The great tragedy of life lies not in how much we suffer, but in how much we miss. Human beings are born asleep, live asleep and die asleep…We have children asleep, raise children asleep, handle big business deals asleep and enter government office asleep.

We never wake up. This is what spirituality is about: waking up.

– Anthony de Mello

 

In this moment how awake are you? I mean, did you really take in what you’ve just read?

Maybe go back for a moment and read the above words of de Mello again, while being more wakeful and more attentive…

Soulfulness is about waking up; it is about doing one thing at a time and really be there for it. It is about the deliberate act of getting out of your sleepwalking patterns. Sleepwalking is a way to cope with the speed of life, the pressure, lots of decisions and multitasking. Sleepwalking is playing into the need to sometimes be on autopilot and just do, do, do. It means to sometimes multitask mindlessly to get through and push through, and that is okay. It is part of life, isn’t it?

But, I do wonder how we can help each other to sometimes just be deliberately wakeful in a specific moment?  To experience how a specific event touches you, or a sunset or a kind word from somebody, a business deal or a hug.

I bumped into somebody this morning who told me that her husband defended his PhD successfully last week after five years of studies and pressure – and how they didn’t even stop to celebrate because there is so much to DO. Most of us can identify with that. Soulfulness is about waking up!

To be wakeful, might be to stop once a week and scan your core experience, the core of what you sense or your core thought and simply be with it. It is about being wakeful to what is important to you. More deliberate wakeful moments will help you to find more meaning and to be more truthful about your vulnerabilities. And isn’t it important in life and leadership to be deliberately wakeful?

 

Think for a moment:

What does it mean to you to be wakeful?

How can you be more wakeful this week?

Take a few moments…

Take a few deep breaths…

What are you more wakeful to now? Keep it simple…

 

Soulfulness is about waking up!!

Stay wakeful!

 

I truly hope this year started with meaning and energy for you and that you’ll have the wisdom to discern about what is important and what matters most!

Although the year just started, it might already feel like “here we go again”? Wisdom and soulfulness rarely happen when you are constantly at full speed – sometimes we need space and time to stay present to what is important.

For me, the essence of soulfulness is to “make time” for experience and inner awareness, (awake) for what is really important to me and translate that into unique, creative and simple, sustainable responses.
I often try to go slower deliberately – don’t get me wrong, speed is okay. To deliberately go slower doesn’t mean that I am less productive or get less done. It is an attitude to stay focused on what is important to me and to really be present. These days it is so difficult to be present because we are everywhere but here, aren’t we?.
Take 5 minutes today and deliberately reflect on the following statements and what it might mean for you regarding one small step?
  • Where can you deliberately go slower in the next week that will help you to be more present?
  • Be very specific and keep it simple!
  • Tell one person about your deliberate act of slowness.
I’d love to hear what you came up with, reply to me with your idea andre@besoulful.co.za – I am sure that we can learn from each other and grow a soulful community.
Take Care and Go Slow

If you don’t choose daily and deliberately to practice loving kindness, it is unlikely that a year from now you will be any more loving.  – Richard Rohr

As we move along through life most of us intend to be kind and loving – it might sound too personal, but I recently experienced exactly this. A few weeks ago a very traumatic event happened at my children’s school and the responses I experienced were mostly kind and loving.

After reflecting on this for a few weeks I realised; when things happen that make us vulnerable, strip us of our ego, our status and our thoughts, we innately respond with kindness. Although it was a traumatic time I’ve realised with new hope: people are mostly good…

But with the speed of life, the fight for survival, the pressure to be who others want you to be and the spirit of competition and comparison, we often lose the ability to return to our God-given goodness. I do anyway. And I need to choose more deliberately in life and work to practice loving kindness – it has to be a choice. It is indeed true that if I do not choose this daily (or anything for that matter), things will be exactly the same a year from now – or perhaps worse.

So choose love and kindness – wherever you go. When you enter the next meeting, choose love, when you get home this afternoon choose love. When you stop at the traffic lights, choose love and when you think about yourself or look in the mirror choose love! Be kind to yourself.

The practice of “random acts of kindness” is one of the practices Brian Draper taught us in 2016. How do you bring the positive into the present today? Choose one area where you can randomly show kindness and stay long enough to really experience how it affects you and what you experience when you focus on this a little longer.

You can respond in your unique way – choose one space for today where you can do this. Do this practice daily. You are innately good and kind – I do believe that. Do you?

And may you experience loving kindness today from others!

Go well

 

What you see is what you get…right?

Leadership and life are so dependent on the way that you look at things. Perception is a reality, isn’t it? Personally, I am not aware enough of the way that I CHOOSE to look at things and how that affects my inner life.

