The Law of Reciprocity

 

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I was in the Sydney CBD a few weeks ago waiting for my friend. It was Friday afternoon and I was meeting him at the Town Hall so we could look at the shops for an hour before heading home.

The streets were busy with a kaleidoscope of humanity – people rushing here and there, students milling around smoking cigarettes, religious people handing out brochures trying to engage the passing crowd.

I sat down under a huge jacaranda tree with my book and watched the masses of people move through the final hours of the working week. Finally, I put my head down and started to read, letting the noise and energy fall away as my book sucked me back in.

After 10 minutes or so, I look up to meet the eye of a monk who was making his way towards me. He was walking with purpose and there was no mistake he was heading for me. He had a sweet face and a sort of solemn smile and I noticed that his robes were a bit dull and lifeless. He stopped right in front of me and reached for my hand.

I gave it to him.

Now this would freak some people out, but I am one of those easy targets who oozes trust and acceptance. On top of that, I have had some of my most powerful and life changing moments through just allowing a conversation or moment to take place with a random stranger, so I am always curious to see where it goes.

The monk placed a bracelet on my wrist, it was one of those beaded bracelets – cheap in nature – but I was moved anyway. I was genuinely touched that he had seen me in the crowd of people and had wanted to give me this gift. I am huge believer in random acts of kindness so I looked deep into his eyes, put my hand on my heart and thanked him for his generosity and thoughtfulness. I told him that he had made my day.

But then it happened.

The book got pulled out and snapped open. Written on the page were three entries. They included a name, an email address and an amount of money. This was not a gift, this was a transaction! What I was most impressed by was the amount of money that all three people had donated in return for the bracelet: $50 – Wow! Clearly Sydney is a very generous town.

So here I found myself at the crossroads of the Law of Reciprocity.

The Law of Reciprocity is a universal law, and it is a powerful one at that.

The Law of Reciprocity acknowledges that there is a universal tendency in human beings to repay or reciprocate when given a gift, whether that gift has come in the form of a material object, a generous act or a kind deed. There is a strong drive in people from all cultures to repay gifts or favours with a gift or favour of their own.

This impulse expresses itself in reciprocating invitations to parties, Christmas cards, presents, or acts of kindness. If you read last week’s blog, this also the law that the Takers so blatantly disregard.

It is a Universal Law that is commonly used by charitable associations. You receive a key-ring or a pack of Christmas cards (or a bracelet on your wrist) in the mail. In return you are asked to make a donation. Depending on how susceptible (or aware) you are to the Law of Reciprocity will depend on how often you run your unconscious programming and fill in the donation slip and send it off.

Learning to trust your judgment when it comes to distinguishing acts of true generosity from actions designed to trigger obligatory giving is a process. That process consists of situations where you give back happily as well as those where you give back begrudgingly.

Normally there are some instances where you are too trusting and end up feeling used because as much as you gave back, it felt like there was a lack of consent.

The serious monk watched me take the bracelet off and hand it back. He wasn’t happy and to be honest, neither was I. I felt silly for confusing a tried and tested donation system for a genuine act of kindness. Even after years of experience as well as an in-depth study of human nature, I am still sucked into the laws that govern us.

Robert Cialdini wrote an amazing book called Influence which discusses the six universal principles that form the basis of any great act of persuasion or influence. The Law of Reciprocity is the first principle that is discussed.

In Chapter 2, Cialdini shares that every culture on the planet subscribes to the Law of Reciprocity.  In fact it’s this “web of indebtedness” which has helped us evolve the way we have as human beings. Before much of the technology of the last century appeared, we had to help each other to simply survive.

Like many things in life, the Law of reciprocity is quite neutral, it is the energy that we bring to it that makes it a force for good or a force for manipulation.

You choose….

 

 

We all have a story

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This morning I was at one of my favourite West Australian beaches, City Beach. This beach has crystal clear water and white sand and is very popular with the locals.

After my swim I parked myself up on the grass and spent the next hour watching the world go by. It was blissful! I was meant to be reviewing some notes that I had brought with me but as often happens I got sucked in to the study of humanity. I just can’t seem to help it!

