Sex Scandals and a Buddhist Nun

Some would argue that the purpose of religion and philosophy is to curb man’s baser instincts. So do they have anything useful to say about today’s ongoing sex abuse scandals? My friend the groupie who became a Buddhist nun provides a useful insight.

The world’s religious and spiritual traditions acknowledge the powerful, sometimes overwhelming, biological drives for food, for territory, for status and power, and for sex. We see these same instincts at work throughout the animal kingdom.

Spiritual traditions recognise these biological drives and suggest strategies to manage and contain them.

Monks, nuns and priests of all religions take vows of celibacy.

More extreme, in Christianity there are flagellants who whip their own bodies. There are some Shiite Muslims who also self-flagellate. And Hinduism too has yogis who perform various weird acts of bizarre self-harm.

All of these dramatic strategies are attempts to contain the instincts of the flesh.

Samuel Johnson, our great eighteenth century essayist and also a committed Christian, realistically commented on all this:

‘Mortification is not virtuous in itself, nor has any other use, but that it disengages us from the allurements of sense.’ [The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia]

But it is not realistic, is it, to envision the Houses of Parliament or Hollywood studios as places inhabited by nuns and monks, who authentically practice, abstinence, self-restraint and mortification of the flesh? (Is this what Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey are pretending to do when they go for residential therapy?)

*

Many years ago I had a good friend who was a 1960s Swinging London groupie into sex, drugs and rock and roll. She then disappeared out of my life for a few years. When she reappeared a decade later she had transformed and become a Buddhist nun. By the time I met her she had kept to her vows, including celibacy, for seven years. She was authentic.

Obviously there was a question that I was dying to ask her.

What – I asked her have you done with your libido, with your animal instincts?

She smiled and responded that she had followed the counsel of her Abbess who gave her very simple advice:

Notice the arousal, but do not wallow in it.

Notice the instinct, but give it no energy.

Notice and move swiftly on.

This is useful advice for all of us, isn’t it, when we are aroused and might behave in a dishonourable, inappropriate or bullying way.

Notice the arousal.

Give it no energy.

And move swiftly on.

BBC Radio 2 Moment of Reflection

This is the text of my BBC Radio 2 ‘Moment of Reflection’ broadcast on 8 October 2017

 

BBC RADIO – MOMENT OF REFLECTION

 

The annual season of party political conferences has just ended
And I find myself thinking:
Political parties are a bit like religions.
There are
Strongly held beliefs.
Internal divisions.
Conflicts with those of other faiths.

But both of them – political parties and religions –are fuelled by idealism
– a wish to make life better for everyone.

People who are into religion and spirituality however
Don’t need power.
We influence through personal behaviour,
through modelling
how to live in a way
That serves and cares for others.

We are, I suggest, inspired by a personal connection
With life’s wonder, goodness and beauty –
By whatever name we call it.
And we are inspired too by a knowing that the purpose of human life
Is not
material success and status.
But we are all of us on a journey
Developing
love,
compassion
and wisdom.

So I have a prayer
May our politicians– here and across the world –
be inspired by those same high ideals.
Love
Compassion
Wisdom

Pause

Silence

*

You can listen to the audio of this here on the BBC website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05jh54q

If you want to listen to the whole interview that precedes the reflection, you can listen to it here on the BBC website. My interview starts at 7:40am
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b096xwzl

Holistic Leadership

Holistic Leadership

Holistic leadership can make the world a better place. It can happen in all areas of your life — family, friends, workplace and the wider community of your neighbourhood, nation and planet.

‘Holistic’ means that everything in life is in some way connected and interdependent; and that your actions and behaviour ripple out to touch everyone and everything. So as a holistic leader you are aware of everyone and everything involved in your project. Also your leadership is fuelled by your highest values, so that your actions always benefit the whole community of life.

Whether it is family, work or globe you obviously want to improve the situation. But sometimes simply wanting things to be better is more like a complaint than a vision. I want my family to be more harmonious. I want work to be more enjoyable and productive. I want the world to be safer. I want animals and nature to be protected. These are understandable desires, but they are not leadership visions. Desires on their own achieve nothing.

Leadership needs a clear vision of the outcome and strategies for achieving it. And appropriate action.

*

 

The beauty of Nelson Mandela’s leadership — the first black President of South Africa — lay in his inspirational vision filled with goodwill and hope. He is a wonderful model for us.

Having been a militant revolutionary, he became an icon of peace and harmony. During his twenty-seven years imprisonment on Robben Island he went through a process of personal and political transformation and saw what was truly necessary. People needed healing, hope and inspiration.

He went beyond an African liberation movement to a radical vision of the rainbow nation — a nation in which all races lived together in harmony. What a stunning transformation.

Nurture your dreams and develop a clear vision of the outcome you truly want for your family, work or community.

 Of course when he was finally released from prison and became President of South Africa, he met political realities. The rainbow nation vision was not enough, but now needed negotiation, tactics and strategy. It needed carefully nurtured communications and relationships with everyone, especially those who had once been enemies.

