I love the way past students keep in contact with me after they have finished their studies. It is extremely gratifying when there is an invitation to an ongoing conversation about their learning experiences.

I’ve been particularly delighted at a recent email from Victor, a student who completed the UCT EMBA programme last year.

Victor's email updated me on his progress and insights since graduation. He relayed the enormous struggle he had faced in trying to stick to his newly learned practices of self-awareness. His return to his site of work and the absence of lectures and assignments meant that he was experiencing the full might of his muscle memory of how it used to be combined with the pressure of how it was still expected to be.  

One of the many valuable insights that he shared was that he knew that he had left the EMBA with many insightful learnings about himself and his presence and ways of interacting with his world, but he felt one particular absence keenly. There had been very few teachings that had specifically addressed the very real and difficult challenge of ensuring that these personal learnings could be used to transform the effectiveness of teams.  

Victor told me of the progress he had made in tackling this issue. He had found enormous guidance in two particular books and had used their insights to forge his own path in building the strength of his team. He described a particular writing process that he had introduced for his team that changed the focus of an EMBA data-gathering activity to one which increased the quality of thinking in individuals and in the team.  

My gratitude to Victor for writing his email had several dimensions. The strongest of these was my delight in observing the various ways he had found the strength and determination to face the issues head on and had explored a range of nuanced solutions to fit his particular context and colleague diversity. To me this speaks to a deeply evolved awareness of both challenge and possibility.

His actions resonate with Maturana’s concept of intelligence being the plasticity to adapt one’s actions to changing context and range of participants. The implication is that this intelligence cannot be taught in a series of lectures or a 5-point programme. Maturana regards such an offering as unhelpful as it leads to rigid, unchanging actions that can never be intelligent.

The timing of Victor’s email was another gift in that it arrived just as I was settling down to conceptualise my final session with the latest EMBA cohort. This final module is almost exclusively devoted to preparation for the final research report with the necessary induction into the necessary academic framework. So, in a way, the class has already left the world of personal leadership as they move from ‘I’ to the academic ‘one’.

Victor’s email reminded me that this phase would be followed by the necessary re-integration into the powerful pressures of institutional life that would inevitably eat away at creativity and good intentions.

So, while I do not believe that there is any value in trying to use this last lecture to offer an algorithmic 5-step programme for teams, I do accept that I need to do more to offer the class a collection of firm and stable standing points that can be used as a basis for improving teamwork.

My initial foray into identifying one of these possible standing points is drawn from my experience of the first meeting of a 3-module Personal Leadership and Working Together programme for a corporate executive team. I insisted that our sessions were strictly framed to take place in a disciplined structure that foregrounded punctuality, mindful presence and groundedness, and an absence of cellphones during our contact time - including during tea breaks.

The focus for the module was on self-reflection and increased awareness and curiosity about each person’s way of being in the world. After each offering, Exco members were asked to write down their thoughts and reflections about their own actions and assumptions in a journal. Each of these reflection pauses was followed by an invitation for participants to share appropriate insights with a different colleague.

I had been briefed that this was a conflicted team who preferred to keep quiet rather than contribute to discussions. However, as they started sharing with each other, I could feel resistance to connection lessening and invisible bonds starting to strengthen between participants. I was totally delighted on the second day when I noticed that everyone was gathered around the tea table, engaged in conversation with no-one sneaking off to use their cellphone. I strongly believe that excellent teamwork is impossible without both structure and ease of interaction.

This example can be built on by using Maturana’s encouragement for plasticity as an entry point to intelligence. It’s an enormous challenge to develop this plasticity in oneself. It makes far more sense to use the diversity of the team as a resource - especially in situations when we find ourselves unwaveringly stuck. Such a move towards the inclusion of diversity will need the open trust of participants through a well-developed social capital as well as the introduction of a suitable structure that ensures each voice gets equal airtime and is equally heard and respected. Nancy Kline’s Time to Think programme is very useful for this work.

Looking ahead to that closing lecture next week, it feels important for me to stress that the variety of tools and ideas that have been offered on the EMBA programme are unfinished and acontextual offerings. As Victor discovered and reported, journal writing may have been initially used as a source of data for an assignment, but it can be used for many other purposes. For example, I sometimes use my journal as a tool to document a range of thoughts and perspectives as I try to explore the threads of a particularly taxing problem. I also use my journal to name inner tensions or fears so that they can have a life outside myself.

So, with enormous gratitude to Victor, this year’s closing session will be very different from the one he experienced as I attempt to identify some solid ground that may be of service in facing the inevitable re-entry challenges that the class will face when they have to fully re-enter the world of work.

The time will come 
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

(Love after Love: Derek Walcott)

It’s a strange phenomenon in our modern life that most of us spend our time being dissatisfied or embarrassed with who we are. It seems as if we have heard stories from so many teachers and parents and friends about the things we have done wrong. It gets so bad that if someone compliments us, our first thought is often to wonder what they want from us!

Research shows that in order for us to do our best thinking and work we need at least five appreciations for every criticism we receive. So a great starting point is for each of us to start a revolution and go out there and try to live by that rule – give five appreciations for every criticism. Look for the good in what everyone around us does – at home and at work – and take the time to acknowledge what they have done. The change in quality of our relationships is astonishing.

But I think that this might just be the easy part – giving appreciation to others. The greater challenge might just be to turn things around and silence those voices of judgment in our own heads and start appreciating ourselves. I found this to be a really difficult task, but the poem gives us a pointer to attitude and starting place.

Derek Walcott invites each one of us to take down the photographs and re-visit our life, feasting on what you have achieved already. Bring together all the pieces of your autobiography and look at them as a good news story as to how you have travelled the path that brings you to this particular moment in time.

This is the you that stands in front of the mirror – the you that inhabits your body. This is the you that is going out into the world to make a success of your life in the way that you (and no-one else) chooses to define success.

I’ve started doing this and, for the first time have started to appreciate what it took for the thin asthmatic youngster that I was in primary school to refuse to accept those limitations when I went to high school. I took everyone on at what should have been my weakest feature – physical strength – and by the time I was 20, I had become one of the fastest junior 400 metre hurdlers in the world!

I notice that in the past I tell this story by focusing on the might-have-been of my competing at the Olympics if South Africa had not been expelled that year and how this demotivated me so that, in any case, I just missed the qualification time and ...

But the story is actually one of an asthmatic child finding enormous strength of character, determination and guts to aim high and achieve, Telling this story helps me realise that I still have those characteristics very much present in me and ready for use – even if I can no longer jump a hurdle.

The important thing is to hold this particular story close and precious to me and be willing to share this aspect of my life as a good news story without getting caught up in the negative obsession of stories of disappointment and failure as some sort of proof that I am not proud or arrogant.

My invitation to each reader is to start the process of at least 5 appreciations to one criticism on yourself and enjoy the changing perspective - particularly in these challenging post-Covid, current-powerless-Eskom pandemic days.

What would the world be like if we were each able to draw, with elation, on the moments of significant strength and courage. that have been part an integral part of our lives?

I ended Part Two of this series of three Love (and Work) in a Time of Corona reflections with the following intentions for future teaching:

It is time to start. I have a new determination to do this walking with a measured pace that takes time to play with the nuances of each situation. There is no destination in sight (or in mind), but there is a clarity of purpose that asks me to serve those who approach me to work with them. I want my teaching to serve humanity in attempting to find a way to end our separatist views of the world. I want to encourage participants to join me in taking personal as well as collective and organisational responsibility for adding positively to the human and non-human spirit in the world and planet. I want to be part of a movement that encourages and assists a new form of leadership that shares this vision. Let the new journey begin …

The journey did in fact begin in earnest only a week after I wrote these words!

Yet another past EMBA student approached me to work with the full staff complement of around 30 of a company (ON) on whose board he served. The company had recently gone through a leadership change in both position and style, and he wanted to offer a learning programme that empowered every individual in the team to use self-reflection as a way of contributing more effectively to the team. He asked me to cover concepts such as personal bias, error and illusion, personal contribution to conflict and courageous conversations. In addition, he wanted me to work with selected senior team members in building and growing their personal leadership capacity. Given the inner place I had reached by the end of the last blog above, I knew I had to accept!

It was a magnificent journey that pushed me to the limits and challenged my understanding of what was possible using technology and how open and vulnerable participants would be prepared to be on an online platform - and how open and vulnerable I would allow myself to be!

We finished the programme in the first week of December after completing ten three-hour ZOOM sessions plus two one-hour homework check-in ZOOM sessions. I was exhausted after giving it my all and was thrilled to head off into the wifi-free Robertson mountains the following week.

During this downtime, I had the staggering thought that this particular programme had possibly been the best teaching and learning experience of my fifty-year teaching career. I was delighted to get some confirmation of this when I opened my email account at the start of the new year and found this gift: Chris Breen - We Thank You.

I wrote the above on my return to work on the morning of 6 January (here in Cape Town) in the middle of a second wave of infections and a new set of lockdown restrictions. I had a feeling that I needed to complete my inner 2020 story with a description of the subsequent outer action, but found myself writing hesitantly, and by the time I finished for the day, I was still not thoroughly committed to the writing.

Everything changed when I awoke this morning to the news of the storming of the US Capitol by dissatisfied voters during which, tragically, five people died. I remembered my italicised intentions for future teaching that I requoted at the start of this writing. They suddenly seemed to grow an importance of their own in which I knew that I had to complete this blog.

I've decided to highlight some of the core aspects that I think formed the cornerstone of the success of the programme, especially those that emerged from my inner COV-19 processes and struggles with coming to terms with the online format. My hope is that those who read this blog are able to resonate with my intentions and consequently find possible seeds for their own practices.

CLIENT SUPPORT. This particular programme was such a unique experience. Eugene had completed the EMBA a decade earlier and had tried to get me involved in doing some work in his previous workplaces on at least two occasions over the past decade. He was able to articulate the high level strategic outcomes that he was looking for in the programme, but was very happy to leave the design to me. I met with the coordinating team of three to present the proposed programme for approval and was met with enthusiasm. All three stayed in generous feedback contact with me throughout the programme and created a space of trust where I was encouraged and supported in continually tweaking the design and methodology in accordance with the feedback from each session. We met on ZOOM at the end of the first module to share views and plot the path ahead. The in-site company member signed up for some additional coaching sessions to make sure that he could make optimal use of each session in the daily running of the company. Finally, Eugene was always available to give feedback and advice, and was always supportive of my suggestions. I think that this trust in the process and in my skill and experience was a crucial element in the programme's success.

DESIGN. The design I proposed was initially based on the basic format of the Executive Personal Leadership programmes I had done inhouse for several companies in the past. However, my initial somewhat fraught COV-19 experiences (described in an earlier blog) had drawn me to David Whyte's work on The Three Marriages and, in particular, to the foundational importance of attending to our Marriage to Self. I incorporated these ideas into the basic design below, which was to be delivered in twelve three-hour sessions over three modules of four sessions each.

