Mikel Ocean Azure



The Problem of Power and Leadership.

Posted by Cobaltsoul on May 16, 2010 at 12:46 AM Comments comments (0)

Power corrupts.  You've probably heard that idea before.  In it's classic formulation it is extended by the statement "...and absolute power corrupts absolutely." 

I think the first part of the statement can be tested by any honest human, we all have power of some kind somewhere at sometime in our lives, we are able to reflect on it and the effect it had on our thinking, our self awareness, our attitudes to others and our actions. 

If we are honest we will see, power bends us out of True. 

This is a problem for anyone who believes that creating community is a primary human goal and meets a fundamental human need.  

Communities do not exist without leadership.  The nature of that leadership can be very diverse but the fact that it IS leadership cannot be avoided.  In any community some people will accrue more power than others. 

That process might be legitimate and transparent or it might be covert.  Even if the process of someone accruing leadership influence and power is legitimate the effect on them is still going to be corruptive. 

I'm going to have to write several blogs about this idea as I've made statements without giving examples or arguments at this point.  So consider this blog as "dot points" on this particular issue.  These blog entries are going to be "quick and dirty", what you might call "old school" blogging, thinking on the run, no concern for finesse or seamless integration of all the parts. 

It says in Philippians chapter 2 that in Jesus God chose to become empty and powerless and we are urged to do likewise. 

So there is the problem, if we want to nurture a community of people enjoying the love of God how do you do this without the corrupting effect of leadership power bending people out of shape? 

The Christian tradition, in the stories of the Old and New Testament is full of leaders, leadership is inevitable.  Corruption of those leaders is inevitable.  If I'm correct that's a pretty lousy situation to deal with. 

So, how do we deal with it? 


Full Stop.

Posted by Cobaltsoul on March 10, 2010 at 9:21 AM Comments comments (0)

Twice in the last week I've had the same surprising experience. 

I'm at university, studying a Post Grad Dip of Counselling.  In that context I'm focussed, intensely focussed, on whatever process is happening in each moment. 

In one instance we were practising basic counselling skills, I was listening to a fellow student, me in the role of helper, him in the role of client.  I was listening very hard indeed.  My fellow student was talking, about a real thing, and he got to the end of his thought, stopped speaking and sat back with a body language action that said "emphatically finished speaking".  

As helper it was my role to respond at that point, to affirm what he had already said or to invite him to continue his exploration, something to help the process continue to flow.  But my head was empty.  A huge white void, silent and still.  When he stopped I also came to a full stop.   The silence between us stretched...  I waited frantically for an idea to come into my head space, a skill, a sentence, anything to help me respond in a flow appropriate manner.  Nothing.  Empty space in my head, totally inert.  Eventually I simply turned to the Lecturer and confessed, "I got nothing."

In the second instance we were in class, engaging a tutorial on one particular theory of therapy.  I was in critical/analytical mode, weighing what was said,  looking for congruence within the model and for it's helpful and unhelpful aspects.  An entirely hard and cold cerebral mode.  The students leading the tutorial presented us with an excellent exercise to demonstrate a core concept in the particular theory.   It imagined a situation where a desperate person came to us and explained something drastic they were about to do and the question was asked, what question would you ask them?  That was directed at me and again,  my brain was frozen.  To give an appropriate answer I needed to be in counsellor mode, friend mode, empathy mode, but not critical/analytical mode.  I could not switch,  I sat there, whole class waiting for my answer, again with the empty white space in my head.  I knew there was an answer in me but that empty space refused to give way to some helpful space.  Eventually I blurted out,  "Why are you telling me this?"   Oh my god!  I knew that was a totally unhelpful question, it's not the way I'd respond to someone in that situation but it WAS the way my critical/analytical mode engaged the situation and that mode was the only one I found access to.

I would have been more honest to simply confess again, "Sorry, totally blanked on that one." 

It is a measure of how intent I am on learning in this course, how focussed I am.  More focussed than I have been for quiet a few years.  This is good, I'm loving it.  It is a joke in our culture that women can multi-task but men are single minded.  Apparently in my case it's almost literally true. :)  I'm going to have develop some strategies to help me bridge that gap, that big empty space, when it arrives again.  Find ways to let it open up to the other modes in me that can respond to the dramatic shift in context and input. 

