We Were Made For These Times

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“You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.”

This is a powerful and timeless text written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves. I come to it time and again, finding comfort, peace and profound love. Upon reading it, I feel inspired and encouraged to keep marching on, because I feel that “I am made for these times”. I hope you feel the same too.

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Blessings

Helio Borges

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In 2017 May We All Have…

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..the capacity to enjoy every moment of our life. Every place that we visit. Everything that we do. Every person who we meet. Because in everything and everyone, if we seek well enough, there is always something for us to admire, taste, feel, and appreciate.

..the chance to do what we like, and if we don´t like what we do, that we have the ability to change our attitude towards it, so that by getting involved in it, we can create the opportunity for change that we are looking for.

..the occasion to surround ourselves with people who appreciate us for what we are, and not for what we have or what we do. And also to meet people who inspire us to become the best version of ourselves personally and professionally. Since inspiration is the key to creativity and to the progress of humanity.

..the intention to find meaning in what we do. Which is, after all, the best way of integrating ourselves within the complex mechanism of the universe, so that we may add our very small grain of sand to the creation of a better world for all.

..the patience and perseverance to make our dreams come true, despite the obstacles found on our way. That result will be inevitable if we have appreciation for life, if we are inspired, if we have faith, if we rely on our own abilities, if we accept the support of the people who love us, and if we work in harmony with the Intention of the Whole.

May we all be blessed.

Helio Borges.

@hborgesg @heboga

THE SOHAM WARRIOR

 

The Soham warrior has to raise from the depths of her suffering, whatever the degree of it may be, and overcome her fears. She has to become an alchemist who transmutes prejudice into openness. Rage and anger into compassion and empathy. And fear into courage.  Whoever wants to become a Soham warrior has to travel the path of love, wisdom and compassion in a journey to the depths of her own self. Her journey will be a difficult one. She will find challenges every step of the way. But the main obstacles won’t come from the world’s menaces, they´ll come from her own self.

The Prophecy

There is an ancient prophecy, so ancient that has almost been forgotten in the threads of time. A friend of mine, who is a world traveler and spirituality seeker talked to me once about it. An old monk narrated it to her while they had been walking to a little sacred town on the foot of the Himalayas, where she had gone to meditate.

The monk began to narrate.

There will be a time when the forces of evil seem to be determining the fate of human beings, who feel hopeless, and helpless to confront their power. Violence is everywhere, war prevails over peace, as does evil over goodness, treason over trust, intrigue over sincerity, lie over truth, cruelty over compassion, and suffering over contentment. Most people look to everyone else in distrust, being afraid of getting hurt physically or morally. Chaos seems to be the commanding force of the world. In most countries government is held by greedy and cynical men that look for their personal benefit, instead of the common welfare. Those in power have at their disposal armies of fanatic followers, willing to harm and even to kill anyone who opposes their bosses’ power. They have at their disposal weapons of abysmal destruction potential. Ordinary people feel that they have no hope to ever overcome that oppressing situation. The ambition and greed of the men in power don’t have limits. They not only profit from their corrupt way of government, but also have turned the Earth into a wasteland, because of the limitless extraction of its riches. Food is scarce and expensive, poor people eat left overs, when they eat at all. People die by the thousands of unknown diseases. Many people feel hopeless and wonder how much they will have to endure that suffering until something, anything happens. It is the kingdom of fear and darkness. Humanity has been pushed to the edge of time, driven by their choice of going through the path of power, greed and oppression. Instead of through the path of love, wisdom and compassion.

Is that the end of the world? My friend asked the monk.

The end and the beginning. The monk answered cryptically, and continued talking.

In this most obscure of realities a ray of hope will shine, the hope that the Soham warrior will come and free every one of their suffering, giving birth to a new era of peace, understanding and mutual respect. The legend says that the Soham warrior will have special qualities that will render the power of the rulers useless.

What are those special qualities? Asked my friend.

Later please, said the monk. And continued with the narration.

At that moment in time, most people will be like camels, they just sit there and take the load. There will be some lions, who will resist the power of the rulers with all their strength, but it won’t be enough to overpower them. Only the child can and will.

The child? Asked my friend.

Later, said the monk, somehow annoyed, and continued with the narration.

It will be the end of time and the beginning of time. It will be the no time. There cannot be a beginning without an end. In order for an era of peace to begin, the era of suffering most end. However, suffering is not easy to end. Only the sufferer, the victim, the weak, the meager can put an end to their miseries. They’ll do it by raising above their suffering once and for all. Their liberation doesn’t depend on the heroic works of some warrior. Yet, only the Soham warrior will be capable of doing it.

I am sorry. I don’t understand. Said my friend.

Yes. It is paradoxical. Isn’t it? Please, let me continue.

The Warrior

She is a virtuoso warrior. I will refer to the warrior as she, but it could be masculine or feminine. It doesn’t matter at all. She is wise and knowledgeable, courageous, magnanimous, moderated, and spiritual. She has gifts that allow her to show her virtuosity. However, in order to complete her job successfully, she will have to become a child again.

A child warrior? Asked my friend.

Not exactly, said the monk. Only a child has an open mind, an open heart, and an open will. No warrior can accomplish such a task without those three capabilities. Yet, by opening herself the way a child does, she becomes vulnerable. It is paradoxical, but her strength lies in her vulnerability. It gives her power beyond measure.

How can it be possible? Asked my friend.

Please, pay attention to this. Said the monk

The Journey

Soham means “I am He/That” in Sanskrit, meaning the ultimate reality. There is no Soham warrior as such. Not in the way people imagine, of a God sent type of hero who by wielding her powers is going to liberate us from all that suffering. The Soham warrior has to raise from the depths of her suffering, whatever the degree of it may be, and overcome her fears. She has to become an alchemist who transmutes prejudice into openness. Rage and anger into compassion and empathy. And fear into courage.  Whoever wants to become a Soham warrior has to travel the path of love, wisdom and compassion in a journey to the depths of her own self. Her journey will be a difficult one. She will find challenges every step of the way. But the main obstacles won’t come from the world’s menaces, they´ll come from her own self. She will have to overcome her own voices of judgement, of cynicism, and of fear. In order to complete her journey successfully, she will have to go through several stages. And to go into those places, she will have to open doors, for which she will need special keys.