Module 1: Marriage to Self. Disrupting Certainty; Subjective Bias; Introducing Complexity; Marriage to Self; I am Good Enough; Reclaiming Self; Starting Habits to ensure Self-Care and Well-being.

Module 2: Marriage to Other. Vulnerability; Words Create Worlds; Shadow Projection Work; Hinge Moments; Archetypes.

Module 3: Marriage to Work. Diversity Conversations; Trust; Inter-personal Appreciation and Growth feedback; The Way Ahead.

PRESENCE. As described in the second blog in this series , I have spent the better part of over 30 years developing an interactive, perturbatory teaching style that is strongly located in Varela and Maturana's Santiago Theory of Cognition and enactivism. I had developed confidence in my ability to read my audience and select the appropriate amount of challenge, disruption or support for each occasion as it arose. However, this ZOOM platform created a whole new world where I was suddenly deprived of body language as a source of information. I had already muddled my way through my first ZOOM teaching session with an EMBA class of 60+, but I wanted to speed up my learning of the medium.

I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a six-week Improv Train the Trainer course run by Michelle Clarke, who runs the Coaching via Technology FaceBook group. I was already familiar with the enormous insights provided by Improv (see, for example, the Ten Commandments of Improv), and had both done workshops as a participant and included it as a core part of a previous UCT GSB Executive Leadership course (LEP). I wanted to be thrown out of my comfort zone as the teacher, and take on the role of an Improv participant on an online platform who had to risk and move out of my introvert safety. I wanted to be able to observe myself and others in action, and take note of my ZOOM presence.

In the company of around twelve wonderful companions, these weekly sessions helped me find a way to 'read' the room on ZOOM and gave me the opportunity to 'see' myself in action (as you will see below).

METHODOLOGY. My first amateurish EMBA session brought me an enormous methodology gift. My normal face-to-face teaching in the later stages of a programme usually involve me taking more of a back seat through the use of video talks. In that infamous first online EMBA session, it soon became apparent that my internet link was not powerful enough for me to play the scheduled video TED talk, and I eventually had to send out the link so that the 60+ participants could each watch the talk on their own before coming back to the ZOOM meeting room to discuss it. This forced me to rethink my sessions and I returned to the ideas of an early mathematics education mentor, Dick Tahta. In the example of teaching a Geometry lesson, Dick would ask what the core concept was that I was wanting to address in the lesson. Once I had identified this, the next question asked me to identify the canonical image that would encapsulate this concept and the activity that would imprint this image on the learner.

My sessions in this ON programme consequently centred around the selection of the most appropriate activities to meet these criteria and the ways in which they could be introduced and held to maximise their impact.

TECHNOLOGY. The Improv course paid enormous dividends in improving my use of the ZOOM medium. I increased my versatility through the use of both Chat and Poll functionality (where appropriate) as well as improving sound quality through the use of advanced Share Screen options, Background Screens and Name editing. However, the most exciting tool was the 'hide non-video participants' feature. I could immediately see the purpose of this as many of my old activities involved the use of volunteers coming forward to demonstrate a concept or role-play something. Now I had a means to do this online and I soon got the chance to try this out in the course when I facilitated an activity!

(This extract highlights the many opportunities for learning. My presence might well be strong, but clearly the positioning of my face on the screen could be improved! One also needs to let go of control and be prepared for a participant taking a quick break ... And finally, it's always a good idea to try the activity out before using it in class; I belatedly notice that the medium has changed the dynamics of the activity and my partner is actually standing beside me and not in front of me ...! 

INTIMACY. I've come to believe that the crucial aspect of my work lies in the challenge to create a field of Intimacy in the programme where the focus is on heart and body engagement as well as the mind. The development of Trust between participants will depend on the levels of Intimacy established during the course and the skills learned will need to have an ongoing life after the course is finished. My second blog in this series had been deeply influenced by what turned out to be a prescient Charles Eisenstein Commune course on Political Hope in which he drew attention to the dangers of our focus on war-like othering without compassion for the variety of stories that underpin our lives as well as the crucial importance of a different focus on our interbeingness in the world. I have tried to highlight some of the ways in which I attempted to pay attention to this aspect as I developed my skills and the programme.

Movement. My training as a Biodanza facilitator and the impactful and insightful journey that this took me on over several years, showed me the importance of introducing more embodied learning through movement. I began setting up safe spaces for the introduction of exercises such as Mirror Movement as well as a more challenging 90-minute vivencial set of fifteen activities carried out in silence.

The final part of our Improv training invited each of us to facilitate an activity. I took the plunge and decided to explore the possibility of setting up a Mirroring activity. The group members were wonderful in accepting the challenge. I arranged them randomly in pairs using breakout rooms, and then I took them through a preparatory process where they first grounded and appreciated themselves with their eyes closed. They then opened their eyes and looked deeply into the eyes of their partner so that they could see their shared interbeingness. When the music began, they started to co-create the shared movement so that there was no leader or follower.

The feedback afterwards strongly suggested that this activity created a high level of shared Intimacy. The results encouraged me to introduce the activity into my next session with the 60+ EMBAs.

Music. One of the ways I prepare to teach is to spend the time immediately before the session listening (and sometimes moving) to music. The music usually starts out quite energetically and moves towards a peaceful and centred conclusion by the time we start. For this programme, I decided to be upfront about this and invited participants to join me in this fifteen minutes. (We had already established a rule of arriving in silence five minutes before the starting time). This became a wonderful process as I now had responsibility for putting together a playlist and I started linking the music to the theme for the session. Participants also gave feedback on the music they liked and even started sending me their own favourites for consideration for inclusion.

Feedback. The Chat function (set to only be for me as host) opened up a wonderful possibility of getting instant private feedback at the end of each session. While it was not compulsory, I did follow up by sending emails to those who kept silent and, in this way, opened up a different form of conversation. This feedback gave me the chance to adjust my next session to cater for any suggestions, address concerns expressed or write personally to open up conversation on what I felt to be private issues. On a few occasions, this led to separate coaching sessions, which were fully supported by the client.

Trust. Only in the last few sessions did we actually start explicitly focusing on Trust, but we had been developing it throughout the course. I firmly believe that I cannot ask participants to be vulnerable about their own lives and failings if I am not willing to do the same. At the start of each session, I would describe my main learning from the previous week and how I had been able to learn from my mistakes, or at last make progress in remedying a persistent issue. Trust was built up through the many breakout-room conversations that they shared. I introduced Nancy Kline's Thinking Pair quite early in the programme as a means to start sharing without getting comment or judgment. This moved on to giving specific focused vulnerable questions to discuss in pairs or groups in the breakout rooms. I made sure the breakout-room setting kept the group together until I chose to bring them back - no early avoidance exits!

One of the most rewarding comments during the programme came from a senior leader in the organisation when he said that, while it was hard to give specifics or identify any cause-result product, the team was working a whole lot better together. Members were talking far more respectfully, so he believed that the impact of the course had been amazing,

The above picture is just one of many taken from yesterday's invasion of the Capitol. Eisenstein's plea for Political Hope fell on deaf ears and the divide has widened, with drastic consequences.

I end this blog and my 2020 COV-19 journey recommitting myself to the core sentiments with which I started it:

I commit my teaching to serve humanity in attempting to find a way to end our separatist views of the world. I will encourage participants to join me in taking personal as well as collective and organisational responsibility for adding positively to the human and non-human spirit in the world and planet. I will endeavour to support leadership that shares this vision. 

My teaching journey in 2021 starts in a fortnight's time so it feels important to carry these commitments with me as I meet and interact with the new group of participants. In light of this, it seems highly appropriate that this new group consists of academics/activists who have dedicated themselves to working to improve society.

Part One of this Love and Corona Blog described my journey from lying fallow (or paralysed by inertia) to being forced to dip my toes into the waters of ZOOM. It ended in a seemingly upbeat manner as I announced that I was ready to return to the world from my place of inner and outer refuge – I was back!

Those of you who know me well will not be surprised that what followed was not quite like that...

I found myself panicking about my lack of expertise in an online platform methodology (after all, I had researched and developed my own teaching style – of comfort – over 34 years). In the days that followed my 'being-back' announcement, I flipped between the excitement of a new purpose and a deep longing for the safety of my previous lying fallow state.

When I went on a deeply insightful and meaningful Vision Quest in 2014, I came away with a clear understanding of the pact I had made with 'the gods'. I would make myself available to serve a transformational human agenda in society through my teaching for as long as 'the gods' decreed I had a role to play. Now my rational self was saying that even though I had indicated that I was ready to be back, nothing was happening, so I could at last retire at 72 and not have to face this painful ambiguity that returning to 'work' was bringing up in me.

In Part One, I wrote of an interview set up by a previous EMBA student that I had enjoyed that had helped me move back into the world. Ah well. I should have known it was not so easy ...

The past student had first approached me around February and then disappeared. When contact was resumed several months later, we set up an interview with the CEO, which I have reported as going well. I rode the wave of excitement and submitted a draft discussion proposal for what I thought the leadership programme might look like. The reply of 'I'll get back to go by the end of the week' came about a month ago.

I felt irritated. I mean, I have done my inner work and am ready to rock-and-roll, so what's the delay? And of course I realised 'the gods' were being mischievous again. My inner ambiguity was being mirrored back to me from the outside world!

So I let go of this programme and saw it as further proof that the time had come for me to retire gracefully. However, my newly re-found friend Paul rubbished this interpretation and decreed that I was just waiting to be begged to return to work so that my ego would feel good!

Then some more past EMBA students decided to join the party and make contact with me. (Why did I ever agree to teach on this EMBA programme?)

I received an invitation to do a four-hour online workshop on the topic 'Response to Covid19 – The psychological impact on the workforce'. Seemingly giving credence to Paul's theory about wanted to be begged, I immediately accepted the invitation. And then woke in the middle of the night as my embodied brain cried out 'WTF have you done!'

The next morning, I described some of my dilemma on FaceBook and received some very supportive messages from friends. Ironically, two of the most supportive messages helped me find a path as they jarred and unsettled me. They said: 'You'll ROCK it' and 'Don't worry about four hours, you can wing it.'

And suddenly everything fell into place. My deep concern was that I really did not want to return to the pre-existing 'normality' of my very familiar teaching content and methodology. The huge challenge of these months of isolation must surely have been for a reason. I realised that I did not want to go back to life-as-it-was. I felt with great urgency that the five months of 'fallowness' should have heralded a new way of being. I knew that I could handle four hours online, and could both rock and wing it, but I was not happy with the whole situation. I want the future world to be different and I want to play an integral role in contributing to this rebirth. I had no idea as to how it should look – 'I don't know' was my common refrain – but I knew it should not be business as usual.

