Appreciation is much softer on the body than complaining

I am in a coffee shop and the owner overcharged me by $2.25.

I am at first trying to accept that. Mulling over it for 30 minutes, I decide to share with her that I felt unhappy about it. She gets defensive - even though I applied my best skills of compassionate communication.

I feel anger in my stomach rising and decide to not pursue it any further - I know that when I get triggered and anger comes, that is a sure sign that my ego is at work. Retreat.

Conflict averted for now. But internally I was imagining all kinds of ways to seek revenge - from mild and silly imaginings to more aggressive and vocal kinds.

Sounds normal?

I am sharing this candidly here, trusting that you can identify with similar trigger situations. They seem to be low stake quarrels at the outskirts of the empire of our conditioned selves - yet they tax our attention for a long time and stay basically unresolved.

What was happening? Why could I not keep my spirit from getting invested in a interpersonal war?

I was approaching the situation basically from a place of lack - a place where I assume:

  • that someone wants to come after me all the time

  • that I have to be on the lookout to not be hurt

  • that there is not enough for me in the world to survive

  • that I have the right to be treated with respect and fairness

  • that I am the one who is innocent and the other person is a potential perpetrator

  • that the lady was willfully misusing my lack of knowledge in the situation

  • that my resources are limited and I need to keep them together tightly

  • that I have the right to be listened to

Basically all these intrinsic attitudes amount to one summarizing concept: the victim. I was acting from the place of the victim. And when I am the victim - I do all that victims do: complain.

We, the victims, we love to complain and that gives us a sense of not being responsible. It has this strangely stale, but addicting feeling of familiarity and certainty to it. Victims seem to know what is true.

What happens when we complain? There is one thing for sure: we don’t see much of what is around us. We don’t see what has been done for us to be able to be in this place, store, situation, school or anywhere we are.

Transformation - a better tool for forgiving:

Back to the coffeeshop - how could I have changed the perception of the situation? What could I have been grateful for, what could I have appreciated there?

Well, here is a short list:

  • That the coffeeshop exists in the first place.

  • That it is a place I often go and find internal space for reflection and writing.

  • That it allows many people each day to congregate, have good conversations, share some time with one another

  • That the owner has given her life force to create this coffeeshop

  • That it has a beautiful name - that is very fitting for the ambiance and setting of town

  • That the owner pushed through and kept the store going in spite of doubts, financial challenges - which I am sure were many over the years, fear of loss

  • That she spent many hours of creativity to create a cosy place

  • That the owner wanted to create her life’s work this way - it is her way of contributing to a better world - by giving a welcoming place to people

  • The convenience of eating healthy food that is also tasty

  • The friendliness the staff have shown over the years

  • The intimacy of the place

  • The nourishment through food and drinks

  • The income for all the helpers and employees

  • The love that went into designing the decorations

  • The effort to set up the space in a way that is conducive for human interaction

And so on - I could find a ton more.

If I had been operating from a place of appreciation for what life brings to me - and the benefits and conveniences I had the privilege of experiencing in this coffeeshop - I would have had no reason to be in a suspicious or complaining mood, and what ever happened at the counter - I could have easily asked for a clarification without getting defensive and aggressive internally.

Just having written down these reasons why I could be appreciative has changed my view and I see no more owner trying to cheat me. It has simply dissolved. I am at peace indeed. No doubt.

Five conclusions:

  1. Acting in the world from the basis of the victim archetype costs us a huge chunk of our life force - it lingers as unfinished business and severely taxes our attention and ability to live life fully in healthy ways

  2. Preventing the victim attitude from rising, by cultivating a constant sense of appreciation for everything there is, is much softer on the body and spirit than having to deal with the consequences of the shadow aspects of the victim archetype acting out in the world

  3. Being attentive to what we are receiving in every situation, has a transformative power in our lives: it saves our life energy we would have normally squandered in making ourselves habitually into victims

  4. This transformative power is the light side of the victim archetype - it guides us - we need to seek it out and use it to change levels of awareness: it teaches us how to shift from conflict with life to living in a state of appreciation - which is peace

  5. Changing our entire outlook on life towards appreciation with a passion, is a stronger tool even than empathy

Closing questions:

How would that skirmish-situation you have experienced change if you approached it from the basis of appreciating what was present for you already?

How would some of the major challenging situations - like childhood trauma, major unfinished business - look if you looked for all you could appreciate about the person involved there?

Following will bring you back to your body

When you practice following, you slowly give less space to the thinking powers inside your being, and more and more give space to your own body to find its connection with the present here-now. This present moment is the only thing that actually really exists, and your body knows that - it craves that presence. Your body is hungry to be in here-now, it is wildly hungry for it after having been deprived from it for hours, days, years and decades.

  • Your body knows that until you are here-now something is missing. So it tells you - through that constant nagging feeling in your gut - that something is disconnected. That you have lost something on the way. That there is something you need to do, that is yet undefined. That is intuition in action; your body is talking to you that way.
  • Your body knows that it does not have time - it knows that it is approaching its own end with every moment that passes, and it wants to remember that mode of being present. To be free from the overpowering, enslaving, incessant control of the mind.
  • Your body knows that it is not and has never been separate. Your mind conceals that. Your mind is the tool that separates by categorizing, managing, analyzing, dissecting, naming things, imposing concepts onto that which is indivisible.