Seeing With New Eyes

The first stage in her journey is Seeing With New Eyes. In order to see with new eyes, she will have to open the door of her own mind. For that, she must be able to develop the ability to perceive reality differently than the ordinary people do. She will do that by being flexible and open to new experiences, and by handling ambiguity naturally. She will also need to develop creativity to look for new ways of doing things. Once the door of her mind has been opened, a whole new world will show for her to be seen from this perspective. However, her mind will shut close if she allows her voice of judgement to raise and her own idea of truth to become “the truth”. A rigid, judgmental, and single minded person won’t be able even of begin this journey at all.

My friend listened carefully and the monk continued talking. He did it calmly, and the low tone of his voice seemed to blend with the sounds of the surrounding forest.

Sensing From the Heart

Seeing things with new eyes paves the way for her to Sense From the Heart. However, she won’t be able to open the door to her own heart if she doesn’t disarm the secret armor that keeps it shut. It consists of her negative emotional reactions to events in her life. In order for her heart to be able to sense the reality around her from a whole new perspective, she needs to suspend those reactions. Once that armor is disabled, she will have access to the master key of Love. Love has many aspects to which she needs to be open. One important facet of love is the capacity to love not only other people, but to love herself too, and to accept love given to her. She also has to value close and intimate relations with others, and to acknowledge other people’s worth. In order to feel empathy and sympathy, and to treat fairly her fellow human beings, she has to be able to put herself in the other person’s shoes. A person who is confronted with adversity has to choices. One, is opening her heart to love and taking responsibility for getting out of that situation. The other, is blocking her heart with cynicism, negative emotions and blame, making others responsible for her misfortunes. The first path will allow her to continue her journey with a new degree of maturity and fortitude of character. The latter will lead her to the road of rage and anger, shutting her heart to sense love and all other related positive emotions as well. A person incapable of feeling love won’t be able to enter this stage of the journey, even if she has opened her mind.

What I am about to say now is of paramount importance. So, please listen carefully. Said the monk.

The Eye of the Needle.

In old Jerusalem, there was a door called the eye of the needle, because it had that shape and was small enough for one person to trough it. At dusk all the other doors were shut, and only the eye of the needle was left open. If a caravan tried to get into the city after that time of the day, each camel had to drop to its knees and be totally unloaded of its cargo. That metaphor was used by Jesus Christ when he wanted to illustrate that a person driven by avarice had to transform himself by dropping to his knees (being humble) and unloading his cargo, (letting go of old beliefs and behavior patterns) in order to go through the threshold that will lead him to the kingdom of God. Opening the mind and the heart allows the person to stand in front of the eye of the needle. However, in order to go through that threshold, she requires letting go of old habits and beliefs, specially her ego, allowing her humility and vulnerability to emerge. Having let go of what is not essential, sitting in stillness and in silence, she tunes in to her emerging future asking two basic questions. Who am I? What is my work? From that space of nonjudgmental listening, she’ll feel her attention expanding and connecting with a deeper place of inner knowing. In awe and wonder, she observes her emerging future as it is beginning to unfold. Once that connection has been established, she will begin to act in her intention to bring into reality that emerging future. A new Self has emerged, and she will be another person from now on. Nevertheless, this new Self isn’t in anyway a permanent presence. In order to remain in that space of knowing, she will have to make a conscious and continuous effort. Being judgmental, and experiencing negative emotions, such as fear, rage, anger, will return her to her old ego self and to her former ways of behaving.

My friend was so concentrated in the narration that she lost the sense of time. She was speechless too.

The monk continued.

The Manna in the Desert

Having crossed the threshold to her emerging future, and having left behind her old self, she will need to open the door of her will to keep her new Self present most of the time. Her courage will allow her to swim against the current of normal existence and behavior, and to sustain her intention over time. It won´t let her hope fade either, because that will be the beacon signaling to her the way to her best possible future. And by being true to her intention, she will keep her reserve of zest and humor. Those are the manna that will give her enough strength to continue her journey, especially at times when she feels like wandering in a desert full of mirages.

The Keys to the Kingdom

Being true to one´s intention is a lifetime job, and a lifetime learning experience too. At times she will feel like going nowhere, because she has chosen to walk on the road less traveled. Nonetheless, the force of her sense of purpose will keep her going on her true path despite her fears. In moments of doubt, her integrity and genuineness will win the day. She is farsighted and deliberate, and she knows that she has to take risks, but she confronts them objectively. She feels gratitude for her blessings, for being and feeling alive, and for having had the opportunity to work for the greater good of humanity. She is trusting and forgiving, despite the possibility of getting hurt. While walking her path, more often than not, generally when she least expects it, doors will open for her that will take her to places in which she never would have imagined to be. Likewise, she somehow will be guided to meet people that will help her without even been asked to. Other people will seek her out to draw on her expertise and knowledge to help them to solve their problems. Those are the rewards of being in communion with the intention of the whole.

The monk fell into silence, as if he had nothing else to say. The only sounds were of their steps and of the wilderness. They walked in silence for a while and when they were arriving to the village, my friend spoke.

Can anyone become a Soham warrior?

We all are. The monk answered.

We are? What about the journey you were just describing?

We all are. The thing is that most people haven’t realized it yet. You realize it by three means. Your actions. Your values. And your suffering. Some people chose the last one, if they choose at all. The others will remain playing the role of victims, fighting among each other and against themselves. But if someone wants to realize her potential as a human being, she will have to make the journey that I just described to you.

I see. Could you please tell me to what kind of spiritual congregation you belong? Or what is the religion that you profess? It seems to me like this journey blends ancient philosophy with more actual, practical knowledge.

The monk stopped, looked at her and said. I don´t belong to any spiritual practice or religion. Nevertheless, I embrace them all.

Where is your congregation located? I would like to know more about your practice.

We are not located anywhere. And yet, we are everywhere.

How many of you are there?

We are the few.

Where can I find you if I want to know more of what you were talking about?

You have only one place to look for answers to your questions, and it is inside yourself. He made a reverence and walked away.

With love

Helio Borges

I express my deep gratitude to Otto Scharmer and his team of gifted collaborators at the ULab program at MIT, specially to Kelvy Bird, Julie Arts and Adam Yukelson.They are working hard to create a worldwide army of Soham warriors.

References:

U.lab: Leading From the Emerging Future. An introduction to leading profound social, environmental and personal transformation.

Positive Psychology Center. University of Pennsylvania.