I sent an email to my hosts indicating that I was planning on withdrawing from the four-hour workshop, but that I wanted to talk to them first. I shared that I understood that my student's experience of me in class had led him to believe that I had something to offer his organisation, but I was not an expert on the topic and I didn't think the future world wants to rely on experts as much as it did before the lockdown. I thought the topic was wonderful in that it focused on personal health and self-care, and how organisations could assist with this. However, for me the responsibility has to rest with each of us to take decisions for ourselves and for our community. We ended up agreeing that we would change the brief and I would now run a two-hour interactive workshop during which staff would reflect on and share their own Cov19 experiences, and then brainstorm ways in which they were or could have been supported by the organisation.

I had only just reached this equilibrium when my next EMBA lecture to the 5 000 (actually around 65 students) came around. This time I was ready to rethink ZOOM, and the starting point for my planning was to explore the new possibilities that ZOOM opened up for me and to consider how could I optimise these positives. I subsequently ran a deeply personal and reflective three-hour session on the topic of hinge moments using breakout rooms and targeted questions. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I was surprised at the spontaneous comments that spoke about the increased safety that participants had felt in sharing personal stuff at a deep level in the ZOOM breakout rooms.

South Africa then moved to a Level 2 lockdown and yet another EMBA student emerged from the past. Another interview - another proposal (thank goodness I still had the earlier one to work with!). Result: A Personal Leadership ZOOM programme for a team of around 30 people spanning 12 three-hour sessions over the next three to four months!

I really am being called to be back at work and the strange thing is that I feel unusually grounded as I contemplate this new programme which will take me beyond my existing comfort levels into the unknown.

What is going on?

In a strange way, I am extremely grateful for the enforced pause and disruption that the lockdown brought into my life. Suddenly all my comfortable taken-for-granted aspects about my work and income disappeared and I have been forced to go inwards and find a new alignment between inner and outer purpose.

I've recently started watching a programme called Political Hope by Charles Eisenstein and his first two lectures have really hit home on two crucial issues that articulate my new alignment with great clarity. He names the fundamental cause of wrongdoing in the world as being our separation from all others (human, animal and inanimate others). He claims that this leads us to adopt a mentality of war where we repeatedly invoke judgment to support and bolster our desire to set up categories of separateness.

One of my greatest comforts during this mid-winter lockdown period has been settling down in front of a beautiful fire, which I've built with exquisite and loving attention, and then cuddling up with Louise to watch an episode or two of a TV series. I'm struck by how often it is the theme music that stays with me for many days. I was particularly drawn by the haunting theme music of a British series called 'Unforgotten'. The song, entitled 'All We Do', is by Oh Wonder. It was only recently that I paid attention to the lyrics and intention of the song when I sent this YouTube link of the music to a coachee.

There is a beautiful circling back from this video on what it means to be human to Part One of this blog, where I realised the crucial importance of LOVE as what matters most to me. It all seems to be coming together and my commitment to the future seems clearer than it has ever been, both in my personal life and in my teaching.

I now have the beginnings of a basic question I need to ask when considering future work: How does this action/event/workshop serve in foregrounding what it means to be human?

This is quickly put to the test when a longstanding client asks me to re-imagine our existing annual leadership programme in a way that makes use of the internet as a learning platform. In my response, I'm almost carried away by the excitement I feel about my newly acquired ZOOM skills. I stop in time.

I have spent more than thirty years developing a transformational methodology that is aimed at disrupting taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs. In many ways I have done this through a focus on developing an embodied emotional wisdom with the heart and body taking their equally valuable places with the mind. My ZOOM experiences suggest that I can adapt and use the platform to increases the playing fields of the mind.

However, this seems to be at the definite expense of the body and also of the interactive emotional interbeing with others.

I become worried that the killing fields of the human spirit will move from the workplace to the home as work relies on the distanced and structured interactions of ZOOM platforms where one is encouraged to raise an emoji hand before speaking. Home may well be one of the few spontaneous places left and where will we be learning the necessary skills for home life?

It's time to stop thinking and start doing. Enactivism posits that our intelligence is to be found in our actions not our thoughts. I can see that, despite all my previous learning, I am still looking for clarity about the way ahead when, in one of my favourite poems, Antonio Machado clearly advises that the path can only be laid while walking.

It is time to start. I have a new determination to do this walking with a measured pace that takes time to play with the nuances of each situation. There is no destination in sight (or in mind), but there is a clarity of purpose that asks me to serve those who approach me to work with them. I want my teaching to serve humanity in attempting to find a way to end our separatist views of the world. I want to encourage participants to join me in taking personal as well as collective and organisational responsibility for adding positively to the human and non-human spirit in the world and planet. I want to be part of a movement that encourages and assists a new form of leadership that shares this vision.

Let the new journey begin...

These past five months have been a really strange, disturbing and personally intense roller-coaster experience.

The first thing I had to get used to was being classified as a member of the high-risk category. Not only do I fall into the aged category at 72 (well over 60!), I am also a male with 'underlying medical conditions' (asthma and high blood pressure). Suddenly I had my children phoning to check up on my health and I was no longer able to visit my even older (91) mother, who was in a special care section of an old age home, having descended into the world of Alzheimers a decade ago.

Within a week or two, a new 'condition' was added as each of my teaching engagements for the year was cancelled. I became an almost totally out-of-work 'high risker'!

I started off confidently. I mean, I have been teaching about complexity and uncertainty and the skills that are needed to stay grounded and intelligent in the face of chaos for many years, and I have always prided myself on making sure that I practise what I preach.

The first step was to convince my partner, Louise, that she did not need to pack up everything and move in with me. She had huge editing deadlines and would work much better in her own space. We could continue spending weekends together, as this was South Africa and there was always a way to beat the system.

My next step was to get organised. Within a week, I was enjoying the new freedom of being able to join dance sessions without leaving home; starting to learn Spanish on DuoLingo in the hope that we could still travel to the very south of Argentina in October; getting 'my affairs in order' by starting to sort through and order all my memorabilia (having fun dwelling on some of the pictures and writings); resting, reading and so on. My only sadness was that I was photographed and 'shamed' for breaking the lockdown rules by going off kayaking on day one of lockdown - somewhat ironically (given the actual photo, which heads this blog), I was apparently not self-isolating properly!

I had soon drawn up a schedule of these different activities on my office whiteboard and identified an optimal arrangement where I would study Spanish for at least 30 minutes a day, in addition to including at least two different resting activities, two different organising chores and two different relaxing spaces. All was good and for a short while I seemed to have Paradise within reach ...

And then it all changed. Suddenly I lost all desire to learn Spanish, as I was spending longer and longer periods on Duolingo competing with strangers to get promoted to a new league. My long-dormant competitive self had, in a short space of time, managed to KPI all my spontaneity and joy to death, and I was in trouble. I had single-handedly created my own hamster wheel!

Time for a change of plan. So I flipped the focus from doing (in my mind) into my learnings about being (in my heart). I let go of this overwhelming drive for structure and organisation. I started making more contact with friends and family. I paid even more attention to making sure that I was able to totally immerse myself into the love bubble that Louise and I always create when she comes to stay over weekends. I also reconnected with several people for the first time in decades, and this led to a warm and stimulating regular weekly call with Paul, reanimating a friendship that had been formed on a Schumacher College course run by James Hillman way back in 1994.

And all was good again ...

... for a while.

I could not totally silence the inner voice that wanted to talk and think about WORK. When could I expect to get back to doing the work I loved doing? When would things get back to being 'normal'?

You have to understand that I had devoted my whole academic career in UCT's School of Education to developing and researching my own practice in an attempt to develop a methodology that foregrounded personal and systemic transformation as embedded activism. During this time (and in the 12 years since then), I have created a methodology that attempts to construct real-life, real-time experiences for participants. This experience allows them to examine their own actions in some sort of 'unsafe safety'. I played the enactivist role of the perturbator with increasing skill and abandon over the years as I 'forced' participants to acknowledge and then examine their hitherto taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions to see whether these still served them. I had developed a range of classroom persona as well as an ability to play with the environment (and the participants!) in service of building a space that foregrounded equality, diversity, vulnerability and intimacy.

Now, very suddenly, COV19 and lockdown had sliced through this personal face-to-face contact and forced everyone to start ZOOMing from home!

Panic struck. All the sophisticated and familiar trappings of my 'normal' teaching style had been stripped away and I was standing naked.

I looked online and saw many of my colleagues in the field of facilitation seemingly ZOOMing into the future with alacrity as they were able to re-tool themselves to work in the new media. People were offering new online programmes that seemed to suggest that the facilitator had a handle on what was happening. I noticed some fellow academics dusting off older papers with the suggestion that they contained wise thoughts that could be appropriate guides for others to find a way out of today and into tomorrow. LinkedIn was rapidly being taken over with seemingly wise words of advice.

I felt myself disappearing. I felt another 'at risk' factor had arrived: the risk of being IRRELEVANT!

I disappeared into an inner place that some might have labelled as lethargy or even depression. I started focusing on coming to terms with finally retiring (12 years after I first officially retired at 60). As I started this line of thinking, my mother contracted COV19 in her old age home and quickly passed away with more peace than she had had for many years. This meant I became the oldest in the family and statistically the next in line for death! The outer world was even more bleak, as it was devastated by poverty, corruption, death and increased polarisation ...

These existential crisis times of 'retiring thoughts' were fortunately interspersed with amazingly regenerative times of love bubble.

This went on for several months, and then the gods struck.

In the space of a few days, they hit me two different invitations that were initiated by a past student and a current student, both of UCT's EMBA. I was invited to do a podcast interview on the topic of Change, where one possible question would be, 'What excites you right now?' In the other invitation, I was approached to run a leadership programme with the company's Exco.

My immediate response to these invitations was to go to a very familiar place of panic: I'm definitely 'not good enough' for these tasks. I really don't know. I don't have any answers. I'm not sure that I even have any skills any more.

The fact that this feeling of not being good enough felt very familiar to me made me smile when I came across a Rainer Maria Rilke quote that said, "Ultimately each one of us experiences only one conflict in life which constantly reappears under a different guise." (It might also be why I have already written three blogs on the topic!)

For 20 years, I have lived with the rule of saying yes to everything, particularly when it takes me out of my comfort zone. I recognised that I was in this place again and all I could do was face it. I took a deep breath and moved towards the panic, choosing to embrace it and to accept everything that this act brought.

And suddenly I found myself in a familiar place, riding my kayak and talking to the gods (who, as you might not know, live in the Kalk Bay mountains!). My mind and whole being were suddenly ignited and on fire with ideas and grounded possibilities.

As I started entering this unknown space of opening to the unknown and my clear imperfections, I connected at a deep level with what matters most. I knew with incredible clarity that for me, this has to do with Love.
* Love for beloved Louise and my two wonderful children.
* Love for my extended family of sisters and nieces and nephews who ZOOMed together recently to honour the passing of my mother, who found something in COV19 that could beat her incredible fight to keep living despite years of Alzheimer-induced absence.
* Love for my four amazing grandchildren and my superb daughter-in-law.
* Love for my students and friends, who make contact and share their experiences and battles in e-mails or Skype calls.
* Love for the strangers who connect with me in human ways in the streets or in shops or for the first time in ZOOM calls.