There is a whole lot more going on inside us than we usually notice, whole landscapes and processes and mysterious dynamics.  It's pretty cool to notice a new one, maybe not actually new but the first time you notice it it feels new.  It's even cooler to notice that one part of me is actually "watching" the rest of me go about my inner business.  It's called meta-awareness and many theorists suggest it's the mental skill humans have that sets us apart.   Hmmm, until we can determine what's going on in the brains of every other animal on the planet, we can't really be sure we are the only one's with meta-awareness.

A full stop,  twice, kinda weird to experience at the time and on both occassions entirely unhelpful to the situation I was in. 



Attitude To Rain

Posted by Cobaltsoul on March 7, 2010 at 1:54 AM Comments comments (0)

I went for a walk over to the nearby shopping centre.  While I was inside it started to rain so I took the opportunity to have a mocha and a muffin at a sidewalk cafe.  So I could enjoy the rain.  Sitting there with the creamy smooth flavours rolling across my tongue I watched my fellow travellers coming and going thru the light and refreshing rain. 

Rain was making beautiful sounds as well as sights.  The faint soft staccato of drops hitting the pavement and the roofs.  The liquid swiiissshhh of tyres thru water as cars cruised by and the noisy ribbons of water rushing eagerly from downpipes to make temporary rivulets across the pebbled pavement. 

There was a crosswalk close to my table.  It was uncovered so anyone using it had to step out into the rain from the protection of the covered sidewalks.  I spied a father pushing a shopping cart with one hand and carrying his young son in the other arm. 

The lad was somewhere between one and half and two years old.  Pale ginger hair crowned his cheerful looking face.  As the Father looked out at the crossing to make sure it was safe I had a moment to wonder how the boy would respond when the rain started kissing his ginger locks.  Would he notice?  Would he start to cry?  Would he think it was fun? 

Out into the rain they stepped, it took about four steps, at first the boy noticed the rain on his face and was momentarily puzzled, then he understood. 

His head went back as he looked up into the rain and he opened both his arms, palms up, to feel the rain the most he could. 

As the rain fell gently across his face and onto his open palms his eyes opened wide and his smile grew large with delight.

Watching him, so did mine.


Why Sad?

Posted by Cobaltsoul on February 8, 2010 at 10:13 PM Comments comments (0)

Life is full of little mysteries.  My most recent mystery has been why I've been feeling sad the last few days.  Not a huge aching sorrow, just a noticeable mist of sadness floating across my inner landscape. 

It was entirely mysterious to me as my life is looking very positive these days.  There are plenty of reasons in my past to be sad and I figured it was surely flowing from that direction but what and why now? 

As I woke up this morning and looked around my room with a fuzzy, not quite awake yet, head, the answer came to me.   I've noticed this before,  if I wake up slowly my mind often spits out useful insights and ideas while I'm in a less mentally organised space.  Never happens if I wake up to the alarm and leap out of bed focussed on getting into the day. 

What did I notice?  A few days ago I unpacked my posters and started putting them on the walls of my new bedroom/study.  Most of these posters have been in storage for nine years, since my blessed divorce.  The last time I saw them on my walls was when I was still trapped in that hellish marriage.  By putting them on my walls now I re-created enough of that old environment to stir up some of those old feelings. 

It is time to redeem these posters, to have them here, up, me enjoying them and letting these elements of my former life become attached to the good times of my life, the second half of it.  So I'll feel the sadness, honour it as a truth worthy of recognition and reflection and invite it to resolve itself a little more. 

Denying the pains of the past is pointless, we might be able to dull our awareness of the past but we continue to carry it within.  We can carry it healed or carry it weeping pus into our souls.  Our choice. 




Posted by cobaltsoul on July 14, 2009 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (2)

People are precious.

Some of us challenge our own value by choosing deathly attitudes and actions.

Some of us ignore our worth by hiding.

Each of us is a living treasure, this is a truth we can choose to enjoy or choose to ignore.

You have value beyond expression or understanding. Your life is the treasure you hold. Your life is a gift you can both receive and give. Whatever your past, whatever your future, as you read these words this is true - You are precious.

You can treat yourself as a treasure, someone to be loved, respected and given full opportunity to shine.

You can treat yourself as a nothing, something to be ignored, dismissed and hidden in shame or disinterest.

The same is true of how we treat other people, we have a choice.

Each of us had the experience of being seen by someone else as a treasure. We know what that feels like. We know the effect such regard has on us, the transforming power of being seen that way by another person.

