To what End? #5 #cong22

Synopsis:

What is the essential nature of our being?  Our purpose is to investigate the answer to this question because it is the foundation from which our understanding of reality is truly known.

Total Words

1,177

Reading Time in Minutes

5

Key Takeaways:

  1. What am I if I have no name, no history, no knowledge and no concept of the future? Our purpose is to investigate the answer to this question.
  2. Fear and desire are our two biggest barriers to freedom.
  3. Our entire reality is experienced through a series of thoughts, sensations, feelings and perceptions. Where we choose to direct out attention transforms our world.
  4. Happiness occurs only when we experience a deep and intimate connection with something greater that helps us to forget we exist.

About Zanya Dahl

I am a visual artist, working primarily in oils and specialising in figurative painting.
My focus is around the theme of connection – the absence and discovery of it. I am fascinated by how we connect within, with each other and with our environment.

When I’m not painting, I’m playing hockey, engaging in comedy improvisation, and mothering two little people. I rely on yoga and meditation to still my mind and loosen my limbs.

Contacting Zanya Dahl

You can connect with Zanya via emailInstagram and LinkedIn

By Zanya Dahl

What am I if I have no name, no history, no knowledge and no concept of the future?

When all of our thoughts, memories and personal attributes are stripped away, what is the essential nature of our being?

Let it be our purpose to find out.

There’s nothing more significant or fundamental than investigating the answer to this question because it is the foundation from which our understanding of reality is truly known.

To get to what we essentially are, we first need to free ourselves from the clutches of two specific states of mind that dominate the majority of our thoughts: fear & desire. They disrupt our acceptance of who we are or where we’re at in the current moment. They can often be two sides of the same coin:

1. fear of not getting what we desire (validation, popularity, success, wealth, security, power, knowledge, love, acceptance or belonging)

2. desire to avoid the things we fear (rejection, judgement, abandonment, loneliness, loss, pain, poverty or death)

We spend a lot of mental and emotional energy trying to anticipate and curate an invisible future that will never be known outside of the current moment. It’s futile.

The 18th century philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was woke enough to recognise how we have squandered our freedom, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

We often try to find purpose in the life we lead to bring us towards the end goal of happiness. Fundamentally, this is what we all desire. I remember Rupert Spira commenting in an interview that happiness occurs only when we experience a deep and intimate connection with something greater than our Self – when we forget that we exist, becoming “lost in the moment”. (i.e. ‘dissolving’ in a kiss; being ‘carried away’ by a piece of music; being ‘blown away’ by a scene of immense beauty; etc.). As soon as the moment passes however, we return to our separate Self, and the happiness subsides. So we chase the next thing that will restore that happy feeling we so covet.

I began to wonder what might happen if I stopped my lifelong habit of seeking, attaining and achieving and just allow myself to be guided by something greater, something internal, that is aligned with my own authentic expression. The idea of it felt wobbly and passive. But living with my mind in chains wasn’t working either.

Contrary to what I thought, choosing to place more trust in the invisible realm of “non thought” isn’t passive – it requires presence and attention, curiosity and openness.

I don’t have to chase happiness to attain it. It arises through me when I am fully present, available and engaged.

This has become my purpose – to live more and more in the essential nature of my own being. This requires me to loosen my attachment to who I think am I and how I think my life should be. I try to focus less on the future, less on expectations of myself and of the world around me and surrender more to the flow of life. I feel my way through decisions and follow my impulses, trusting that in each step I take, life will support me.

Any time I feel myself starting to fear or desire something I don’t currently have, I think of Mark Nepo’s quote, “The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It simply blossoms and the bee comes.”

The more of this I do, the more attuned I become to my senses, the more I feel, the more I connect with myself and everything around me, the more content and accepting I become and the less resistance and stress I encounter.

It’s not easy. I frequently get captured by my mind. But it happens less because I’m more aware of its ability to create concepts. Every concept distracts me from the immediacy of experiencing what’s arising.

It’s kind of mind-bending to acknowledge that our entire reality is experienced through a series of thoughts, sensations, feelings and perceptions. Everything is in motion.

Therefore, our most precious and valuable superpower is our attention. Where we choose to place it transforms our world.

