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Archive for August, 2019

It was just another stroll in the park on Saturday until I saw “The Dance of The Leaf”, accompanied by the staccato sounds of a small frog or two.

It was beautiful to see the leaf suspended in the air, floating around in a free-form dance.

But it didn’t make sense. There was no wind, it was not attached to anything, yet the leaf kept on dancing and did not do what leaves that are set free from their branch do, taking a dive to the ground.

When I looked up, I saw a single strand of spider silk attached to the leaf. I have no idea of how that came about; maybe the leaf fell into a spider web and the single strand was all that remained. What came before has made this performance possible, even though it is not visible at first sight.

But what I did know, is that if I broke that single “lifeline” thread, the dance would end. No more amazed passers-by, happy to have been given a rendition of The Dancie of The Leaf.

What is the spider silk that supports our life-dance? That gives us life-dance-supporting oxygen and energy?

Maybe it’s invisible, even to us. Maybe it’s something we “fell into” without knowing it, like our families. Or something our father, mother, teacher or friend has said to us way back. Or the sense of fulfilment we have when we achieve something.

Maybe it’s visible and tangible. The support of someone whose help for. The people that studied with us to achieve a certain qualification. Our books. The smile of someone we compliment. The applause that follows our interaction with family, friends and colleagues. The exhilaration of freefall skydiving. A morning on the beach or in Kirstenbosch…

We can only sustain it if we can find it and “see” it.

And when we find it, cherish it.

And when we cannot find it, and we need support, to ask for it.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s just a realisation that we understand something we are struggling with or acknowledging that we do have a shortcoming and need help to achieve what we want to.

Help!

We all understand the importance of asking for help, but those who achieve big things are the ones who accept it when it’s offered.
~ Simon Sinek

Let’s ask for and accept help, shall we?

PS: On a serious note, to quote from the LifeLine web page: People call (011 422 4242 or 0861 322 322) the counselling line regarding many things; from feeling lonely and needing a friendly ear to listen to, needing support and guidance on social issues like alcohol and drug abuse, violence and victimization, physical and psychological illness, stress, bereavement and loss, suicidal ideation, retrenchment, unemployment effecting either themselves, family members or friends and many other issues.

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Can we really separate what happens ‘at work’ from the rest of our lives?

This question came to mind as I looked at this fence that separated two areas in Kirstenbosch. On the one side was the garden and about 10 meters away, on the other side was Ficus Road, leading from the main entrance to the parking lot.

On one side it was tranquil, and one could enjoy freedom of movement without the risk of being run over by a car. On the other side, although it was still part of the bigger Kirstenbosch, one would have to be more careful.

Uncle G gives this legalese-like definition of a fence: “A lawful fence is a good, substantial, sufficient, and well suited barrier that is sufficient to prevent animals from escaping property and to protect the property from trespassers.”

A fence is a visual screen to mark the boundary between properties, and between private and public space.

The fence in the picture succeeded in keeping me on the one side and discouraged me from climbing over it by baring its fangs in the shape of sharp metal points on top. But this fence is not a “sufficient and well-suited barrier” to prevent small animals from moving from one space to the other. Or maybe even large animals like elephants.

The plants around the fence do not care about the fence either – in places even using it as a trellis to support their growth into new space, far away from the ground.

And then we try and separate what happens ‘at work’ from the other areas of our lives? With often ill-designed and poorly constructed fences?

And we even try and compartmentalise different areas of our lives…

Nature doesn’t care about the fence I saw on the garden boundary, being constructed in the way it was and with the purpose of preventing people to exit or enter the garden at that point.

Unless we build very unnatural Berlin-like walls, and implement metaphorical watch towers, patrolling guards, spotlights and machine guns, chances are that the small things in our lives can migrate from one space to the other. And the big things in our lives can also cross our poorly constructed and badly communicated boundaries.

Maybe we could (should?) have different kinds of “sufficient and well-suited” boundaries, depending on what we want to achieve? Why spend energy and effort on constructing Trumpian borders in places where a simple single rope would be sufficient, and where it is OK – even invited – for the small things in our everyday lives to cross the boundary?

On the other hand, we should not expect a spider web to keep a trumpeting elephant out.

Boundaries are necessary and should be designed and communicated to achieve the kind of separatedness we need and want in a particular situation.

One wall does not fit all.

Wishing you a week with appropriate boundaries!

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Friday was a wonderful day to enjoy the gifts of Kirstenbosch. I thought it was going to be a bit cold, but it was Goldilocks weather for this time of the year. I was surprised, when I eventually decided to go home, to see that I’ve been there for 5 hours.

