Mikel Ocean Azure

A SOUL IN SHADES OF BLUE.

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past PRESENT future

Posted by Cobaltsoul on April 21, 2012 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

It is one of the glories of humanity that we remember our past and we dream about our future.  It is one of the tragedies of humanity that we dream about the future and remember our past and allow these magical abilities to cheat us of our present.


There is some pretty good research around these days which suggests that what we remember of our personal past serves not so much as a factual data collection of what actually happened but rather as one thread of the story of meaning we are making of our lives as we live it. 


I'm not suggesting that our memory of our past is a fabrication, I'm pretty sure that evolution weeded out the creatures who'se record of the past was entirely inaccurate and therefore a dangerous basis on which to make survival decisions.


Our memory of our past is OUR memory of OUR past,  in that moment when it was our present we took in only certain parts of the whole reality, we paid more attention to the hateful look our sister gave us and less attention to the loving affirmation in the face of our mother, for example, and forever more our memory of that moment is a memory of being judged, when in that moment we were being judged by one and loved by another.  The power of that memory inside us flows from the way we weighted what we experienced AS we were recording that memory.  They are not false memories but they certainly are subjective memories. 


More than merely subjective, they are harnessed and weighted to support whatever the story is we tell ourselves about ourselves and our life.   Of course,  until we make a different choice as adults, if we ever do,  the story we started out telling ourselves about ourselves was the story our parents told us about ourselves.  Not the story they put into words, though what they said to us might have been consistent with how they treated us, but the story of who we were that was in the way they treated us. 


If my parents neglect me then clearly I am unimportant, of no value.


If my parents worship me then clearly I am a god and deserve to be worshipped by all.


If my parents blame me for their anger and violence then clearly I am a bad child who deserves to be punished and limited/imprisoned.


Our parents give us the first story of who we are.


We interpret experiences and lay them down in our memories weighted to support the story our parents gave us.


It turns out, this is an aside from my main point, that we can return to those memories, unpack the parts not formally noticed or balanced, and re weight our own life story, find the hidden glories and truths in it that show us a wider picture of who we are than the one our parents gave us.  As adults we can wash away the story our parents gave us about who we are and decide for ourselves who we are.  It's not easy, but it's possible.  Lots of research in this area,  one area to look into  "Brain Plasticity", if your'e interested.


Most of us dream about the future.  Some of us make plans for the future we hope we will have.  Some of us take action in the present to create the future we dream about.


Not many of us really NOTICE our present.


The power of the past and the escape of the dreamed of future both serve to distract us from experiencing the present moment.


In truth the present moment is the only living moment we have.


I don't exist in the past or the future.  I only exist NOW.  Now is the whole truth.


Sure we can have a faith about the future and hope for the future, but even if our faith is entirely accurate, which we can't know until it arrives, we will only experience the future in the future AS A LIVING NOW.  


Now is all there is.


So it's a tragedy that we pay so little attention to our now.  We notice such a tiny percentage of what any given moment contains. 


I'm just going to make one point about one area of our NOW experience while there are many different elements of our now experience we could lift our attention to.


How much of what you are feeling right now do you actually notice? 


Some of what we feel floats up into our awareness with a vague quality of "something", without us ever really noticing it or describing it or enjoying it or learning from it.  Mostly the strident feelings might jag our attention, or the feelings we've given major roles in our self story might regularly get our attention, but the whole range of things we are experiencing in our inner world simply flow past without recognition.


We experience our present moment more like robots than like beings.


You might read this and say I'm writing as a man and that women's relationship to their now feelings is different.  Well, it might be different but at fifty years of age I have to say I have seen little evidence that women are any better connected to the range of feelings they are experiencing than men are.    Most women definitely have a better emotionally vocabularly than most men but that's a learned thing.  Generally our western cultures tell women that their emotions are a legitimate part of their female identity while telling men that only strong emotions that serve power and domination of others are a legitimate part of our male identity.  


I'm not sure I've ever come across anything that suggests women are more healthily connected their emotions than men are.  I'd be very interested if such research exists.


My point being that we all tend to NOT be IN our PRESENT fully.


We miss out on a great deal of richness and insight into ourselves as a result.


If we are only alive NOW, then the more of what's happening for us and in us NOW that we touch, taste, notice, engage  then the more alive we are.


Far as I can tell my present is infinite.  No matter how wide and deep I open my awareness, no matter how delicate I set my feelers, there is always more of my Present Being to experience in any moment.


Just a thought.

Mikel.

ONLY ONE VISION

Posted by Cobaltsoul on June 2, 2010 at 8:12 AM Comments comments (0)

Anyone who's been in leadership roles in the institutional church knows that a lot has been written and said in the last twenty years about The Vision of a congregation.  Most of it's absolute nonsense.  Many of the same ideas are common in books on business management.  That fact alone ought give the thoughtful Christian reason to pause before buying into the latest vision. 


There is only one vision for Christians - love people.  Not love them so they will join the church.  Not love them so they will confess Jesus.  Not love them so they will.... do whatever it is we think they should be doing.  


Love is the only reason to love. 


Any additional reason means it's not love we are talking about and not loving we are doing. 


Love people because they are people. 

Love people because that's how we want others to engage us. 

Love people because it is the only perfect gift we can give, even when our love is imperfect. 

Love people because loving joins us with the essential nature of God. 

Love people because when we love we discover what life is fundamentally about. 


There is only one vision, to love people. 


Pour out love like it's wine in a grape glut. 

Rain down love like a metaphysical monsoon season that lasts all year round. 

Pile love so high the tower of Babel conceedes defeat to this more worthy myth. 

Find so many ways to love that you forget more than you enact even when the doing takes a lifetime. 


