Stand for love

Easier said than done
So say it first
Then do it:

Stand for love.

Easy to do what’s easy
And forget it
But don’t. No.

Stand for love.

For it is our gift
To know in any moment
What love wants.

Stand for love.

And it is a duty
To listen for ourselves
And everyone and

Stand for love.

Abandon nice.
Don’t do the right thing.
Listen harder. And

Stand for love.

And it is a fight.
Against every easier call
Against it all -

Stand for love.

For it is only in standing
That we live.
So let life begin

And stand for love.

A vision for getting everyone clear

Being clear is a simple art.

It’s one of those things that is very simple — but takes a lifetime to master. Like cooking or painting or yoga. There are some basic principles to understand. There are steps to follow. There are things that work and don’t work.

It’s one of those things where if you practice, you will improve. But before you practice, you need to learn the basics. When I teach people to be clear, I teach the basics. And then we practice. And then we share the tips and tricks we learn along the way.

It’s one of those things where we can help each other. I find it really hard to be clear — to keep clear — when I’m only relying on myself. But I find it easy to help other people be clear. And I find it easy when other people help me.

I know some basic principles of how to be clear. I know the steps to follow. I know some things that work and don’t work. But the real challenge is to practice: to remember to practice, to take the time, to stay motivated.

It’s easier to practice when there’s a community to support you. It’s easier to practice when there’s a culture that’s supports the work. A community that understands the basic principles of how to be clear and wants to practice. A culture that values clarity and seeks it out — where it’s easy to ask for and offer help with being clear.

And this is my vision of getting everyone clear.

 

A clear morning in Northern Ireland. Summer 2017.

Being clear is nothing special

Everyone knows the difference between being clear and being unclear. It’s nothing clever or complicated.

It’s the difference between knowing exactly what you want or not exactly knowing what you want. It’s the difference between being able to explain something truthfully so someone else understands it or not being able to. It’s the difference between having an idea and effortlessly turning it into reality or having a vision and stumbling and straying and getting lost in the fog.

When I talk about being clear what I’m really talking about is clearing the way for creativity. Clearing the path so that creative potential turns into creative expression — whether that’s as an artist, an entrepreneur, an inventor, or a cook — or basically anyone who is alive and feels things and wants to do something. Another way to say it is that being clear just means being able to live and work in the world in such a way that we are able to understand our needs (and other people’s) and act in such a way that we are able to meet them.

 

Three ways to be clear

I have for a long time helped people get clear: talking them through something that’s stuck until it flows again. But years and years ago I decided that I didn’t want that process to depend on me being in the room. That’s why I developed the Very Clear Ideas process: to capture a way of getting clear that people could go away and use for themselves.

Now I have three tools. When you want to be clear on what you’re doing, use Very Clear Ideas. When you want to be clear on how to get it done, use Initiative Mapping. When you’re clear on what you’re doing and how to get it done, but it’s just not happening and you don’t know why, use Identity Yoga.

And I want to make these three tools so popular that they are everywhere. Not out of some self-aggrandising desire for fame and recognition (well, not only that anyway…). I want them to be everywhere because I want to be part of a community that understands the basic principles of being clear and wants to practice. I want to be supported by a culture that values clarity. And I want that because it will help me to be clear.

There is magic in being clear

When I’m clear about what I’m doing, it actually happens. When I’m able to clear away the things that stand in the way (normally in my own head), then work becomes effortless. When I’m able to make clear deals with the people I work with — and come to an understanding of what each of us needs and how we serve each other — then working relationships become enriching and enjoyable.

I love it when people want to get clear on how everyone contributes to a piece of work (and how everyone benefits from it), because it means the right people end up doing the right things.

I love it when people want to clear away bias and prejudice — because it means that what needs to get done might actually get done.

I love working with people who have clear ideas, because it means I know what they need and how (or if) I might help them.

A clear vision

I want there to be a shared culture of clarity. I love that you can find people in Holland and Ireland and France and Australia and America and all over who use the same steps — the same set of seven questions — to get an idea clear. I love being able to show up at someone’s office and, if I don’t have my Very Clear Ideas cards with me, being able to use theirs.