My podcast came and went with a total frustration of continuous stop-and-start internet connectivity on my side. Yet I found myself still alive the next day, although it took a few days after publication of the podcast before I could listen to it!

I really enjoyed my interview and saw new possibilities ...

Then I did my first teaching on ZOOM: a group of 68 EMBA students for three hours. I found that my ability to live with uncertainty, to cope with chaos and to shapeshift according to the situation stood me in good stead as my internet link played up and there was no way I could as I had planned. The students were great, helping me move through the block and create a new possibility. I somehow managed to mess up a breakout room session and left the call prematurely by mistake. I couldn't get back and had to end the session talking via my cellphone to someone else who was online.

Chaos! But I had broken the ice.

Where does this leave me at this moment of having just dipped my toes into the unfamiliar waters of a new world of ZOOM?

I have been thinking about my learning so far, and believe that, in addition to my earlier insights around Love, the following are also important:

Margaret Wheatley has spoken about the dire state of the world for a long time and reported that she had reached a place where she had to learn to live without hope and without fear. This is an extremely liberating concept (once one gets past its depressing side) as it helps to clear the noise and allows me to focus on aligning my outer actions with my soul's wisdom. Wheatley says that we have to act in accordance with our true higher self. I think that this can only end up being an activist role, as the fear of doing wrong or getting into trouble is taken away.

Welcome back world - here I come!

[To be continued ...]

But it's all right now, I've learned my lesson well
You see, you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.

I've been meandering through old photographs, newspaper cuttings and various other memorabilia found in my cupboards during this forced Covid-19 lockdown period, with the inevitable consequence that many intentionally 'forgotten' memories have come flooding back ...

One of these past early chapters is my application for a Rhodes Scholarship ...

There is a window of opportunity of three years for applying for the Rhodes Scholarship, and I had left it to the last year of eligibility to apply. In the previous two years, I had been reluctant to apply and had had the weird experience of receiving phone calls from other prospective applicants wanting to know if I would be in the field that year. They had decided that I would be a certain winner, so if that were the case, they would submit their applications in a different year ...

You see, I had the credentials in the things that they deemed to be the most important criteria. I was the top mathematician in my last year at school, coming first in the country in the Matric Advanced Mathematics paper. I was also an international track athlete, who would almost certainly have competed for South Africa in the Olympic Games in Mexico in the 400-metre hurdles if South Africa had not been expelled for its apartheid laws. In addition, I had recently shown my leadership credentials as Captain of the UCT Athletics Club, where membership and camaraderie had grown significantly, to the extent that the organisation had achieved the impossible by beating Stellenbosch University in the top local team competition. I was studying the enormously difficult degree of Chemical Engineering and keeping myself in the top two in the class.

So in this last year, I decided to go for it and I applied, was short-listed, interviewed and then waited ... and waited...

Having been told the decision would be made within a week, I became concerned when there was nothing but silence from the school until the formal letter arrived telling me I had been unsuccessful.

I had failed!

The repercussions were enormous: most significant was that I had failed both my parents.

My mother had always been a reluctant parent and I quickly learned that I could only get her attention through success. However, there was a twist in this attention as it always demanded further success. 'You got 95% for maths, where did you lose the 5%?' 'You broke the school record, so what's the provincial record?' (all the way up to the world record!).

So success had become a crucial ingredient for survival and scraps of love. I suspect I chose the 400-metre hurdles (the most exhausting and demanding athletics track event) as a symbolic overcoming of my limitations as an asthmatic when young. I certainly chose to study Chemical Engineering at university because people told me it was the most difficult degree that used both mathematics and science (great method for choosing one's future career!).

My father, who had come from Cockney working-class roots, had devoted himself to making a successful life that would allow him to send his children to the best schools in his new country so that they could have a better start than he had had. He had started the process through elocution lessons and then worked his way up from junior to senior levels in the company. He consequently took enormous pride in my achievements; for him, the crowning glory would have been for his son to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, something he could never have aspired to himself.

It turned out that I had given an appalling interview. My total exclusive focus on success in the lecture theatre as well as on the athletics track had left me with little or no time to educate myself properly in current affairs and issues of philosophy. My answers to the panel's questions were deemed to be very shallow: definitely not befitting a future Oxford student!

It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, but I shrugged it off (in the same way I had let go of my Olympic ambitions the previous year) and continued my quest for perfection and success in the years that followed in my roles as a teacher, a husband and then a father.

Fast forward twenty years. I thought I had cracked the key to successful intimate relationships by observing my father's 'mistakes' in handling my mother, so I married with confidence. I followed my plan and my (apocryphal) story is that over the years, I handed over more and more of my power to my wife, with increasingly diminishing returns. Somewhere in my mid-forties, I became totally tired of myself!

One evening I decided to take the plunge and begin the process of taking back my power. So without any warning or preparation, I suddenly said (as firmly as I could), 'Tonight, I want to choose what we are going to do.'

In this version of the story, my wife took the wind out of my sails by saying, 'Sure, darling, what do you want to do?'

I was shocked into silence by the frightening realisation that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. It had taken so much energy and focus getting the courage to stand up and say this sentence that at no stage had I given any thought as to what might come next! Even more horrifying in that moment was my realisation that I actually did know what every single person who had had some influence or power over me at some stage in my life would want me to do (whether it was through love [wife, children, parents] or through position [teacher, lecturer, coach or boss])!

The ground opened up in front of me and I realised that my whole life until then had consisted of pleasing other people.

The next day was even worse as I observed myself in action and saw that everything I did during that day had an ulterior motive of getting recognition from someone else for how clever/funny/intelligent/… I was.

This was a huge moment for me and fortunately the start of a whole new personal journey where I started with the task of pleasing myself through my own actions and choices instead of prioritising others. (Thank you,Rick Nelson)

This journey led me to explore two main paths ...

The first path asked me to let go of my attempts at seeking validity and affirmation from others through the impossible and unrealisable pursuit of attempted perfectionism and continuous success.  I needed to work on knowing that I was good enough. Brene Brown, in her TED talk on Vulnerability, encourages us to know that ‘I am enough’, but this was paradoxically 'not enough' for me. I needed to address the overwhelming demands of my past, which had turned me into a continuous self-generating KPI monster who is always setting the bar just out of reach! I had to add the word 'good'!

My teaching experiences over the past 12 years in the field of Personal Leadership led me to make my learnings from this path accessible through a blog on being Good Enough. A year or so after writing this supposedly definitive blog, I realised that this work  is actually a lifelong commitment and that there had been (at least) two more major shifts that needed to be told in follow-up blogs, Good Enough 2 and Good Enough 3.

The second path became clearer when I came across David Whyte's concept of The Three Marriages. He speaks of the importance of the ongoing conversation and contracting that needs to happen between the Marriages to Self, Other and Work.

For him, Marriage to Self asks us to be still and seek silence so that we can go inwards and see if we can listen to our soul's inner knowing. Marriage to Self is extremely difficult in these complex times because it places such different demands on us from the other two marriages, which call for us to be busy, doing and communicating. The problem, he believes, is that we cannot hope to have a good marriage to Other or to Work if we do not give our best attention to nourishing our marriage to Self.

These ideas find resonance for me in James Hollis's  description of the challenges of the second half of life, where we are asked to radically consider who we are apart from our history, roles and commitments. He says that to enter this second half of life, we have to be willing to listen to 'the voice that arises from the depths of our souls'.

I try to introduce the concept of Marriage to Self in my Personal Leadership classes. I start by asking everyone to estimate the percentage of time they devote to each of the three marriages, with all three allocated percentages adding up to 100%. Prior to Covid-19,  there was a definite dominant pattern in the responses: the overwhelming majority gave answers along the lines of 80% Marriage to Work, 15% Marriage to Other and 5% Marriage to Self.

If Whyte is correct in saying that we cannot have good marriages to Work and Other without having a good marriage to Self, this is frightening data. Even more worrying is that the 5% for Self often includes time spent by the participants beating up their bodies in the noise of a gym rather than peaceful contemplative time.

I ask participants to begin a journey of reclaiming the Marriage to Self through two powerful class exercises that form the basis for intermodular homework.

I took the first exercise from something offered by the Brazilian Biocentric educator, Liliana Viotti, at a workshop in France. She asked us to divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants, as in the sketch below. We were asked to scan our lives for the various activities that we like (DIG) or don't like doing and whether or not we do them. The instruction is to write down ideas in a free-flow way without judgement as quickly as you can. Just keep writing ...

In my classes, I decide when it seems the lists are long enough, and we stop. Obviously, each item does not carry equal weight, but it is surprising how often we find that it is the two same two columns that are the longest (the 'I Dig and I Don’t Do' column and the 'I Don't Dig and I Do' column). What is it about our lives that leads us not to do the things we like and to do many things we don't actually like?

This exercise gives participants some insight into the choices they make along with the priority they give to their own lives and desires. They discuss their lists and insights with another person, and then select two specific items to work on before the next round of sessions starts in around two months’ time. They have to choose an item that they like and start doing it, and stop doing another item that they don’t like doing. In essence, they are being invited to prioritise themselves in making choices: a start in paying attention to the Marriage to Self.

It is interesting to hear the energy that this discussion generates and the enormity of the challenge that this homework places on some participants. I try to ease their path by referring them to the work of Charles Handy, who identified three crucial lubricants for change. One of these is a Proper Selfishness.

The second exercise comes after we have watched Shonda Rhime’s powerful TED talk.

Again, each participant discusses the impact the talk has had on them with a fellow participant, and then selects a daily activity that they plan to incorporate into their post-module life for around 15 minutes that will bring them JOY. They do not have to follow Shonda in playing with their children, although this activity is, in many ways, the most fulfilling and easiest to incorporate into the day - always assuming our children haven't given up on us and are still prepared to play with us! Another step of proper selfishness that focuses on Marriage to Self …

These are small beginnings, but both activities seem to open up a whole new world of presence and positivity for those who are prepared to pay attention to their lives and do the necessary work.

For the past few years, I have run a six-day senior leadership programme for two different companies. The six days are split over three modules, with a one-day follow-up session six months after the third module. As part of the sixth day (the last day of the actual teaching programme), each participant makes a short videoed commitment to their colleagues on the programme in which they outline their intentions for changing their behaviour based on the insights they have garnered from the programme.

A month ago, the participants of each of the most recent of these programmes joined me in separate lockdown-enforced online Zoom follow-up days. The aim of the follow-up day is to hold each participant accountable to themselves and to their colleagues on the programme. With this in mind, the day is framed around individual presentations during which each person reports back to the team on where they have succeeded in introducing positive change into their lives in line with their previously stated intentions as well as outlining what challenges they have faced in doing so.

This year's reports were very striking. The fact that everyone had spent at least three of the six months in coronavirus lockdown, meant that the reality of their lives and the many challenges they faced had been brought into sharp relief.