The Responsibility of a Change Agent in the XXI Century

“We as change agents, regardless of our feelings and emotions, have the responsibility to act differently. This is the moment of greatest disruption in the history of mankind, and we have been provided right at this moment with the tools to Co – Create a better future for us and for our children through the creation of a new kind of leadership.”

One year ago, on the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks I wrote this article as my final reflective journal for the MIT course “Transforming Business, Society and Self with U.Lab”. In that article I made a reflection on what, in my judgement, the causes of the attacks were, and their probable consequences. It saddens me deeply that I had not been wrong about the consequences. As human beings we have not learned anything from our pain and suffering. We have lost our capacity to reflect on the facts. It doesn’t matter what our education level is, we just react, just like we have done since Biblical times.

“We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game”

The Circle Game. Joni Mitchell

November 14, 2015. U.Lab Reflecting Journaling

“Yesterday, Parisians were enjoying a calm and cheerful Friday night in one of the most beautiful and lively cities in the world , and suddenly were surprised by senseless acts of violence taken to the extreme by explosions , gunfire and mass executions, which inflicted confusion, disbelief, paralysis, horror, fear, pain and suffering on the population and the authorities, in such a massive scale that they reverberated in waves around the world. Thanks to the media, we all felt like being in Paris. Today these feelings continue to affect us, this time accompanied by frustration, and the need to react.

Human beings confronted with a traumatic event, like the ones in Baghdad, Beirut and Paris, pass through several stages described by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The first stage is DENIAL (This cannot be happening, it is not possible). When the person, or in this case, the collective, realizes that the fact is real, and it can’t be denied, experiences the second stage, ANGER (Here, anything can happen depending on the individual or the collective). At this stage the Voices of Judgment, Cynicism, and Fear arise. What happens at this stage can go from having the feeling and not acting on one extreme, or seeking revenge on the other (We must do something! We´ll make them pay! Justice will be done! This is an act of war and we will respond in kind!). The third stage is negotiation (negotiation with oneself about the consequences of the actions in the previous stage). The fourth stage is DEPRESSION (Resignation to the inevitability of the fact we are facing and to which there is no possible solution). The fifth stage is ACCEPTANCE (Given this reality I should accept it and prepare myself better for this).

What comes next? Well, I think that France, accompanied by much of the Western world, which sees itself in the same situation, is going “en masse” to the second stage (Anger). Haven’t we experienced that reaction right after the events of September 11, 2002? Isn’t this kind of response what largely caused the situation we are experiencing right now? What have we learned as a human race after falling for more than 10,000 years in the same cycle of in crescendo violence?

Dr. Kübler-Ross showed us the way. It is the way of ACCEPTANCE and MANAGEMENT of reality. We as agents of change, regardless of our feelings and emotions, have the responsibility to act differently. This is the moment of greatest disruption in the history of mankind, and we have been provided right at this moment with the tools to Co – Create a better future for us and for our children through the creation of a new kind of leadership: Coaching Circles, SPT, Stakeholder Interviews, Empathy Walks and this magnificent worldwide network that MIT and the Presencing Institute have built.

This is our opportunity to be a factor in the breaking of the cycle, let’s not waste it. Let´s listen to the call of the Universe.

Helio Borges

The Emerging Future vs The Patterns Of The Past

“There are two ways to respond to a moment of disruption. One is by opening up, embracing the unknown, and connecting with the emerging future. The other is by closing down and holding on to the patterns of the past, disconnecting ourselves from the emerging future. The first one is PRESENCING, and the other is ABSENCING”. Otto Scharmer

The Patterns of the Past

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The British archaeologist Tobias Stone, in his studies of humanity’s history has discovered that we, as a human race “ have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction from time to time, generally self-imposed to some extent or another”. He says that for a historian looking back throughout humanity’s evolution, every time that one of those cycles is about to begin, if you look closely, you will discover evident signs that a big tragic event is about to take place, but surprisingly enough, the people living in that time and place were caught up totally unaware”. In Mr. Stone words, “It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100-year historical perspective, they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way”. The assassination of a nobleman in Bosnia was the spark that exploded a war that resulted in the death of 17.000.000 people.

He identifies a repetitive pattern in every cycle in which leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and many more come to power. “Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.” He mentions three main causes for that:

  1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future
  2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally
  3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Once the cycle has been started by leaders like those mentioned above, the human suffering caused by the senseless violence that is generated is unimaginable. At the end of the cycle, humanity recovers once more, only to repeat the cycle 50-100 years later. “At a local level in time, people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this, it is hard to see it happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another”. However, once the crisis is overcome, generally there is a recovery process, “…a defining feature of humans is their resilience. After most events of massive destruction, humanity recovered and moved on, often in better shape”.

Are there signs right now that could be identified as the probable causes of the start of one of those violent cycles? I think so, and it’s a long list, of which I am just going to name a few: 9/11, The war against terror (Afghanistan, Al-Qaida, Iraq) , Russia- Georgia war, Russia-Ukraine war, Syria civil war, Isis,  The ongoing war in the Middle East, The terrorist attacks in Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Cannes, Pakistan, Africa, among others. The rise of fundamentalism, patriotism, nationalism, terrorism, authoritarianism affecting and modifying the way of doing politics. The crack that Brexit opened in the European Union, that paves the way to other countries to do the same, putting an end to 40 years of peace and stability in the European continent. And the list goes on.

Those are the pieces of a world puzzle that independently don’t mean much, except for the people suffering its consequences, but that slowly and firmly, piece by piece, are drawing a worldwide map of conflict escalation that the UN and equivalent organisms have proved impotent to prevent. Adding one more piece to the puzzle, the takeover of the candidacy of a  valueless and leaderless Republican Party by Donald Trump, and his possible election as President of the USA, spells letter by letter the phenomenon described by Mr. Stone earlier in this article.

absencing

The cycles described above by Mr. Stone, have been scientifically studied by MIT’s Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer, and his findings are contained in the book “Theory U. Leading From the Emerging Future as It Emerges”, and in the MIT course U.Lab Leading From The Emerging Future. He describes the pathological “Cycle of Absencing”, (total lack of consciousness) that if it is carried to the end, might lead to the disintegration of societies. The cycle begins with “Blinding” ourselves to the reality surrounding us, “Denying” its existence as it is, because we are “Stuck in One Truth/View”. It scales when we “Entrench” in our position of “Us vs Them”, “De-sensing” ourselves of the human capacity to feel empathy for our fellow human beings, and feeling impotent of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. It continues to grow to the point in which we “Hold on” to our position of being “Stuck in our self/Will”. From there on, the “Absencing” roller coaster goes downhill at increasing speed, “Deluding” and “Abusing” our fellow human beings. That leads to a “Disembodying” of our soul (literally), “Aborting” the social processes and structures and “Destroying” them. The “Social Field” created by this process is one of violence, pain and sorrow. It is like bringing the dark ages back to present day societies.