People-watching has to be one of the greatest ways to appreciate human beings in all their shapes, sizes and colours. The greatest thing about it is that the subjects don’t know they are being studied and therefore behave in a natural and unfiltered way.

It was a long weekend here and there was definitely a holiday feeling in the air – families with little children, teenagers with arms slung around each others’ necks, and single people absorbed in their phones as their feet hit the sand.

The thing that really struck me today as I sat there and watched the comings and goings, was the appreciation that everyone has their story – their own unique (and most probably colourful) story.

Even though there were hundreds upon hundreds of us sharing the same stretch of beach, we all arrived at the beach with our own past experience, our own filters of the world, our own belief systems and value sets, and our very own story about life.

So often we forget that every person is doing the best they can with what they have.

There was a father who was extremely frustrated with his two small children. The kids clearly didn’t want to leave the beach and were putting up a very strong (yet unsuccessful) fight. Dad was not open to negotiation and the air around them was tense. The kids trailed behind him with tears and resistance, yet ultimately they knew they had to comply. They huffed and puffed and occasionally sat on the ground in complete defiance. This prompted their father to get even more stern with them until finally they felt compelled to get up and keep trudging on towards the car.

It made me curious about what they needed to get home to. Maybe there was a mountain of work that the dad had to do before tomorrow. Maybe it was time for the kids to go back to their mum’s for the week if the family was no longer together. Who knows?

What I do know is that the dad has his story, and so do the kids. My only job is to respect and appreciate that.

It would have been so easy for me to judge them because of the all the tension, but instead I made myself stay curious. I mean: I have no idea what their story is, yet I noticed that my mind wanted to go straight to judgment. Staying curious took some energy.

Left in the wake of this energetic storm, I noticed an older gentleman walking up the path with a boy I assumed to be his grandson. They were chatting happily and the older man kept touching the boy’s shoulders in such a loving and thoughtful way. They shared a joke, or something funny and as they came closer to me, I heard them cackling with laughter and slapping each other on the back. They seemed so genuinely taken with each other that the rest of the world paled into insignificance.

It was so beautiful to watch, and again, I started to hypothesise about their story. Maybe they hadn’t seen in other in a long time and were beyond excited to be together again? Maybe this is a weekly ritual? Maybe it is totally unimportant for me to know.

My only job is to appreciate them and respect that they – like you and me – have their story and are doing the best they can.

 

 

The Belittling of your Dreams

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I receive personal emails from the Universe a couple of times a week. I know, cool huh!

They are usually somewhere between two lines to a paragraph and they share some universal wisdom about life, love, health or wealth. They always seem to be spot on for what I need to hear at that moment or to be reminded of. I love them and I often ponder them for several minutes after reading the email.

To be honest, I actually receive the emails from Mike Dooley at www.tut.com – The Universe Talks. Mike has put together an awesome website and one of the features is the ability to sign up and get these little pearls of wisdom throughout the week.

Having a belief that everything is always divinely guided, I find these notes from the Universe fun and thought-provoking.

The other day, I was sitting at my desk noticing all the big plans that I have for my life and my business swirling around in my head. I had recently gotten home from holidays so was just starting to get clear again on moving forward and reaffirming the things that I want to create in my life. There were all sorts of things flying around: me speaking in front of 1000 people, working with more coaching clients, finding true love, being abundantly healthy and fit in time for summer and many others. At that point my computer chimes to signify the arrival of an email and there was my note from the Universe.

“Thinking big and acting small is the same as thinking small”.

Boom!

That one had to have some divine intervention going on!

I sat there and stared and this single line for about 5 minutes. It honestly felt like this message had been perfectly scripted for me and me only. It was the EXACT message that I needed to be reminded of in that moment.

I forgot to mention that while I was noticing all these big plans in my head, the little doubtful voice was whispering in my ear about whether or not I could actually achieve what I wanted to. There was some fear around my business goals and in one moment I was thinking big and in the next moment, was quickly diminishing the actions I could take so that I would feel safer. I was making the things I wanted smaller without even realising it.