Listening to the reports, it soon become clear that the vast majority of those programme participants in the two groups (20 participants in all) who had set an intention to pay more serious attention to their Marriage to Self had made some significant progress in this regard. They reported a change in lifestyle that now saw them spending time gardening, switching off their cellphones at home, painting, playing with their children, reading, walking in nature and so on. What struck me particularly strongly was the improved strength and groundedness with which each of these people spoke. It seemed that this increased focus on Marriage to Self had made a significant difference in how they were present in the world and how they were handling the difficult challenges they were facing.

Several of them told us how this enhancement of their Marriage to Self had emboldened them in their workplace: they had been able to negotiate changes in their jobs or their relationships with their colleagues with a far stronger emphasis on boundaries. They spoke with pride and satisfaction, going on to say how this boundaried strength was now spreading to their interactions with extended family members. Several participants also reported how the work they had done to improve their Marriage to Self had helped them start drawing lines in the sand to protect themselves from being over-available to assist others, and to take on extra work and responsibilities!

It really felt as if they confirmed David Whyte’s assertion about the central importance of the Marriage to Self.

In contrast, those who had not foregrounded changes in lifestyle that would support an improved Marriage to Self or who had given up on this aspect of their previously stated intentions for change by succumbing to the many pressures that working from home had placed on them were really struggling. They had coped with this pressure by devoting more time to their Marriage to Work, and as a result giving less attention to their Marriage to Self. This had left them feeling exhausted and frustrated (seemingly bordering on hopeless at times) in many spheres.

Today I have been reading the assignments of a group of EMBA students with whom I spent two days on their first module. I am struck by the increasing demands and struggle they have faced as the effects of the various lockdown stages have made themselves felt. Their initial optimism has come under huge pressure as they try to meet all the conflicting demands on their time from home and work and their studies. The first casualty inevitably seems to have been the progress they had been making on their Marriage to Self.

I am due to see these students again in the coming week, unfortunately via Zoom and not in person. There is an intensive timetable of content lectures and new knowledge scheduled for them this week.

I have been sitting thinking about the stories I have shared in this blog from my own life (as well as the many others that I have not shared).

I know that my life only really started when I began to pay attention to the Marriage to Self. I know that it is only now that I am in my 70s that I can feel satisfaction at some of the progress I have made that has allowed me to live far more authentically with deep listening to my soul. The feedback given by participants during the follow-up days for the two senior leadership programmes confirms many of my beliefs.

I am thinking about my session in two days' time. How can I broach this topic in a new way that allows the EMBA students to have a second bite at the topic? How can I re-enthuse those who have given up? Is this even my responsibility as an academic on the course when there is a huge amount of new 'proper' theoretical material to be covered? I am reminded of a few students in previous years who got impatient with the continued presence of this 'soft' stuff that became repetitive to them because they had 'got' the message and didn't need it repeated. I weigh this against those students who have said this 'stuff' was the most important learning on the programme ...

As I write the above, the central question becomes clearer to me.

What really matters at the context of the current chaotic and challenging time where the future has to written as it emerges?

It's time to pay attention to my own Marriage to Self and go for a ride on my kayak and listen to my outer environment as well as my own inner voice.

I know I will be much clearer about my decisions for Tuesday once I have done this.

Francisco Varela (1946 - 2001) was Chilean theoretical biologist who, together with his mentor, Humberto Maturana, is best known for introducing the concept of autopoiesis to biology, and for co-founding the Mind and Life Institute to promote dialogue between science and Buddhism.

Both Maturana and Varela became very important to me when, way back in the late 1980's, I was researching my own practice as a mathematics education searching for an appropriate teaching methodology for transformation. I was working from a grounded theory perspective so it was really important that I found a theoretical framework of cognition which could embrace both what I was trying to do and what I was observing in my classrooms. I finally found my pot of gold in Maturana and Varela's Santiago Theory of Cognition and the concept of enactivism.

The Santiago Theory of Cognition identifies the process of knowing as the activity that allowed the self-generation of living systems – cognition is the process of life. In the case of humans, this includes language and conceptual thought. The physicist Fritjof Capra believes that the Santiago theory of cognition is the first scientific theory that really overcomes the Cartesian division of mind and matter and unifies mind, matter, and life.

In 1992 Varela gave a set of three lectures to an audience at the University of Bologna on the topic of ethical thought. These lectures were later published by Stanford University Press with the title: Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition. The lectures cover a wonderful range of theory from contemporary scientific thought to philosophical reflection that includes non-Western traditions.

In the first lecture, Varela introduces the topic of micro-worlds and micro-identities.

His starting point is that we each inhabit a whole range of micro-worlds in our lives (as parent, child, employee, direct report, spouse, friend, lover, …), and for each of these we have a specific distinct and well-developed micro-identity that we bring to each of these micro-worlds. These micro-identities are not so much masks that we put on to hide our true selves but rather behaviours, skills or characteristics that we successfully foreground in spaces as we navigate this micro-world's specificities.

Before introducing this topic of micro-worlds and micro-identities in my Personal Leadership programmes, I use David Whyte's concept of Three Marriages and ask each participant to allocate the percentage that they on average give to each of the three marriages - to Self, to Other(s) and to Work.

The most common response by far finds participants acknowledging that they spend at least 80% of their time on their marriage to Work. (The most neglected marriage is the marriage to Self which scores between 0% and 10%. This is particularly alarming when Whyte claims that it is impossible it is impossible to have a good marriage to either Work or Other if one does not have a good marriage to Self!! I may follow this thread some time in another blog)

Discussing the implications of this over-commitment to the marriage to Work, I include a question about the ways in which this marriage to Work impacts on the lives of and interactions with their family when the come home at the end of the day. The most common responses include greeting the family while on the cell as they arrive home; immediate disappearance or collapsing in front of the TV on the grounds that they have had a hard day; continual cell phone use even at the dinner table and in the bedroom; an abruptness with the children with a heavily transactional mode of engagement (have you done your homework, tidied your room, time for bed, etc.); and a downloading of the worst experiences of the day with their spouse when at last they have some 'quiet time' together.

These responses are often given both with a degree of guilt but also a shrug of the shoulders that suggests that such behaviour is what is expected of them - so what can they do? However, they do look sheepish when I comment that their partners and children must SO look forward to them coming home each evening with their daily dose of misery and the intrusion into the home of their work. They also nod in agreement when I jokingly say that it must be such a pity for them that the people at home do not respond to instructions as quickly and as easily as their subordinates do at work!

It's important to pause and say that these are just ordinary men and women at all levels in the corporate world who are doing their best to survive (in many cases) or get ahead. The reader will no doubt have recognised some of their own behaviour in the above description and can easily add a few more similar examples!

I find Varela's concepts extremely helpful in both naming the behaviour and in finding ways to change these practices.

In essence the source of the disjuncture lies in the fact that the returning worker has entered the new micro-world of the home without letting go of their work micro-identity.

This is clearly a problem and inappropriate so I invite participants in my course to start working consciously working with the shift between micro-worlds.

The first challenge I give them is to start practicing with a challenge that should be simple. When we next go on tea- or lunch-break they will be shifting micro-worlds from classroom learning to social interaction. The task I set them is to be aware of their return to the classroom and the need to change to an appropriate micro-identity.

The specifics of the exercise are that I ask them to treat the doorway that separates the classroom from the outside tea space as the portal them that takes one from one micro-world to another.

I challenge them to see if they can stop at the doorway and become aware that they are about to cross the threshold. Once they stop they should take a deep breath and ground themselves and then say aloud 'I'm in!' as an indication of their readiness to change micro-worlds, leave the concerns of work and break conversation behind, and commit themselves to the learning that lies ahead.

This is far more difficult than it sounds and I, for one, really struggle to catch the moment of crossing the threshold.

There are some rules that are aimed at supporting this change of microworlds such as the chairs being in a circle, silence and no technology allowed in the circle,  gentle music playing, and an expectation that everyone is seated two minutes before the designated starting time of the session so that they have this time to close their eyes and do a mindfulness practice that brings their mind, body and heart into the learning space.

The process within the room is much easier to manage as all it needs is some self-regulation in the context of a shared objective. It is an amazing experience when we get this right and everyone is grounded and present as the timer goes for the start of the lesson. The increased quality of attention and contribution is amazing.

Participants are then asked to extend this practice in an appropriate form to the transition between work and home micro-worlds as a homework assignment between teaching modules. Each participant is encouraged to find their own appropriate ritual but I offer the following as a suggested exemplar for those who travel to work by car.

"Keep a stone in your car’s cubby hole. When you get into your car to go to work, take the stone out of the cubbyhole and put it in your pocket. Use the drive to work to think about the day that lies ahead of you and prioritise activities. Try not to be put off track by the unexpected crises of the day. When it reaches time for you to go home, try to make all necessary calls before you leave for home. On the journey home, your thoughts will almost inevitably stay at work and you will remember other calls you should have made. When you get near to home, consciously choose to park a block away (preferably where there is some greenery) and make those last calls. When you are finished with them, turn your phone off. Then take the stone out of your pocket and put it back in your car’s cubby hole. Ground yourself and think of all the reasons you have to be grateful for your home and the people there. When you are ready, drive home and enter the house with gratefulness ready to engage with an open heart with your loved ones as you navigate all the complexity that this entails'.

Sometimes I offer this activity as homework at the end of the first day of a two day module. The report back responses next day are very touching and also, at times, quite funny.

The majority report how much they enjoyed being home for a change and how they were able to see and enjoy their spouse in a new way. They found time to play with their children and this was a new and pleasurable experience. The lighter notes included spouses looking suspiciously at them and asking them what they had done, why they were acting as if they were guilty of something, or just 'what do you want?' Once this obstacle had been overcome all went well. One of the funniest comments came from a man who was started at how quiet it was in the house this evening and how smoothly everything went. 'Even the dogs were much quieter than usual ', he said. 'I can't believe that I have been such a disturbing influence in the past!'.

This attention to changing micro-worlds can dramatically change all aspects of our lives and drastically reduce tension.

For example. My phone rings while I am talking to partner. This is an invitation from another micro-world. I have a choice whether to accept this invitation or not. If I choose to accept the invitation, I take responsibility for taking a moment  to let go of my conversation with my partner and change micro-identities appropriately so I am ready to answer the call. I do not have to answer it as it starts to ring. The chances that I will regret my responses during the call decrease proportionally to the length of time I take to answer the call.

My partner and I have added some variations to this scenario through co-operative engagement and creativity. We do not live together so enjoy a regular early morning Skype call. The trouble is that I am a (very) early riser while Louise prefers to take her time (but would still be regarded as an early riser by normal standards!). I wake ready to run while Louise believes she is only fit for conversation after her first cup of tea of the day. You can see the problem that might occur when Louise wakes and goes through her tea routine and then lovingly starts the Skype video call. It's my beloved calling so I answer, and because I have already been up and thinking and maybe working for two hours there is a total mismatch in our micro-worlds and micro-identities which does not lend itself at all to loving, safe conversation.