I live in Caracas, Venezuela, and this Absencing process is very personal to me, because I’ve been witnessing during the last 17 years a textbook case of that cycle imposed by presidents Chavez and his heir Maduro, who were elected to office by a cheering populace. Afterwards, they kidnapped the political system and transformed it to a de-facto regime, even against the will of 90% of the country’s population. Their administration has been so disastrous that they created a humanitarian crisis without precedent in this part of the hemisphere. Venezuelans as a community, did it to ourselves by unconsciously electing thugs as leaders. The result, as Mr. Stone puts it, was predictable to any conscious observer.

Are we going to sit still and watch the cycle repeat itself once again, but with the potential to be deadlier than before? Are we able to avoid it somehow? I think that it is not only possible, but it is mandatory. Here is how.

The Emerging Future

presencing

Opposite to that pathological cycle of destruction, Scharmer proposes a cycle of “Social Emergence” in which he establishes a “Dynamic of Social Creation”. The cycle begins when we “Suspend” our habitual patterns of reaction to the current events, thus, “Opening our Minds”, and allowing ourselves to “Observe with new eyes” the reality around us. Then we are able to “Redirect our Attention” in order to “Sense” what surrounds us, and “Open our Hearts” by feeling empathy and putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. After that, the door opens for us to contact our “Source”, our “Emerging Self” through a process called “Presencing” (Presence & Sensing). In this stage, we “Let Go” of our past and “Let Come” our “Emerging Future”.  Next, we “Open our Will” and gatering enough courage, we “Act in an Instant”, “Crystallizing”, “Prototyping”, and “Performing”, literally creating our “Emerging Future”. The “Social Field” created by the Presencing process is one of creativity and growth in all aspects of society. Think of it as a new renaissance.

Mr. Stone’s historical data shows that in most cases, humanity is better off after some of the great crisis that it confronts. If that is a historical fact, I can deduct then that after a big crisis ends, a new era of higher consciousness begins. And it is begotten by two factors:

  1. By the suffering sustained under the crisis.
  2. By the reflection process that comes after the crisis (The Presencing Cycle).

The problem is, according to Mr. Stone, that having passed one or two generations after the crisis, it becomes mostly anecdotal. That´s why Jewish people, for example, have to make a conscious effort of remembering the holocaust every year. Viktor Frankl (a holocaust survivor) wrote in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, that humans acquired a sense of purpose through three means:

  1. Actions
  2. Values
  3. Suffering.

The “Social Field” as defined by Theory U is the result of the interactions of the human beings participating in it. If we apply what Mr Frankl sustains for individual human beings to the social field of the human race, it follows that we acquire meaning through those three means. But as I see it, of the three, “Suffering” is the most likely to show up as a mean of getting conscious. Why? Because in order to sustain our “Values” as time goes by, we have to “Act”, making a conscious effort of setting ourselves apart from the social field of our current interactions, and from the suffering many of those interactions generate. It is much easier for a person, as well as for a group of people to react rather than to “Act” consciously. Reacting lowers the consciousness level of the social field, driving it eventually to the “Pathology of Destruction” (Absencing Cycle), and to suffering. On the contrary, the conscious actions of opening our minds, hearts, and will, rise it (Presencing Cycle).

Summing it up, I believe that humankind rises its consciousness level through successive historical cycles of suffering during periods of crisis, and of reflecting after them, which result in a new set of values by which we relate with each other. In doing so, we create a new social field. However, those values have to be sustained in time only through conscious work, iterating and perfecting the “Presencing Cycle”, otherwise, they become dead letter and we are doomed to fall in the Absencing cycle  and to suffer again. By no means this is an automatic process of spiral ascension, it takes hard work, presence of spirit and sacrifice. Just look at the examples Gandhi, King, Mandela, Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai, to name a few.

In order for us to break the ever repeating cycle of our own destruction. ¿Are we, as a human race, willing to do the hard work that the “Emergence of Social Creation” requires from us?  Or, are we going to continue sliding downhill, by the bloody and painful road of the “Pathology of Social Destruction”? The decision is personal, of everyone of us, and it must be taken consciously.

With appreciation

Helio Borges

 

Have you seen the Field?


“The way we perceive our reality will determine how we are going to interact with it. That perception is defined by the quality of our attention and the purpose of our intention”

Savannah Georgia 1930.

lobv

In the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance , Junuh (Matt Damon), a down-and-out amateur golf player, is about to begin the tournament of his life against Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, the two best players of the time. Bagger Vance (Will Smith), his African American caddy asks him if he had seen the Field. Junuh answers him, “yes, of course”, and begins describing sarcastically the golf field while grabbing the club from Bagger Vance´s hand. Bagger Vance gives him the club and says softly, “go ahead, hack away” After some irresolute practice swings Junuh goes back to Bagger Vance and asks him “What field?” Bagger Vance asks him to watch Bobby Jones while he prepares for his first shot. He says to Junuh, among other things “Do you feel his focus? He has many shots to choose from, but there is only one shot that is in harmony with the field. One authentic shot, and that shot is going to choose him. There is one perfect shot trying to find everyone of us,  we just have to let it choose us. Look, he is in the Field“.

The Field

Otto Scharmer, co-author of the Theory U and senior lecturer of MIT, defines the Field as “the process of social reality creation”. He explains that “Most of the time, we experience social reality as something exterior—as a world “out there” that is doing something to us. But actually this social reality is originated in every one of us, the seven billion of us”.

Viewed from a practical point of view, every one of us creates his/her own reality, but that reality is affected by our perception of the social field. In other words, the way we perceive our reality will determine how we are going to interact with it. That perception is defined by the quality of our attention and the purpose of our intention, and in Scharmer’s words “the process of social reality creation is connected to our blind spot”. And we could ask what our blind spot is. “It is the interior place from which we operate. Depending on the source of attention and awareness from which we operate, we effect and facilitate different social dynamics. There are four different structures of attention that give rise to four different social fields”.

