the ground.

To concede a match of this magnitude while being in the lead, and while playing as best as one has ever played is earth shaking.  A decision like this turns on its head everything we believe in when it comes to competition.  It requires self-awareness and self-regulation rarely seen in this day and age.

This behavior brings to conversation a reality that has been hard for many cultures to accept until recently.  And even now acceptance is not ubiquitous.  If my friend had torn a hamstring, it would have been perfectly understandable to retire and concede the match.  In this case his injury was cerebral.  He recognized a destructive change in his mind, that would cause even more damage if he continued.  And he acted accordingly in spite of what people might think or misunderstand.

My friend is 18 years old and I think his behavior bodes well for the future of humanity!

My eyes have opened a bit wider, my heart is a bit softer.  And know that what I don't know is much bigger then I thought, but I look forward to discovery.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Climate Change or Consciousness Change?

The definition of a consumer according to Merriam-Webster is a person who buys goods and services. The same dictionary defines climate change as changes in the earth's weather pattern.  The big debate at the turn of this past century is whether the the former is the cause of the latter.  Most opinion and evidence points to a big fat YES.

The debate is gradually turning into a brainstorming session on how to solve the problem hoping that everything from technology to legislation will save our you know whats!

Observing this process from the wings is our consciousness. Merriam-Webster says that being conscious is being awake and able to understand what is happening around you.  In my opinion consciousness is the ability to be aware that one is aware.  As Prof.  V.S. Rakmachandran suggests, "With the arrival of humans, it has been said, the universe has suddenly become conscious of itself.  This, truly, is the greatest mystery of all." His perspective comes from his study of mirror neurons.  Another debate that may muddy the water for some would be if humans are the only beings that are conscious which I'm not sure I can take a side on but I'm confident that human consciousness is evolving faster then any others' on this earth that might exist.

Is the human cause of climate change simply a reflection of the nature of our consciousness before we can say its the result of our behavior?  Climate change might not matter in end, what may be more detrimental to our survival as a species is our dependence on stuff.  The first of our species needed stuff for survival, but the process of survival is moving from the physical to the cerebral, and we still need stuff for this new paradigm of survival because it protects us from the predators within.  Most stuff these days make up the forts thats protects us from anxiety. Anxiety that has its roots in feeling disconnected from our fellow humans, from parents, friends strangers...even enemies!

Climate Change is a symptom.  Rather then focus on aleving the symptom shouldn't we work on the root cause. Is this the reason that it has been so difficult for us to embrace legal action or costly technology that may slow climate change? Are we trying to put the cart before the horse? Or maybe this process is a necessary step in the evolution of our consciousness.  Either way it seems that we should each become aware of our consumption.  This awareness is the panacea!

Buying a new car is a great idea.  But trading it in 5 years later should be re-thought.  Encouraged in the halls of the clothing company Patagonia is for sales people to help customers do just this.  One story I heard was a friend walked into a Patagonia store looking for a waterproof down jacket.  A sales person would asked him if he owned a fleece and a waterproof shell.  The answer was yes so they suggested that is as good as a waterproof down jacket, discouraging him from buying more stuff.

In the event we perfect energy storage and recycling, the population expansion levels off and our cities head upward instead of outward, does this give us carte blanche to keep consuming? Will another symptom manifest?
 Merrion-Webster's advanced definition of a consumer is a "an organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter."

Its in our nature to consume...to consume consciously!


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Travel to Cape Town, ASAP!

Wedged between a majestic mountain and a grand bay, between the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is one of the most exciting and fulfilling cities in the world to visit.

Wake up to an artisan cappuccino for $1.70, thanks partly to an exchange rate very much in favor to any traveller from the northern hemisphere.  Enjoy a walk up Lions head or a yoga class in its shadow.  Eat a delicious breakfast of locally grown tropical fruit or eggs.  Sit and read in a cafe watching the city wander by.  Or paddle out into South Africa's famous surf.  Shop to your hearts desire or drive around Chapman's Peak and onto see the Cape of Good hope and the Simonstown penguins.  Explore the valleys and tastes of the wine country.  Have a delicious dinner overlooking Robben Island.  Settle in to a cozy bed or party the night away.

Then do it again.