“Thinking big and acting small is the same as thinking small”.

So many of us have wild and exciting dreams and big visions for our life, yet often that is all that they ever are, dreams and visions. It is easy to convince ourselves of why we do or don’t get what we want but the reality of it is that we don’t take big action to support our big thinking.

The distinction really is this, so often, big action isn’t what is required in that moment.  All that is required in that moment is SOME action, ANY action, A SINGLE action.  Just do something!! ACT!!!

The power of action, with repetition, will create momentum and once there is momentum the action becomes so much easier. It gathers speed and energy and then the actions start to take care of themselves because we are aligned with the vision. That is when big action is born.

Big action is doing the same task that is required over and over again.  If you wanted to learn Chinese, big action is committing to an hour a day, six days a week to learning the language.  Action is doing that hour today. Action is doing that hour tomorrow. Action is doing that hour the day after.

Big action is all those hours combined. Big action is commitment.

“Thinking big and acting small, is the same as thinking small”.

We belittle our dreams and our inspiration by simply not consistently acting in a way that will ensure they can come to fruition. Fear is so often not our friend: it is the main reason those splendid visions of our life remain a vision instead of a reality. Impatience is also not our friend. In today’s world, if it doesn’t happen fast and we don’t get immediate results we so often stop and give up.

This is not a fault of our big-thinking, this is a fault of our big action or lack thereof.

No matter how much thinking we do, no matter how big that thinking is, if the actions we take aren’t consistent and focused we really are thinking small.

Thank you Universe, a perfectly timed reminder as always.

 

 

France, you Foxy Lady, I have fallen in love with you (again)

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I have just returned from an amazing couple of weeks in the south west of France. We stayed in The Perigord Noir, a region within the Dordogne. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the country and still considered to be rural France even though tourism is alive and well. It is green, full of picturesque views, farmland, vineyards and the most lovely people. To top all of that off, the valley where we stayed is known as the Cradle of Civilisation: humans have been living on and off there for the last million years (with mammoths). Modern man, known as Cro Magnum man, showed up there 45,000 years ago and got through the last European ice age. How cool is that!

There are just so many things to love about France!!

Each trip to France I come away more in love with the country and the people. There is something so unique about the French spirit. These people have a real sense of certainty about who they are and their love of tradition is admirable. I think this is what has made their culture so great. Even the smallest village is sophisticated in its presentation and the care and love is so evident. They just tend to do things properly in France!

Being a passionate foodie, my number one love of France is their great appreciation of everything food. How it’s produced, how it’s cooked, how it’s presented and most importantly – how it is eaten.

A French study conducted in 2010 showed that the average French person spends 2 hours and 22 minutes per day eating. Three meals a day is still a philosophy that is closely adhered to and snacking isn’t really a part of their food culture. Food is about connection, not only to the produce itself but to each other. Families and colleagues will sit together and eat a meal and there is much less “ducking out to get a sandwich” or popping into the “drive thru” to eat in your car than in other western countries. Food is an opportunity to be together, talk, share ideas and most importantly stop: to stop moving and be present. I wonder if that is a part of the reason that the French don’t have the same obesity issues as other countries?

My second great love of France is their unapologetic nature.

Coming from a country where we are falling over ourselves to blend in, bend the rules and katow to someone else’s rules, I find the unapologetic nature of the French refreshing. If I asked a French person whether they spoke English (because I only have 17 words of French and most of them are food-related) and they did not, they didn’t apologise for that – they just said no. Initially I was a bit taken aback but after I thought about it, I was so appreciative of the example being set for me. We often apologise too much for just being us, but not the French.

In the restaurants, the food for the children is pretty much the same as the adult food. It is what it is and I am guessing that the French kids just eat it. The waitstaff in the restaurant don’t offer 15 other options, they just stand there and wait for the order and then take it to the kitchen. There is no apologising if the child can’t find something they want, they just learn to be adaptable – a great soft skill for any child to pick up.