I want there to be a shared language for talking about being clear. It’s so helpful to be able to talk about how ideas turn into reality in a way that is simple and useful. There is a little vocabulary: talking about needs and ideas and authority and authorship, talking about ‘who is helping who with what’, talking about the source of an idea (thank you Peter Koenig), talking about initiatives and identity.

Again and again and again I end up working with people who are stuck and who are suffering because they are trying to talk about work as a personal and creative endeavour, but they’re trying to do it using an opaque, industrial set of words that don’t actually help to illuminate the process of bringing an idea into reality. Words like CEO and vice-president and productivity and performance and…you know, all those words.

I want there to be a community — communities — that support the work of being clear. If I want to learn yoga, I can go to a class. I can buy a mat and a book. I can watch a hundred thousand different teachers on YouTube. If I want to learn how to cook or paint or mend my bike — evening classes, Google, bookshop… I want the same for being clear.

Find out more about how to be clear at howtobeclear.com.

What do you long for?

“Every work of man should have the nature of a love song.” — Eric Gill

What do you long for? 
Can you tell me? 
Do you know?

What is it that your heart sings for?

If we leave behind the afternoon chat — 
of what shall we have for dinner
or where shall we go tomorrow.

If we forget about to do lists
and appointments and that
and listen out for what’s beyond them —

What do you long for.

There is a quickening that comes
with gathering up your life
and handing it over to devotion.

What is your gift? 
What is in you that longs to be given?

I am asking because I want to know. 
And because the answer is holy. 
And because, underneath everything, 
everybody knows.

The something that you stand for. 
Long for. Wish for. Dream of. 
Your calling. Your life’s work. 
Your allotted task
on these few turns around the sun.

And it’s always easier not to say it. 
Always easier to put it to one side. 
Always easier to say we get along just fine
and we’re all sort of muddling along
the same sort of path to somewhere.

Easier to ask “What did you think of this?” 
and “Did you see that thing that somebody did?” 
To live in a world of affiliation. 
Of likes and dislikes. 
Of preference as reference.

And it is harder.
To listen deep.
To be still enough — 
To sink as a stone dropped in a well.
To be able to talk
Not of how this fits with that or what might happen if
But of something that is yours and cannot be moved.

It is this that I stand for. 
It is this my world will always turn around.

And it is harder still
Not only to talk of something that is yours and cannot be moved
But to act upon it.

To wake up this morning and gild every shining moment
With the intent and loving attention of one who is devoted.

To see the washing and the car
And the road and the house
And the shopping and the table
And the things that must be done

And bring to every thing
The truth of what is yours

That your life
In every word and deed
Might sing its song of love.

Flood

May your heart be a flood
And fill you with love
Unmooring every broken vessel
Drawing ocean anchors from their holding -
Offering no path but
To surrender to boundless powers
Of forces that know no fight
But are mighty
By their very nature.

The Fundamentals of Creative Work

In order to look at the fundamentals of creative work, we have to check what work is and how it works: we have to understand it as a creative process.

And to understand work as a creative process, we have to start from looking at the nature of creative processes: how things come into existence, how things grow and transform, how things end. We have to understand the creative processes of nature as a whole — rather than limiting ourselves to the specific culture of work in human society in our lifetime.

And to do that, to look at work in that way, we need to put down all the usual furniture of the working world — looking past the superficial norms and forms and illuminating the fundamentals. What is essential about work and how work works? What is natural?

Not 9 to 5. Not job titles. Not promotions. Not limited companies.
Not inboxes. Not lunchbreaks. Not business plans. Not personal brands.

We have to drop below all those things and think and feel our way to what work actually is at a more subtle level. And that also means dropping below the self-help how-to’s and the seven habits of highly effective people. And it means dropping below inspirational quotes about meaningful work on Pinterest. Because, for all their seductive, feel-good ‘do it this way’ prompting and t-shirt friendly insights, they don’t actually get down to what work is. They don’t actually articulate what work is for.