Cape Town's sights, sounds, tastes and interaction's are second to none to bring out our most creative attributes, to energize our soul and remind us what a wonderful gift life is.

And if a week in the "Mother City" is not sensory and happiness overload, then take a short flight to Kruger Park and spend a few days amongst its gargantuan, fierce, primal, majestic residents.

I write this as an memoire, a personal experience of my last two weeks.  An experience I would encourage everyone to pursue.

Enjoy Cape Town's gift to the world!




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Follow the Money

Is how you earn, spend, donate and invest in line with your ethics?

Money has become the fabric of our interaction with each other. It has become how we project ourselves on the world. Paying attention to our relationship with money is an opportunity for personal transformation as much as a chance to improve the well-being of others close and far.

Our cultures have taught us that circumstance is more important then shared experience which drives our intention, but our actions show that unconsciously the most important is in fact the opposite....shared experience is more important then circumstance. This misalignment in our psyche has skewed our relationship with money. Our opportunity is to reset the boundaries in this relationship so that money works as our teacher, and a tool to deepen that which is most important to us.

Making changes to our money energy, will reduce anxiety, increase sleep, improve our diet, and allow us to have a richer and more meaningful connection with the world.

We may earn money from someone or a company who acts in a way that is not in line with our ethics. This most likely leaves some dis-ease in our subconscious. The question that we must ask ourselves is how does this dis-ease balance against the fear of not having that job or client and is there a better option even if it pays slightly less? Quite often we don't know the answer until we act.  There is plenty of evidence showing that working in an environment that is in line with our values excites and energizes us, making us more productive.

Spending money is a massive energy force.  As soon as we buy something we further along the cycle of consumption and effect the chain of supply and demand. We change our emotions by spending. Think of the elation of a brand new car, clothing or electronics....think of the pain of buyers regret.  Spending is a force more powerful then a vote,   strong enough to be mistaken for the feeling of love, more numbing then a glass of wine!  Once can become aware the most subtle ways we spend our money, when we spend it, what we spend it on we begin to transform.

Let's examine the levels of giving as defined by the Torah by putting them in the context of a visit to a coffee shop. Level one is we order a latte and the barista spins the iPad around for us to sign and first we have to decide on how much tip to give. We give a dollar because we feel we have no choice. Level two is we give a dollar because we want to but we hand it to the barista so we can see their gratitude. Level three giving is when the barista turns around to make our latte we put $5 in the tip jar without them seeing. This is not to say that we must tip, its to examine how and why we give.  Giving is a reflection of our energy and the further up the scale we go the more energy we create, the more selfless we feel. I once heard someone say that more selfish then doing nothing for someone is helping someone out of a feeling of obligation.

The last part of the question is to address how we invest out money. The stock market has offered the opportunity for anyone with just a few dollars to become a partner in any company that is publicly traded. Most of us don't have our own company to invest in so, so we can then leave our savings in the hands of other CEOs for growth. If 30 years ago we had invested in the S&P 500 our money would have grown about ten percent annually. Interestingly the average investor's money only grew about three percent. The reason being that most sell when the market takes a plunge and then buy on the way back up. This is driven by fear. Lack of confidence that our investment will weather the storm.  If we invest in companies that operate with the same values and principles we believe it, might our fears be soothed? As long as we are sipping lattes and tapping on iPhones the market will always go up, in spite of periodic dips.

There's that and then there is the feeling of empowering companies who have the well being of us, our children and the environment in mind. Let's invest in profitable companies that are built to last a hundred years. Lets empower companies who are consciously leading us into a bright future,

As Mark Bertolini from Aetna says profit is not the goal, profit is the output of mission driven companies, who build quality products for their customers.
Yvonne Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia says that whenever faced with the choice of profit or doing good, he chooses doing good and in the long run this always ends up being the most profitable decision.

The portfolio on the upper right hand side of this screen is a list of such companies.  Companies with good financials, who operate with the greater good as their mission.  These publicly traded companies have humble CEOs, products that improve the lives of humanity, work to reduce their impact on the environment giving as much as they take, diverse boards, happy employees.  Theses companies are congruent with our well being and the well being of the environment.  

“Conversation is the heart of human life and conversation is the heart of commerce” - David Whyte

Lets start the conversation about following the money!