Lastly – and maybe controversially – the French don’t like full face coverings and they passed a law in 2011 banning a full face-covering niqab along with other garments and headwear. Whether or not I agree or disagree with their decision around that, the French people spoke about wanting to protect the republican values of France as well as promote the gender equality which is weaved into their culture. The French believe in assimilation and if people choose to come there, they expect their values to be upheld. If you don’t like that, don’t come.

This view does seem very hard-line, yet I can also see why French culture has not been diluted, like other European countries such as the UK. They simply do not apologise for being French and stand firmly in their identity.

The third thing I love about the France is the language.  

I don’t know if it’s the musical nature of the language or because it just sounds so damn sexy, but it is truly magical. You could call me every name under the sun in French and I would still smile sweetly and say “Sure, take me to bed”. It just works for me!

French is known as a “Romance Language” which means that it descended primarily from Vulgar Latin, and it evolved out of the Gallo Romance spoken in the North of France.

It is the main (or second) language of 55 countries and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. French has been far less butchered than the English language mainly due to the French Academy (the Académie Française), whose task is to act as guardian of the French language. The Academy has often resisted changes to the French language, insisting that existing and traditional forms of the language were, by virtue of their existence “correct French” (there is the no apology thing again).

Hearing the French language each day certainly made my heart sing. Even hearing a French person speak English with a French accent felt and sounded so exotic to me. It is truly a beautiful language and I thoroughly enjoyed picking more of it up. I am sure I would have sounded like “Kath and Kim Do France” though!!

So after this trip my love affair with France has continued to blossom. Like every country I visit, there is always something to learn and admire from each place. For me, France just has more than most.

Au Revoir 🙂

 

What’s the go with the Holiday Blues?

 

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I have been home from the most wonderful holiday EVER for just over four days and it’s pretty bleak at my house at the moment. To be honest, it’s been a real emotional rollercoaster and I have been wrestling with embracing my life again.

I have often thought that the amount of Post-Holiday Depression (PHD) one suffers is in direct proportion to the amount of awesomeness that was experienced whilst on holidays. When I look it that way, it really reaffirms that I have had a truly magnificent time away and I am immensely grateful for that.

I was chatting to a very dear friend of mine this morning about how I have been feeling and how come – for someone who is as upbeat as me – the PHD can be so vicious.

I concluded that even though I love my life, it’s wonderful to have a real break from it and from all the stuff that consumes my thoughts and time during the day. Having a four week respite from work, business, social media, social engagements, mundane chores and food shopping has been total soul food. Not to mention the free ticket to eat and drink like calories didn’t exist.

Holidays are so important for the soul. They are a chance to step away from our lives and be someone different. If we have highly stressful lives, it’s the opportunity to not have a worry in the world. If we have a life that involves picking up and dropping kids off all day, we get to stop being the taxi driver and be the one who gets to look out the window and watch the passing view. If we live with discipline around our food and exercise, often we give ourselves some leeway to enjoy all the culinary delights that a holiday can offer.

Holidays – whether they are a four week vacation or a four day getaway – are a time for doing the things that we forget to do most days. I love watching clouds yet on the average day I only glimpse the clouds. I don’t lie on the grass and stare at the heavens for half an hour at a time. I also love exploring the markets, shops and back alleys, yet at home this is something I rarely, if ever, do. While I was away this time, I lost hours wandering from one little shop to the next. I didn’t buy anything I just wandered and explored and pottered. These are all words that I associate with lots of time and no schedule.

Holidays are also about adventure: for example, going into a cafe in a foreign country and ordering something that sounds good but you actually have no idea what it is. The simplicity of getting in the car at the start of a road trip to go down south is also full of adventure.

It’s the feeling of excitement and curiosity all rolled into one. It’s the feeling of difference.

As I was flying back into Perth, I opened one of my favourite apps Any Do (a brilliant app for a list junkie like me) and perused my list “Post Holiday Stuff” to start wrapping my head around what was to come over the next week. Once I got home, I got reacquainted with my diary and all of a sudden the holiday was over and I was back in my kitchen staring into my empty fridge seriously contemplating eating a sad piece of cheese that I had missed in my pre-holiday fridge clean and some pickled onions. Yep, that constitutes dinner.

