Culture is such a big word. Affecting change to a culture seems like a task too awesome. But then every action taken by any one person in a group helps build and maintain the culture. We all take part. We define rules about behaviour and belief. Accordingly we show the face of acceptance and the face of rejection. An intricate web of interactions between community members affects the emergent rules. The power given, or taken, by particular members increases the influence their faces of acceptance and rejection have. This is group living.

What an incredible force of potential energy this connected group of people has. This community. For good or ill this force will move in the world. The direction is set at a micro level. The quality of the interactions between each person will be told in the macro history. So what will my contribution be? My part?

The potential for cruelty is high. Rejection is the most powerful social tool we hold. When we take it to hand in response to a person, rather than their actions, we cause pain – the worst sort of human to human cruelty. Ohh and how well we know to do this, it’s a rare life that wasn’t full of teachers to brand us with this lesson.

As rejector I feel the pain of knowing how cruel it felt when I was the receiver. But those moments of defense burst into a day too weary, on a subject too close, when the sharp point of conversation cuts down into an old wound or the outside world sings in chorus with self-doubt. In defense the bruised self acts, rejects you as you, continuing this strand of human hurt history. Generations can weave the same thread, needles handed to babes by bruised child/adults.

My part. I have to heal. I have to manage my edges – boundaries between me and you, you and your behaviour, me and my behaviour, me and my stuff, you and your stuff. To do this I need to pay attention. To do that I need to slow down. To slow down I need to…so the list goes on.

The connection between everyday practices and life’s bigger challenges keeps coming around. This is where meaning is made, this is fuel for lives well lived.


Solid ground – so reassuring, so comprehensible, so certain. Oh I long to stand on solid ground. This longing pulls us through days when everything seems uncertain, changeable and unpredictable. It takes us to discovery, explanation and insight. We have an ‘ah ha’ moment of clarity. The mist clears and you are stood on the mountain top you had being looking for. The mountain is packed with dynamite, now you have to push the trigger, blow that solid ground to pieces.

You what!

Yes I want to destroy that certain place. Perhaps I enjoy a few moments of celebration, reflection on the challenges that had been overcome. But I have to push the trigger, make the rock rubble, and jump off the summit into the misty, hazy future of uncertain possibility.

Chogyam Trungpa puts it perfectly. ‘bad news is you are falling through the air, nothing to hold on to, no parachute. Good news is there is no ground’.

The delusion of ground is damn useful – whilst you remember it’s a trick. I guess goals are like ground. You fix your eye to them, aim and progress. But they are only the mechanism for movement. You have to look around as you move from A to B, keep an eye out for the letter between that nobody knew about yet – perhaps it is the start of a route you need to take.

My human need to demystify, to contain the world within my limited understanding lives in me. Her neighbour is that ol’devil divinity, life, nature, god – whatever you know it by. Between us the ebb and flow of solidity and fluidity, certainty and not-knowing keep on pushing and pulling. This motion’s pulse becomes a place to rock and roll. Breathe in, breathe out.

Whether a corollary or sweet coincidence cycling is back in my days along with a new found sense of personal power. Reflecting on the joys I see connections back to the things we have come to know as the foundations of a heart full life – autonomy, everyday appreciation, interrelatedness and flow.

My bike is second hand, it was used and loved by a friend. It’s a city bike, you sit tall and rest you hands wide on the handlebars. Seven gears leave space for free wheeling down particularly steep declines and bum sculpting off the seat efforts when you meet the inevitable opposite. It maintains the scoop designed for the appropriately ladylike access to the saddle required during female cycling’s early history. In 2010 this space means skirts, an elegant slide off the bike to walk alongside and a connection back to a time when the liberation this machine brought thrilled and fueled suffrage movements. It is a mode of transport, not sport itself.

Most importantly it is self-propelled. My machine of flesh and bone meets a human made frame complete with wheels, pedals and gears – together we move over land: round corners, down the gradual descent to the river delta, up a hill that by foot had seemed insignificant. We move with speed, with care and attention to the stones, curbs, pot holes and other obstacles on route. It seems very right to be converting my body’s motion into another form of energy.

