High Tech, Low Connection

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Is technology, which is growing at an enormous speed, destroying our psychology, our wisdom, and our relationships? I ask this question because of what I witnessed on my trip to Thailand in January 2014. I am not the first to ask this question. In fact, Albert Einstein was much more blunt many years ago when he said “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. Let’s explore this possibility.

My partner Anne and I were staying in a beautifully landscaped hotel on a perfect beach in Thailand. The hotel had 16 acres of pure beauty. There were a variety of trees, plants, animals, lakes, sounds, and smells. Everywhere we walked had magnificence written all over it. Anne and I cherished every moment of our stay. We discovered that our fellow guests all took to arming themselves with an array of I phones, I pads, lap tops, computers, and video and music machines. These guests carried the high tech tools everywhere. We found them in all the hotel restaurants, morning, noon and night. We found them at the pool, at the beach, in the lobby, at the playground, in the taxi shuttles, on excursions, on the pathways around the hotel. Simply everywhere. It was obvious that people were addicted to their high tech tools.

The enormity of the addiction finally hit us one evening just before dusk. They say dusk is the bewitching hour, and for us it was. We were seated in an adult outdoor garden lounge for cocktails. There were twenty tables scattered around the lounge. All of them filled with couples. Fancy and colorful drinks were served. Candles flickered brightly everywhere. The moon was rising, the evening swallows were fluttering about, the smells of the tropical plants permeated the air, a light yet warm breeze caressed us, it was perfect. Then we noticed the insanity. Almost every person had their high tech tools out and playing with them. These couples were not talking to each other. Not enjoying each other. Not connecting with each other or to nature. In fact they were likely talking to someone on the other side of the planet. We were floored to see how unconscious humanity had become. The beauty all around us was irrelevant. Their partners were irrelevant. The taste of their drinks was irrelevant. The only thing relevant so it seemed was what was on the screen. I felt a deep sadness for humanity at that moment. Why do we do this?

When we are in pain, we look for distractions. We become addicted to our distractions because it provides temporary relief from the pain, and high tech tools are a convenient and accepted source for distraction.  But true life, and full living demands complete attention. Instead of feeling the beauty of each other and their surroundings, these couples avoided everything that mattered. They were disconnected. Distractions are only a short-term solution for the pain and agitation we feel. Short-term solutions give us short-term gain as they pull us away from feeling that discomfort. However it leads to long-term pain because nothing is ever resolved, and emotions are never processed. The high tech tools are just that – tools. However, we do not use them as simply tools. They dictate our lives like all addictions.

We are focused on technology and on the external and material because it keeps us from focusing on the internal and emotional. What are we so afraid of to look inside?  Can we afford to become disconnected? Will our technology surpass our human interactions, as Albert Einstein said? If wisdom is emotional connection with ourselves and others, then I agree with Albert Einstein. We will have a generation of idiots. There is a big price to pay and we do not see the consequences.

Feeling it – Real Wisdom, Real Healing

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I have discovered that greatness in life lies in my ability to feel emotions and to live the experience with absolute vulnerability and without judgment. As I feel, I receive what is true for me and it allows me to be fully present. I do not evaluate the emotion as good or bad. I just experience it and let it go. It has no further control over me. I move onto the next moment so that I can be present in all parts of my life.

Can you truly understand intellectually what it would be like to confront a poisonous snake up close and personal? As feeling is experience, you would have to be physically up close with such a snake that is ready to strike to feel what it was like. Feeling is knowing. When we deal with wounds such as shame, guilt, and anger, do we allow ourselves to feel these emotions or do we think about them or suppress them? Are we doing ourselves harm by not feeling the emotion? I would say we most certainly do ourselves great harm. For example, if I am angry and I flare up and deal with it, it flows through me and it is forgotten. Like two male ducks on a pond – when one encroaches on the others territory, there is a flare up. One leaves and it is forgotten. Storing up and accumulating anger through resentment however is a problem. The storing up develops into internal rage. The storing process means the anger must be released and when in rage, it will be very unhealthy. We hurt others because we are hurt. It’s a never-ending cycle.