By consciously letting go little by little, I am curious and surprised by the things I notice, by the thoughts and ideas that occur to me, by the opportunities that appear before me and by the choices I make. Overall my life is changing because my understanding of reality has changed.

In this state, there are no fears to close me off or shut me down or limit me in any way. There are no desires to be more than what I am, or to have more than what I have. There is no sense of lack and no fear of loss.

Many people accidentally discover what we truly are after a near-death experience or a life-threatening diagnosis. It can happen in an instant. A carefully curated identity falls away along with all its emotional and psychological baggage. A new lightness of being is experienced and suddenly the wonder of the world and a capacity for love and joy is magnified.

Collectively we are edging towards death – facing the threat of extinction via nuclear warfare, climate change and/or a new pandemic. Maybe that will be the time when we finally face our worst fears and realise our whole life was lived in bondage to the chains of our mind. And then and only then will we let go and enjoy the magic of our own existence while we still live.

Or we can make it our purpose to let go sooner. The moment we do, we’ll realise that there is no need for purpose because it’s a construct too.

Too much Yin and not enough Yang #22 #cong21

Synopsis:

The concept of Yin and Yang (two contrary forces working in unison) needs to become a priority in the way we live, By doing so, we naturally become better leaders, making more conscious decisions.

Total Words

953

Reading Time in Minutes

4

Key Takeaways:

  1. Humankind acting as a unified, dynamic whole seems to be a forgotten concept.
  2. I am because we are.
  3. Leaders can’t be leaders without followers.
  4. Feminine energy needs to be given more opportunity to express itself

About Zanya Dahl:

 Formerly an owner of a design agency, I packed it all in 2 years ago to become a full-time artist. I working primarily in oils and specialising in figurative painting.

My focus is around the theme of connection – the absence and discovery of it. I am fascinated by how we connect within, with each other and with our environment.

Contacting Zanya Dahl:

You can connect with Zanya on LinkedIn and Facebook or see her work on Instagram and her website.

By Zanya Dahl

Thanks to ancient Chinese philosophy, we’re familiar with the term Yin and Yang – two contrary forces working in unison – winter/summer, masculine/feminine; expansion/contraction; passive/active; leaders/followers. Despite being opposites, they are bound together – two sides of the same coin. Their interactions are complementary and give rise to a unified, dynamic whole that is greater than its parts.

Humankind acting as a unified, dynamic whole seems to be a forgotten concept.

How much better would life be if we behaved as a team, rather than a mass of self-serving competitors. If that sounds a little idealistic, here’s a lovely story to demonstrate the concept of acting in unison:
———–
“An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe.
He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them:

“The first child to reach the tree will get the basket.”

When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they walked together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit!

He asked them why they did that when any one of them could have had the basket only for themselves?

They answered with astonishment: “Ubuntu”…that is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?

“Ubuntu” in their language means: “I am because we are”.
————-

Only now are we realising how symbiotic our relationship is with everything around us. The ripple effect of every self-serving leadership decision – – in politics, healthcare, pharma, retail, law, education, industry, community – reverberate around the globe causing discord and destruction.

We are living in a 24/7 high-performance culture where every effort, every act is towards personal gain – the now is never enough. We are always looking ahead and rarely looking around. We commoditise and automate to accelerate the pace. We must continuously reach higher and go further. To sit still is to stagnate, to fall behind.

And yet the greatest leader of them all, Mother Nature, has been showing us all along how it should be done. She understands the need for yin and yang in all her cycles: there’s a time for germination and growth and a time for hibernation, shedding and renewal. Each opposing force fuels the other.

We’re only living on one side of the coin – forgetting that it’s just a component of the unified whole. We’re blazing our own trail of Yin and leaving Yang to suffer in our wake. We can blame leaders for poor decisions, but we all have our part to play in this co-created rat-race to an illusory utopia.

Leaders can’t be leaders without followers.

There’s so much expansion and so little contraction; so much action and so little reflection. Put doing and being at either end of a see-saw and which way would it tip?

Everything is off kilter – our planet is depleting and we also are depleting. Understanding we’re a small part of a unified, dynamic whole should be at the core of every decision, for both leaders and followers.

“Today more then ever before, life must be characterised by a sense of Universal Responsibility, not only Nation to Nation and human to human, but also human to all forms of Life.”