Love. 

What happens after that is between each person and God. 


Loving is the only vision. 


Peace. 


Mikel.

Leadership Corruption and The Prophetic.

Posted by Cobaltsoul on May 26, 2010 at 2:23 AM Comments comments (0)

The Jewish and the Christian traditions of spiritual community have at least one response to the reality of leadership power corrupting leaders.


Prophets.


Prophets were/are people, sometimes a whole group can have the same function,  who challenge the formal and informal leaders of a community about the motivations and effects of their exercise of power within and over a community.  They also hold the community responsible for what the community allows to become true of the life of the community, it's management, values, direction.


Prophets are rarely welcome, by either leadership or by the community.  Prophets do not allow the hidden to stay hidden, they make life difficult for everyone.   True prophets do not have self interest, or at least, their need or commitment to speaking truth is stronger than their self interest. 


Prophets need to stand "outside" the community because if they become a leader within the community they immediately are themselves subject to the corruptive power of now being a leader people think of as "one of us" but who is not.   Classic prophets are not seen by the community as "one of us", the classic prophet wields no influence, are not welcomed, are not rewarded.    Any prophet who is welcomed and rewarded for speaking prophetically, inevitably moves from prophet to false prophet.  They become just another of the power corrupted leaders in the community. 


Prophets can be corrupted by their role.  They can think they are always right, when in reality they are as likely to be wrong as right, to mistake their own likes and dislikes for perception of a larger Truth.  Prophets can fool themselves into thinking they like being isolated and maligned.   No healthy human enjoys being excluded from community.  Once the prophet denies the pain of their isolation they will start to adopt attitudes and behaviours that have nothing to do with any truth, that serve only to magnify the "magnificence" of their isolation and weirdness.  This prophet serves only the truth of how much they superficially enjoy their unique role as the Outside, the Rogue, the Mystery figure.


The more powerless the prophet the more chance their contributions will remain truly prophetic,  potentially genuinely insightful and corrective if considered humbly by community and leaders.


Think about it.


Mikel.





The Dialogue: What is Leadership Corruption?

Posted by Cobaltsoul on May 26, 2010 at 2:02 AM Comments comments (0)

I've referred to the corrupting quality of power but have not described or defined what that corruption actually is.


This is my first shot at exploring that description.


People are what matters. 

The only root purpose worthy of pursuit is helping people enjoy life and enjoy it more deeply, more widely, more freely, more generously, more, more more LIFE for more, more, more PEOPLE.   


Just in case you misunderstood that,  I did not say "helping a person", it's a PEOPLE thing, plural, not individualistic. 


In terms of leading a community this root purpose equates to good, honest, healthy leadership being the leadership which produces the most life, quality and quantity, in the most inclusive way and mutually respectful way for the widest range of community members.


Power corrupts leadership in this way - people with power, formal or informal leaders,  immediately see themselves, consciously or unconsciously, as different to the community at large.  Hidden in that difference is the reality that these leaders start to pursue what is good for them rather than what is good for the community they now see themselves as different from.  It may be a small thing at first but it's a corruption, and it grows.  When you have more power than the community members generally have you immediately percieve yourself as different from the community and your goals likewise differentiate.


Soren Kierkegaard said that purity of the heart is to will one thing.  Power corrupts leadership because with power comes a second purpose, a purpose not fundamentally about helping the most community members enjoy the best quality of community life they can.  The second purpose flows from the fact that the leader(s) become, consciously or unconsciously, a community within the community and their first loyalty is to this smaller community.  They may deny it to themselves,  makes no difference,  the dynamic is psychologically inescapable.


Think about it.


Mikel.

Leadership: Formal and Informal.

Posted by Cobaltsoul on May 26, 2010 at 1:42 AM Comments comments (0)

If you've been in leadership and you've been paying attention you will have noticed that there are at least two categories of leadership.


Formal leadership - the official leader or leaders,  appointed by some sanctioned process and given clear powers with regard to community management and direction setting. 


Informal leadershp - people or groups that exert strong, consistent influence on what happens in the community (Management) and what direction the community moves.


The relationship between both categories often determines the politics of that community, and every communty has "politics".


Sometimes the informal leadership becomes, by a legitimate process, the formal leadership of the community.  That might sound like a good thing, sometimes, for a while, it is.  But, due to the corrupting quality of power, the increased power of being the formal leadership (While still having the power accrued as the informal leadership) quickly (Ironically) starts to erode the dynamics of that informal leadership credibility and influence and the reaction of most such leaders is then to focus further on the formal powers of influence they have which speeds up and magnifies the way that power warps them and corrupts them. 


More commonly the formal leadershp and the informal leadership are in competition for the influence within the community.  In this competition the formal leadership is actually at a disadvantage, everything they do they are accountable for, it's generally done in public view.  The informal leadership is not accountable to anyone except themselves, very often the members of the community don't really identify the informal leaders AS leaders.  They just think of them as "my friend" or "the guy who's been here from the start" or some such.  Because they are not seen as even informal leaders no-one measures their actions in terms of responsibility or accountability. 


Imagine for a moment the corruptive potential in that leadership process.  You can wield influence over this part of a group of people's lives, without ever being asked to explain yourself, justify your motives or your actions, you can have power in the shadows.  


Power corrupts formal and informal leadership in the same way.   If you are reading this and you are an informal leader, don't kid yourself  that your motives and processes are any cleaner than the formal leaders.  They are not. 


Think about it.


Mikel.

PEOPLE ARE PRECIOUS

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.


Mikel.

SHARING

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.


Mikel.

 

 

 

 

 


FEELINGS CAN SHOUT.

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.


Peace,

Mikel.

 

 

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!


Peace,

Mikel.