In the self reliance, and the access to anywhere breakfast’s calories can carry you, there is the autonomy. My upright back and steady pace indicates this sense of contentedness in being here. No hurry, no apology for the way I interrupt the quick, busy people – the racers, exercisers, commuters, distracted mothers, taxi drivers and lorry loads of urgent delivery.

But then there is connection still. The less busy have time to nod, to wonder (in this country I am still a rare thing), to giggle, be generous in giving me space or a safe moment of acknowledgement. The traditional bicycle people of the town have encouraging jeers or just an amused stare – old uncles on rickshaws, ice-cream peddlers, rubbish collectors, bandy legged toe picking coffee shop men with chortly faces, construction workers sat on curbs chatting or wobbling along pavements on rusty cycles.

Europeans often seem nonchalant, urban bicycling hasn’t been a spectacle for 100 years plus. Some are reminded and nod appreciatively, others ask where and how you get your hands on this from-home rarity. There are conversations as you lock up or slow for a slim corner by the river – eye to eye through a car window, suddenly one of us being outside opens up the interaction. Touching, acknowledging, seeing. This is the interrelatedness needed in a human day. Illustrating my place in the world through everyday moments.

And so to appreciation. An unlikely shape atop the lampost catches my eye. As I move close the angles shift and the obscuring sun blast clears. The hornbill is calm and regal, perfectly matching his choice of locale – an expensive street next to the Shangri La Hotel. His rainbow bill and slightly comical head crest remind me once more of the original organic life that was the starting point of my more synthetic existence. This is in my day.

The bicycling and the bike of themselves hold nothing. But we need vehicles for the meaning we find in life. I am allowed to ride my bike in trousers. I live in a time and place where I can remove myself from dogma and rule, opt out of religions, leave home cultures, live unmarried. Unfettered I get to make the meaning. How lucky. Upright and self-propelled.

When was the last time you changed your point of view? Why did it happen then, at that moment on that topic?

There’s tremendous freedom in the moments when you make the move to a new perspective, new land to run around in opens up. But often we find ourselves deeply attached to a point of view, it makes us angry when others disagree. If our job is about helping other people move their perspective, we know the pain of watching them getting angry and refusing to move. What wisdom can we use to create smarter ways of shifting the point from which we view our worlds?

Bring me the steak the way I like it
Points of view have a tendency to be attached to a whole bunch of unrelated items that make up how we see ourselves. This identity creates a rule: I’m a practical person so I always take a pragmatic view of a problem / I’m a passionate person so I always rely on my instincts. Only what’s judged as pragmatic/instinctual can be heard.

Accounting for the view your audience has of themselves enables you to bring them the food the way they like it cooked. To bring about an internal shift you need to accept that the way you see yourself makes you hungry for your meat to be cooked the way you like it.

I spent many years being quite snotty about personal goal setting, I’m an abstract, high concept kind of person – I don’t want to specify ambitions in concrete terms. The faintest wiff of Tony Robbins and I was raving. It took Barbara Sher’s pre-self-help era brand of wit-some advice to give me a new way to frame goal setting, setting the subject apart from discussions about my free spirit identity.

When crafting the dish for your audience you need to use your sophisticated palate. The same content can be served in different styles to suit the persona’s your audience perceive themselves to have. The tone of the words, the data or metaphor used, the themes and values your give emphasis to – all together they turn your meat into anything from a heart warming homely stew to a celebration of molecular food’s ingenuity.

Acknowledge my pain and give me space to roam safely
On other occasions we need to make a more fundamental shift – we need to manage blame in ourselves or a team, we need to move on from a mistake. Rather than accommodating internal realities we need to disconnect the point of view from the heavy weight of emotional attachment.

Unheard complaints and feelings become heavy quickly. Whether in a group of within ourselves, the tension builds and the view we take becomes defensive – we want to hold our frustration, keep it in play. Conversations have to first provide space to release this knot, they have to hear the unheard and then provide safe passage to the new point of view.

Blame hides unheard fear and frustration. To be heard and released there has to be a non-judgmental conversation where the person holding blame gets to have his fears listened to. Unwound there is the opportunity to show him the other person’s reality, ‘I know what that feels like’ creates space for understanding and respect. It’s about moving from closed and alone, to seeing safety in release and finally the warmth that comes from knowing that human feeling is a shared experience.

