I love words. There can be so much power and wisdom hidden behind a word we use regularly.
Like the word “attention“. It came out in a few conversations lately, so I felt the urge to give it some attention.
The word “attention” comes from old Latin. In particular, it’s the combination of “ad“, meaning “to, toward” and “tendere ” meaning “stretch“.
So, to give attention to something means to stretch yourself toward that thing.
The first image that comes to my mind is an elastic band. One tip connected to you and the other one to the thing you want to focus upon. To give attention to something means to stretch yourself until you can attach this elastic band to the object of your attention. The stronger the elastic band, the more you will be drawn toward the object of your attention.
Your attention is a superpower, use it wisely.
- If you want to achieve a goal, the first step is to put your attention on it. This way you will be pulled towards the target, and you’ll get there with less effort.
- If you attach your “attention” to many objectives, you will be pulled in different directions. Maybe even opposite ones, making any movement almost impossible. So, it’s a good idea to invest your attention on one thing at the time.
This morning I decided to surrender to the Be The Change cards fully.
Usually, when I sit down to write the apple of day, I already have some running in my head. I still pick a card most of the time. It helps me spark my writing in the direction of what I want to share.
But this morning I woke up only with some vague thoughts.
So, when I set up for the writing practice, I decided to let the cards determine the topic. And they did. A card dropped out of the deck when I started shuffling.
I had to sit in silence for a good minute to let this invitation to sink in.
“Step aside & make space for others.”
What does it mean for me to step aside? Is it about work? Or my relationships? Who are the others I can make space for?
One of my guiding principles is “kindness”. I firmly believe in the power of being kind.
Today, this card made me realise a sort of a paradox.
My way of being kind has always been to help and support others. I am kind to others, and they are the objects of my kindness.
But that put me right in the middle of the stage.
What if being kind is not about me giving help or support, but it’s about me stepping aside and making space for them?
So they can help themselves.
So they are the protagonists of their stories.
Like this card today.
I discovered a new word: autotelic.
“The term “autotelic” derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal. It refers to a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward.”
This word is used by professor Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience to define one of the essential characteristics of the experience of “flow”.
In short, one of the signs that we are in a peak experience is that we found the experience so rewarding in itself that we detach from the outcome.
It’s the kind of feeling we experience when we do something not to achieve something but for the pure joy of doing it.
Can you think about anything you do in your life that you love so much doing that you detach from the outcome?
When I read that word, the first image that came to my mind was a group of kids playing. I remember that I could play for hours — losing the sense of time is another sign of being in flow — just for the joy of playing. There was no other purpose than playing itself.
Other self-rewarding activities for me are playing the guitar, reading, writing, having conversations.
All activities that we don’t usually associate with work.
Funny, isn’t it?
One of the keys to maximising our performances is to do things for the joy of doing them, and not for the desire or need to achieve something.
Yet, for many of us, work is all about the outcome.
Maybe, we should try to make our work a bit more playful.
Not all days are good days.
Sometimes things don’t go as we expected or as we would like them to go.
Nobody is immune to sick days.
What do you do when you find yourself in one of those bad days?
Do you push harder to get to the other side or do you shrug your shoulders and keep going as if nothing happened? Do you let the negative thoughts to steal your focus or can you set the problems aside and keep moving?
I believe that negative days are great teachers.
When I feel that adversities are getting in my blood, I know that there is a lesson to learn for me.
So, I pause, I take out my journal, and I start writing until the negative thoughts are out of my head, or a solution manifests.
What do you do when you have a bad day?
In chapter 21 of “The Little Prince“, the prince meets the fox.
Even if you haven’t read the book for sure, you have heard or read the most famous quote from this chapter, the secret that the fox reveals to the little prince before when they are saying goodbye.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Though, there is another gem in this chapter.
“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”
Rites and rituals are indeed too often neglected.
And I can understand why.
Think about one of your favourite music groups. You probably love the lead singer, and you know very well the lead guitarist. But what about the bass player or the drummer? Most of the time they are not as cool as the others. Yet, they are essential to the sound you love so much. They are the ones setting the rhythm and the groove on which the magic of the other instruments can happen.