The way you look at things is the most powerful force in shaping your life.

John O’Donoque wrote that if you cannot bring a kind eye of creative expectation to your inner world you will never find anything there.

In my own work and reflections on leadership and life, I am convinced we need to be more deliberate and aware of the way we look at things. Richard Rohr writes about something called Third Eye Wisdom and says that we basically look at things with three sets of eyes.

The Eyes of Flesh (thought/sight), the Eyes of Reason (meditation/reflection) and the Eyes of intuition (true understanding).

This third eye view is knowing something and looking at it simply by calmly being present to it, without processing and overthinking. We often tend to box in, diagnose, categorise, process, interpret and judge…instead of just calmly being present. That might be the only wisdom we need! Third eye wisdom, just calmly being present!

Response:

Take a moment and just be present to what came up for you in the sentences above. Try to notice how you look at things.

  • Do you immediately judge, categorise and reason?
  • How can you be more open to calmly being present to it without processing or thinking too much?

Try to practice this third eye wisdom in the next meeting or the next time you spend time with your loved ones.

Take a deep breath, as slow as possible, and simply reflect on the above questions.

May you look at your world and yourself with kind, creative eyes of expectation!

Go well

At the end of 2017 my wife and I went away for a breakaway weekend in the mountains. When we arrived we unexpectedly lost our phone signal. Suddenly no service! My first impulse was to find the highest point possible and I started climbing the closest hill – I had to make my way up a very steep hill, through bushes where it was really impossible to continue, but initially I tried. After almost falling a few times, losing a shoe, lots of bruises and scratches, still without signal, I turned back.

For the first day I found myself constantly thinking about messages that I should have sent. Being Saturday, I normally follow football scores, which I couldn’t do…leaving me quite irritated. I realised that the possibility to check or search anything immediately really made me impatient. With a smartphone close to you all the time, we are used to getting it all, immediately aren’t we? This is feeding a culture of instant gratification.

Again I had a choice – the rest of the weekend I decided to not give in to this impulse and just to let it go – I felt liberated and present. Calmly present to myself, my wife and the beautiful surroundings, I chose to rather focus on my own inner impulses and experiences. I realised that it is such a blessing that we as human beings can never be offline to our own consciousness. God is always there, always available. But, I am afraid, the constant, instant impulses takes us away from that and from ourselves.

Your creative response?
Maybe, once in a while, try to not give in to the impulse of instant gratification and ask yourself how important it really is. Intentionally wait a few minutes before you check your phone.

The impatience which feeds this impulse, often takes me away to really be online, and soulfully present, in the current moment and within myself.

May 2018 be a year where you intentionally disconnect from the “instant” in order to soulfully connect to what matters most in your life!

Go slow,

We live in a turbulent world, with busy lives and a lot of global and personal challenges because of the speed we are running at. People are searching for meaning and purpose more and more and I’m learning that a big part of the solution has to do with the inner life.

At the end of last year I joined an Exco team for a simple soulful leadership process. In our first conversion, we discussed the shift in organisational consciousness where the organisation is viewed as an organism. Frederic Laloux call these Teal Organisations. Characteristics of these organisations are a strong emphasis on purpose (not only profit), and attending to people as whole human beings. In the closing reflections of the team session I asked the team what their take away was from the morning and how they will respond to this personally and professionally.

One of the most profound and simple (usually this goes together) comments that came back were the one guy who quite passionately told his colleagues: “people need to human man”!

What a simple but profound statement – “people need to human”.

Finding humanity in life, work and leading might be one of the biggest challenges of our time.

The world is busy and turbulent and in such a time as this, part of the solution is to return to the inner life. Leaders need an intentional journey back to their own humanity. Part of this is a journey back to what they are part of (God & context), who they are (identity) and why they are part of this (purpose). The conversation on finding humanity in life and leadership is a crucial conversation to have – to rediscover simple steps towards humanity?

I was further reminded of this question by two invitations during the past 18 months, to the SA Organisational Development Network for a talk on “rediscovering humanity in the workplace” as well as the South African Care Hub on “finding humanity in the care industry”. I also remember a session with a group of bankers reconnecting them with their unique human spirit and how profound they’ve found this. Encouraging stuff indeed!

But, what does that look like? And how can we help each other to find and sustain simple steps towards humanity at work, at home and in relationships? I believe this is an intentional journey!

Take few moments wherever you are. Take a few deep breaths, slower and deeper than normal. Just stay with that for a while – one of the most human things you can do is to breathe properly.