A friend of mine told me a story about his 6 year old son that reminds him regularly of the need to express emotions as they come. “Alan” he said. “I have this amazing soccer story to tell you,” (I’m a big fan of the game), “I bought my son a soccer ball for his birthday. On opening the package and seeing the ball, his eyes grew big, he loved it and he was eager to play with it. We lost no time and went into the front yard to play. There we were running around and kicking it to our hearts’ delight. It was so much fun. At one point my son kicked the ball towards me and I missed it. The ball rolled onto the street, and at that very moment a bus drove by and crushed the ball. My son looked at the crushed ball for a few seconds and what he did next amazed me. He simply bowed his head with his chin in his chest, closed his eyes and began to cry. He did not move. I just watched him Al, my son was in this position for 5 minutes. After that he wiped his eyes and hugged me. I asked my son if I could get him another ball. His answer surprised me, “No dad, it’s OK.” My son did not blame me for the accident, nor did he get upset, nor did he sulk. Isn’t that a cool soccer story Al?” That was not a soccer story in its essence. That was a life lesson for all of us.

That young boy of 6 years was an amazing example for all of us. The boy felt the excitement of the gift, of the playing and being with his dad. The loss of the ball was felt. Just that, simply felt. Once the feeling of loss passed through him, he let it go. Having felt the emotion fully allowed the boy to move on in a powerful way. This boy’s example was powerful because he was not a victim, he did not bury his anger or sadness, he was not attached to having a ball and he did not get tied up in emotions that would continue to impact his life. We must all learn from this wonderful example.

So why do we accumulate the emotions that we do not allow ourselves to feel? Well, for me growing up, if I allowed myself to feel anger, shame or guilt, I would have become my father and my mother. As I lived my life in fear of not being either of these people, I did not allow myself to feel. Feeling would have meant that my greatest fear would be realized: I am my father, I am my mother.

I had to look deeply into the truth of my life in order to learn to feel. I had to learn to feel the anger, the shame, the guilt and many other emotions. Once I did, I realized I am not my father or mother. I am me, and who I am is all that matters. I learned that what I did not feel controlled me, not what I felt. I learned that true wisdom comes from feeling and not thinking. I learned that feeling was the source of all my power. I learned that feeling is life. I learned that my thinking worked in conjunction with my power source, the feeling.

How do you know that you can feel? Does the fact that you cry a lot mean you feel? Not always, as there are many that claim the victim’s role and to not feel honestly. If they fully experienced and released their feelings, the victimization could likely leave them. I know many people like I once was who think that they feel. Thinking you are feeling is not feeling. It does not have the vulnerability and it is all about judgment as thinking is selective and controlled. Do yourself a favour and look for a mentor and discover whether you are able to feel or not. Be vulnerable and discover your truth which in turn will set you free – to feel.

For me, feeling is the source of all power. Can you afford to ignore the source of your power?

Genuine Authority – Surprise it’s internal

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I, like most people, began to look for authority to guide me early on in life. We are born into a society that has many rules, many expectations, and many conditions. Society contains people in positions of “authority” that we listen to in order to live what we believe will be a good life. These people could include one’s parents, teachers, coaches, management, politicians, gurus, heroes, sports figures, priests, ministers, clerics, rabbis, writers, poets, religious literature/books, television personalities, movie stars, athletes, etc. There are many, many sources of authority. And in many cases we place these authority figures on a pedestal; these authorities have the answers we seek. They are better than us.

We do humble ourselves to these authorities. ‘Who am I to question these authorities?’ is a question that we often pose ourselves. We are merely followers. ‘They are too big for me to challenge, they are so much wiser than me,’ we tell ourselves. And what about these authority figures? Well, for the most part, they love the position of power, of hierarchy, of being a star, of being on a pedestal, of needing to be right, of needing to be all knowing, of needing to be adored, of needing followers, of wanting wealth to go along with their recognition, etc.