If we were lucky one or both of our parents saw us as precious. Perhaps we did not have this experience until someone fell in love with us for the first time.

Perhaps the person who saw us as precious was almost a stranger, but someone with a heart to see people with grace and wonder. I had one such experience and it still resonates thru me more than a decade later.

Consider the gift you can give other people, to see them as precious. Consider that you could be a person who sees others with grace and wonder. You could give that gift to many people. Giving each of them that same transforming moment.

First we give ourselves that gift. Then we can share it around.

First you see yourself with grace and wonder. Then you turn your sight toward others.

It is not egotistical to say to yourself, ?I am precious.? It is simply stating the truth. The truth often lost to us early in life.

Try it sometime.

Think of that which you hold most precious then feel that way about YOURSELF.

Say it to yourself with that feeling in your heart, ?I am precious.?

Say it with conviction, own it as the truth, feel it as you say it. ?I am precious.?

If you get hold of this truth, if this truth gets hold of you, everything changes.



Posted by cobaltsoul on July 6, 2009 at 3:16 AM Comments comments (0)

Pretty much no limit on what could be said on this topic but just for starters, how about this:

Almost anything in life that is good is better when shared with someone else who appreciates it. Of course there are experiences, qualities in life that are a little difficult to share without losing their intrinsic value, solitude being a good example, but in general the idea holds good. Sharing increases our enjoyment of the *good* in good things.

Sometimes there is a little skill or sensitivity required for your sharing to be the beneficial kind. I remember sitting on a bench over-looking a wonderful vista of a cliff sided valley and a delicately ribboned waterfall. As I sat there, soaking up the view and the sounds of the wind thru the trees three people came down the path and out onto the viewing platform. Two of these people were talking non-stop as they came down the path, I could hear them long before I could see them. They stood in front of that awesome vista and faced each other talking about an endless stream of trivia, ?Did you see what so and so was wearing?  Wasn't that a funny episode last night? I think I need to buy some more floss...?.  The third member of the group faced the vista in silence. I felt sorry for this member of the party, there was no way to really enjoy the vista unless the other two shared in seeing it. All they could see was each other, to this day I don't understand why they bothered to walk down the path, it would have been easier for them to stay at the picnic ground, absorbed in each other's superficiality. That third member simply needed a few minutes from the first two, just a few minutes of a shift of focus, as it was their insensitivity filled up the moment with nothing important but something thoroughly distracting. Eventually the third member turned to the other two and with a shake of the head walked off the platform and back up the path. I could see the whole thing from where I sat and at no point did the two even look out at the beauty arrayed before them! As their empty chatter faded away I returned to enjoying the view and the sounds of the wind but a little saddened after watching someone's moment be reduced because the people who were there to share it, failed to share it, managed to actually reduce it's quality.

Sharing does require some level of attention and consideration for it to work out well.

Now I think there are different ways of experiencing a moment and sometimes the way one person engages a moment is simply too different to the way the person standing next to them engages and enjoys the same moment. Too different for them to enhance each others experience by sharing in it the way they both naturally would. If Zac really feels a moment by talking in it and thru it, analysing it out loud, chewing it over and tasting the moment in words not just in silence and Zoc soaks up a moment thru silencing everything inside to make room for the maximum amount of outside to flow inside ? then these two are generally not going to feel a moment is enhanced if shared with the other. Their processes are too different.

Obviously it is possible for people to willingly engage a moment differently than they might naturally prefer ? doing this precisely so that their sharing is good for another person in that same moment. I suspect really good marriages contain this very dynamic from both parties.

Applying the idea in a different direction - many sufferings, trials, sorrows are made more endurable when shared with someone who is willing to join us in them, at least at some level.

A practical hint in this area, for many types of sorrow and suffering you don't need many words to be a help. When we are feeling grief it is isolating and usually that sense of isolation increases the pain, the grieving feel *untouchable*, they feel, often rightly, that other people do not want to face whatever truth or reality preceded their grief. Simply by being willing to sit with a person and be there with them, not trying to make their situation go away, not trying to fix what cannot be fixed,simply to be there with them. That is sharing and that can make a significant difference for a person so burdened.

Forget, "I don'tknow what to say." and remember the significant gift of your mute company, share that.

I think there are experiences and sorrows that cannot be shared, at such times all we can share is something like, "I'm here and I know that really is no help to you, but I'm here because you matter even if I can't make any difference for you."