  1. I-in-me. Acting from one’s own belief system. This is our habitual source of attention, where we mostly react to what happens to us in predictable patterns learned from our life experiences and knowledge. Just picture Junuh hacking away golf balls, and obtaining the same results. “This type of attention produces one dimensional mental images. The interaction with others is by fitting into and conforming to frames and rules”.
  2. I-in-it. Acting under the perception and awareness that there are other belief systems out there. “Here we originate a two-dimensional social field, due to an exterior connection between observer and observed. From this level we operate in a rational way, and our control center is located in our heads”. When Junuh reflected and went back to bagger Vance asking him what field he was talking about, he jumped from level 1 to level 2 of attention, thus, creating a new social field.
  3. I-in-you. “Acting under an empathic awareness of the system one is capable of activating a three-dimensional social field where we are able to put ourselves “in the other’s shoes””. From this level we not only use our heads, but we operate mainly from the heart. Our self becomes relational. There are moments in which Junuh treats Bagger Vance like a club carrier, but when Bagger talks, he listens to him very closely, putting all his attention on bagger’s message.
  4. I-in-now. Acting from the whole. “Perception becomes open and panoramic”. “Our present self morphs to an authentic Self, that is identical to our highest future possibility and that comes into being through the open boundaries of the human body field, both individually and collectively”. In the movie, Bagger Vance lives in that level of awareness. He is an African American caddy in the deep south in the 1930’s. However, he is capable of relating to the game in a whole different way. In fact, he gives advice to Junuh, but he doesn’t talk to his present self, he addresses his emerging future Self, forcing Junuh to reflect and act from his emerging future.

In order for us to go from a level 1 structure of attention to a level 4, we have to be able to:

  • Open our minds, overcoming our own voice of judgement, in order to suspend our habitual beliefs and to see reality with new eyes.
  • Open our hearts, silencing our voice of cynicism, allowing our empathy to drive us in order to sense the Field.
  • Open our will, prevailing over our fears, in order to act from the whole.

When we open our heads and hearts, we get into a dynamic called Presencing (presence and sensing) which is the capacity to access our source, in order to let go of our current self and let come our emerging future Self.

Helio Borges

 

Picture: Weaving a field of community and awareness. Kelvy Bird. Presencing Institute.

Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges 2nd Edition.  By C. Otto Scharmer (Author), Peter Senge (Foreword)

MAKING CONSCIOUS SOCIETY’S DARKNESS

11_absencingpresencing

 

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung.

THE SHADOW

I live in Caracas, Venezuela, a country where a ruthlessly violent dictatorship has used the instruments of democracy to eternize itself in power. In trying to convert the country into a socialist paradise, created instead, in the words of The Daily Telegraph (2), a debt and hyperinflation hell that has destroyed the country economically, socially, and environmentally. In consequence, there is a humanitarian crisis (5) without precedent in a country which has not been at war, although, it appears otherwise. What adds insult to injury is that all this damage has been done while the country was enjoying a 13 year period of record income originated by the high prices of oil. According with The Washington Post, (3) Venezuela should be rich, but its government has destroyed its economy. Such mismanagement does not have precedent in modern history, anywhere. In Venezuela, the leadership drove the country full speed down the Absencing (1) highway, following the classical pattern identified by Otto Scharmer (1) and beautifully drawn by Kelvy Bird (1). U Lab (1) is very personal for me because it is not an academic exercise, I have lived the whole dynamics of social pathology, suffered its consequences and I can sadly testify that it works, just the way Otto figured out. The Absencing model has been empirically demonstrated to work thanks to the thugs that lead this country.

MAKING THE DARKNESS CONSCIOUS

What Carl Jung meant for the individual, must work too for the “collective unconscious” (4). Therefore, societies most make their darkness conscious in order to access the very transcendental wisdom that guides mankind (4). That is I believe, what Otto Scharmer endeavors to reach through the Presencing (1) process applied to the Social Field (1). And that is the reason why I participate in the U Lab- to face my own soul and to help Venezuelans face theirs, which is mine too by definition. I also believe that Venezuela is a country where you can see clearly a world that wants to end and a future that wants to emerge, and the country’s calamities are tipping the balance very rapidly to the latter. However, the world that wants to die is armed, violent and has kidnapped all the political institutions. On the other side, the future that wants to emerge is composed by the overwhelming majority of the population, precisely the ones that are experiencing the pain of facing their own soul. In light of that scenario, I conclude that the battle for Venezuela’s future, or any country’s for that matter, is a battle of consciousness that must be fought with weapons different from the ones used in other wars.

THE WEAPONS

As I said before, the weapons that can help a society win the battle against its own shadows are non-traditional, and they can be found in the U Lab arsenal. If the Absencing model has been proved to work, then the Presencing model, the dynamics of creation, must work too. I have been working with that model for a year now, and the results at the personal and group level are impressive. My intention is to produce collective change using the Presencing tools.

THE ROAD AHEAD

To that effect, yesterday I had a stakeholder interview with a colleague ULaber whom I had not seen in six months. Last year we participated in a coaching circle in which we held case clinics once every two weeks during six months. That coaching circle was a vehicle for starting new ventures for all its members, including the prototype that I am testing now.

Some of the members of the CC had a wider scope about the potential of U Lab’s tools for large scale social transformation in our country, and we discussed them in private. As a result of this stakeholder interview, we committed ourselves to:

  • Constitute a Hub as a holding space not only for U Lab, but for other peace and level 4 conversations as well.
  • Invite the rest of the Venezuelan U Labers to participate in that hub in order to hold their coaching circles in that space and to participate in other level 4 conversations.
  • Contact institutions, private and public, in order to help them shift their awareness to the emerging future, despite the oppressing shadow that covers the country now.
  • Use the social networks to communicate our initiatives and to contact foreign stakeholders in order to obtain their support.
  • Begin facilitating the program I developed in the last U Lab. It consists of a 48 hour semi-presential program that incorporates elements of the Well Being Theory of Positive Psychology (6) into the U Journey. I prepared that program based on the necessity of a person to draw on all her personal resources and strengths, in order to live her life fully, especially in a country such as Venezuela, where the shadow that casts over everyone affects each aspect of our life.