– The Dalai Lama

One of the yin and yang combinations I’d like to give attention to is that of masculine and feminine energy. Masculine energy embodies qualities of leadership, action, logic, confidence, focus, and efficiency while feminine energy represents qualities of intuition, creativity, compassion and understanding.

The masculine pursues, plans, and follows a direct path forward. The feminine enjoys creating, dreaming, passive acceptance, nurture and letting things unfold.

Every person, regardless of gender is made up of both masculine and feminine energy. But do we have opportunities to comfortably express both at school, in the workplace, in social contexts? I argue that we don’t.

To be a leader requires masculine energy but to be a GOOD leader requires both. It’s a tricky balance to get right – too much masculine energy, there’s no empathy or compassion. Too much feminine energy, there’s no purpose or drive.

When feminine energy is given permission to express itself, it doesn’t seek to overpower, compete, or dominate – it’s is all about interconnectedness, nurturing, surrender, imagination, creativity, intuition and feeling. Living life at such a ferocious pace, there is so little time to pause and reflect and give space to feeling what’s around us. Any available opportunity for feminine energy to express itself is minimal.

As soon as we discover and express the balance within ourselves, as leaders and as followers, we’ll manifest balance and unity in our external world.

Ubuntu.

Blinkered Vision #45 #cong20

Synopsis:

 Conscious personal fulfilment should be prioritized over social achievement

Total Words

582

Reading Time in Minutes

2

Key Takeaways:

  1. The more we deny ourselves distraction, the more we deny ourselves the opportunity to be curious and discover.
  2. How often do we ask ourselves if we’re happy and fulfilled?
  3. The longer we stay in a state of disconnection – caught up in a culture that encourages striving towards milestone after milestone – the less time we give ourselves the chance to wake up.
  4. Can we find the courage to get off the treadmill and follow our hearts into the unknown

About Zanya Dahl:

 Founder and creative director of Artizan, a branding consultancy based in Dublin, for 16 years. I stepped aside at the end of 2019 to focus on painting. Doing what I love to do has give me an inner freedom that I have longed for – this experience prompted my post.

Contacting Zanya Dahl:

You can connect with Zanya by email, LinkedIn or visit her website.

By Zanya Dahl

Struggling to find the words to convey my opinion Society 3.0, I took up Eoin’s suggestion to express my opinion on canvas instead.

I chose to do a self-portrait wearing horse blinders as an example of how many of us live their lives within a social framework without ever questioning its design or our behavior within it. The idea of wearing blinders is to express a narrow field of vision. Interestingly I discovered while I was researching imagery for blinders, that Panasonic have developed human blinders for people to wear in an office to help minimize distraction. The more we deny ourselves distraction, the more we deny ourselves the opportunity to be curious and discover.

If you put your hand over the painting and cover each side of the face, you will see a different attitude. The left eye stares straight ahead, dull, lifeless and zoned out. The right eye is wide open, curious to see what’s beyond the blinder that’s been pulled back.

Society encourages us to follow a certain path – school, college, job, family – without ever taking a pause to check in and see if we feel fulfilled and happy. The longer we stay in a state of disconnection – caught up in a culture that encourages striving towards milestone after milestone – the less time we give ourselves the chance to wake up. Many people live their whole lives completely disconnected from who they truly are and what they truly want. We get stuck on the treadmill of life, moving towards goals and achievements with our blinders firmly focused  on what’s directly ahead.

It often seems to require a tragedy or a crisis before we are shocked out of the trance of daily life – waking up to the reality that we have one life. We start taking stock of where we are and breaking free from whatever holds us captive.

Can we simply choose right now, today, to take off our blinders and check if we’re on the right path, ask ourselves if we’re happy and fulfilled? If not, can we find the courage to get off the treadmill and follow our hearts into the unknown?

By connecting to our own value, we start to radiate happy, benevolent vibes. Imagine whole communities radiating energy, creativity and love. The collective benefits for Society 3.0 would be huge, not to mention the future of our planet.