Communication can bring us back from our separateness to our humanity. It can help us float on those glorious moments when a new perspective gushes in. Broadening and broadening, our view becomes more expansive and we increase the ease we have with ourselves and one another.

It is almost a century since the armistice ending WWI was signed. I want to share some remembrances from my own family archive.

Dead men
I remember the Menin Gate’s long lists of names. Thousands of names that I knew from school registers, phone books, the famous. It’s very hard to turn the figure 54,000 into a comprehensible sense of individuals lost. Dads, sons, lovers, husbands. My Father couldn’t explain it either, I guess that’s why he took me to just feel it.

History provides as many perspectives as you can choose to take. At home, at school and then in an international city community I heard so many stories that could conflict but perhaps can just co-exist. Amongst all the voices a clearly defined view of why and how remembrance makes sense to me never emerges.

Reaching back
I talk to the grandfathers I never met today. Both fought and survived war time. Scarred and bruised they bred their stories into their children. Threads remain now in me: rusty festering fear, glorious adventure, a beautiful world of difference, craft, god’s light found, suffering, the fuel of family love, guilt, potential trapped and courage.

Remembrance gets connected to where I come from, my ingredients. With more choice, more freedom and more space for love it also looks forwards to the healing I get to lead.

I was sat on the bus contemplating this article and all the stimulating words I could write to excite me and you about the ways we can help look after our home planet with more enthusiasm. All of a sudden I was interrupted by a perfectly reasonable request to move my bag from the seat next to me so another person could sit down. Distraction, feeling overwhelmed, excuses, our lack of taste or time for discomfort, habit, energetic intellectual trips, blame for hypocrites/governments/parents/lack of support from my fellow-man, discomfort at doing things differently to those around us, inconvenience – all these everyday human realities tumble over us and bury the possibility of change. Most the time. Most-the-time. And it’s for that rare occasion when we step out of the rubble and make the change regardless, for this – hope lives on.

In my time, my peers and I have received an education on why we need to look after this planet and how to do it. We know, but we still don’t act because changing your behaviour, especially behaviour that seems easier than the alternative, is really uncomfortable. Changing my smoking behaviour was quite difficult, at least I could feel the value straight away. The drop in the ocean that is my recycling effort seems insignificant, there’s no benefit to reward my monkey brain (my human ego loves a bit of self-righteousness but for the sake of my soul I’m trying to give that up too).

As well as inventing planes and plenty of unnecessary consumer electronics over the last 150+ years we’ve been learning a lot about human behaviour and how to support its change. We’ve also returned to knowledge humans have had for millennia. We know that personal stories speak to us and move our hearts. That encouragement, instead of criticism, enables people to do things differently. That what is done around us provides a model for our own actions. And that honesty provides glue for relationships that are more kind to each other and our world.

What makes change happen in you? For me change happens once I see myself mess up and when I keep my eyes open and check with myself about the consequences of my actions. I think conversations about how we each tackle this journey will help more of us come along. The only criteria for joining is to watch your self and everyday to do slightly more caring then you did before. It’s going to start with self-care – and that might be the whole journey, healing the inside of the human planet we make up as a species. It may be about your own behaviour as a consumer. It might be about your work, who your work for or what you lead your business to do. It could be about the family your live in, showing them ways to change and care more. It might be just about keeping possibilities going, because the biggest barrier to change is fear – the antidote to fear is a combination of faith and proof.

** Thanks to SIF’s Ideas for a Better World Forum and John from Volans. Everything I heard at the session yesterday provided valuable brain food.

On three occasions this week the link between ludicrous and its Latin root ludic, playful, has been explained to me. This less than subtle nod towards a subject of natural inclination has been heeded. It’s time to talk play.

I see a world that made play silly, it allowed that children had to do it (although homework might be more important) but sought to ween us off the stuff before becoming an ‘adult’. I feel it’s time to bring it back. The ability to call upon imagination, creation and doing without purpose is the ability to live freely as a human. To be our best and to create more then we consume, we need to play.

No dogma. Play is a place without rules. It’s experiments and impossibilities. There is no goal. It’s not a game, although they can be done playfully. It’s not costly, in fact limiting the resources you use makes it more enjoyable and avoids the adult need to turn it into something else (like art or engineering).