It all seems so perfectly beautiful. There are those who need authority and there are those in authority. It’s a place of haves and have-nots. Sadly, yes, very sadly, this is all designed to keep the individual very weak, including the authorities themselves (more about this issue in another blog). And the weaker we are, the more willing we blindly accept authority. We are told that we are this or that by these authority figures. When you think about it, we are talked to like children in many situations. We continue to behave childishly around authority figures. Parents, being an obvious authority, must stop parenting in order for the child to be an adult. Children must learn to wean themselves off of parenting and say “NO!” Yet we see that in most cases parents do not stop parenting even when the child is fully an adult. And children often do not say “NO” emotionally to their parents (like I had not done until 50 years old). Do you know if this is true for you? And what about other authority figures? Is anyone up to challenging established religious literature? Challenging their religious leader? How about the business manger or the local guru? Or how about the politician that sends you to die in battle for a “good cause”?

So why do we let authority figures rule our lives? It’s simple – if we do not know ourselves, we are easily led, easily conditioned, easily conned, easily confused, easily sold, easily manipulated and seduced. As a result, we seek authority to guide us. All that is left is to fit into society as determined by these authorities. We have no sense of well being or fulfillment. It is my view that the vast majority of us do not know ourselves well enough to make us, you and me, the authority of our own lives. To know yourself helps you to establish self worth and self worth drives our lives in directions that lead to personal fulfillment. Having great self worth, we all become leaders in our own lives. We then make decisions that meet our needs and not the needs of someone else. So how to know ourselves better? And if we do not need authority because we are our own authority, then how do we learn?

We should instead look for great mentors. These are people that have a healthy bond with themselves, and who guide us to our own truth and not their truth. Great mentors can also hold a vision of us far greater than we can hold for ourselves. When we live our truth we all become powerful, connected, genuinely relational, our own personal leader, and most importantly, our own authority. Accept your authority. Seek out great mentors to help you discover you. Once again, our self-worth is the key to a significant, empowering and fulfilling life.

For those who seek a great mentor see one the greatest of the planet (yes, on the planet); Mr. Dov Baron at http://www.fullmontyleadership.com. Dov has guided me to a life that is a quantum leap than I had before meeting him.

Russians My Experience – Part 2

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In the previous blog I wrote about my encounter with three Russian men in Poland during the 2012 European Soccer Championships. At the cafe, it was the best of times. Now, that very night, I attended a soccer game between Russia and Greece. The experience was to be very different. It was to be the worst of times. This massive contrast forced me to deal with my own self-worth.

My friend and I had tickets to the Russia vs Greece soccer game. We entered the stadium as usual and enthusiastically made our way to our seats.  As we approached our row of seats it was clear that we had tickets in the Russian section. Their flags and colors were widely distributed. Given my experience with the three Russian men earlier in the day (see the previous blog), I looked forward to sitting with them and enjoying the game. Unfortunately that was not to be. As my friend and I reached our row, it was filled and blocked with Russian fans, mostly older men. We asked to be let through in a courteous manner. The men who sat at the edge of the row looked my friend and I up and down. They then waved their fingers at me signifying “NO”. To my friend they waved their hands in a gesture that said “YES” you are welcomed to enter. I had not said anything to provoke these men. In fact I had a big smile and offered friendship. Then the men pointed to my skin color (I am brown skinned) and waved their fingers in “NO”. My friend being white skinned was allowed to enter. However he refused to enter without me. When a stadium attendant arrived to assist me, the Russian men steadfastly refused to let me in. Emotionally, I was taken back to my childhood where I grew up in apartheid South Africa. This act of racism and discrimination was the norm in my youth. Brown skinned people were not to mingle with white skinned people. I was emotionally transported to the times when I had to confront my own self worth at 8 years old.