I have realised over the last few days that my PHD is actually me reacclimatising to sameness. After having a sensory overload of difference, the sameness feels so boring and unexciting. I am sure that not having a schedule for four weeks added to my sense of freedom! Yet, I do honestly know that the sameness is what makes my life so special: Friday night dinners with my family, blog writing at my fave cafe, early morning weekend swims at the beach now the weather is warmer. I LOVE this stuff, I love my fruit and veggie store, I love my green smoothie every morning, I love money going into my bank account on the last day of every month.

Sameness is actually pretty damn cool!!

So as I write this I realise that yet again, life has provided me with contrast so I can appreciate all that I get to experience. Without holidays, I wouldn’t appreciate the beautiful day to day life I have because I would never have a break from it. By having holidays I get to experience a respite from my world and be the crazy adventurer who lives so strongly within me.

Like day needs night and yin needs yang, we all need a change of scenery every now and again – even if there is a bit of PHD thrown in at the end.

 

 

 

The Power of Philanthropy

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How much of your time, energy or resources do you give to others purely to help the world around you be a better place?

Last night I watched an excellent TED talk with Bill and Melinda Gates. It was about their Foundation – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – and what it is currently achieving and what it hopes to achieve over the coming decades.

It was truly inspiring and has given me so much more hope for our planet.

So let’s start with philanthropy: What exactly is it? It is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. Generally, very wealthy people set up philanthropic causes around something they are passionate about. For some it is the arts whilst for others it’s education or health.  It doesn’t really matter what the cause is, and I am sure each of the causes across many different areas are abundantly happy to receive the help.

I have always wanted to be a philanthropist ever since I found out what it meant when I was 16. I am sure that on some level I loved the idea of being super rich, but I loved the idea of giving it away even more. I think that is why I am so inspired and fascinated with what the Gates are doing.

The idea of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was born in the 1990s. They had been on a trip to Africa to see the animals but it was the people that really caught their attention. They found them to be so open and wonderful and were deeply saddened by their challenging lives. They were walking along a beach in Zanzibar at the end of their holiday discussing why it was like it was and what could be done about it.

Bill and Melinda had already decided that their post-Microsoft years would be about charity and giving back, but this trip to Africa prompted their philanthropic journey to start much earlier than planned, and their Foundation was born in 2000.

The philosophy of the Foundation is to tackle just a few big problems very well. They choose extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system. They have a global approach which is highly commendable! When we are happy to take the resources from developing countries, I believe we have an obligation to take care of their people as well.

On the Foundation’s website there is a letter from the Gates explaining who they are and what they stand for. In the letter they share some advice that Warren Buffett gave them around philanthropy: “Don’t just go for safe projects,” he said, “take on the really tough problems”.

They have and they are making a massive impact in the world!

The other thing that I love about the Foundation is who they have got to join them. Being as affluent as they are, they swim in circles where there is a lot of money and a lot of influence. And really, these are the people who will be changing the world, not our governments.

Bill and Melinda Gates have currently given 80% of their wealth to the Foundation. By the time they leave the planet they will have given 95% to the Foundation. In 2007, Warren Buffett called his friends Bill and Melinda and asked to donate 80% of his wealth to their Foundation. Between these two alone, we are talking billion and billions, if not trillions of dollars! Trillions of dollars that is being spent with intention, research, testing to ensure they are doing the best thing, and simply changing the world to be a far better places for millions of people.

Now that blows my heart up!

Aside from Warren Buffet, there are now over 150 other super rich people who have committed over 50% of their wealth to the Foundation. The influence that the Gates’ actions have had on leading their peers has been so powerful and the philanthropic spirit has been ignited in a way that the world has not seen before.

I am nowhere near being in a philanthropic position but the Gates inspire me to continue to give where I can. Whether that is a small donation to a charity, giving away things that I could sell to someone who needs them more than me, or simply coaching people who want to make a change and are not yet in a position to pay for the help. It really doesn’t matter if you are the Gates or me – it is about the spirit of giving and taking care of others who need the help.