So we talked about the situation and together came up with a new ritual that works well for us. It involves Louise taking her time as part of her tea ritual to check in with herself and find what she needs to let go of before making the call. She then types 'Talk?'

I may be busy or (hopefully, when it is legal again) even out on my kayak. When I see 'Talk?', I take a moment or two to check in with myself, let go of my current micro-world and it's focus, and prepare myself to enter the new micro-world of loving relationship. It's a very different, slow and grounded  and open-hearted micro-identity and can sometimes take a few moments. When I am ready I start the call and every time we have the most amazing conversation.

It may sound like excessive control is being exercised but the rewards of the huge amount of freedom (and absence of tension and friction) that arises from this boundaried beginning are well worth it.

My final offering came from a Follow Up session I ran last week with a group of senior corporate leaders who had completed a 6 day 3 module Personal leadership programme with me the previous year. This Follow Up Day takes place six months after the completion of the programme. It is held with the explicit purpose of giving participants the opportunity to report back to their peers their successes in fulfilling the intentions that they had shared with us (and had televised on day 6 of the programme).

This Follow Up Day had to be held virtually on Zoom as we were well into the tended total lockdown in South Africa.

One participant had a lovely anecdote as t how he had made use of the micro-world learnings on lockdown.

Each morning I get up and have breakfast with the family. Then I get ready to go to work and before leaving I say goodbye to the children and then I kiss my wife goodbye. I then leave and go into the spare room, which has become my office, and I close the door. I reverse the process when I leave my 'office' for the day. I close the office door when I leave the spare room and go 'home' and greet my children and my wife. All work artefacts (cell phone, computer, diary, notes, etc.) remain housed in my office behind the shut door and are generally only available when I go off to work the next day. 

His comment on this process was that he has never spent so much fun and loving time with his wife and his children before. He also spends far more time than before on his marriage to Self!

Thank you, Francisco Varela.

There is one more thread I want to tug at before I finish this writing on the topic of being good enough.

These past few week’s have been a time of introspection and reflection and it has been hard making myself sufficiently vulnerable to write these deeply personal reflections. Earlier this evening I was putting the finishing touches to a first draft of this blog and my unconscious somehow managed to delete the whole piece!

I ended the last blog looking back at myself at the age of 60 with a sense of having taken a huge step forward in my life challenge of feeling 'good enough'.

My success in accepting the challenge of being seen both in the preliminary Moving Art group work as well as in my dances gave me the impetus to take up my teacher’s suggestion that I start attending Biodanza classes. I had been tempted to join a class almost a decade earlier, but it felt that now was the correct time even though I was now in y 60's! Biodanza was developed in South America and is also known as the Dance of Love - an aspect of my life that I had totally neglected in my pursuit of perfection. Once again this move took a leap of faith but I had an immediate feeling that this was exactly where I needed to be at this time. .

Each Biodanza class lasts around 90 minutes and consists of a tightly structured set of dances which the facilitator has chosen (with appropriate music) to take us on a planned journey with a specific theme. In class we are asked to step out of minds into silence. Instructions are given for each dance – sometimes with a demonstration – and then we are left on our own to interpret the dance in our own way. Each week we are invited to let go of our barriers and trials and tribulations of life and connect with each other with open hearts and joy.

The emphasis on connection with our fellow dancers in the dance brought about some huge challenges to my openness to others. I had to let go of the familiar and safe defences and armour that I had successfully put in place to keep others at a distance. I had to surrender to spontaneity and to tenderness with people who I might be meeting for the first time - something that my protected always-helping-others self found extremely difficult.

The two pictures below were taken at one of my first annual Biodanza Encounters for experienced dancers where we were invited to go even deeper. Both pictures show me partnering people who I had only just met. In the first I have taken off my shirt in the presence of many which until shortly before then would have been inconceivable. I obviously feel safe that I will not stand out and I am able to respond to the call of the music to be spontaneous and creative in our dance. The second captures a challenge of another dimension where we are asked to totally surrender into the arms of our partner. It was so much easier when I was the one doing the holding as the carer than it was to surrender control and let myself be held. Needless to say, after sharing such challenging intimacy both of these women have become very dear friends since then.

The experience was amazing. Something ignited in my soul and I started feeling as if I was actually inhabiting my body for the first time in my life. My movements became freer and I felt myself becoming progressively more at peace and able to surrender to the connection and the dance. I soon found myself traveling to Brazil to meet the founder in person. This experience was so impactful that I subsequently signed on for the two year journey towards qualifying as a Biodanza facilitator.

After going through a deeply transformative first year of a personal development course where we focused on the five major themes of Vitality, Affectivity, Creativity, Sexuality and Transcendance, the second year turned our attention to the didactics of designing and running a class. My teaching schedule was such that I had to go to Johannesburg for one of the first sessions and join a group who had been bonding with each other for 18 months.  I had met some of them briefly and had occasionally danced with them at the annual Encounter. One of the first tasks that weekend was to split into pairs and with your partner choose two pieces of music and then interpret them in dance. My partner and I encouraged each other to push ourselves and chose two very different pieces of music. The first was upbeat and triumphant and we danced with expansion and joy as I think the first photo below clearly shows. The second dance was far more sensual as we tried to surrender and enter into a space of intimacy.

Unbeknown to us, one of the group filmed the second dance. When I later watched this film I was amazed to see how far I come in just 5 years from the tentativeness and staccato movements of my Moving Art tango piece. I have taken off my shirt between dances even though we are being carefully watched and evaluated by a group of critical student peers who are part strangers to me. I do this despite the extra weight that is blatantly showing itself around my waist. I clearly am not worried about being good enough. The dance has taken over and I am not afraid to surrender and let my body move with freedom in union with my partner. It is an amazing experience. I let go and open myself to softer, gentler, more intimate movements in the dance. I feel my strength and feel enormously proud to have had the courage to go on this extremely vulnerable journey of heart and body.

In the midst of all this growth and love and connection there was one aspect of my Biodanza experience that both intrigued and disturbed me. There was one particular dance where we danced with yang (masculine) energy and pushed against each other. I felt this was a powerful dance that really helped me connect with my strength and 'good enough' energy. I was surprised when the Biodanza teacher told me that I looked a bit too fierce when I did this dance and that some people were frightened of me. She suggested that I should smile from time to time during the exercise to dispel any partner’s possible disquiet.

I was shocked to hear this. It made no sense to me as my setting of soft boundaries had been the source of enormous pain in the past.  I'd tried and failed miserably in my early married days when I tried to set my boundaries with a smile which attempted to take away any sting. Inevitably my 'boundary' was not taken seriously and I could not blame anyone for that but me.

Shortly after this incident, one of the personal transformation participants came privately to my dance partner at the end of a yang activity and asked if she was scared of doing the dance with me as I looked so fierce. My partner later told me that she had just laughed at this and said she had especially chosen  me as her partner for that particular dance because my strength allowed her to step more fully into her own strength and power. This was beautiful feedback to get and affirmed the success of my Moving Art work.

If I needed further assurances that I was on the right track, they came at that year's Encounter. Our attendance that year was so large that we had to split into three groups to allow each couple enough space to get into their yang dances. I partnered someone in the first group and obviously sat down when the dance ended. When the second group started to dance someone came up and insisted I dance with them and the same thing happened when the third group started their dance. Both women involved later told me that they wanted to dance with me as they wanted a partner who would not be threatened by the full force of their own strength.

These various strands all came to a head in a very difficult year when I turned 65.

During the previous year I had realised that the flame of my soul was once again in danger of going out. My good enough journey had clearly not been as successful as I had thought as I had once again compromised my essence in order to please and avoid conflict. This growing realisation was instrumental in bringing about the end of my second marriage after 16 years together. It also meant that I had to look another failure straight in the face. So much for my promise to myself that I was not going to go the same way as my parents and get divorced!

The year I turned 65 started off in early January with my leaving home and I ended the month I went straight into a powerful and demanding Vision Quest where I spent 4 days alone in the mountains (part of a group but with no interaction with others in that time) with only water for sustenance.

Four days on my own really pushed me to face the truths of my life. I could spend the first day or two in my head making plans and avoiding looking at myself by shifting responsibility onto others. By day three this was no longer possibility and I stepped into the deep grief of facing my wounds and mistakes and start to take responsibility for the betrayals and pain I had caused others through my avoidances and inaction.

Later that year, I grasped the opportunity to participate in the major Biodanza workshop of facing your fears in what was called the Minotaur experience. Before the event, we each had to complete a questionnaire and own up to our deepest fears. The intention was that our answers would assist the facilitator choose the appropriate activity for each participant. The reader will not be surprised to read that it was abundantly clear to me that my greatest fear still lay in setting boundaries and limits and in expressing anger.. I was nervously hoping that the activity chosen would make a difference in moving me forward. Imagine my surprise when the facilitator took it on herself to ignore my answers and instead gave me an activity where I had to move around a circle asking for love! How had she missed seeing the growth in this area when she witnessed my sensual facilitator's training dance?

My concern grew at this familiar foregrounding in Biodanza of Love as a theme despite my personal experience of needing to face my ongoing personal fears of Power. That same year I decided to use the task of writing a monograph (as the final step in becoming a Biodanza facilitator) to explore the themes of Power and Love. My conclusion was that Biodanza’s strong emphasis on Love meant that Power was kept in the shadow to the detriment of balanced growth. My challenge of standing in my Power was not going to easily be helped through an interpretation of Biodanza that seemed to reify Love .

In writing the monograph, I came across Martin Luther King’s speech on Love and Power and suddenly my disquiet found its voice. He claimed that Love without Power is sentimental and anaemic and Power without Love is reckless and abusive. He went on to say that Power at its best is Love implementing the demands of Justice and Justice at its best is Love correcting everything that stands against Love.

I've given this rather long description of my Biodanza experience because I think it has serious implications for the 'good enough' journey that started in the first blog over a year ago.

Wendy Palmer is an Aikido expert who has written a book called Leadership Embodiment. I was drawn to the following table which I have adapted from her work.

My interpretation is that the first column is the place I go to when I am scared, and my little child is acting from a wounded place. In that place, all I want is to feel safe, be liked and feel in control! I panic when anything comes along to threaten one of these three necessities of my current existence and I will do anything to hold onto them. I will scheme and duck and dive and over-react with rage or under-react by crumbling and disappearing.

The second column shows where I go to when I am aligned and standing in my grounded adult being. In this place I feel good enough, am compassionate to others and am deeply curious.

It is striking that each of these aspects is related to one of the three centres of head, heart and body, and this insight leads me to introduce the final piece of the puzzle that I want to work with in this blog - the four major Archetypes. While the Sovereign resides in a three dimensional outer witness position, the other archetypes take their places in one of these same three centres: the Warrior in the body/gut; the Lover in the heart; and the Magician in the head.