Sharing makes a positive difference. The older I get the more I want to share and the sweeter the moments of sharing are to me.

When I see a wonderful sunset and my companion shares that experience and then I turn to my companion and see their enjoyment of and enrichment from that sunset, at that moment my good experience is doubled. I have the joy of the sunset and the joy of seeing the joy in my companion. The more my companion matters to me the deeper the joy I receive in seeing their joy.

One of the primary reasons I continue to search for a life companion is because I want to share life with that one special One because if they actually are a special One then that quality of sharing eclipses all others for multiplication of joy. Best of all, if I am her special One then the multiplication of joy via sharing is entirely mutual.

Sharing is good. Let's do more of it.








Posted by cobaltsoul on June 29, 2009 at 10:28 PM Comments comments (0)


Here's something I believe and am still learning to put into practice.

I believe that it's good to FEEL our feelings.

That seems like a stupidly obvious thing to say but, at least in my society, there is huge pressure against men feeling their feelings and, I suspect, huge pressure against ANYONE feeling their feelings.

I think that my feelings have truth in them. My feelings are true.

If I'm feeling happy, thats a truth.

If I'm feeling sad, that's a truth.

If I'm feeling lonely, that's a truth.

If I'm feeling scared, that's a truth.

Seeing as I aspire to honour the truth it's obvious to me that part of that is to honour my feelings, to feel them, to let them express themselves in me, to me.

I think my feelings are talking to me, they tell me what's going on inside me in ways that my thinking does not communicate to me. Just as sensation tells me things that are going on in my body, feelings/emotions tell me things that are going on in my heart and soul. For a healthy body I need to notice and respond to the sensations in my body, so too for emotions and a healthy heart and soul.

I love feeling good and I hate feeling bad.

As a  little kid my situation meant that pretty much all the time I felt bad. If I was going to feel something it was going to be a bad something. I was going to feel sad, scared, bad, ashamed, afraid, judged, little, unimportant, overpowered, etc etc etc.  My response to this, not one I thought thru - I was a tiny little pre-schooler, but all the same it was the choice I made, my unconscious self but still ME, the choice I made was to block off all emotions. I pushed them away.

Now there is a simple truth about the way we function. All parts of me are connected to all other parts of me and I can't just "block out bad feelings". What happens is that when I block out bad feelings I block out ALL feelings.  Just as you can't pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other end as well nor can you block off bad feelings without blocking of the good feelings at the same time. So as a tiny little boy I adopted this strategy of NOT FEELING my feelings and it worked pretty well. I got really good at ignoring how I feel. So good it's bad.

These days I don't want to not feel. These days I want to FEEL, FEEL, FEEL, but my patterns are still there, learned in those first six years of childhood super absorption. My unconscious self still keeps trying to protect me long after I don't want or need to be protected that way.

When I have some things to be sad about in my life I want to grieve them. I want to honour those truths by really feeling them and enduring them and letting them tear up my body and flow thru me and have their say and have their day and then flow away having communicated to me the truths they express about life and people and what matters.

I hate feeling bad but I hate feeling nothing even more.

I believe that to be the most me I can be then I need to feel all the truths inside me. I need to hear what my pain and grief and sorrow need to tell me and the only way I can get that message is to FEEL it till my guts burn and my eyes ache and my heart is exhausted from it's burden of emotions.

Aside from the principle, for me, of honouring truth in my feelings, there is a second very good practical reason to feel my feelings.

If that truth does not come out the natural way, in emotions, then it tries to find other ways to come out, unnatural and unhealthy ways.

Anger buried might come out as depression.

Sorrow buried might come out as dementia.

Fear buried might come out as asthma or allergies.

Stress buried might come out as heart disease.

Feelings buried might come out as weird/self destructive behaviours.

The famous one is the man's midlife crisis, instead of feeling his crap the middle aged man tries to return to the simplicity of his teenage maleness, generally with bad results for everyone concerned.

Our deep self is trying to tell us things it knows are important and if we won't listen then it starts SHOUTING at us, trying to get our attention any way it can.

Our feelings are truths we need to connect to. We connect to them by feeling them, not by thinking about them, not by talking about them, by FEELING them, letting them be what they are.

I believe this but I'm not very good at it yet.

Guess I just need to keep working at doing things differently than I did when I was four.





Finding Identity

Posted by cobaltsoul on June 23, 2009 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Identity has been a live issue for me for some years now.  About 8 years back I abandoned the identity of almost forty years.  Not merely a mental abandonment, I literally cut myself away from the relationships, career, values and meagre achievements of the life I had constructed up to that time. 