If you get a chance to check out the TED talk, do so! It is full of hope and is a great opportunity to see what two people who are committed to a more equal planet can achieve.

The Desiderata

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Last week I posted a single line from the Desiderata on Instagram, a prose poem written by Max Hermann in 1927. It is a magnificent piece of writing, a simple and thoughtful take on how to live a life of contentment, happiness and fulfilment.

The post prompted several conversations about what sort of person Max Hermann must of been to have had such an insightful and simple take on life. He was clearly  a man who understood the world, and even though this poem suggests that he had his struggles, he was loyal to the belief of choosing happy.

It is the simplicity of this poem that makes its so attractive to me, and the wisdom too.  If we  all lived by these words, I think the world would be a happier place.  I just had to share it again.

Enjoy Max’s beautiful work…..

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Life is a journey, not a destination…..

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Today I was chatting with two beautiful ladies I work with and the conversation turned to the topic of “life is a journey, not a destination”.  One of the ladies was sharing her experiences on achievement and how, once she achieves whatever her goal is, only then is she allowed to enjoy the fruits of her labour (or the fruits of her experience).  That belief really challenged me for several different reasons. Mostly, because the enjoyment of the process is all determined by the outcome.  Being in the now is not enough because the goal has not yet been realised. Don’t smell the roses, just keep on marching through, we are not there YET!

So what happens when the goal, for whatever reason, is not realised? Does that mean the process of going after the goal can no longer hold any joy or celebration?

I notice more and more that our world is obsessed with right and wrong and good and bad. I absolutely appreciate the power of contrast, yet so often we use it against ourselves. It is treated as a weapon to destroy our enjoyment in the NOW.  If there is “right”, well here must be “wrong”.

“If I don’t get the outcome I want, well this all has been a waste of time and energy”, “It was meant to go this way but it didn’t so I won’t celebrate the journey of getting to here even though I may have learnt a lot”

Why are we so focused on finishing the race when we are smack bang in the middle of it?

Life is in the learning and if we continually pass the learning by because we are so focussed on the outcome, well, it is a huge injustice to ourselves and our creator.  The danger of living a destination orientated life is that we only allow ourselves to celebrate our achievements once we have achieved them.  We are wrong until we have arrived at right.

“Until I am living in the beautiful house, I am not really a success”, “Until, I have $200,000 in the bank, I am not really secure.”

I got to call it, it’s total and utter bullshit!

Imagine how different life could be if you woke up, ate a great breakfast, kissed your partner and kids and then announced that you are a success.  I mean you are breathing, healthy, connected to others and have food on your table.  That automatically puts you in the top percentages of people on the planet. Imagine how different life could be if you royally stuffed up the business deal and because of that, learnt something that you never would have come across any other way and were able to turn that into a deal that is 10 times bigger than anything you could have previously imagined?  What if each day you focussed on the journey of your life with total appreciation,  that you are right where you should be?

When I think of people who go on these amazing treks over months at a time, they talk about the moments along the way so much more than the moment they finished the journey.  The moment of finishing is so, so sweet because of the preciousness of all those hours, days and weeks that have gone into getting them there.

The Now is where it’s at, enjoy the journey……

 

Don’t cheat yourself (or the world), you are Powerful!

 

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This last week I have had four conversations with people who truly believe that they have no power, that they are unable to effect change in their life or anyone else’s.  Collectively, the message was “I have no control over my life, I am powerless to do anything about it”, “I can’t change the world, I am just some small speck on the planet, there really is nothing I can do”, and  lastly “Well, the Earth is ruined anyway so what’s the point of me doing things any differently”.

This is such an ineffective story to have, plus its total BS!! Every single one of us is powerful.  The decision lies in whether or not we want to step into that power. Do I want to live from an empowered place where I trust that I can make a difference or do I want to live from a disempowered place where I believe I have no ability to influence myself or others?