As Wendy Palmer's second column shows, being 'good enough' lies in my body/gut and this is also where my Warrior energy resides. It is the Healthy Warrior who shows up and chooses to be present. It is the Healthy warrior who sets clear boundaries and respects other people's boundaries. The Shadow archetypes of the Warrior are the Savage and the Victim – so similar to my two polarities of behaviour when I ‘lost it’. These two Shadow Warrior Archetypes also represent the mirror the two behaviours I tried to represent at the start of my Moving Art dance described in the second blog.

Angeles Arrien in her book called The Four-Fold Way says that the healing energy for the Warrior is dance, and I have previously quoted Confucius as saying 'never give a sword to a man who can't dance'. He goes on to say that 'the dance is the ideal. People must not be given swords  - before they’ve learnt how to enjoy life and its movement; before they’ve discovered the inner strength required to publicly and foolishly dance with judgemental gazes thrust upon them... ' These two quotes shine a confirming light n so much of my journey and also offer a reason why I had to follow a path of dance to do this 'good enough' work.

I think this is the core aspect of my life’s journey that I have been describing in these three blogs – the challenge to feel 'good enough' has been one of stepping as fully as possible into my Healthy Warrior archetype.

Wendy Palmer’s table shows what happens to me when I do not feel 'good enough' and revert to my wounded child state – I don’t feel safe! Looking back, feeling unsafe has been a constant companion throughout my life so this really resonates for me.

Then I think about my experience of marriage and the important role of the Lover whose open heart should be filled with compassion for others when aligned.

If I do not feel 'good enough' and hence do not feel safe, how on earth can I be in a healthy relationship with anyone? How can my Lover turn up safely let alone flourish? How did I think that I could make a good husband or father? If I can’t keep myself safe, how can I make it safe for my wife or my children? No wonder I failed!

As I write this, I feel the pain of not living up to and fulfilling my best intentions in getting married and then failing hopelessly which caused deep hurt and pain to both wives and my dear children.

What I have written makes it sound as if it is only when I have fully stepped into my Healthy Warrior that I will be able to embrace my Lover and be worthy of being in deep relationship. Such thinking falls so beautifully into the achievement straight line algorithmic approach to life.

I have largely learned to embrace and embody a new Healthy Warrior self. This has allowed me to be far more clear in my work life at ensuring that I only accept work that is aligned with my purpose. I have also withdrawn from work when I can see that my purpose is not aligned with that of the course convenor or client. I still feel the tension when I am in situations where another might be critical of my actions but I am far better able to stand in my authenticity. This arrival of a stronger Healthy Warrior self has opened the space for my Healthy Lover self to stand tall and I have been able to fully embrace my relatively new (almost 5 year) relationship at an extraordinarily deep level. The flame of my soul burns brightly and I feel grounded and at peace.

Looking back over this burst of writing and the journey I have taken, I can see that there has been a complex interplay between the heart and the gut - the Lover and the Warrior. There is no logical sequential process but rather a complex continual interplay between the two. It's also clear that the Magician (and the head) need to be backgrounded while this work was being done. My education and society in general had already over-privileged my head and thinking.

And even now as I end these two extra blogs on the 'good enough' theme, I am reminded of the experience that started all this reflection.  It happened on a morning when I had spent a difficult four hours with my Magician crafting and then sending a healthily boundaried email. It took longer than anticipated and I rushed off to lunch with a friend without taking any down time to prepare for this move between microworlds. Suddenly during the lunch we hit a bump and I found myself back in a very old place where I do not have the resources to stay grounded and my Healthy Warrior disappears. I ran for safety.

It seems that my being human journey has turned into something like a 12 step programme for recovering 'not good enoughers'. It's clearly a life long challenge and I need to be wary of becoming complacent that I have found complete resolution.

My plan for the years to come is to keep acknowledging and embracing my wounds while I move forward with fierce determination to optimise my ability to enact from an authentic place of conviction. It is not an easy journey but the rewards are great. I take comfort and inspiration from these two poems by Charles Bukowski in which he challenges me to go all the way! I hope the gods are indeed delighting in me!

Just over a year ago I wrote a blog called ‘I am good enough’ in honour of a group of women leaders I had been teaching on a leadership course. In that blog I shared some some of my personal story and my history of not feeling good enough. I interlaced my narrative with some of the ideas and material I have brought to my personal leadership classes. Many people reported that the blog resonated deeply with them...

A series of recent events has drawn me back to the topic of being 'good enough' in a powerful and disturbing way. I realised that there are two main reasons why I need to return to the topic and take it even more seriously. I suspect that this revisiting is going to end up as a trilogy of 'good enough' blogs!

I think the topic is crucial as I have come to believe that this feeling of not being good enough undermines almost every step we try to take in the world. A seemingly successful man tells me how he can see that he sets himself up for failure by always striving to be the best at everything he does while at the same time taking on more and more challenges. Even when he gets a success he immediately raises the bar for his achievement level. As he talks it is as though I am listening to a younger version of myself speaking! In my leadership classes I often ask participants to take a step forward and say aloud 'I am Good Enough!'. There is always a palpable hesitation and reluctance in the room. I wonder what the honest response is? Is there anyone out there who can say with 100% certainty that they are good enough? The man who I spoke about earlier in this paragraph admits he probably only feels 50% good enough. The women's group that started this whole line of thought and writing would also relate to all this. We have a problem!

My second reason lies in the inevitable light cut I have taken across my life history with this theme of 'good enough' which does not lay bare the pervasive and lasting nature of its wounding presence.

My previous blog touched on my early successes in mathematics and international athletics. It located my drive to 'be perfect' (and hence always 'not good enough') from my relationship with my mother who totally dominated my gentle father. Having mentioned this fairly briefly I quickly moved on to discussing ways I had tackled the challenge.

Not so fast!

Last week I was invited to return to the scene of my first athletic success when a neighbour set up a meeting with my arch hurdling opposition from the neighbouring school. We had not seen each other for over 50 years. I decided to honour this seemingly random event and took out my old athletic photos and looked through them. I had a particular goal in mind in trying to locate a particular fantastic photograph that captured the magic of our neck-and-neck races. I could not find that photo, but, in my searching, I was given two great gifts. The first was a large workshop scrapbook which will appear again later in this blog. The other was the opportunity to reflect on another hidden part of the story.

I suffered badly from asthma at primary school to the extent that my annual treat was to be allowed to compete at the annual school sports and then spend two weeks in bed. My parents probably overprotected me (can I blame them?) so I had few friends and did not often play outside. The result was that I was teased for being extremely thin (where are your calves - have they gone out grazing? Show us your London tan! etc.) An all boys school can be terribly cruel. I suspect my later choice of the incredibly physically demanding 400 metres hurdles was in part to get them back and challenge them to do better. However, even when the asthma disappeared at high school and I became an international athlete, I was extremely embarrassed about my physique and seldom took my shirt off - especially not when on the beach!

Academically I was indeed good at mathematics and did come top in the country in the matriculation Advanced Mathematics paper but I was not successful when I applied for a Rhodes Scholarship.  So many not good enough's had already been accumulated by the time I left school and university.

I married at 24 and had 2 children by the time I was 32. I still drove myself to achieve the targets of excellence I set for myself in all aspects of my life but particularly in my work - initially as a maths and science teacher and later as a university academic in mathematics education. The joy of each achievement only lasted a short while before I upped the stakes and sought new horizons of success. As a school teacher I started the first government school computer club as well separate classes for the gifted which I called 'The Boredom Club'. This overstretching of my energy resources played itself out at home where, even though I would come home exhausted from the day's striving, I would set myself the target of being a perfect husband and father with a list of chores that had to be completed each day.

I operated totally from the mind in a problem-solving paradigm. I could not ask for help as it felt this would obviously expose my 'not good enoughness'I could not make myself vulnerable in love so kept myself at a safe emotional distance from everyone - especially my wife. When I became aware that I was clearly not succeeding in this attempted home perfection, I learnt to become an expert at ducking and diving and making jokes while attempting to avoid being found out (as a failure) or keep the peace and avoid conflict. I can remember those moments of panic when I knew I had forgotten to do something and desperately caste around for a reasonable excuse or someone else to blame (how useful to have young children around to blame...).

When there was no escape and I found myself trapped in a corner with no possibility of disappearing or escaping and the evidence of my most recent failure staring everyone in the face, I took the only means of escape I knew at the time. I launched into an angry tirade of hostility and verbal abuse. In responding in this way, I added shame as an extra layer to my sense of failure.

When it became clear that my marriage was in serious straits, I started seeing a therapist. Early in this journey, I reported a dream of staying up all night trying to keep a small flame in my palms alight. It was a terrifying and exhausting dream as I felt that this flame represented my soul and that it was in danger of being extinguished. I knew with certainty that its protection was the most important challenge of my life.

I remember a therapy session at that time where I was asked to identify strong male figures in my life that might act as a model and inspiration for my journey. I remember not being able to think of anyone. I was tentatively thinking of choosing a friend to meet the task but grasped the suggestion that I could take some time to think during the intervening week.

A day later I was sorting through some old pictures and I came across an image of me going over a hurdle and I laughed. I could see in my face all the power of a strong, grounded adult male figure. There was no need for me to look outside for masculine inspiration was already alive and well and neglected - inside me!

This part of the journey happened in my early 40’s and I was strongly drawn to the work of Robert Bly, James Hillman, Michael Meade and Malidoma Some in their work with men. I started listening to their workshops on tapes as well as reading poetry -inspired by their collection The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart. I was even able to attend a course run by James Hillman at Schumacher College.

This deep inner work occurred in time to save my soul but sadly not my marriage of 18 years - yet another failure as I had sworn to myself when my parents got divorced that that would never happen to me!

Fast forward to my 60th year. At one level all looks great. I am reaping the rewards of that deep work in my 40's. I have happily remarried. I seem to be a successful academic who is ending his three year term of office as President of the largest international research community in mathematics education.

This academic part looks a safe haven of certain good enoughness but it isn't! Over the 26 years at UCT I have won the Distinguished Teacher Award which showed everyone I could teach, but I have to struggle to feel good enough as an academic where the only thing that really matters is one's research output. I do not easily fit in as I am following my own path. I have consciously chosen not to do a PhD. I write my journal articles in the first person and not in the expected third person. I am interested in expanding the possibilities of classroom teaching so I research my own practice using a grounded theory approach. When I put my whole heart and soul into my first article for an international journal I tentatively asked a colleague for comments. His dismissive reply was that he could not comment because it did not fit into any existing theoretical paradigm. I regularly found myself getting the lowest research budget in the department because, although I published copiously and I was President of the largest international research community in the field, it wasn't in 'proper journals '.

My general 'good enough' work that I thought was so successful (and finished!) back in my 40's has only just scratched the surface. I have become much better at holding back and stopping that volatile part of me from exploding. However, inwardly I still panic when things are not going smoothly. I still berate myself when I make mistakes like setting off the alarm or losing my keys. I still find it hard to stand my ground and set boundaries. I carry a lot of frustration and dis-ease.

