Monday, August 30, 2010


I came across three interesting quotes over the weekend on one of my favorite topics, leadership. Leadership is one of the most misunderstood topics in all areas of life, whether you're talking about business, politics, community service, education, or anything else. There is an abyss between the concepts of leadership and management, yet it seems that many people think they are one and the same.

Churchill offered the first quote, and the one that got me to thinking.

"The price of greatness is responsibility"

Winston Churchill

He's right, of course, but what does he mean? Greatness isn't free, it's not handed out in brown paper bags at the grocery store as a gift for those who purchase the requisite amount of sponsored products; it's not sold on eBay to everyone who thinks they deserve it; it's not found in the bottom of Cracker Jack boxes. Greatness isn't even earned or awarded. There is only one way to have greatness in your life and that is to open yourself enough to allow it to flow through your life.

Greatness isn't something you do, it's something you are. But, as Churchill says there is a price to pay for having it in your life — responsibility. Responsibility for what? To whom? Ralph Nader pointed to a piece of that answer when he said:

"The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."

Ralph Nader

I think those who find greatness in their lives inevitably find themselves in leadership positions. You may not want it, you may not seek it out, but when greatness appears because of the way you have led your life, leadership inescapably follows. And when it does, just as inescapably, responsibly tags along.

There are probably countless responsibilities that leaders are saddled with, but i think Nader is correct in implying that (at least i think this is what he's implying) the top responsibility is to produce more leaders. If a 'Leader' accomplishes anything in his or her life, his top obligation, her overwhelming imperative is to produce more leaders; leaders who can help spread the message, help grow the organization, help improve the operation, help people be all that they can be.

You see, a leader's highest priority is to develop the people who look up to him or her. That's the responsibility he can't avoid as the price of greatness. As Goethe said, "Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat him as he could be and he will become as he can and should be." Leaders understand this, managers seldom do.

If a leader does nothing but increase the number of followers all he/she is doing is feeding his/her ego. These aren't leaders, they are power hungry managers. A leader understands that the story isn't about them but about the organization, about the totality of all the people participating in its operations, from the janitor who cleans the bathrooms all the way up to the people who sit in the boardroom or sit on the zafu at the front of the room. Leaders have no, or greatly reduced, egos. They correctly see their job as developing other leaders, whose job it is, then, to run the organization.

John Quincy Adams provided the third quote, and in it he provided the best definition of a leader. Leaders aren't leaders simply because the nameplate on their door says they are the Top Dog, they are the leaders because people recognize them as such. You can be the Top Dog, and people can still see that you are only a manager, nothing close to a leader. As Adams says:

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

John Quincy Adams

So if you think you are a leader, take a little time each day and ask yourself whether or not the majority of your time is being spent inspiring others to dream, learn and become more.

As Jim Rohn always said, in probably every talk that he gave, "It's not what you get that makes you successful, it's what you become that makes you successful." (or something close to that). A manager helps you 'get,' a leader helps you 'become.'

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stop Pretending

Some good words from Nisargadatta's I Am That:

"In reality nothing is lacking and nothing is needed, all work is on the surface only. In the depths there is perfect peace. All your problems arise because you have defined and therefore limited yourself. When you do not think yourself to be this or that, all conflict ceases. Any attempt to do something about your problems is bound to fail, for what is caused by desire can be undone only in freedom from desire. You have enclosed yourself in time and space, squeezed yourself into the span of a lifetime and the volume of a body and thus created the innumerable conflicts of life and death, pleasure and pain, hope and fear. You cannot be rid of problems without abandoning illusions.


"There is no such thing as a person. There are only restrictions and limitations. The sum total of these defines the person. You think you know yourself when you know what you are. But you never know who you are. The person merely appears to be, like the space within the pot appears to have the shape and volume and smell of the pot. See that you are not what you believe yourself to be. Fight with all the strength at your disposal against the idea that you are nameable and describable. You are not. Refuse to think of yourself in terms of this or that. There is no other way out of misery, which you have created for yourself through blind acceptance without investigation. Suffering is a call for enquiry, all pain needs investigation. Don't be too lazy to think.


"You are not in the body, the body is in you! The mind is in you. They happen to you. They are there because you find them interesting. Your very nature has the infinite capacity to enjoy. It is full of zest and affection. It sheds its radiance on all that comes within its focus of awareness and nothing is excluded. It does not know evil nor ugliness, it hopes, it trusts, it loves. You people do not know how much you miss by not knowing your own true self. You are neither the body nor the mind, neither the fuel nor the fire. They appear and disappear according to their own laws.