Communities are Born out of Thin Air #13 #cong19

Synopsis:

The concept of communities lives in our imagination so they can be anything we want them to be. We can choose to connect to communities, create them, leave them. In this article I consider the role community plays in our lives and what we get out of it.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Community is a fictional construct
  2. By introducing more diversity into our local and urban communities, Ireland is a more open-minded, tolerant and accepting society.
  3. We’re getting so exposed to newsfeeds supporting our worldview that we have very little tolerance for those who oppose it.
  4. The more connected we feel to a community, the greater its power and influence.

About Zanya Dahl:

Zanya is founder of Artizan, an award-winning branding and design consultancy, based in Dublin. She’s also invested in her role as a mother which keeps her heart very much on its toes. A former hockey player with a dodgy right knee, she has recently reinvested her passion in painting and comedy improvisation which nurtures her creative spirit.

Contacting Zanya Dahl:

You can connect with Zanya by email, LinkedIn or visit her website.

By Zanya Dahl

I’m kickstarting this article with an interesting observation made by Yuval Noah Harari in his bestselling book “Sapiens”:
“An imagined community is a community that contains millions of strangers […] a community of people who don’t really know each other but imagine they do. Kingdoms, empires and churches functioned for millennia as imagined communities.”
It’s strange to think that long-standing religious institutions, nations and brands can wield such incredible power over us and yet their entire existence is dependent on our imaginative capabilities. Millions of people can successfully unite through a shared belief system. The concept of community fulfils a primal need to belong which in turn encourages us to find commonalities that we can collectively relate to.
Whether we like it or not, we are frequently claimed by multiple communities as one of their own.
Geographical communities, be they urban, suburban or rural, will always embody an eclectic consortium of individuals with varying interests and attitudes. These individuals are not necessarily united by a common belief system. Nor might their engagement with the community be particularly strong. However, when a community member or group is recognised for an achievement by the world outside, it elevates the community and instils a sense of pride. It’s nice to bask in the glow of success regardless of how tenuous the connection is. Look at sport for example. Bray residents took great pride in the Olympic success of Katie Taylor as did the people of Kenmare for the O’Donovan brothers from a small rural community in the southwest corner of Ireland. Ireland came alive when our soccer team (largely made up of UK players) got to the quarter finals in 1994 and more recently when our Women’s hockey team became the first national team in the history of Ireland to get to the finals of a world cup. Note I’ve said “our” – already I am claiming my connection to the team through our country of birth. Sport is a great uniter of community – it bypasses attitudes, personality, age – it sweeps us all up in a collective desire to achieve something bigger than ourselves. Teams and individuals representing a community, county, province and country arouse a deep sense of camaraderie as we will them to victory.
Outside of sport and living in an urban town within a capital city, I don’t experience a strong sense of “local community”. The people I know who come to live in Dublin are happy to get away from it. To temporarily visit a local community is charming but to live there can be claustrophobic. Everyone is known and their comings and goings rarely escape notice. Listening to the news, it is often reported how “the local community” has stayed tight-lipped about a tragedy, were devastated by the unexpected loss of a member or has come together to fight a cause.
Previously in Ireland, communities were tightly controlled by the church – it dominated outlooks and behaviour with a single-minded worldview. Cracked open by scandals, the church lost its grip and communities were no longer under its control. With the rise of freedom and choice, individuals have more access to new experiences and perspectives than ever before. By opening our doors to more diversity, our local and urban communities have greatly benefitted, and we are now a more open-minded, tolerant and accepting society than ever before. Our country has proven to be capable of significant positive change in a very short space of time. Recent amendments to our constitution reflect the power of Ireland’s community voice.
Speaking of community voice, it can be even stronger online. With a click or a tap, we can follow, subscribe and join groups that share our attitudes and interests. It’s nice to feel connected to like-minded people and have our personal views supported, validated and celebrated. This is a problem. We’re getting so exposed to newsfeeds reinforcing our worldview that we have very little tolerance for those who oppose it. It’s leading to polarised thinking and the middle ground is becoming harder to find.
Developing an emotional connection with another person is difficult to replicate through technology. On screen, we read words, not faces or emotions. We post comments with less empathy or consideration than we might if we we’re talking to someone face to face. Anonymity is much easier to achieve online. To choose anonymity in real life requires keeping a low and silent profile. Being anonymous online allows us to be as vocal, nasty and opinionated as we wish.
In conclusion, community is a fictional construct that can represent us however we choose it to. The more connected we feel to a community, the greater its power and influence. If we can harness the feelings of belonging and connectivity that community offers while ensuring it remains as eclectic as possible, we are far more likely to live more enriched and fulfilling lives.