In the same way, rite and rituals may look dull. Where’s the excitement and the creativity in doing the same thing every day?
Though, rituals set the groove of our lives.
My daily rituals help me anchor the days to what really matters to me. They make me feel grounded, and they give me the energy to creatively face any challenge that comes in my way.
What are your rituals?
My coachees are extraordinary.
Every session is a unique opportunity to learn something new.
Like yesterday, when a conversation about practice became an invaluable reminder of the power of having a learner’s mindset.
You see, we admire and respect masters. Those people who dedicated their lives to learn something only to share it with us.
But what really makes them teachers is not their knowledge or their wisdom.
Students make someone a teacher.
You probably remember the famous story of the empty cup.
A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”
What makes someone a teacher is our willingness to learn, to empty our cup so we can be filled.
If you nurture a learner’s mindset, then every person that you meet becomes a master.
“The religions start from mysticism. There is no other way to start a religion. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth …and then …the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it’s just rocks. You’d never guess that there was a fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Doctrine becomes doctrinaire. Morals become moralistic. Ritual becomes ritualistic. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that’s within it.”
Yesterday I found this powerful metaphor from David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk. The beauty of this metaphor is that it can be applied to any organisation.
Just replace the word “religion” with “form” or “configuration”. With the word configuration, I mean all the visible and invisible elements that define the “HOW” of an organisation.
Then replace “mysticism” with “consciousness” or “energy”; the true self, the bigger “WHO” of an organisation.
Then the sentence reads: “The form starts from consciousness. There is no other way to start a form. But, I compare this to a volcano that gushes forth …and then …the magma flows down the sides of the mountain and cools off. And when it reaches the bottom, it’s just rocks. You’d never guess that there was a fire in it. So after a couple of hundred years, or two thousand years or more, what was once alive is dead rock. Ideas become risks. Principles become bureaucracy. Ritual becomes routine. What do we do with it? We have to push through this crust and go to the fire that’s within it.”
How many organisation do you know that are in that place? Where the original fire now is just some dead rocks?
And what about you?
Because this metaphor works beautifully also for us, as individuals.
Is your flame, your energy still alive or did you allow for the time to cover it beneath solid rocks?
Every transformation journey starts with removing all those layers of solid rocks to find the original fire and reignite the volcano.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
According to the gospels, the one above is the sentence that Jesus used to answer to someone asking if it was lawful for Jews to pay taxes to Roman’s empire.
Where I grew up, this sentence was often used to explain that spirituality and reality are two different worlds. On one side the real world, made of matter, in which we live. And above that the realm of the soul.
I thought spirituality was a journey of elevation.
And that same thought pushed me away from any spiritual work for a very long time. I couldn’t handle that fracture anymore. I couldn’t understand the kind of spiritual schizophrenia of people praying for love and acting with hate.
It took me years, a lot of falls and some inspired teachers to find my way.
Now I know that my spiritual journey is one of integration.
“Or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.” ― T S Eliot, Four Quartets
According to the dictionary, something authentic is “something of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”
I feel authentic anytime my words, and my actions originate from who I am.
Even when I make mistakes.
Even when words don’t come out easily.
Because being authentic means being human.
And accept that I am perfect in my imperfection.
I love this moment of the day. I sit here with some relaxing music, and I write for 15 minutes or so.
No goals. Just the act of writing.
It amazes me how I’ve been able to keep this practice for so long, despite my proven lack of self-discipline.
Unfortunately, any time I tried to apply the same strategy to work on my book, I failed. Again and again.
The practice of writing daily on the book never took off.
I used the same strategies: the same time of the day, same duration, the same tool.
After a few days, something gets in the way, and the practice is gone.
It has been going on for months. As a result, I blew up all my deadlines on the book project, and it became very frustrating.
With all deadline gone, I started losing my grip on the outcome. Questioning if I will ever see the final book.
And then, something happened.
When the outcome faded away, the habit of writing daily started to stick.
I realised that what makes this habit easy to keep is the total absence of outcome. I write every day just for the pleasure of writing.
I don’t control the outcome, just the process.
The moment I gave up my desire to control the outcome, I was able to focus on the process and make it work.