 

Reflect for a moment

Think about a situation the past week where you experienced your own humanness. A vibrant conversation, a run outside, laughter with friends, meaningful work, an empathic response from a colleague or loved one, a hug or a moment of care…and stay with that experience for the moment. Don’t just think about it – re-experience it for a while.

How is this reminding you of what you need to cultivate and protect or be aware of? How do you want to bring back humanity to your life? Think simple and practical – a breathing exercise before a difficult task, asking somebody how they are, taking more time for you or noticing beauty and share it?

May you experience the gift of being human!

At the end of 2017 my wife and I went away for a breakaway weekend in the mountains. When we arrived we unexpectedly lost our phone signal. Suddenly no service! My first impulse was to find the highest point possible and I started climbing the closest hill – I had to make my way up a very steep hill, through bushes where it was really impossible to continue, but initially I tried. After almost falling a few times, losing a shoe, lots of bruises and scratches, still without signal, I turned back.

For the first day I found myself constantly thinking about messages that I should have sent. Being Saturday, I normally follow football scores, which I couldn’t do…leaving me quite irritated. I realised that the possibility to check or search anything immediately really made me impatient. With a smartphone close to you all the time, we are used to getting it all, immediately aren’t we? This is feeding a culture of instant gratification.

Again I had a choice – the rest of the weekend I decided to not give in to this impulse and just to let it go – I felt liberated and present. Calmly present to myself, my wife and the beautiful surroundings, I chose to rather focus on my own inner impulses and experiences. I realised that it is such a blessing that we as human beings can never be offline to our own consciousness. God is always there, always available. But, I am afraid, the constant, instant impulses takes us away from that and from ourselves.

Your creative response?
Maybe, once in a while, try to not give in to the impulse of instant gratification and ask yourself how important it really is. Intentionally wait a few minutes before you check your phone.

The impatience which feeds this impulse, often takes me away to really be online, and soulfully present, in the current moment and within myself.

May 2018 be a year where you intentionally disconnect from the “instant” in order to soulfully connect to what matters most in your life!

Go slow,

A few weeks ago I was reading from John Kabat-Zin’s book “Wherever you go there you are”. He writes about our frequent impulse to “always try and squeeze in another ‘this’ or another ‘that’ into this moment”. Just another phone call, quickly adding another activity on my way home. I know this very well – the people that knows me well often says that I am very optimistic about time and what can still be squeezed out of the moment.

This impulse, writes Kabat-Zin, doesn’t care about what it is feeding on as long as it’s feeding.  And through these impulses we often miss the current moment, often making us unavailable to other’s etc.  He mentions the idea of voluntary simplicityas:

“doing only one thing at a time and making sure I am here for it”

This is such a simple but challenging idea for me. It might mean going fewer places in one day than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more. Wow, isn’t that powerful?

And as I was busy reading this, my little boy Luc asked: “Daddy can we play cards?” I was about to tell him I just just need to squeeze in another page of this book when I realise this was such a moment! I chose to say “yes let’s play” to really make sure I am there for that moment with him.

Kabat-Zin mention that these opportunities disguise themselves as distractions and this is so true. Be open and aware of these impulses as you go into the rest of this week and rushing towards the end of this year. Be aware when your inner voice says: “just another this or that” before you stop. Or when you get so carried away with eating that you miss the moment of the meal or the smell of the coffee.

Response…

Identify one domain in your life where you can go and practice voluntary simplicity – write it down or go to be there now! Think small. It might be to simply taste the next meal or wait a while longer before you rush away with the next email. Maybe even cancelling the next meeting to make sure you finish the previous one!

Or join me for a day retreat or a labyrinth session to create space for this.

Do one thing at a time and be there for it!

Keep it simple.

In May I joined a group of bankers for a day at Liliesleaf museum. They were thinking about sustainability and how banking can be part of “passing it on”. During the day we also reflected on what we are part of in terms South African history and each one of us had a different experience and position in terms of our history – in a short soulful reflection we were encouraged that each of us has an unique human spirit and that this was not broken despite challenging past stories – the story of Liliesleaf was showing us this.

When we walked the museum tour I saw the following quote:
“There exists no they and we, only us. Solidarity is and has to be indivisible…” – Olof Palme

During that time I was busy reading Jon Kabat-Zin’s book, Wherever you go there you are, and found a lot of synchronicity when reading about his reference to “Selfing”. Selfing is the tendency, according to Larry Rosenburg (Cambridge Insight Meditation Centre) to construct out of almost any situation a “I”, a “me” or a “mine”. This often makes us operate from a limited perspective. Out of virtually any moment our thinking mind slips into “my” moment, “my” desire, “my” knowledge, “my” idea, “my” feelings and “my” problem.