I conclude this journal with a quote from Yehuda Berg. “On one hand, we know that everything happens for a reason, and there are no mistakes or coincidences. On the other hand, we learn that we can never give up, knowing that with the right tools and energy, we can reverse any decree or karma. So, which is it? Let the Light decide, or never give up? The answer is: both”. (7)

Kindly, Helio Borges

  1. ulab: Leading From the Emerging Future. An introduction to leading profound social, environmental and personal transformation. www.edx.org
  2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/05/21/venezuela-how-the-socialist-paradise-turned-into-debt-and-hyperi/
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/01/21/venezuela-should-be-rich-but-its-government-has-destroyed-its-economy/
  4. http://www.carl-jung.net/collective_unconscious.html
  5. http://www.eluniversal.com/noticias/daily-news/venezuela-faces-humanitarian-crisis-ban-ki-moon-claims_431187
  6. https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/
  7. https://es.kabbalah.com/authors/yehuda-berg

Picture: Absencing-Presencing. Presencing Institute. Otto Scharmer. http://www.presencing.com/pemissions

Moment by Moment / Momento a Momento

Moment by moment.

How are you? How do you feel? I don’t mean in your life in general. I mean right here, right now, in this very moment.

When it’s raining, are you upset about the chaos in the street where noisy cars and busy people mix? Or you look the other way and observe peace instead?

Moment by moment, peace is waiting for you to notice it, regardless of the circumstances.

Moment by moment, find the peace that is available to you that you haven’t noticed yet.

Life is composed by moments, it is up to you to fill them with worry and pain, or with peace and joy.

Blessings

Helio Borges
IMG_20150915_172332034_HDR_wm

Momento a momento.

Cómo estás? Cómo te sientes? No me refiero a tu vida en general. Cómo te sientes en éste momento, aquí y ahora?

Si llueve, te preocupas por el caos en la calle donde se mezcla el ruido de los carros con la gente apurada? O miras a otro lado y observas paz?

La paz está esperando que te fijes en ella momento a momento, independientemente de las circunstancias.

Momento a momento encuentra la paz que está disponible para ti, y en la que no te has fijado hasta ahora.

La vida está compuesta por momentos que tu puedes llenar de dolor y preocupación, o de alegría y paz.

Bendiciones

Helio Borges

Calle con lluviaLirio y pez 2

Do You Know The Stuff You Are Made Of?

“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look”. 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

What internal resources allowed Leonardo Da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa? Edison to invent the lightbulb after failing 14.000 times? Einstein to discover the Theory of Relativity? Magellan to circumnavigate the world? Jeanne d’Arc to lead the French troops against the invading English army at the cost of her life? Nelson Mandela to pardon his enemies after 26 years in prison? Mahatma Gandhi to defeat an empire and liberate India using nonviolence?

The list could go on and on. Man’s progress throughout history has been spearheaded by men and women who consciously or not, searched inside themselves and found their inner strengths, drawing upon them in order to accomplish their deeds, most of the time against powerful forces and incredible odds.

If you look for history’s most famous or influential artists, activists, explorers, discoverers, historic personalities, inventors, leaders, philosophers, researchers, scientists, saints and warriors, you will find that all of them have one or more of the character strengths listed below, that defines their personalities, actions, and accomplishments.

Are we conscious of our potential to bring meaningful changes in our lives? By knowing our Virtues and Character Strengths we, as human beings, have the opportunity to focus in the things we do best, instead of doing it in the things we feel weak about. Consequently, we might have a better chance of forging a better future for ourselves, for our dear ones and in the aggregate, for humanity as a whole.

Even if you think that you are not in the same league of Da Vinci, and Mandela, please think again. Mahatma Gandhi once said “I claim to be no more than an average man with less than average ability. I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. Nor can I claim any special merit for what I have been able to achieve with laborious research. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith”.

These are trying times, and in order to succeed in achieving our life purpose, we need to draw on our inner resources, but how can we do that?   In my past article Six Fundamental Values To Live By, I described how the new science of Positive Psychology went about defining 6 virtues that are common to all humanity, and 24 ways to reach them. We have them deep-seated in our psyche, and in order to reach them, all we need to do is to know and practice them. They are our Signature Strengths of Character.

Do you want to know the stuff you are made of? Let’s find out.(1).

Chris Peterson, from the University of Michigan, is the author of of the test by which a person can know her Signature Strengths of Character, following is the description of the strengths made by him (edited for space reasons).(2) .

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge is the virtue that enables: Creativity, Curiosity, Judgment and Open-Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective.
  2. Courage is the virtue that enables: Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, Zest.
  3. Humanity is the virtue that enables: Capacity to Love and Be Loved, Kindness, Social Intelligence.
  4. Justice is the virtue that enables: Teamwork, Fairness, and Leadership.
  5. Temperance is the virtue that enables: Forgiveness and Mercy, Modesty and Humility, Prudence, Self-Regulation.
  6. Transcendence is the virtue that enables: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, Religiousness and Spirituality.

Wisdom and Knowledge.

  1. Curiosity/ Interest in the World. It entails openness to experience and flexibility about matters that do not fit one’s preconceptions. Curious people do not simply tolerate ambiguity; they like it and are intrigued by it.
  2. Love of Learning. You love learning new things, whether you are in a class or on your own. You always loved school, reading, and museums— anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.
  3. Judgment/ Critical Thinking/ Open-Mindedness. Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.
  4. Ingenuity/ Originality/ Practical Intelligence/ Common Sense. You are outstanding at finding novel yet appropriate behavior to reach that goal. This strength includes creativity, not limited to traditional endeavors within the fine arts.And also “practical intelligence,” or common sense.
  5. Social Intelligence/ Personal Intelligence/ Emotional Intelligence. Social and personal intelligence is knowledge of self and others.  Social intelligence is the ability to notice differences among others, especially with respect to their moods, temperaments, motivations, and intentions— and then to act upon these distinctions. Personal intelligence consists of finely tuned access to your own feelings and the ability to use that knowledge to understand and guide your behavior. Taken together, Daniel Goleman has labeled these strengths “emotional intelligence”.
  6. Perspective.Wisdom. Others seek you out to draw on your experience to help them solve problems and gain perspective. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and yourself. Wise people are the experts in what is most important, and knottiest, in life.

Courage.

The strengths that make up courage reflect the open-eyed exercise of will toward uncertain worthy ends in the face of strong adversity.

