The Art of Possibility
Finding myself in a space where I urgently needed to work on recovery (Did I really feel so sorry for myself as I did in my post of 2 October? That was a pitiful “Jammer Jannie” moment, as my great teacher would say), I reached out for anything and everything to inspire me and help me through this ‘dark night of the soul’, if you will… cut myself off from the things I would normally do to relax, stopped feeling guilty about feeling guilty about the hurt, nursed a torn intercostal muscle with some outstanding anti-inflammatory painkillers and anti-anxiety medication (the latter, the doctor said was just to help me sleep through the pain for a few days, but had the marvellous side-effect of zoning me out completely for hours at a time giving my brain a rest so that my subconscious could find its way back to its happy place). I read (again) the Tao, a book about energy experiments by Pam Grout (which after the initial resistance that I have no right to be asking the universe / field of potential for anything, has delivered some very cool results) and, most surprisingly, an unassuming little book I found at Bargain Books of all places – The Art of Possibility by Ben and Roz Zander.
To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This should be a ‘must-read’ for every person alive. Ben (a teacher, musician and famous conductor) and his wife Roz, a therapist, share the combined wisdom of their lives and career paths – a pattern and practices that is a recipe for personal transformation in both the smallest and the largest sense. As I read it over the course of the past week and a half, I was so moved by the stories they told (inspirational and unbelievable, how they unearth the potential and goodness in everyone from CEOs to maestro musicians to school kids from the wrong side of town…), the compassionate voice of their teaching and the wholeness of their approach and guidance and the practices they teach to draw you into a world of possibility out of the world we ordinarily find ourselves in, I couldn’t help but take notes. I will say again that everyone that draws breath should read this book, even more so if you have ever appreciated or participated in making music, but below follows a brief guide to the ideas from this book that helped get me out my funk and which I will henceforth endeavour to practice in my relations to all people and the world at large.
They all go hand in hand, sort of like a natural progression, and when you see in the end how they truly bring it together practically and the anecdotal evidence (from their own lives and the world) it really comes together.
Realise that IT’S ALL INVENTED. The world we live in, the way we measure things are all invented / created by the human mind, so choose to stop subscribing to and making assumptions that limit you. Your attitude / perception subconsciously determines what is available to you as experience (we all know this – law of attraction and all that…)
STEP OUT INTO A UNIVERSE OF POSSIBILITY. Stop measuring. If we truly live in an abundant universe of possibility, there is no purpose to thinking thoughts of lack and comparison. Our efforts to accumulate resources are evidence of a mentality of scarcity (even those who are highly successful at accumulating those resources). Kick the habit.
GIVING AN A. In yourself and others see beyond measurement and comparison. Allow each person to grow into their possibilities rather than try to live up to an expectation. Silence the voice that tells you that you (or anyone else) are not good enough and will fail. Measurement and labels are human inventions, so you might as well choose an invention that uplifts you and others. The message is all around us and within us and we change ourselves and others through relationship not in a world of measurement, but in the realm of possibility.
BEING A CONTRIBUTION. Do not think in terms of success or failure (these are invented measurements), think rather in terms of contribution, which has no other side and is not arrived at by way of comparison. Accomplishment is an illusion, a made-up game that causes anxiety. ‘What have I achieved?’ can be constructively replaced with ‘How have I been a contribution today?’ It eliminates the continual desire for something better and the dissatisfaction at its root. You have the power to change the rules of the game. “There is no bad weather. Only inappropriate clothes.”
LEADING FROM ANY CHAIR. A leader doesn’t need a podium or official authority – you can lead quietly from the sidelines in your attitude to the smallest things, how you affect people and how you conduct yourself. Where you do have authority , allowing and encouraging people in lesser positions to lead can have amazing results.
RULE NO. 6. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Forget about measurement and the calculating mind. Forget about right vs mistakes and lighten up. Leave the childish demands and entitlements of the calculating ego self behind to find your central self’s cooperative nature.
THE WAY THINGS ARE. Be present without resistance, that is to say, be present to the way things are and how you feel about them. Being present without resistance creates possibilities to move on, despite the circumstances / things that disappoint, to choose another path and make the best of a situation without being sanctimoniously accepting or fighting what you can’t change (I’ve been guilty of both of these approaches too often to count!). You can be present by (1) clearing “shoulds”- focussing on how you think things should be robs you of the power to act effectively; (2) close the exists – confront your feelings, ride out the storm, don’t shift blame or live in denial; (3) clear judgements – nothing that happens is either good or bad. Everything is an opportunity. Good or bad are judgements we impose on the world; and (4) distinguish between the physical reality and the conceptual reality (what really is and what you think about it)
GIVING WAY TO PASSION. “Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.” – Kierkegaard.
Find out what self-imposed barriers hold you back from participating in the vital energy force of life. Then lean into the music and let go of the edges of yourself.
LIGHTING A SPARK. There is no way that even I can summarise this one. Read the book :-)
BEING THE BOARD. If all else fails, see yourself as the board on which the whole game is played. Move the problems from the outside world into yourself. When I read this, yes, I too thought they’d lost the plot, but wait, this act can transform the world.. it is another way of appreciating what we already know, that the power of our energy and thoughts create our experience. The acceptance of risk and responsibility for everything that happens is an act of grace that prevents us from casting blame. It is not about being in control. It is about realising our power to make a difference.
CREATING FRAMEWORKS FOR POSSIBILITY. Speak to the themes that unite us.. the underlying desires that uplift and bring together all people and live it in your daily life (i.e. don’t be a hypocrite). Society and the economic / perceptual system has hardwired us for danger, scarcity and competition, but we have the capacity to override that and lead from a place of opportunity, peace, harmony and plenty – connection rather than division.
TALKING THE ‘WE’ STORY. History (our personal and collective histories) is so often about “us” and “them” – division, competition, fear, struggle. When we look at the opportunities that unite us, tell the story as “we” rather, it can change everything. It is the power of the individual, an ongoing choice for each of us, which story we tell and bring into being through our relationships with others – to ask what is best for “us” and what is next for “us”, creating possibility…
Telling the WE story gives us power to claim the “other” as part of us – a common and fluctuating goal without the singular and competing agendas of “you” and “I”. It creates a shared inclusive dream of unity and a common goal.
We need never name another human being as the enemy – greed, anger, pride, fear: they are the enemy. People’s ability to overcome them is the hope. They even used South Africa as an example and let me just say that my heart swelled with love and my throat closed up as I read their first hand perception of our country in the late 90s. I think today more than ever we have the capacity to overcome our divisions, but that I will write about another time.
Read this book. It will change your inner world and if you (and this goes for me too) take it to heart it will change our outer worlds as well.