These particular Russian men decided to live and act on their racist beliefs even though they were in Poland (audacious behaviour). They inherently felt that they owned Poland (very serious riots were to break out between the Russians and Poles in the streets of Warsaw shortly after this incident incited in part, by the Russians claiming that they owned Poland). What is now occurring in Crimea is no surprise to me. If Russia decided that Poland is in fact Russian territory, I would not be surprised either. Not in the least bit.

Police eventually arrived to deal with my incident in the stadium (the attendant was overwhelmed by the problem). The police advised me, “Sit elsewhere, it is not safe for you here”. Fortunately Polish fans in a nearby section eagerly waved us over to join them as they sensed what was transpiring. I took their advice and moved on to the very welcoming arms of the Polish fans. However, before leaving these Russian men I had to protect that 8 year old boy in me that was transported back to apartheid South Africa through this incident. I looked at the group of Russian men and calmly said “When you have no compassion for others, you do not love yourself. You are a very sad group who will suffer greatly”. By now my friend is tugging at my arm asking me to move. “One last thing” I said. “By the way gentlemen, I predict the Russia will lose tonight,” They laughed at me, because Russia was the overwhelming favourite. Well, Russia did lose that night. Perhaps a foretelling of Russian political fortunes down the road. I smiled secretly after the game because I felt that the Universe supports authenticity and compassion. My anger was not directed specifically at these Russian men. Instead it was directed at the human in general, who appear doomed to repeat this kind of oppression suffering over and over and over.

In one day I met three young Russian men that awed me with their compassion, and another group of older men that floored me with their lack of compassion. What was the lesson for me here? That I should not judge all by the acts of a few. That it would be easy for me to lump all into the actions of a few and myself become prejudiced. That I should be discerning with each encounter. That the world is unfortunately governed by power, greed, and control over others. That Nationalism and separation removes us from being connected to all human beings. That groups of people who have low self worth will band together to bully others to create significance in their lives. That we cannot solve problems with the same mind that created the problems. That history will repeat itself because as human beings we cannot learn the lessons we must learn.

I feel that everything I experience is a gift. This experience was a gift in that it provided me with clarity. It allowed me to feel that I had left the pain of apartheid South Africa behind on an emotional level. I have progressed very well. That self worth is the key to personal power and that only comes from taking a fully committed journey inwards to see my truth.

And finally, to let out the anger: I am frankly pissed at human beings hurting each other so unnecessarily. We are all responsible. These cowardly acts are in all of us. We hurt the ones we love. No one is immune. Let’s take the journey inward and stop the freaking madness. We all need to be leaders in our own lives. We all need to be accountable. As you change, the world changes. There are no quick fixes. There, I feel better already. Thanks for listening.

Russians – My Experience

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Given the world events surrounding Crimea this month, I though it timely to discuss my experience with the Russian people during my trip to the European Soccer Championships in the Ukraine and Poland in the summer of 2012. As Dickens so aptly put it “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. My experience in dealing with Russian people during my three week trip in 2012 was an experience in learning that judgment, bias and prejudice harms me as well as others. I learned that compassion with strong boundaries is the best way to relate to others. This blog deals with the Best of Times. Next week’s blog will deal with the Worst of Times.

The best of times;

I visited Warsaw Poland in June 2012. My hotel accommodations were superb; spacious, bright, and in the most ideal place in town for me. Outside my hotel’s front door was a commercial lane filled with restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and coffee houses. I loved the feeling of stepping outside into such a private yet dynamic environment. As luck would have it, my favourite cafe was right in front of the hotels’ entrance. I visited the place every day. I loved the staff, the food, the drinks, the clientele and the outside seating on the lane. Many happy times were spent outside sipping my coffee, watching the passersby, chatting to the staff and clientele or reading and writing in my journal. I felt full being in the cafe.