When you follow tango, when you allow tango to pass through you by following, you are feeding your body, you are giving nourishment to your body, nourishment it really needs.

The practice of following in tango chips away at the concept of separation, and therefore chips away on the concept of our own grandness of our own specialness and importance, the main sources of stress we subjugate our bodies to, that we are seemingly inextricably hooked into. Following teaches that real power is to connect in presence to your body, to your dance and practice partner. It teaches you that real power comes with being humble. Following is power.

So I encourage you to find your body - allow the tango to guide you back to your own body.

The temptation of ambition for leaders

To become a great leader, face your internal enemies. Consider your ambition, and all the fallout you create in your life as a result of buying into ambition. To lead is riddled with temptation, and there are many opportunities for ambition to take over more and more of your energy.

Ambition is very subtle and can enslave your spirit for many years before you even realize it. In my life, ambition manifested in wanting to create a great tango school and turn it into a franchise-able undertaking. I told myself I could get away with only 5 hours of sleep, run errands and do complex work all day for years without stopping.

I also wanted to be better than other leaders in the dance of tango. I'd dance that particular step or set of steps because I noticed a person watching who's approval I was craving for. I'd stay up late at night dancing till the morning in order to be able to say I was the last one dancing and be among other people I admired.

What are the signs of ambition?

  • Exhaustion. Our bodies are exhausted systematically, slowly getting eroded and tired out.
  • Complaining. Losing touch with others; judging the others and ourselves; complaining - silently inside, or to whomever wants to listen.
  • Overriding what you need in order to fit in. Needing to fit in with a particular type of people, and doing many things to achieve that.
  • Doing things to get attention. Things we do in hopes of getting recognition, building our image or impressing someone.
  • Overriding what you need in order to get what you think you want. Any kind of wanting a particular type of experience, body, journey in life.

Ambition is so tempting in its offer to our very hungry egos that it can override compassion, honesty, and our own intuition. And due to its powerful lure, we don’t pay attention to our bodies telling us that they had enough. We routinely overrule such messages from our bodies. We most likely dulled that voice by now.

Our bodies like natural rhythms: sleep in darkness at night, eat nourishing things, think, feel, talk and act in connecting and empathic ways. Our ambition usually overrides our body’s messages to us, but we can do better. We can be more honest with ourselves. And others - our partners and friends.

Ambition is antithetical to tango and tango undertakings. Tango will evade your spirit and your body when there is ambition. You will experience a washed-down mock kind of tango facade. If you dance or create community with the ambition to “be the best, better than others” and if you draw a sense of superiority from that - you are caught in the throes of ambition. I believe leaders can reduce their ambition through following.

How following takes away the sources of stress

What is the real source of stress?

The most subtle and impactful source of stress we can possibly encounter in our lifetimes: the concept of separation. It is the assumption that there is something ‘"out there" and we are perceiving it "in here."

Separation creates the illusion of our own importance. Self-importance is the most stressful and most energy-draining concept we get enslaved by.

How do separation and self-importance manifest? Here are six indicators of separation and self-importance:

  • Comparison. Thoughts like: “I am better, stronger, smarter, faster, richer, prettier, sexier, better anything, better or superior human being than...” or “I am weaker, more shy, more stupid, less pretty, less sexy, less worth, less valuable, inferior than…"
  • Overcommitment. Plagued by worry about losing what we have, we overcommit to hold on to everything possible.
  • Worry. The experience we have as we strive to be like others and we strive to get recognition for that which we believe we deserve.
  • Self-talk, the inability to stop talking inside our minds, this inability to come to rest inside our minds.
  • Delusion, characterized by grandiose statements and beliefs about our own powers, about our own image, about our own influence, about our own irreplaceability.
  • Doubt - the latent feeling in our gut that something is missing, that something is wrong, that we are somehow not plugged into the right thing, the right relationship, the right job, the right country, the right body, that you are deprived of something or another

How does following help in dealing with stress?

Following brings you into your body. Your body is truth. Your body is presence.

Following, slowly but surely, builds the ability to be silent inside our minds. Following - truly following, is the state in which we act without the interference of thinking. We act in presence, free of doubt, in full control and yet abandoned to the flow.

So when we follow, we allow ourselves to cultivate this new mode of being, we learn to plug into a mode of being in life that is present. Being truly present is to follow.

We learn to follow the flow of life, to read the writing on the wall, to read that which is obvious, that which is right here right now. This kind of mode, growing, fostering and cultivating this mode of being is the antidote to living under the spell of separation.

What it means to be a great leader - eight things

Great leaders are excellent followers.

They know how it feels to follow. They follow, so they know what to aim for when leading. 

They are able to follow the flow of inspiration. They can adapt instantly to the flow of the follower and his/her body.

Great leading is being passionate about caring for their follower - leading in the service of the wellbeing of their follower. Great leaders are loving - they know what it is like on the other side, the follower’s side. 

Great leaders know, from their own experience, what mental traps and challenges are on the path of following -- the insecurities, the limiting patterns, the habitual thoughts about one’s own body and abilities.

They know from their own experience what it means to trust, to be devoted - and what it means to be truly respectful of and grateful for another’s trust. 

Great leaders are cognizant of their own ambition and devoted to uprooting it in every aspect of their life and leading.

To lead means to be aware, on many levels. Training to follow is a effective and powerful first step training in awareness.