Alive in Berlin – First Impressions

Imagine two days full of people who get you, who get your desire for growth, who live their lives authentically, wholly and in service of the greater good.

Imagine a figurative kick in the butt so forceful that it propels you to reach higher and further towards your own best self, and that at the same time is gentle and supportive.

Imagine whole body dancing with, laughing with and hugging real amazing and interesting people who expand your vision of what is possible in this world in the best ways.

Sound delicious?
Yes.

And I have yet to say a word about how wonderful, approachable and insightful the speakers were.

Alive was like meeting long lost friends I didn’t know I have.

Connectional Intelligence

‘”Connectional Intelligence is the ability to build and realize value from networks of relationships, to harness units of knowledge and reuse them to innovate, to convene communities and to marshall a variety of resources for breakthrough results.

In our new world of an embedded digital infrastructure that connects all of our lives, the power of connectional intelligence holds exponential, and previously untapped, potential for breakthroughs in ways we can barely imagine.”
Erica and Saj-nicole believe that contextual capacity – the ability to bring together different kinds of people and ideas to foster recombination of different ideas, and to see things from a different perspective – is a key part of connectional intelligence and a key skill for both individuals and institutions to develop if they want to remain competitive.’

From Pamela Slim’s new book “Body of Work”.

Weary

Whenever I hear the first sentences of the Priests song in Les Miserables’ prologue I start crying. There is so much love and beauty in these simple words of compassion.

“Come in, Sir, for you are weary
And the night is cold out here.
Though our lives are very humble
What we have, we have to share.”

Let’s Play

What if you had an entire week of play?
Play and it’s secretly working on a project?
Play and it is secretly discovering the power of napping?
Play and it’s secretly playing all the plays?

Friends of The Fluent Self already know about the power of play and the power of Rally, a group play event in Portland.
Last year I trekked (what felt like) half way around the world to take part in a Rally. This year we’re bringing Rally to Europe.
We ( Hannah, Wiebke and I) have been working on this since September and it is truly my favorite project. It has been easeful, if not always easy, and processing your own stuff always came first.

If you want to know more, or join us follow this rabbit hole: http://eurorally.tumblr.com/letsplay

Multiple Levels

“I’m actually in a third place. If you can avoid being a biblical literalist, and if you can avoid being an arrogant scientist who tells everyone else what to think, you can think on multiple levels at once. There’s a lot of beauty in seeing that religion and science are really about the same things. They can be perfectly compatible.”
- Barbara J. King

From an interesting article on the evolutionary purpose of religious feeling.

It echoes some of my own thoughts on spirituality as a social function giving us belonging and meaning.

As The Crow Flies – Crow Pose And (Broken) Noses

“Shit,” I thought, “if I broke my nose, I’ll have to wake up Matthias.”

Matthias is my roommate and of course it was 1am at night. I gingerly tested my nose, my fingers came away slightly bloody.

***

It started when I confidently posted in my fitness group that I could now consistently do crow pose.

No, further back, it started when I decided that I would do crow pose damnit! and went in search of strength experts to help my wobbly wrists grow stronger. I got the help I needed along with weekly accountability and stronger wrists. Two weeks ago I could hold myself up for five seconds for the first time. And since then I’ve moved to holding it fine most of the time. Most of the time.

To do this I carefully place my hands on a mat, fix a point slightly ahead of me. Put my knees on my arms and then lift one toe after the other off the ground until I’m precariously balanced on my hands. It’s a strange and exhilarating feeling.

Each day I noticed how I got more familiar with the pose and with the feeling, how I was getting stronger and more confident.

***

Then one night I decide that I can just do crow pose wherever. I have visions of myself balancing on rocks with sun-splashed waves crashing behind me with a delightful bokeh effect. And well “Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall” as they say in german. Overconfidence leads to stupidity, and trying to balance on your arms in the dark on a plain floor, when having a visual focus is part of keeping your balance IS stupidity.

And so I toppled over forward and couldn’t reach my hands in front of my face in time, for obvious reasons.

***

Like crow pose, balancing overconfidence and timidity in our habits is a constant precarious act, but, also like crow pose, one that can be learned. It’s learning the difference between standing up for oneself and brashly ignoring everyone else’s needs. It means knowing when it is ok to let people have their way and when you you are being a doormat. To most of us these distinctions don’t come naturally, but when we learn them it enables us to actively shape our lives. To live, as I like to say, more congruently.