Then life struck again!

Somehow I let myself get talked into signing on for a series of Moving Art workshops. Let me get this straight. I am not an Arts and Crafts man. In my 40's I could not dance. Now at 60 I have rehabilitated myself a bit thanks to my wife but she is the expert and in lessons it is clear I am the one who is 'not good enough'!  I discover at the first Moving Art session that I will be one of only two men in a group of 24 participants. We will meet weekly for 2 months and dance and do artwork while talking and explore our inner stressful selves. I clearly remember the discomfort, horror and panic of the first session clearly. I think I spent the whole session trying to think of valid reasons to withdraw...

The large workshop scrapbook that I discovered when looking for that athletics photo comes from this Moving Art  course. I can see that one of our first tasks was to paste a collage on the above cover. The result is a very positive collection of pictures from my athletic days juxtaposed with greens and blues of nature. I am clearly not ready to share my reality with this group and make myself vulnerable. The title page of the scrapbook shows that a rather self-satisfied outer persona being presented to the group.

The next page shows this outer portrayal of confidence continuing. I have posted yet another picture of me in action hurdling pasted opposite Rainer Maria Rilke's poem that ends with the words ‘winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings’ (ironically I am of course winning in that athletics photo!)

After two pages of detour pictures of a gorilla and a bee, come two very poignant pages.

The first stays true to my bold self-congratulatory aim of celebrating the 'lush and fluid garden of my life' and itemises all my successes and joys.

The facing page dives in deep and is headed ‘Pain and shadow side’. As I read this now, I am surprised to discover and remember that, for my successful adult 60 year old self, the very first item listed is ‘never being/feeling good enough’. I had somehow managed to block out how much this feeling was still with me 20 years after believing I had completed my 'good enough' work in my 40's!

The culmination of the workshop was the design and development of a personal dance. I turn the page and see that all thoughts of celebration are gone and the starting focus for my dance is ‘not good enough’. I see that my design preparation calls on my athletic days to find a way to rise up and stand my ground. I have also somehow co-opted the energies of the gorilla (nobility) and the buffalo (strong resource for standing one’s ground and saying no) as support for inspiration to tackle the theme.

My intention for the outcome of the dance is clearly stated.

We have to practice the dance in front of each other and our teacher and allow it to grow and develop and change. This is really hard. The women take no prisoners in going straight to the vulnerable places and asking questions. It is entirely appropriate but is very new to me and there is nowhere to hide - especially as movement seems to expose everything that my mind could so successfully hide. Each time I have to show my evolving dance is an ordeal and I am counting the days until the programme is over. We get to choose our own music and bring this in to support our movements..

Then our teacher drops the bombshell. We will not be doing our final dances in front of each other! She has organised for us to give two shows on consecutive nights where we will dance in front of friends and interested strangers. Wonderful panic strikes again, but I am determined (aren’t I?).

We have to describe our dance in a programme. I write the following. My dance tells of one man's battle to cope with long-internalised messages of not being 'good enough' or 'it's all your fault'. After yet another panic attack, as the terrified dancer I emerge from the exhaustion of an out-of-control angry outburst to draw energy from an earlier hurdling lifetime. I reconnect with then yin and yang of the different parts of my being and quietly enter the powerful and grounded energy of the buffalo.

The first evening comes and somehow I get up and perform my dance in front of everyone!

My nerves are initially out of control and it is a huge challenge to show up and take the first step. However, standing my ground at the end of dance and receiving the applause is an amazing moment. I feel a huge inner shift that comes from having faced this fear and shared my vulnerability with so many people. In that moment, I really do feel 'good enough'!

That first evening ends with a new gift (and challenge) from the gods. One of my fellow-dancers has included a tango-inspired piece in her dance. On that first night her partner had been a tango teacher. At the end of the show, she came to me very worried and said the tango teacher had just told her that he was not going to be there the next evening. She was without a partner. To my horror she asked me to take his place. I gulped and drew on the new me (on an adrenaline high after that evening’s dance?) and said yes and we agreed to arrive early the next afternoon before the show to practice so I could learn my steps and cues.

When we arrived there was a wonderful moment when our teacher saw us and asked what we were doing. When she heard that the tango teacher was not going to be there for the performance she looked at me and then turned to my friend and suggested that she should rather use another dancing friend who was going to be watching that night. My friend was wonderful and totally killed that 'not good enough' moment. 'No, I want to dance with Chris. We will be fine.'

And we were!

Reading the scrapbook and watching the videos take me back to the depth of that Moving Art work and the courage I had to find to take my place with these dancers and be seen in full vulnerability. I can also relive the strength I felt for having faced this fear. (And as I write this I notice the internal whispers about my mistakes and faults and how my dances could have been better...)

This strength played itself out when that same year I handed in my resignation and took early retirement from the university. I realised that I was tired of doubting my value as an academic and giving too much airtime and credibility in my thoughts to those colleagues who dismissed my academic credentials. I had started teaching the topic of Personal Leadership at the Business School in my spare time and believed I could earn enough to get by as a free lance teacher.

The Moving Art dance experience emboldened me and I wanted to lay this academic excellence issue to rest once and for all before I left. I applied for and received a prestigious National Research Foundation as a recognised researcher. My rating as a research academic was as high or higher than anyone else in the department! I also wanted to leave the university with my head held high and not seemingly with my tail between my legs so, instead of settling for the usual awkward staffroom farewell, I threw a big farewell party attended by past students as well as colleagues with food and Zimbabwean music and with the walls of the quad where the party was held adorned with pictures and papers and news articles from my 26 years at UCT.

(and I work really hard at not giving energy to the tiny internal whisper that says I am leaving as only an Associate Professor and not as a full Professor and that early retirement is basically just giving up and quitting because the going is too tough for me...)

In ending this particular blog, I am drawn to the words of Confucius who said 'Never give a sword to a man who can't dance'. The journey I have described in this piece of writing starting with the discovery of a picture of myself in action in the hurdles as a beautiful image and model for strong masculine energy in my life. It took an unexpected turn towards dance as a means of emancipation. I want to follow up on this theme of dancing and masculine energy in my next blog on this 'good enough' topic.

In the mean time I want to make sure that this serious quest does not become a burden in my life. I want to heed the words of Alan Watts when he says that the whole point of life is to sing and dance while the music is being played!

Hinge Moments are the amazing moments that occur when one is happily minding one's own business and is then suddenly interrupted by life. When this interruption is also one of our triggers the resulting response can be very unhelpful.  Catching hinge moments is a game that has an enormous pay-off when one succeeds and echoes Victor Frankl's statement  "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom".

In my last Rumi Guest House story (November 2018) I told of a series of missed Hinge Moments at an airport.

July 2019 saw me at another airport and a sense of deja vu - what is it with airports and hinge moments and me??

I'd finished a week's teaching in the beautiful and peaceful Kripalu Yoga Centre in the Berkshires outside Boston and was treating myself to some down time in Cape Cod before heading back to Cape Town via Amman where I was to spend some time with my son and his family.

I spent the night at the Hilton at Boston Logan International Airport and went to the car rental at 9.30 in the hope of making a reasonably early start for the drive to Cape Cod. I joined a long queue where I was 16th in line at 10am. There were two people serving at the desk and by 10.15 I was still 16th in line!

Hinge 1: My maths background clicks in and I do the calculation - at this rate I am here for infinity!! I remember Kripalu and breath deeply and find my grounded presence...

Just then an official comes and says we should try to use the nearby machines – although he warns that some of them don’t seem to be working. The machines are closer to back on the queue so the immediate rush to the machines sees them all full and I’m still number 16 in line - just with less people behind me! I watch for 5 minutes and it seems as if some people are having success. I've now moved to number 15 in line!

Hinge 2: What shall I do? Is it worth seeing if I can use the machine? My odds of getting the car today by waiting in line have dramatically increased in the last 5 minutes.

Go on, give it a go and step into the adventure...

I ask someone to keep my place and move to the machines. All goes well and I enter all details such as credit card and driving licence numbers, date of birth etc. I’m flying through and my heartbeat starts racing as I am nearly there! I go to the last step – and my credit card payment is declined! The onscreen message says, ‘please use another credit card or else speak to an agent’. I don't have any card!

Hinge 3: I breathe deeply and re-join the queue.

A lady who has been hovering around behind the service desks suddenly shudders into action and becomes a third agent and the queue starts moving! I finally get to talk to a live agent. We start the whole process again right from the beginning – Ground Hog Day has started. We get to the final step and...

... she frowns and then tells me my credit card payment has been declined! Definitely Ground Hog Day!

Hinge 4. I know I used the credit card earlier that morning so there is no problem with it. I also know there are no problems with spending limits. She tries again with the same rejection message.

Hinge 5. I breathe deeply and suddenly realise that I can pay the outstanding amount with cash so tell the agent that the problem is easily solvable.

"No cash allowed", she says.

Hinge 6!!!

I breathe again (thanks goodness for the Kripalu Yoga Centre and Dave's morning meditation practices!) and then she looks up to tell me that payment has been accepted and I can go upstairs to get my car...

And upstairs there is another queue with a lone harassed-looking agent rushing from person to person trying to appease the tangible impatience.

She gets to me and I look at her and I can feel her dispersion and recognise a kindred spirit who has been having a similar morning to mine.

"Take a deep breath", I say, "and pretend to be talking seriously to me for the next minute". We do this and she relaxes and smiles and says that is just what she needed. And then she says she’ll make sure I get a nice car. And sure enough – when my car comes it is a brand new never-been-driven Cadillac XTS 3.6. (I booked a cheap compact car!)

The engine is powerful and a pleasure to drive as I head down to Cape Cod. I’m thinking how useful it was that I spent the previous week in a Yoga centre so that I caught the hinge moments this time and stayed adult (no pompous 'I am a university professor' this time). I feel really good and tell myself a story how my compassion for the frantic agent was so wonderfully rewarded with this very special brand new car upgrade!! I start thinking about the pay-it-forward concept and how I was quickly rewarded for my compassion.

And I have a beautiful time in Cape Cod and then on Nantucket Island the following day and then start packing for the journey home. I find the rental documentation and discover that when the rental agent had asked me whether I wanted a separate GPS system or would rather prefer a car with a built in system, my preference for the latter had the unexplained consequence that I had just asked for and subsequently paid for an upgrade on the car! (And this is what triggered the credit card crisis...)

So my story of excessive generosity from the harassed lass was probably just a figment of my own imagination and I laughed and let go of most of it. However, I’m sticking to my story that the brand-new car was proof that she made the effort to respond to my peaceful support. I like that story and it feels as if there should be more good news stories like this even if they are (partly) dreamed up. It certainly added to the pleasure of my slow traffic-filled drive down to Cape Cod.

And my sudden change into a more expert Hinge Moment catcher than in my previous story? Maybe I should hang out at another Yoga Centre? Thanks, Kripalu!