One afternoon in a moment of feeling very grateful, I began chatting to all the clientele of the cafe who were sitting outdoors with me. There were approximately eight of us. The topics ranged from soccer to world events to life and its purpose. Time flew by, many hours in fact. Then three men in their early thirties sat down. They were Russians who were here to watch the soccer games. These young men impressed me with their worldliness and the open hearts. My conversations with these Russian men were meaningful and joyful for me. I really enjoyed their company. I had grown very friendly with all the clientele sitting outdoors and began buying drinks and food for everyone. Heck, I was feeling great so why not be generous. The mood was festive and lively. There was so much fun and friendship. My bill for the food and drinks were mounting and I did not care.

I began to talk to the Russian men about intimate life experiences. They were willing to share of themselves and were highly vulnerable in their disclosures. I took a great liking to them and time passed quickly. The sun was setting and we all had to go to the soccer game that night, so I said goodbye to the Russian men and got up to get my bill. I expected it to be in excess of $500 US dollars, but I was in for a big surprise. “No bill sir” said the hostess. “Why?” I asked, “It was paid for by the Russian men sir,” was her reply. I was stunned and taken back. Those three Russian men had been as grateful as I was for deeply connected connection between strangers. I was amazed and my heart glowed with love for mankind. I felt that all was possible in that moment.

I had had a wonderful feeling about the Russian people after my encounter with these three strangers. They were genuine and generous. They also did not want any credit for what they did. In fact the clientele still believed I had paid for everything and could not have thanked me enough before they left. I only found out about the Russians’ generosity after all those participating in their generosity had already left.

I am most happy when I feel deeply connected to others. These Russian men had done me a world of good. Thank you once again.

My next blog dealing with other Russian men that very night at the soccer game was to be very painful. A massive contrast that was going to teach me valuable life lessons.

 

The Individual

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My blog on February 19, 2014 addressed society’s hold on the individual. Today’s blog is focusing strictly on the essence and power of this individual. By “Individual”, I mean you and me as human beings. My humanity comes through my personal experiences. My personal experiences form my truth. Since my personal experiences are mine to own only, truth is a pathless land that must be walked and experienced individually.

For me, the Individual has within himself/herself the essence and power of the Universe. When the Individual feels the depth of being, he/she connects to all that is powerful and beautiful in the Universe. To feel connected to the source of all life that is magnificent, the Individual must be free to explore, discover, create, dream, and imagine. The Individual must be allowed a safe environment to feel the strength of the connection to his/her essence and be encouraged to be curious about all that is. The Individual must be empowered to move towards his/her destiny of birth: to explore, to experience, to love, to contribute. However, we, the Individuals living on this planet, are not given the environment to feel connected to all that is magnificent (including the connection to each other). We are born into a society not connected to the Individual’s essence. We are born into a society who socializes the Individual to suit society’s future needs, not the greater being of each Individual.

Individuals are taught to conform from the moment of birth. We are taught to obey the rules, be quiet, and show restraint. We are taught to accept absolute values, think and not feel, adopt identities that do not belong, etc. The Individual is weakened from the moment of birth and continues to be weakened throughout his/her life. Eventually, either the Individual capitulates and accepts his/her destiny bestowed by society or he/she fights for a better world. Few choose to fight back. Most prefer to fit in and be accepted, afraid of rejection, isolation, and loneliness.

The irony is that loneliness and many other types of pain are a direct result of the Individual moving away from his/her essence. Once the pain sets in, others cannot make it go away. Loneliness is about the Individual missing himself/herself – me missing me. We are therefore destined to a life never fully lived in the society we are born into today.

According to Socrates, an unexamined life is not worth living. I feel that Socrates saw the limits imposed on the individual by society. He urges the Individual to take corrective action by examining his/her life so that the damage may be undone, and the limitations may be lifted. Only then will the Individual know his/her truth and become authentic in the process. This has been my personal experience. Before I began examining my life at 50 years old, I did not know my life was mainly filled with suffering, pain, depression, mediocrity, loneliness, false identities, failures, frustration, confusion, contradictions, and a very few sparkles of joy here and there. If I had died without looking inwards, I, as Socrates says so beautifully, would have never lived.