Kabat-Zin says:
“If you look deeply for a stable, indivisible self, the core you that underlie your experience, you are not likely to find it other than in more thinking.”

All of this made me wonder about self-development, individual growth and how I often forget that “I” am part of…how quickly I slip into the “me” and the “I” and forget to think relational and collective. We often live and work in a culture of individualism. How the emphasis on “who I am” and “what I do” can create internal pressure and false or limited identity conclusions. And just as I am writing this I read about  Neymar Jr, being sold for £200m in European Football (a team sport by the way), to better build his personal brand! And this in a time of extreme poverty in Africa, recession and other life challenges. The world is a challenging place to find perspective, isn’t it?

Take a few moments to consider the following questions:

  • How can WE recognise the process of Selfing in ourselves through ingrained habits of comparison?
  • If we recognise this, how can WE stop trying so hard to be SOMEBODY defined by external forces?
  • Instead maybe for a moment just experience your own unique being (spirit) and what you are part of whether it is your team of colleagues or your family.
  • How can I appreciate the team of people around me?

Selfing is present in my life and so applicable in different contexts – I can start by taking things less personally. When something happens maybe it is not ME, maybe it just happened – it is easy getting into “I” this and “me” that. I certainly want to be more present to that and show my appreciation and dependence on others more!

 


 

Recent Developments
I am spending more time with individuals, teams and organisations on soulfulness. We had a small group joined for a Labyrinth walk at Rustenberg Farm in June and reflecting afterwards on life, work and leadership. I continue to do quarterly retreats where we create space for guided reflection, walking and sharing.  It is also a privilege to talk to leaders and teams about the small sustainable ways we can move towards soulful life. I am learning more and more that experience and practice go so much further that theory only.

Please let me know if there are any ideas, requests or soulful stories. Remember your story might just help somebody else!

 


Upcoming events: Please join us

  • DAY RETREAT | 8 September 2017 9:00-15:00 Blaauwklippen Manor House Stellenbosch. Make an appointment with yourself to stop, reflect and recognise your own “selfing” dialogue – Info & bookings
  • SAODN 19 October 2017 @ 13.00 Cape Town // Bringing humanity into the workplace. I am speaking at the South African Organisational Development Network on soulfulness in the workplace, as well as recent developments. Click here for more info.

Go well,

Just before Easter we went camping on the coast as a family. The last morning I was woken by an irritating tapping sound on the roof of the tent – it had to be really constant and irritating to wake me up at 6 (I confess, I am not an early riser)! When eventually I left the warm bed and went outside I saw the rain cover gently tapping (blowing) in the wind. After I fastened it my eyes, half closed, caught a glimpse of the beautiful colours in the sky just before sunrise. I am rarely outside at sunrise!

And here I had a choice – I could either get back into lazy, idling mode, get back into bed still irritated by the wind that woke me, OR I could choose to make something of this unlikely early morning wakefulness. Maybe it was a gentle whispering Voice in the wind: “Wake up, wake up, seize the day and meet Me at sunrise. I chose to respond and make something of this moment. I went for a walk. I found a rock overlooking the ocean towards the horizon, bathed in pink and purple shades of skylight. I realised that my phone wasn’t with me which meant that I couldn’t capture the moment with a photo to post – another wonderful piece of synchronicity and an opportunity to choose – it forced me to just be there and picture the moment through my eyes – not falling into the trap to capture and send or post it, so easily part of the consumerist sharing culture to show where I was.

I took time to breathe, be present and wait for the colours to change, for the sun to slowly start showing itself as the day broke…truly a soulful moment through my choice and response!

In one of his daily reflections during his Lent40 series titled “choose life” Brian Draper referred to Anthony de Mello who said:
The great tragedy of life lies in how much we miss. Human beings are born asleep, live asleep, and die asleep. We raise children asleep, handle business deals asleep and enter the office asleep – spirituality is about waking up!

Soulfulness is about waking up, isn’t it! You have a choice to slip back into same old, same old, with negative energy, or to wake up! As I did. I wasn’t awake when I got up to fasten the rain cover, I awoke in that moment when I saw the colours and made a choice.

Go and be the choice, choose to be aware and to respond. Isn’t it so important at the moment in South Africa to CHOOSE our responses with great care and wisdom?

Which small choice can you make today to be the response, to wake up and not be asleep: during the next business meeting, the next interaction with a friend in need, the next conversation with a loved one or even the next time you walk or travel along a familiar road? It might even be to be present for the smell and taste of your next cup of coffee.

I learned that even the gentle (sometimes irritating) whisper of the Wind can be a reminder that I have a choice and it gave me a beautiful soulful sunrise.

May you wake up and choose to see soulfully!

Go slow!