On Being Human

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“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world,
an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control.”

~ Martha Nussbaum

I’ve been talking with a friend lately about being human. How do we do it? and do it well?

It seems like a funny thing to talk about, but when you start to see how often we bumble things up –  get things ‘wrong’, say the wrong things – being human can feel like walking through a quagmire.

We seem to be funny creatures – not just my friend and me (yes, WE are) – but all of us human beings. Sometimes, it just feels really hard to be here on Earth – vulnerable, soft-soul creatures walking around in fleshy human bodies.

Especially now. We’re living in amazingly turbulent times. The rate of change makes my head spin. And I feel great grief with the direction we are headed as a species.

So how do we cultivate an openness to this world that feels so beyond our control?

We have to develop a practical, embodied relationship with the unknown nature of Life and we do this by becoming aware of and skilled in the expression of our own internal creative Source. We do so by becoming aware of our unique creative process and how to take action by being in direct relationship with this Source.

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.” ~ M Nussbaum

When you are rooted in the firm foundation of your creative Source, you can trust in the uncertain and have this willingness to be exposed.

I like Nussbaum’s analogy of being like a plant – or a flower – “something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.”

This is what I’ve been writing about for years here at UnabashedlyFemale. This beauty. This fragility. This tender softness of our human souls. To be human is to be flesh and soul. It is vulnerable.

And yet, this vulnerability is so much stronger than we think, because the main qualities of our creativity – our sacred nature – are strength, will, joy, intuition, love, compassion, generosity, caring, and power. Consider these qualities. The more we will our vulnerable, soul-soft, felshy selves, the more these qualities come to the fore.

When we live in a dynamic relationship with our own creative Source, we become reacquainted with these qualities of Being that we have mostly lost touch with from living out of fear and self-protection. It is by entering into this direct relationship and living it in the world that we remember these qualities – that we remember who we are and what we are made of.

Trust is the very important piece here. We have to learn how to trust again. And what is it we must learn to trust? Ourselves. The uncertain and unknown. And our capacity to meet whatever comes. We must relearn how to trust our relationship with Life, and with that comes relearning how to trust our relationship with other human beings – and really humanity itself.

Nussbaum writes that “Being a human means accepting promises from other people and trusting that other people will be good to you.”

But, if we no longer trust other humans (and ultimately ourselves, meaning our relationship with the unknown) then our life “is not a human life any longer.”

Here’s the part where it gets dicey. There are people in this world, right now, who wish to do us harm. How do we stay human in a world where other humans want to destroy life? How do we be a human being in today’s world where so many humans are violently against each other, and against Life? My answer leads me right into the unknown because “I don’t know.” And, I do know we have to find our way back to our humanity or we will not survive.

[Edited to add: And I do know we must see the highest in every human being, meaning we must see the Source that is within them, even though we meet their actions with our own appropriate action.]

I can honestly say that trusting the unknown has been one of the greatest challenges of my own life. I’ve fought it. Yet, I am completely in love with the mystery, with the creative process. I think I am not alone in this dilemma. We love adventure but we also do not like to lose control. Yes, we are funny creatures.

I agree with Charlotte Du Cann who writes,

“I realise we are not in a political crisis; we are in a spiritual crisis, an existential crisis. We don’t know what it means to be human anymore. We have lost contact with the meaning of time, our presence here. “

If our fear of each other is causing us to lose our humanity, then you can bet this is a spiritual crisis, an existential crisis. Our being human is directly tied to our spirituality. To be human we must be in direct relationship with the Source that gives us life, the Source of our creativity. We must be in dialogue with the Source of this great mystery, which means trusting the mystery – out there in the world, inside within ourselves, and within every other living being.

It’s all really very practical. The unknown is a fact of life. It is when we deny the facts of life that we’ve lost touch with the real.

If we are going to be agents of love and change, then we have to trust that which IS love and that which is the source of change.

 

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Just next week, I open registration for my new course R I S E. This course is the culmination of my teaching over the past decade plus. The core of the course is the curriculum I teach at Stanford, and the same curriculum I taught when I worked with families directly affected by 9/11 and people directly affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. It is the work I teach in companies. Originally offered to MBA students at Stanford for 25 years, it is powerful work.

I’ve named it R I S E because it is time to rise up. It is time to bring all of our knowledge, experience, and purposeful intent to create a more humane world. The beauty of R I S E is that it offers a practical and potent container to support YOUR work in the world. It gives you the interactive experiences, tools, and practices to come to know your own creative source so you can meet any challenge you face as you R I S E in this new year. We truly are facing a time of challenge, but at the same time we are facing a time of possibility – pure possibility.

When we R I S E to meet our challenges, we discover who we really are, we discover the vision we hold inside, and we discover the deep capacities we’ve been gifted with. R I S E will give you an amazing foundation from which to meet any challenge and opportunity, and living our challenges is how we discover who we are and what we are capable of.

Registration opens the second week of January. Sign-up for my newsletter to be notified.

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Fixation vs. Focus: How to Navigate the Creative Journey

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“Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit?”

~ Gabrielle Roth

::

The other morning, as I was walking home from taking my grandson to school, I had one of those epiphanies that makes a big impact on how one sees the world. As I walked past a bright yellow house (and I mean BRIGHT yellow!), in my mind’s eye I could clearly see how everything – everything – exists in a sea of awareness (what I could feel was love). In my mind’s eye, I was aware of everything – thoughts, senses, perceptions, feelings, objects, ideas, visions, etc. It was as if they were floating in this sea that is consciousness.

What I noticed is that the awareness that I am (and that each of us is) could choose where to place focus, choosing what to focus on – UNLESS I became fixated on something – a mood, a thought, a particular outlook, a way of being in the world, an identity. When fixation happens, it’s as if everything else goes into the background and what is being fixated on becomes the most important, really the only, thing that’s seen.