It turns out that when you leave behind the shape of a life, you leave behind a major identity crutch.  Normally we only leave "something" behind, not everything.  We might move jobs but retain everything else that is "my life".  We might end a marriage but live in the same city, work in the same job and, with a little adjustment, retain the same social networks.  It has long been recognised that even losing one element of a settled lifestyle is immensely stressful and often creates great emotional and psychological fluidity in a person for a time.  I left it all behind, retained only one or two friends, bereft myself of everything else. 

I discovered, but didn't realise for some years that I was in a discovery phase, that all those external things serve to remind us of who we are.  When they go, if you don't have a strong sense of identity you can struggle to BE anything or DO anything.  I left behind that constructed life because I had a fundamental sense that it was false, it did not flow from my true self.  I was correct but working out who IS my true self was way more difficult than I might have expected. 

I complicated my process by finding and loving a wonderful woman with great kids.  For some years I defined myself by how I related to them and the future plans I imagined with them.  It's a common enough mistake and in my case, as mistakes go it was a pretty beneficial one.  I was massively enriched by those relationships.

In terms of establishing my true self I had things back to front.  First the true self, then the true romance.  Duh! 

One thing is becoming evident, my true self has a definite tolerance limit for me NOT being me.  My deep self eventually finds a way to shove me out of whatever unhealthy groove I've got myself into.  I rarely appreciate the gift at the time but hindsight always awards the game to my deep self. 

I think from the moment of conception we carry an identity or at least it's individual potential. A unique set of qualities that is dependent on nothing else other than that moment of conception.  I think there is some Divine involvment as well but I honestly couldn't spell out how that might work. 

This *given* identity is the bedrock of self, we don't come into the world a blank slate for environment to write on us whatever it wills.  Environment gives us an endless stream of inputs that require us to constantly make choices about how we will react and respond.  We may not be conscious of our choices, they may be instinctive, but they are OUR instincts, still our choices.  Every time we respond, there is a choice before that response.  That choice is where our power lies.  That choice is where our freedom lies.



Developmentally we are most receptive to outside inputs in the first six years of life. We are designed to soak up information in those first six years, kind of an accelerated learning turbo charging of our nervous systems so that we don't stay helpless babies very long.



The inputs we get in those first six years can be strongly at odds with the identity we were born with and that is the time we are most likely to absorb those inputs, in a sense to agree with them rather than reject them.



People often struggle with the idea that as a child they *choose* something. I understand the struggle, we don't feel that we had power as a child, we feel we had no choice, we were forced by circumstances to do what we were told to do and our young minds were overpowered by adult input to think what THEY wanted us to think. This is all true. The issue of choice as a child is much more complicated than it is for an adult.

The key, I think, is to recognise that once I am an adult I can take responsibility for making different choices than the ones my child self was forced to make against my true identity.



It is simple really. If the bad or wrong choices forced on me in my childhood circumstances remain forever outside my influence then I am forever stuck with them and their effects in me.  If I am forever unable to overcome the mistakes of others in my childhood, my potential is limited to THEIR actions.

On the other hand as an adult I can say, "Those bad choices were forced on me but also I made them, some part of me was also involved, even against my better will and nature, still, part of me was involved in that choice and I fully own that part and because I own it I can change it even today. My potential will not be limited to the conduct of the adults who raised me, I choose otherwise."

So, back to my journey, about two years back my deep self shoved me away from the "identity-in-who-I-love" path and left me once again with wide open spaces and no map.  It took about 18 months for me to grasp what was going on.  Eventually I started to be able to articulate that I had "lost my(false)self" all those years ago and had yet to establish a new self. 

Once I grasped that clearly I was much closer to finding a way forward.   Now I am indentifying what life will make me happy and content and taking steps to create that life from scratch.  I am claiming back one or two relationships from my past, on new terms.  I am teasing out what old values are truly mine and what are someone else's that I can do without.  I am listening to my deep self thru all this.  As I believe that somehow the Divine was part of the conception of that deep self I believe my interior listening is sacred.  Somehow, listening to your deep self gives you yourself at the same time as it takes you out of yourself. 

It is amazing how difficult it is to take complete responsibility for who I will be and the life I will build in the years ahead.  Fortunately it is also exciting and inspiring and basically bloody good fun too!