I remember my Dad telling me a story when I was in my teenager years.  It is the story of the starfish on the beach.  There is a man walking along the beach and the beach is covered in starfish.  They have all been washed up on to the shore and now are going to die because they are out of the water.  The man, as he is walking along, is picking the starfish up and throwing them back into the ocean.  Another man is walking along the beach in the opposite direction and he says to the guy picking up the starfish, “Mate, don’t even bother throwing them back in, there are just to many of them to make a difference”.

The man who is picking up the starfish casually throws another one back into the ocean and turns to the other person and say “Well, it made a difference to that one”

I love this story because it illustrates so beautifully that making a difference doesn’t have to be saving the planet (or ourselves) in one foul swoop, its doing lots of little things that empower not only us but the world around us. For each and every starfish that got thrown back into the ocean, he made a difference. For each and every starfish, that man got to experience the pleasure of his own empowerment as he helped something outside of himself.

I get that we sometimes feel so small in the face of some of the challenges that we have on earth right now but remember, as a family, community, city, country  we become VERY powerful, especially as we banned together.  Imagine if all those people who have effected amazing change, had the same belief as those people I have spoken to this week.  India would still be controlled by the British, Apartheid would still be alive and well in South Africa, women would still not be voting and the hole in the Ozone layer would be ginormous by now.

So the question is, how do we as individuals express our power?  Well, we speak up, we have opinions, we have conversations, we say no or we say yes, we ask, we get curious and we continue to educate ourselves about what ever it is that we feel passionate about.

Every time we go to the shops and open our wallet we are telling industry what we like and don’t like.  Twenty five years ago there were no organic sections (in my memory) in the major supermarkets, if you were Vegan you were a freak and now there are cafes that only serve coffee with non diary milk, recycling was a novelty, animal testing was rife and and products didn’t have to be labelled to state whether it had occurred or not.  Recently, the Australian government conducted a survey on Animal testing with the view of changing the laws to match the will of the people.

So really, when you think about it, we have already come a long way.  I firmly believe that we have come a long way because of people like you, me and the four people I spoke to during the week (they just don’t realise it). We are creating the world we live in, whether we do it consciously or not, so lets do it consciously and be really POWERFUL.

Syria

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Last night I saw footage of something so deeply disturbing that I am unable to shake it from my thoughts.  I thought maybe if I wrote how I was feeling down, I might be able to make a little bit of peace with it as well as clearly saying to the world, I am NOT okay with this. It was the footage from the Syrian town, Khan Sheikhoun which experienced the devastating chemical attacks on Tuesday.

Watching those young children (and adults) convulse like they had been sprayed with a can of Mortein was nothing short of horrific.  I am truly astounded that on the planet, right now, we still so easily and effortlessly destroy peoples lives, homes, villages and countries.  What the fuck is going on with humanity?

I truly hope that this footage awakens something in all of us to stand up and have a voice that this is not acceptable.  This is not okay in the world we live in today.  All the associated parties are blaming each other and making up what appears to be lies about who is to blame and what should be done.

All I keep coming back to is how does this happen? The thought that a group of people have sat around and discussed chemical warfare as an option and then actually CHOOSE to do this to these people is mind blowing.  I am sure they themselves,  must have wives or husbands, children and elderly parents.  Clearly that does not help them to connect to what they are doing to these people! It does not invoke any sense of compassion or humanity.

It makes me think of the Buddhist monks, who live by the Five Precepts of Buddhist morality.  The first precept is to avoid killing or harming any living being.

When I think of the spectrum of life, at one end we have the Buddhist monks who kill nothing and the other end we have the people who decided to use chemical warfare on innocent people for pursuit of what ever it is that they wanted.  In the middle of that spectrum lives the rest of us.  When I think of it like a seesaw, I really hope that the Buddhist end of the seesaw starts to get more loaded up, that people feel inspired to condemn the violence that is happening in our world right now,  to have a voice and to demand that our governments step in and help these poor people.

I am deeply saddened by all that is going on in Syria and the other parts of the world where people (and animals) are being treated so horrifically.  We need to stand together.