This long process of manifesting the rainbow has had successes and failures. This is normal. It is in the face of failure that we see the true leaders, because they stay resolutely true to their vision despite challenges.

You may want to heal relationships in your family, run a profitable business or be an effective activist. But you won’t get anywhere if you lose motivation and crumple at your first setback or when you first meet opposition. I know so many people, for example, who say they want to heal their relationships, but become outraged drama-queens at the first offence.

Good leaders know that they have to wrestle with life and with people, and they do it with goodwill, love and respect. Holistic leaders also have an understanding of the unseen dynamics in relationships and communications, especially why and how people resist change. Sticks and carrots, clarity and compassion are carefully used.

Persevere with hope and goodwill when you experience failure.

What is your attitude to the people who may oppose your vision and leadership? You must welcome your opponents. That was the brilliant grace of Nelson Mandela. His vision included those who had been his worst enemies. If they had been excluded they would have carried on being dangerous antagonists. He welcomed them with careful tactics and communications. He once wore the green and yellow jersey of the all-white South African rugger team. A shrewd and careful move.

Holistic leadership is emotionally literate and mindful. You know how to recognise and guide your own feelings and thoughts; and you are considerate and empathic to others. This is more important in fulfilling a project than technical or scholarly knowledge.

This psychological wisdom also applies to how you do your planning. There is a wealth of solid research showing that people think best when at ease. Aroused, anxious or urgent we flood our brains with unhelpful electro-chemistry and it skews our thinking. So good leadership means that we take time to think carefully about our projects — what needs adapting, who needs time, crucial next steps. Out of prison and throughout his presidency Mandela liked to sit in his garden with a glass of wine pondering strategy. You do not need twenty-seven years forced contemplation, but you do need time out and space to plan, even if it is in a long soak in the bath or walk in landscape or a park.

It is during these periods of relaxed planning that you can literally feel the fulfilment of your vision. It is not just an idea in your head but a felt experience of success. This is what is meant by Be the change you want to see. Why should anyone else shift if you don’t do it first and lead the way?

Your actual style of leadership will need to be authentic to the kind of character you are. Humorous or dry, introvert or extrovert, sporty or armchair, servant-leader or front-of-the-pack, facilitator or emperor — your leadership, actions and communications will be filled with patience and persistence, care and consideration, and a deep connection with the whole community of life.

And whether you are successful or not, your efforts and your integrity are always valuable. So always remain hopeful and remember the inspiring words of Margaret Mead, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

The purpose of freedom is to create it for others.
Nelson Mandela

Life is Good for Us

 

Just for the moment forget about spirituality, religion, atheism, secularism, humanism

There is so much accumulated evidence about what is good for us. It is simple.

LIFE is good for us.

Connect every day, connect every moment, with the sheer wonder and energy of nature, cosmos — life. Bask. Soak. Luxuriate in it.

Practice compassionate and intelligent self-care.

Pulse into your life a rhythm of recreation and rest. Hour by hour. Day by day. Year by year.

Love and care for others. Family, neighbours, colleagues and community; all life.

Be brave and persistent and stretch beyond the boundaries of your comfort. Courage and generosity of spirit are transformational.

Always know that we are developmental beings. We guide ourselves into being awake, loving and connected.

This is life.

It is simple. We do it all already.

 

Holistic Leadership Hints

Here are a few reminders and hints about holistic leadership that you might find helpful.  They can support you in all kinds of projects: family, business, community, non-profits. They are what many good people do instinctively.

Next time you want to influence or lead a project you might experiment with them. They add important dimensions.

(1)
Remember that 95% of your work is done in advance and is to do with your attitude and inner experience.

(2)
Your advance work is always done in a calm and reflective space, as if you were relaxed in a sun-lounger. Your body is at ease.

(3)
Slowly, warmly and welcomingly bring into your mind and heart all the people, known and unknown, now and into the future, who will be part of your project.
Greet their souls. Greet the souls of everyone: colleagues, customers, partners, neighbours, investors, opponents, clients, families, relatives — everyone!
Connect with them warmly.
Do this often.

(4)
Slowly, warmly and welcomingly bring into your mind and heart all the people, beings and stakeholders who will benefit from the fulfilment of your project. Greet their souls and feel their support.

(5)
Clarify, articulate and feel passionate about your highest values.
Check that your project is congruent with your values.
Spend time contemplating and appreciating the congruence.

(6)
Slowly, warmly and welcomingly tune into the invisible spiritual energies, beings, archetypes, spirits, angels that might be associated with your project. Call them in. Feel their support.

(7)
Slowly, warmly and welcomingly contemplate, feel and celebrate the perfect fulfilment of your project. Feel grateful. Give thanks.

Do all of these often several times a day so that they become part of your ongoing daily consciousness.

And then? And then of course you have to ground your project in actual actions! That requires another set of skills that include communications, adaptability, perseverance and so on.

I hope those hints are helpful.