The thing that struck me most was the marks left by a climbing plant that wrapped itself around the trunk of this tree. They must have been together for a pretty long time, judging by the extent of the ‘scar tissue’.

Looking upwards, it seemed as if there was still a living part of the climber attached to the tree, but I am not sure.

Be that as it may (and I stand to be corrected!) it seems that there has been a long-standing symbiotic relationship between the two entities. [Biologists and ecologists define a symbiotic relationship as an “intimate interaction between two or more species, which may or may not be beneficial to either”.]

Figuratively speaking, although we are all part of the same Homo Sapiens species, could we also be involved in symbiotic relationships with other people – which may or may not be beneficial to either?

As I understand it, the mark (scar?) on the tree is made, and left behind, whether it was a mutually beneficial relationship or not.

And even after the part of the climber that created the impact has died and is physically no longer present, the impact of the interaction remains.

It must be all of 58 years ago that Mr Bol Van Rensburg called the whole class together at my work bench in the woodwork class, showed them the part I have been working on the last 30 minutes or so, and said (I am sure he was not meaning to do any harm): “Now this is how NOT to do it!” Could not have taken him more than 10 seconds to say those words. I can still hear and feel its impact to this very day.

I remember how, at about the same time, Miss Roux’s knuckles would come down hard on my head if I made a mistake in a multiplication table.

A family member, when in primary school, had to hear from a teacher that she would never be good at maths.

Mr van Rensburg, miss Roux and the maths teacher are no longer with us, but the impressions they created, remain.

Since seeing the scarred tree on Friday, I have been thinking about what I might have said or done to other people during my life so far that could have left a scar. I will be lying if I said no scar tissue came up.

We interact with others every day. In person, by phone, instant messaging, email or online conference. We interact with ourselves.

If we want to live our best life, causing less ‘bad’ scar tissue, does it not make sense to take 5 minutes in the evening to review the day and ask “What did I do? What did I do well? What not so well? How could I improve?”. Here is a 4-minute animation that explains this better than I can. Be kind to yourself and watch it now – when you reach the page, scroll down to the video, which reflects the content of the article.

Every interaction leaves an impression, whether we want it or not. A mark. A mark that could go away after a while, or a scar that will remain long after we have left the scene.

Like the scars left behind after a once-intimate relationship between the tree and the climber.

“I make use of this opportunity, daily pleading my case at my own court. When the light has been taken away and my wife has fallen silent, aware as she is of my habit, I examine my entire day, going through what I have done and said. I conceal nothing from myself, I pass nothing by. I have nothing to fear from my errors when I can say: ‘See that you do not do this anymore. For the moment, I excuse you.’” – Seneca

Enjoy your “look over my shoulder time” tonight!

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On Saturday, the Braille Trail in Kirstenbosch became an echo of what I heard Dewitt Jones say in his talk Extraordinary Visions when I was in Salt Lake City for an international symposium of the FranklinCovey Company.

Many years have passed since then, but the passage of time did not diminish the validity of what he said: To see and transform the ordinary rather into the extraordinary, one must put yourself in the place of most potential. To choose to live in a world of possibility rather than scarcity and fear.

A few weeks ago, I was walking the trail and noticed a spider web down the slope on the other side of the rope that was put there as a guide. There are no ‘do not go beyond this point’ signs to keep people in the space of the ordinary. So, I climbed over the rope to put myself in the place of most potential to get a good picture.

The position of the sun was different this time around, and I could not see the spider web from the same position – most probably it was not there. So, Wendy and I climbed over the rope and went down the slope to have a closer look – from a place of more potential.

A man and his two small children passed us, and they asked “Daddy, may they be there, on the other side of the rope?”

“Not really. But it’s OK.”, he said in a tone to make us not feel bad for breaking a law that did not exist.

When he saw the rope, he saw a boundary. But it is not a boundary. The power of conditioning created that perception.

How many opportunities of best potential have you and I not missed because we live ‘roped in’ by the stories we tell ourselves about what we see?

And then we complain about our situation and accept no responsibility for the part that we played in arriving at the place where we are.

We get what we get because of the stories we tell ourselves about what we see, hear and experience. We first see, then tell ourselves a story about what we see. This in turn triggers how we feel about the situation and what we behave in a way that gives us our results.

For the next week, shall we switch ourselves on to check our perceptions, the way we interpret things? To, when we tell ourselves a story about what we see, pause for a moment to reflect and question our story. “Is that really what is happening here? Or is there another possibility?”

I think we will be amazed at how our experience of life can change by taking the time to ask these questions.

“Through that lens of celebration, I could see one of nature’s most important lessons– There’s more than one right answer. There’s more than one right answer. There are a thousand ways to come at any challenge to find that extraordinary view.”

– Dewitt Jones –

 

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