What is work? And what is work for?

Think about trees. 
Think about grass. 
Think about bees.

Think about a pack of wolves hunting. 
Think about a bird building a nest. 
Think about squirrels collecting a winter stockpile.

Think about building a shelter.
Think about finding food.
Think about raising a child.

Walk through a forest and see and feel life at work all around you.

These creative processes that we are surrounded by and that we engage in every day — they are so natural that we don’t even see them. But if we stop and look it’s clear: they follow rules, they have structure, they have properties in common. A bird builds a nest so that… the eggs don’t roll away. The need defines the work. The need dictates the form. A nest is the shape it is because eggs are the shape they are. And when a bird has built a nest that will protect the eggs — it stops work. Because the point of the work is to meet a need.

It’s a natural way to work. Noticing something is needed. Working to understand that need — and what is required to meet it. And taking the steps that are necessary to meet that need — and then stopping when it is met.

It’s how we work naturally. We eat until we’re full. We sleep until we’re rested. We travel until we get there. We listen for what we need, we do what is needed — and then we stop.

Some of our stories about work have gone astray. Superstitions have crept in. That it’s ‘bad’ if a company closes (rather than a sign that the need has been met and the work can stop). That working harder, longer, more is ‘good’ (rather than the amount of work being in proportion to the size of the need being met). But those superstitions only serve to separate us from the real potential of work.

We eat so we don’t die. We build shelter so we don’t freeze. We learn to speak and sing and dance so that we can communicate with each other and understand each other — and learn to live together without killing each other.

Work is creative. Work is life ensuring the continuation of life. Life ensuring the expansion of life. Whether it’s animals collecting food for the winter or me collecting food from the shop — the appetite arises from life’s own urge to sustain itself. And that appetite provides the direction — and the energy — for the work. And in order to understand the fundamental nature of work, we need to understand that appetite of life in us. That creative impulse that isbeing alive, that is being a part of life on earth.

When we work in that way, with an awareness that we are alive and that we are a part of a vast living system, then work is natural. When we work with an awareness of the rules of that system, the demands of that system, the constraints and possibilities of that system, then work comes naturally.

Sometimes it feels to me as if we treat work as something imaginary. Where we can just invent rules of work and say that’s how things work. And we treat the world as imaginary — where we pretend that all you need to succeed is to listen to a motivational talk or get up earlier. As if there were no context, no cause and effect, no environment. And we treat ourselves as imaginary — where we pretend that people and jobs are just interchangeable — swapping out one person and swapping in another. As if there were no such thing as individuality, or personal history, or personal relationships.

But we are actual creative beings living in a specific creative system. And there are definite principles that we can learn about how to work creatively within that system. And we have to take into account who we are and where we are and what we need.

And that means not only knowing what work is and how work works and what work is for, but also feeling those things. So that when someone says the word ‘work’, you don’t think of offices and desks or money or shovels or timesheets or teabreaks, but rather you feel your place in a vast creative system. You feel the appetite for life inside you. You feel the direction and the information and the energy bound up in that appetite.

When someone says ‘work’, the antennae inside you activate and tune into here and now and start listening for what actually needs to be done.

When someone says ‘work’, you remember your capacity to empathise with others and intuit what’s going on — and respond in the wisest and most compassionate way.

When someone says ‘work’, you think of all the vast miraculous projects mankind has undertaken — of mapping genomes and building cathedrals and inventing alphabets — and you think of the infinite complexity of countless mundane daily miracles happening all around us — as seeds are planted and dinners are made and paths are cleared and people are healed.

And, with this as our starting point, we can look at how we work and find ways to work more effectively, more creatively, more naturally. Not by learning lists of rules or by trying to turn ourselves into someone we’re not — but by developing a profound and intimate understanding of ourselves as creative beings.

Find out more about how to be clear at howtobeclear.com.

Wild flowers

Wild flowers.
My heart.  
My wild heart flowers.