***

As for the fall: Turns out my nose wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. I took a cold pack out of the fridge and stuck it on my nose to avoid giant purple signs of my stupidity. It seems I was lucky.
That day.

On The Linear/Cyclical Nature of Time

When we are first introduced to Captain Sisko, then Commander, in the Star Trek franchise Deep Space 9, we meet a grim and bitter man who has never forgiven the universe, especially Captain Picard, that his wife died at the battle field of Wolf 359 leaving him and his son. And yet the Prophets, the local gods of Bajor, choose him to be their emissary. But before he can fulfill his destiny, he has to let go of the past and move forward. During this process the Prophets and Sisko spin out a conversation on the linearity of human existence:

“You claim you do not know the consequences.
Then how can you take responsibility for your actions?”
“You try to anticipate, to set a strategy for all possibilities, but in the end it comes down to throwing one pitch after the other and seeing what happens. With each new consequence the game begins to take shape.”
“And you have no idea what that shape that is until the game is complete.”

“We are explorers. We explore our lives day by day, constantly searching not only for answers, but for new questions.”

It’s a great explanation of humanness and a hat-tip to the original idea of Star Trek, the reason I love(d) it so in the first place.

Then the scene returns once again to the spaceship at Wolf 359 and the prophets ask:

“If all this is true why do you exist here?”
“I was ready to die with her

I never left this ship.”
“You exist here.”
“I exist here.”

“None of you past experience has prepared you for this consequence.”
“And I have never figured out how to live without her.”
“So you choose to exist here. It is not linear.”

Each time he closes his eyes Sisko sees his beloved lying in the wreckage of the spaceship, dead. Ostensibly life goes on in it’s linear nature, he goes through the motions of raising his son and doing his work, but really he is stuck in the same loop a shadow of his former self. The difference between action and motion is that through action we shape the game. Motion lets us pretend to play.

For Sisko this scene is a turning point, he realizes that he must learn to live in spite of the consequences, to throw the ball once again and let the game take shape. What shape, is shown in the following 175 episodes of this epic.

Another epic, and please forgive me for the slightly blasphemous idea of comparing DS9 to the Gita, the Bhagavad Gita tells the story of Arjuna, who is faced with a similar loop. He sits on the edge of a battlefield on the opposite side sits family that has usurped his throne. He is a warrior and his duty points him to battle, but he refuses out of love for his family. Krishna through several chapters now teaches Arjuna the importance of playing the game of throwing the ball to make it take shape. He later reveals his divine nature and like the Prophets he sees time not linearly, but in it’s entirety. In chapter 11 Krishna reveals himself to Arjuna in his true form and Arjuna is fearful of the immense complexity that he sees, because Krishna is the whole universe. He sees for a moment the shape of the game and the part that he and his family on the opposite side play in it. He sees the complexity and the infinite possibilities of action he could take. He also sees that in the end all things perish, as is the nature of the universe.

Reductionism is a model to understand the world that states that a complex system can be described as the sum of its parts. As chemists we often joked that biology is nothing more than applied chemistry and then laughed at the pique of biologists. Of course physicist would do the same thing to us, stating that chemistry is just applied physics. By this logic you should be able to explain the emotions I feel watching Sisko let go of his wife’s death, or the at the beauty of the Gita, by the fundamental laws that govern subatomic particles. In reality though even here we stumble over a level of complexity that is hard for us to describe, making approximations necessary, just as we make approximations based on past experience to determine our actions in the everyday. The Gita, and Sisko’s speech above ask us to act in spite of not seeing the whole picture to trust in the Universe, the game taking shape, it is the other side of taking responsibility for our actions.

As humans we can only fully grasp the parts of the game that have already been played. We see bits and pieces of the game that is developing, maybe a few steps ahead of the current throw, seeing the batter brace for his swing. Sometimes, if we are lucky our intuition will show us a little more of the game and its overwhelming complexity. We might learn that the answer is 42, but not see the question. Yet it is our duty to play anyway, to take responsibility for our actions even if we don’t know the consequences.

Most of all it is our duty to act.

***
Why am I writing this? Because it is something I need to hear. I get so stuck in trying to anticipate the game and then dithering on the playing field and I need a call to action.