Let’s get specific. Here’s some play in my life.

1) I make stuff with cloth and thread. Ideas emerge, they move once I start making because I use what is available and untrained in textile construction, I have to learn what works. I ebb and flow. I leave the doing loose to keep it happy.

2) Nonsense chatter gives me the beautiful moments where I don’t even know where my words are headed and I just keep going anyway. Ross and I talk plenty of nonsense. He loves sticking words together. Cheese toasties might become cheesties.

3) Fortune telling has become party play. My box of wooden alphabet blocks are used to prompt a story. Each block has an animal on it, stories use metaphor and imaginative imagery to find a fortune for the picker.

Play has me stepping into open, empty time – a new land. It’s the space a gleeful child chasing pigeons goes to. I am not sure the theory that it’s only a place for children to go works for me. It’s the source of innovation, of enthusiasm for doing things differently. It’s self sustaining energy. It’s where people meet each other, human to human.

Some wider thoughts on adultness…

I carry a child’s view of what it is to be an adult – it’s a simple model, reject everything that is child like. But somewhere in me there is another idea of an upright adult person. This adult moves freely from open eyed wonder to the wisdom of cumulative observation. It can experience the body’s full sensual spectrum without hesitation, letting anger, joy, sadness, excitement hurtle through and out. It understands other people and uses the mistakes made before to inform new choices. Most of all it knows that responsibility is in the way we receive the consequences of thought and action, and that it is the source of personal power.

Learning, changing, listening – they happen when there is space. Along with time, space is a resource that modern life seems to sap away. And it feels incredulous that nothingness could lead to progress. But stop and remember the last time you permanently learnt, changed or heard something. One that stuck in you, rattled the next time the subject came up. There was a moment of alone a-ha, when it flew into a space you gave inside yourself.

I watch myself hurrying along a student I am supporting, steering them towards answers I formulated. I see the pressure to decide in the air of conversations with my man. I hear the fat stories that explain to show expertise rather than share another perspective. Full, loaded time. Busy with my thoughts, plans and needs. Not much space in me and space I find in others, I can have a go at filling that too.

Then there are empty times, when I can just witness conversations. When I can follow another’s thinking and give open ears and encouraging curiosity. A part of me thinks it is too quiet, suggests I say more. Space makes us nervous. Another happy-sitting-under-a-tree part leads the reassurance. ‘Shhh it’s OK, there is no need to get them anyway. No need to try and move their view. Leave some space, watch what happens’.

Two weeks plus away from my usual life and of course a new way of moving forward emerges. I am going to try out a new stroke. With perspective on my usual moves I am going to head in opposite and different directions.

Tendencies often lead us back to the same places. In the moments where we do something a little more or less than usual we set off at a new trajectory, ready to land on unexplored land. I like how small change leads to new adventures.

I like how the only principle required is do a little bit different. Manageable life fiddling.

I am reminding myself that the careful parts of me will likely get upset at change on even such a small scale. Heading out ready to ride a bit of turbulence makes sense. I can turn in and explain as you do to a child, ‘Wo ho it’s like the fairground – makes your tummy go funny’.

Been thinking about how condemning the financial sector is unlikely to lead to change. Been thinking about how we move to running a money system with human consequences part of the equation. One where we expect trust and care to be factored into decision making.

Open – everyone is going to need to do some big ass letting go. Scared, closed people cannot create smart, human-loving systems.

Expecting – we can expect basic respect and care for one another as the basis for all human activity. Business and finance are part of human activity, they don’t need diminishing. You Mrs Banker, Mr Oil and Gas, Ms Marketing – you don’t need diminishing. You can be decent and work towards a profit goal – we ain’t gonna make you choose between the two.

Believing – ‘all humans are selfish’ hasn’t worked. Can we strive for something higher now? The first thing you learn in youth work is that the kids will mess about as much as you expect them to. Believing in their ability and latent desire to be more makes it possible. Lets raise each other up.

People are fabulous at making and doing, the practical changes needed will come. But first we need to shift the spirit, the botheredness, the energy, the motivation. The future is all in the intention, what do you want it to be?