  1. Valor and Bravery. You do not shrink from threat, challenge, pain, or difficulty. Valor is more than bravery under fire, when one’s physical well-being is threatened. It refers as well to intellectual or emotional stances that are unpopular, difficult, or dangerous. Fearlessness, and rashness are not valor; it is facing danger, despite fear, that marks valor. It includes moral courage and psychological courage. Moral courage is taking stands that you know are unpopular and are likely to bring you ill fortune. Whistle-blowing is another. Psychological courage includes the stoic and even cheerful stance needed to face serious ordeals and persistent illness without the loss of dignity.
  2. Perseverance/ Industry/ Diligence. You finish what you start. The industrious person takes on difficult projects and finishes them. You do what you say you will do and sometimes more, never less. The truly industrious person is flexible, realistic, and not perfectionistic.
  3. Integrity/ Genuineness/ Honesty.You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a “real” person.

Humanity and Love.

The strengths here are displayed in positive social interaction with other people: friends, acquaintances, family members, and also strangers.

  1. Kindness and Generosity. You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.  All the traits in this category have at their core the acknowledgment of other people’s worth, a worth that can equal or even transcend your own. The “kindness” category encompasses various ways of relating to another person that are guided by that person’s best interests, and these may override your own immediate wishes and needs.Empathy and sympathy are useful components of this strength.
  2. Loving and Allowing Oneself to Be Loved. You value close and intimate relations with others. This strength is more than the Western notion of romance. (It is fascinating that arranged marriages in traditional cultures do better than the romantic marriages of the West.) And I also disavow a “more is better” approach to intimacy. None is a bad thing, but after one, a point of rapidly diminishing returns sets in. It is more common, particularly among men, to be able to love than to let themselves be loved— at least in our culture.

Justice.

These strengths show up in civic activities. They go beyond your one-on-one relationships to how you relate to larger groups, such as your family, your community, the nation, and the world.

  1. Citizenship/ Duty/ Teamwork/ Loyalty. You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of the group. This cluster of strengths reflects how well you work in a group. Do you pull your own weight? Do you value the group goals and purposes even when they differ from your own? Do you respect those who are rightfully in positions of authority, like teachers or coaches? Do you meld your identity with that of the group?
  2. Fairness and Equity. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance. Do you take the welfare of others, even those you do not know personally, as seriously as your own?  Can you easily set aside personal prejudices?
  3. Leadership. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing to it that they happen. The humane leader must first of all be an effective leader, attending to getting the group’s work done while maintaining good relations among group members. The effective leader is additionally humane when he or she handles intergroup relations. “With malice toward none and charity toward all. With firmness in the right.” For example, a humane national leader forgives enemies and includes them in the same broad moral circle that his or her followers enjoy. He or she is free from the weight of history, acknowledges responsibility for mistakes, and is peaceable. Think of Nelson Mandela on the one hand versus Slobodan Milosevic on the other. All of the characteristics of humane leadership at the global level have ready counterparts among leaders of other sorts: military commanders, CEOs, union presidents, police chiefs, principals, den mothers, and even student council presidents.

Temperance.

As a core strength, temperance refers to the appropriate and moderate expression of your appetites and wants. The temperate person does not suppress motives but waits for opportunities to satisfy them so that harm is not done to self or others.

  1. Self-Control. You can easily hold your desires, needs, and impulses in check when it is appropriate. It is not enough to know what is correct; you must also be able to put this knowledge into action. When something bad happens, can you regulate your emotions yourself? Can you repair and neutralize your negative feelings on your own? Can you generate positive emotions on your own without support from the environment?
  2. Prudence/ Discretion/ Caution. You are a careful person. You do not say or do things you might regret later. Prudence is waiting until all the votes are in before embarking on a course of action. Prudent individuals are farsighted and deliberative. They are good at resisting impulses about short-term goals for the sake of longer-term success.
  3. Humility and Modesty. You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty. You are unpretentious. Humble people see their own aspirations, their personal victories and defeats, as pretty unimportant. The modesty that follows from these beliefs is not just a display, but rather an eye into your being.

Transcendence.

I use transcendence for the final cluster of strengths. This term is not popular throughout history— spirituality is the label of choice— but I wanted to avoid confusion between one of the specific strengths, spirituality, with the nonreligious strengths in this cluster, like enthusiasm and gratitude. By transcendence, I mean emotional strengths that reach outside and beyond you to connect you to something larger and more permanent: to other people, to the future, to evolution, to the divine, or to the universe.

  1. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. You stop and smell the roses. You appreciate beauty, excellence, and skill in all domains: nature and art, mathematics and science, and in everyday things. Appreciation of beauty in art, or in nature, or just in living is an ingredient of the good life. When intense, it is accompanied by the unfashionable emotions of awe and wonder.
  2. Gratitude. You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Gratitude is an appreciation of someone else’s excellence in moral character. As an emotion, it is a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life itself. Gratitude can also be directed toward impersonal and nonhuman sources— God, nature, animals— but it cannot be directed toward the self.
  3. Hope/ Optimism/ Future-Mindedness. You expect the best in the future, and you plan and work in order to achieve it. Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness are a family of strengths that represent a positive stance toward the future. Expecting that good events will occur, feeling that these will ensue if you try hard, and planning for the future sustain good cheer in the here and now and galvanize a goal-directed life.
  4. Spirituality/ Sense of Purpose/ Faith/ Religiousness. You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you. Do you have an articulate philosophy of life, religious or secular, that locates your being in the larger universe? Does life have meaning for you by virtue of attachment to something larger than you are?
  5. Forgiveness and Mercy. You forgive those who have done you wrong. You always give people a second chance. Your guiding principle is mercy and not revenge. Forgiveness represents a set of prosocial changes that occur within an individual who has been offended or hurt by someone else. When people forgive, their basic motivations or actions regarding the transgressor become more positive (for example, benevolent, kind, generous) and less negative (vengeful, avoidant).
  6. Playfulness and Humor. You like to laugh and bring smiles to other people. You can easily see the light side of life. Up to this point, our list of strengths sounds grimly righteous: kindness, spirituality, valor, and ingenuity. The last two strengths, however, are the most fun. Are you playful? Are you funny?
  7. Zest/ Passion/ Enthusiasm. You are a spirited person. You throw yourself body and soul into the activities you undertake. Do you wake up in the morning looking forward to the day? Is the passion that you bring to activities infectious? Do you feel inspired?