I became accountable for my own life at age 50 (I am now 59). My accountability was about knowing and accepting my truth no matter how painful it was. My ego did take quite a beating when I first heard I was depressed, shamed from my birth, I was a NICE boy with weak boundaries, etc. Looking inwards has allowed me to become authentic in my living. Authenticity has led me to feeling fulfilled. I have learned to be absolutely vulnerable. My absolute vulnerability has led to feeling invulnerable because my truth sets me free. If one becomes wholly vulnerable, one’s curiosity and desire to feel the essence of the universe overwhelms issues of the ego that make vulnerability feel dangerous to the individual.

Feeling this essence has allowed me to claim my power and pursue my life’s purpose – the purpose I was born to live, not the one imposed by society. Society’s hold on me has lessened a great deal over the last 9 years. I have stepped out the prison. I am breathing freedom.

My future feels golden as I walk away from the darkness of my prison and towards the rising sun of my truth. Life is now for the purposes of exploring and contributing. Life has gotten incredibly juicy and exciting. I am grateful to all those, including the aforementioned Socrates and my mentor Dov Baron, who have held a greater vision of me as a human being and led me to examining my life, a life truly worth living.

Why Should Anyone Write

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I began writing blogs approximately one year ago. Previously, I did not think that I was a writer or that I had anything important to say. It took my mentor, Dov Baron, years of not so subtle suggestions to write, to get me moving. And now, I am so grateful that I did listen to him. This blog is about why I am grateful for writing.

Firstly and foremost I write for me, for my personal needs. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Yes, initially it’s about me and not the reader, although it may impact the reader.  When I write it assists me in my personal healing and growth. I get to set my truth out so that I can hear it and see it. If it does not ring true, or if I cannot feel what I said, I look inwards into myself to discover what is actually true for me. Writing ensures I am personally dealing in depth with whatever topic I had chosen. To write something meaningful to me, I must be able to live what is being conveyed. I must feel it before saying it to be real. Writing regularly encourages me to face more and more of my truth. Writing develops my inner wisdom.

The topic I choose to write about becomes important because the topic is what I am willing to face at any given moment. I honour myself by taking on tough subjects for me. I take on matters impacting my life right now. This in turn allows me to create momentum in my life. I find that life gets very exciting when I feel momentum. For me, momentum feels like true living, the opposite of being stuck- which was the feeling I had had most of my life. Knowing my truth also allows me to be freer of general conditioning and illusions.

The other element of personal growth in writing is that the reader gets to decide what they wish to take from the article and the reader can like or dislike, agree or disagree with me. For many years I carried a wound created by rejection, and writing forced me to deal with feelings of rejection. If a reader disagrees, I have learned to accept that it is not about me and  that feelings of rejection are neither useful nor necessary. In addition, I had to give up the “disease” called “What will they think?” Whatever the reader thinks is beyond my control and it will be based on the reader’s perceptions, projections and life experiences. Not having this disease also assists me in living freely. It allows me to be me. However, if the reader’s feedback makes sense to me because it is constructive, I can learn from my mistakes or lack of understanding. Writing has become a very important part of my personal growth.

The other part of writing for me is about service and contribution to mankind that is beyond my needs or myself. My writing may at some point be a catalyst for change in another human being. I am not attached to being a catalyst because my focus is on myself; my personal healing from writing is value enough for me. However, if the writing does influence change then I am most grateful because I feel that as any person’s life improves I improve. My feeling is that we are all connected. Assisting others is also assisting me. And vise versa.

Have you, like I had done, decided that writing is not that important to you? Think again and make the effort. You will find some pleasant surprises along the way. Writing assists in personal empowerment and possibly the empowerment of others. It’s win-win.