When this happens to me in life, often the fixation is so compulsive and unconscious that the move to fixation is imperceptible. At some point, I become aware that I am fixating – usually because I feel some sort of rigidity and frustration.

Over the past years, I’ve focused on waking up out of this compulsive and unconscious tendency to fixate. It’s what egos do. They fixate. Rather than flowing and trusting, they fixate. As I’ve come to know life as it can be when it is more free of this unconscious fixation, I’ve been fighting structure while craving it, too. As I walked, I realized that the structure I have been craving in my life is not the same structure I’ve fought; rather, what I was being shown is the power of focus, the power of choosing, consciously, where to place your focus and attention.

Focus as I am writing of it is very different than fixation. Focus directs consciousness in flow. Fixation causes consciousness to go rigid.

 

Many people think controlling yourself is stopping yourself from living, holding yourself back from experiencing life, but really control puts you in a position to be able to channel and direct pure energy into any task you do, so instead of being scattered all around, you become an absolute force to be reckoned with.
~ Clairey Fairy

 

As I walked, what I could see is this kind of directing of pure energy. Clairey refers to it as controlling. I felt it as a kind of focus and directing. The directing was coming not from my mind, but from somewhere down deeper inside me.

It was coming from an inner radar that registers what feels right and true in the moment.

When we clearly and succinctly place our awareness and energy on something, we become this ‘force to be reckoned with’, because what we are IS a force of nature. Instead of it being diffuse, suddenly it becomes a powerful beam of consciousness, clearly focused on creating. Living life as a creation, as a work of art, is a kind of freedom. Yet to do this, requires structure, discipline, and focus. In my case, fighting structure has been fighting myself. I had to find this out the hard way. Even though I teach this work and have for years, I, too, am learning how to open more to the creative process. We are always learning, if we are open.

In working with many people, I’ve found there is this longing to be free of the constraints placed upon us by cultural ideals and standards that smother our authenticity. We long to be free. Yet, we also long to create. How do we hold them both?

Expectations keep us from being creative – expectations of others, of ourselves, and of how things will turn out from the choices we make. Placing expectations on life, and on others, keeps the realm of new possibilities at bay for if all you see are what you expect then the only things you will create are those things that come from what already exists in this world. And, if creativity is what is new, then what you create will not even really be creative.

So, the first questions from students is always: “Well, if you don’t have expectations, what keeps you from drifting in nothingness, doing nothing? What keeps you from being a couch potato? How do we move forward without expectations?”

I’ve often struggled with how to articulate this because it doesn’t fit into our current idea of how to be successful in the world. We are taught success comes from pushing and striving toward the completion of goals. However, pushing and striving almost always come from expectations – in fact, often goals in the way people usually hold them are really just expectations.

How do we hold a vision, feel the longing to create, while allowing life to move us in a way we cannot know ahead of time? It’s a dance between the vision we see, which we can call an intention, and keeping our awareness open to what shows up – paying attention to what comes back to us in response to the choices we make.

Expectations are a way of rigidly fixating. Intentions are a way of creatively focusing.

An illustrative example:

I have a vision in which I see myself speaking on stage somewhere in the world. I don’t know where this is, but the image is clear and the image keeps coming. I see a few other details, too, that I use to fill in the vision. I am speaking about creativity and love, and how we are so deeply connected to the earth. On stage, I am using multimedia (photos, videos) to supplement my speech. It’s really more of a combination of storytelling and poetic prose.

Now, how I will get to this place I don’t yet know. If I were to set goals, which I might, I could be tempted to make them pretty rigid without wiggle room. I could be tempted to begin to envision a linear process to ‘make’ this happen. But I know creativity is not a linear process. It is a very feminine process, one that winds and weaves as I meet life with an open heart AND a more ‘masculine-like’ structure of intention. Without any structure, I have chaos. With too much structure, there is no room for flow and possibility. And, all the while I listen, sense, and feel for what is next, for the direction I feel called, using my mind as the rational ally.

We need both the flow of the feminine and the structure of the masculine for a healthy creative process.

What I saw the other day was a clear image that showed me how I can see focus differently than how I’ve been holding structure, and for me this was a powerful insight because it helped me to know how it feels to do this. The image allowed me to feel it in my body. I know how it feels when my focus is scattered (this I know well!), and then I could feel how it feels when my focus is direct and channeled.

It’s all a dance with life. We meet life and life meets us. It takes trust, and it takes us being a willing, open dance partner. It takes learning to deeply listen, to feel, to sense…all things a good dancer knows.

Awareness and the wisdom of the body allow us to channel our life force to create with intention, while at the same time following the guiding hand of life.

In this way, we become a powerfully creative force of nature, in tune with nature, in service to nature, in service to love.

I’m curious about you. What have you noticed about focus and discipline and structure? How have these helped your creativity? How have they hindered your creativity?

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bafonbadge300pxIf you’d like to go deeper into the way I facilitate creativity while applying what you learn in real-time to your own life or business vision, join me for this summer run of Becoming a Force of Nature. Registration is now open. This is a powerful course. It can be a vehicle for deep transformation, as well as practical, tangible movement on a intention you are holding.

We will dive deep into the creative process. We’ll experience first-hand ways to creatively meet life’s challenges. When you live your life as a work of art, you come to realize you are the true creation.

This is the last time I will be offering the course in this format. Along with 12 teaching calls, you’ll receive 12 rich multi-media PDFs for each course weekly segment. After the course is done, you’ll be able to dive even deeper by way of these rich interactive lessons.

Take a look to see if the course is right for you. If it is, come join me for this summer journey.

 

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