"That which you are, your true self, you love it, and whatever you do, you do for your own happiness. To find it, to know it, to cherish it is your basic urge. Since time immemorial you loved yourself, but never wisely. Use your body and mind wisely in the service of the self, that is all. Be true to your own self, love your self absolutely. Do not pretend that you love others as yourself. Unless you have realised them as one with yourself, you cannot love them Don't pretend to be what you are not, don't refuse to be what you are. Your love of others is the result of self-knowledge, not its cause. Without self-realisation, no virtue is genuine. When you know beyond all doubting that the same life flows through all that is and you are that life, you will love all naturally and spontaneously. When you realise the depth and fullness of your love of yourself, you know that every living being and the entire universe are included in your affection. But when you look at anything as separate from you, you cannot love it for you are afraid of it. Alienation causes fear and fear deepens alienation. It is a vicious circle. Only self-realisation can break it. Go for it resolutely."

As he says, "Don't pretend to be what you are not, don't refuse to be what you are!" Can you see what he is referring to when he says "what you are not?" Look in the mirror tomorrow morning. Stare long and hard. Look at your preconceived notions and ideas, the labels you have stuck on yourself every day since you were born, those that were stuck on by your parents, sisters, brothers, children, spouses, teachers, preachers, friends, enemies, doctors, and on, and on. All of that is what you are NOT. Toss those labels in the trash. Get rid of them. Don't pretend that any of that nonsense defines who you are. Stop playing that game.

And then, sit your butt down on your zafu, or on your couch, or on a blanket on the floor, or in a kitchen chair, or lean against a tree, or get comfortable in the train or on the bus or in the taxi. Get in whatever position it takes so that you can focus all your energy on investigating "who you are." Now look. Intensely. Let go of all the above nonsense. Don't strain, just let it go. Drop it all. Don't ask how, just let it drop off. Allow yourself to peek behind the screen where all those labels are stuck and see that in that label-less world on the other side the real you is also sitting there, all the while chuckling at your foolishness and patiently waiting for you to come home.

And how do you get home? By simply blinking your eyes, letting go of all the "stuff" you believed about yourself before, accepting that you are and nothing more, and settling into being there. You don't go home, you simply see that you are already there but didn't realize it. You don't go anywhere; you are everywhere, nowhere, all the time, at no time, never, and forever more. And that place is called home.

Stop pretending to be who you are not!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dealing With Criticism

A very interesting take on how to deal with criticism and haters: Tim Ferriss: 7 Great Principles for Dealing with Haters

Loss of Another Leader

It's time to celebrate another life well lived.

Robert Aitken, one of the first Americans to teach Zen in the US (Hawaii, in his case) has died. He was a prolific author and i always loved his words and his message. I certainly didn't read all of his books, but of those i did a few that stood out, and that i would highly recommend, were Original Dwelling Place, The Mind of Clover, and The Path of Perfection.

While Robert will certainly be missed, celebrations should be held for the life he lived, the great efforts he made to spread the word, and the message of Zen he gave to a vast audience.

The Los Angeles Times reviews his life in this article: Robert Aitken dies at 93; American Zen master

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Door of Compassion

Call Me By My True Names

"Don't say that I will depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird. with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his 'debt of blood' to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it make flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter are once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion."

In Call Me By My True Names:
The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Totality of Everyday Life

"All of us, regardless of whether we realize it or not, are living out the self as the whole universe. Since this is such a crucial point, I'll repeat it here. Usually we make the idea of the small individual self the center of our world and become firmly convinced that this small individual is our whole self, but this is not our true self.

The reality of life goes beyond my idea of myself as a small individual. Fundamentally, our self is living out nondual life that pervades all living things. This self is universal existence, everything that exists. On the other hand, we usually lose sight of the reality of the life of universal self, clouding it over with thoughts originating from our small individual selves. When we let go of our thoughts, this reality of life becomes pure and clear. Living out this reality of life as it is—that is, waking up and practicing beyond thinking—is zazen. At this very point our basic attitude in practicing zazen becomes determined. The attitude of the practitioner in practicing zazen as a Mahayana Buddhist teaching never means to attempt to artificially create some new self by means of practice. Nor should it be aiming at decreasing delusion and finally eliminating it altogether. We practice zazen, neither aiming at having a special mystical experience nor trying to gain greater enlightenment. Zazen as true Mahayana teaching is always the whole self just truly being the whole self, life truly being life.