May your Strengths be with you.

Helio Borges

 

(1) In order to know whatare your predominant strengths, please go to the page of the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania (U Penn)  https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/, register yourself, go to the Questionnaires section and select the VIA survey of Character Strengths. After finishing the test, you will obtain a list ordered by the level of relevance in your personality from the most predominant to the least one. You will notice that from the top ten, five or six definitely define your character.

(2) Flourishing. A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well Being. Martin Seligman.

Picture: http://hdwallpapersd.com/rock-climbing-hd-wallpaper/

What Kind of Leadership Is Necessary After Brussels?

 

“If not us, who? If not now, when?”

John F. Kennedy.

Last Tuesday the inhabitants of Brussels went about their business when massive explosions rocked the airport and one Metro station, causing death, confusion, disbelief, horror, and fear in the Belgian population. But tragic as they were, even more worrisome was the fact that these attacks showed to the Belgian people, to Europeans, and to the world, the incredible degree of unpreparedness and incompetence of the Belgian authorities to prevent them. Now everyone is left wondering how vulnerable we are to a random attack made in any city of the world by a few mad men. The conclusion we might reach is simple, yet brutal: No government in the west has the slightest idea of how to deal with this situation; consequently, we know now that we are exposed to more attacks, and that fact makes us feel defenseless. How do we deal with such an overwhelming realization? I frankly don’t  have an answer to that question, but if we try to understand what happens to us as human beings when we react to traumatic events, we might have a better understanding of the facts affecting us and of the possible actions we can take to withstand them.

As human beings confronted with a traumatic event we go through several stages described by the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” The first is DENIAL (This cannot be happening, it is not possible). When the person, or in this case the group realizes that the fact is real, and cannot be denied, comes the second stage, RAGE (Here anything can happen depending on the individual or collective). At this stage the Voices of Judgment, of Cynicism and Fear rise. The reactions might span from total paralysis at one end, to seeking revenge on the other (This is an act of war and we shall respond in kind!). The stage of NEGOTIATION follows next (negotiation with ourselves according to the consequences of our actions from the previous step). The fourth stage is DEPRESSION (resignation to the inevitable fact facing us and to which there is no solution in our sight). The fifth stage is ACCEPTANCE. In acceptance, we are confronted with the reality of the facts in which we are immersed, and we begin (at last) moving in the direction of solving our problems (I accept it and prepare myself to handle it).

The aftermath of the Paris attacks was predictable under Dr Kubler-Ross’ model. France, accompanied by Western allies who saw themselves  facing the same danger, moved from denial to rage, flattening with bombs the already destroyed Syrian cities. Among the results of that reaction were thousands of civilians and very few Isis terrorists killed; the refugee crisis worsened, and we may fairly assume that the thirst of vengeance by fundamentalists against the west increased. Now after the Brussels attacks, what are our leaders going to do? Are they going to continue reacting from denial, or rage? Are they going to continue bombing what is left of Syria? Who is the usual suspect this time? Confronted with this fact one may rightfully ask: Couldn’t we pause and think before reacting in the same disastrous ways of the past? Isn’t it evident that we need to act differently? In a traditional kind of war you have opposite armies battling each other, and the civilian casualties are relatively limited. In this particular kind of war, we have sophisticated weapons from all sides directed towards the mass killing of civilian populations. This is madness rising from all sides with the civilians in the middle, suffering the effects of a cycle of in crescendo violence. I think it is worth exploring new ways for getting ourselves out of that destructive course. If we follow Dr Kubler-Ross´ implicit advice of first accepting the reality as it is, and later making an effort to deal with it through a new kind of leadership, we might stand a chance of winning this war for good.

It won´t be an easy task for two reasons: First: We have to be conscious of where we are standing in Dr Kubler-Ross’ model, because we won’t be able to find effective solutions if we start looking from stages like rage or depression, for instance. Sound solutions will only be found if we start looking from the ACCEPTING stage. Second: This process can´t be directed by a leadership operating from the ego, which keeps repeating the same mistakes of the past. The world needs urgently a new kind of leadership, one that is focused in the possibilities that the future offers us. Otto Scharmer from MIT, the author of “Theory U. Leading From the Emerging Future” proposes a new leadership model that changes the internal place from which the leader operates, from an EGO centered focus that keeps repeating past mistakes, to an ECO mindset that is focused in the possibilities of our best possible future. In order to reach that ECO mind frame, the leader must act with an Open Mind, an Open Heart and an Open Will.

Having an open mind does not mean practicing “laissez faire, laissez passer”. Instead, it means to deal with the facts timely and adequately. A terrorist menace like the one we are being exposed to must be efficiently and responsibly handled by government agencies that are collaborating, not competing with each other, that share, not hide information from each other, and that act together, not in individual parcels of power. Having an open heart means to understand the situation of the victims and going to the root of their suffering in order to alleviate it. Having an open will means to act sooner rather than later with one intention in mind: To make this a better world for everyone. In a world where everything is interrelated, whatever good we make will have an effect on the whole, and the same goes for our bad deeds, as the Syrian crisis has so efficiently slapped in our faces.

Where can we find that kind of leadership? Who is that superhero from whom such a demanding task is required? Well, take a look around, and then look at yourself. Yes, yourself. You are the one, and I am too, all of us are. But are we up to the task? We´d better be. To that respect, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of “Women Who Run With Wolves” has a message for us:

“It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale”.

Those of us who care about and are affected by the giant disruptions showing up everywhere in politics, in the economy, in the environment, and in society in general, should not stand by and watch idly how things evolve for the worse around us. We have the responsibility to behave differently, regardless of our feelings, emotions and political affinities. This is not only a moment of great disruptions in the history of humanity, but also a moment of great opportunities to make lasting corrections in the direction we are heading as human beings. In this context we can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Let’s be the ones that heal, reconcile and co-create a better future for us and our children. If we do it in our areas of responsibility “as if the world mattered” we might help to create the “dramatic change” Dr. Pinkola Estés is talking about. This is our opportunity to break the cycle, let not waste it one more time. We just can´t afford it.

Blessings

Helio Borges

 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: “On Death and Dying.”

Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer: “Theory U. Leading From the Emerging Future”

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés: “Women Who Run With Wolves”

Image: http://www.telegraph.com