No idea is a bad idea #45 #cong18

Synopsis:

A single idea holds an enormity of potential for change and progress. Even a seemingly insignificant one. Great ideas are often built on the back of other people’s ideas. Some ideas don’t ever see the light of day. They can be withheld or they can be shared and judged. This feedback may be helpful or unhelpful, guided or misguided, well-intended or ill-considered, encouraging or discouraging. A multitude of factors that can shape an idea after it’s birthed. It should be given a chance to breed before it’s dismissed. The act of ideating is fundamental for our evolution as a society.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. A single idea, no matter how small, holds an enormity of potential for change and progress.
  2. The greater the mind’s exposure to experiences and different sources of knowledge, the more opportunity for interesting connections to form and the greater the propensity of ideas.
  3. The life cycle of an idea is very much dependant on how it’s perceived by the originator and by others.
  4. An idea will only gain traction when it’s recognised as valuable by others.

About Zanya Dahl:

Zanya is founder/ director of @artizancreative, a creative digital agency that helps companies with similar values discover new ways to see and be seen. She signs up for pretty much any experience that will expose her to something she hasn’t seen or heard or done before. She loses track of time when she’s painting, eating good food, comedy improvising or cuddling her children.

Contacting Zanya Dahl:

You can follow Zanya on Twitter or contact her by email

By Zanya Dahl

Imagine if we lived in a world without ideas? There would be no imagination. No revelations. No transformation. Just a vacuum of dormant sameness.

A single idea, no matter how small, holds an enormity of potential for change and progress.

Ideas occur when a connection is made between two different thoughts. A little spark of creative energy that ignites a new possibility. Having an “aha moment” reaffirms the active nature of our brains, our ability to make connections and form something new and interesting out of the random collection of thoughts swirling through our minds. Regardless of how short or long lived, the explicit moment of having an idea feels energising and empowering. If the originator really believes in the uniqueness and value of the idea, the birth of that brainchild can feel exhilarating.

The life cycle of an idea is very much dependant on how it’s perceived by the originator and by others. We’re all guilty of judging ideas as “good” or “bad”. But is an idea ever bad? Sure it may seem far-fetched, it may have been done before, it may be selfish or unrealistic or misguided but is it ever really unworthy or regrettable? In its raw state, the value and potential of an idea is difficult to measure. How it will manifest itself is hard to predict – obstacles and setbacks can occur that change the journey of an idea.

I see each idea as a trigger. A stepping stone. A little spark of creative thinking that can grow, merge, adapt or be rejected for something better. A collection of ideas, no matter how small or apparently meaningless can contribute to a new and bigger idea or even spawn a multitude of other ideas. Even if they’re never acted upon, they still fire our imagination and raise our capacity for connected thinking. Having ideas of our own enables us to assimilate and build on others’ ideas more easily.
Many of the great ideas in this world have piggybacked on the shoulders of others whose ideas may not have been executed properly or successfully at the time.
We often mistakenly judge the value of an idea based on whether it’s easy or hard to implement, whether it’s relatable, understandable, beneficial or impactful enough.

An idea might manifest itself as an outfit you choose to wear to a fancy dress party or it might be a solution to a national issue that requires systemic behavioural change. In terms of impact, we might value the latter as a “better idea”. However, the idea for the fancy dress party could be considered “clever, brilliant and inspiring” by the party guests. The “nobler” idea for national change may not actually bring the desired results. Regardless of the ambition or scale of an idea, they reinforce our ability as humans to connect with ourselves and with the world around us. It’s an innate ability we all share but need to nurture more.

The cross-pollination of knowledge has been encouraged and facilitated by the worldwide growth of co-working spaces designed to nurture collaborative ideation. The greater the mind’s exposure to experiences and different sources of knowledge, the more opportunity for interesting connections to form and the greater the propensity of ideas.

Imagine if humankind collectively applied its creative energy to collaboratively ideate for the greater good rather than personal gain. Imagine the possibilities. What can we do as a race to reverse the damage that’s been done to our planet and our way of living over the last 100 years?

Any ideas?