[O]ur zazen must always be the activity of just sitting, believing that life actualizes life through life, that buddha actualizes buddha through buddha, that self actualizes self through self. We don't gradually become enlightened and eventually attain buddhahood by means of zazen. This small individual I we talk of will always be deluded, but regardless of that zazen is buddha. We take the Buddha's posture with the body of this deluded being and throw ourselves into it. In the Shōdōka, it is expressed like this: 'With one leap we immediately enter buddhahood.' "

Opening the Hand of Thought
Kosho Uchiyama

(my underlines)

Reminds me of two parts of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō. In Ikkamyōju we find: "The entire universe is one bright pearl. What is there to interpret or understand?" Then in Kokyō we find this lovely exchange:

A monk asked Zen Master Kokutaiin Kōkō of Mount Kinka in Bushū: "When the Ancient Mirror is not polished, what is it like?"

The master answered: "The Ancient Mirror."

The monk continued: "What is it like after it is polished?"

The master answered: "The Ancient Mirror."

So we should understand that there is a time when it is polished, a time when it is not polished, and a time after it has been polished, and all are the Ancient Mirror. Accordingly, when it is polished, the totality of the Ancient Mirror is polished. It is not polished by the Ancient Mirror itself, by mercury, or any other material. The Ancient Mirror is polished by the actualization of itself. When it is not polished, the Ancient Mirror is not dark. It is simply functioning as the Ancient Mirror. Generally, polishing the Mirror is in itself the Mirror, polishing tile is in itself the Mirror, polishing a tile is in itself the tile, polishing the Mirror is in itself a tile. If we practice and polish without any conscious effort and continue to practice limitlessly, this will be our everyday life and deeds of the Buddhas and Patriarchs.

For sale: One Bright Pearl
Asking price: All that you've got
And all that you're not

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nothing Manifesting Nobody Nowhere

"Sawaki Roshi used to describe zazen as 'the self selfing the self.' Usually people assume that they are born onto a stage or into a world that already exists, that they dance on the stage for a while and then leave when they die. Actually, though, when I am born, I give birth to my world as well! I live together with that world; therefore, that world forms the contents of my self. Then, when I die, I take the world with me; that is, my world dies with me. That is the rationale behind Sawaki Roshi's noncommonsensical expression, 'self selfing the self.' I describe it as living out your own life through all the circumstances you may encounter. You give birth to, live out, and die together with your world. That is the reality of the life of the self, and to actually manifest the self that makes the self into the self is jijuyū zanmai. When we do zazen, we personally experience this clearly; we become nothing other than ourselves! Though we become nothing other than ourselves alone, the whole world is contained within that self."

Opening the Hand of Thought
Kosho Uchiyama

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Your Real Enemy

"When your mind is trained in self-discipline, even if you are surrounded by hostile forces, your peace of mind will hardly be disturbed. On the other hand, your mental peace and calm can easily be disrupted by your own negative thoughts and emotions. So I repeat, the real enemy is within, not outside. Usually we define our enemy as a person, an external agent, whom we believe is causing harm to us or to someone we hold dear. But such an enemy is relative and impermanent. One moment, the person may act as an enemy; at yet another moment, he or she may become your best friend. This is a truth that we often experience in our own lives. But negative thoughts and emotions, the inner enemy, will always remain the enemy."

Dalai Lama
Quoted in a blog entry

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nothing Is Personal

Nothing is personal. Not only do i love that phrase, love the absolute truth of it, but love the way Francis Lucille throws it out so simply, so off the cuff, so nonchalantly, as if it is so obvious as to be trivial. When, until you crawl under the skin of the phrase and suck up its marrow, it's not at all obvious.

Nothing is personal..... just released a new, 20 minute excerpt of a video of Francis Lucille in satsang. As with anything Francis does, it's wonderful to watch. Find somewhere quiet, where you won't be interrupted for 20 minutes, and enjoy.

Here's the direct link: Everything Is Universal.

If you have a little more free time on your hands, this is a good way to spend some of it. It's an old interview with Joe Miller, taped over 20 years ago.
Part 1 of 9
Part 2 of 9
Part 3 of 9
Part 4 of 9
Part 5 of 9
Part 6 of 9
Part 7 of 9
Part 8 of 9
Part 9 of 9

Hope all are well.